WARNING: This article contains spoilers for DC Comics' Doomsday Clock #1, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, on sale now.
Sometimes, it's the little things. Part of the genius of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen was how thoroughly they had thought through how the presence of superheroes would shape the course of human history. Not all of the changes from the world we know were fully explained, but nevertheless these variances spoke volumes. One significant change was that, presumably due to the U.S.'s victory in Vietnam, in Watchmen Richard Nixon was still President of the United States in 1985, rather than leaving office early, in disgrace, as he did in the real world.
Partly through necessity, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank carry this through in their Watchmen-sequel-of-sorts Doomsday Clock, which picks up in 1992 after the discovery of Rorschach's journal unravels Ozymandias's murderous but world-uniting schemes. If Nixon was president in 1985, that means that Ronald Reagan was not elected in 1980 or 1984, potentially creating a knock-on effect for the real-world presidencies of George H.W. Bush in 1989-92 and Bill Clinton beginning in 1993.
From the preview pages released in October, we knew that the president elected in 1988 was just re-elected in November 1992 on the promise of capturing Adrian Veidt. The fact that the new government-run National News Network was headed by William F. Buckley, Jr., the real-life conservative pundit and founder of the National Review, suggests that the government, too, remains conservative. (Buckley, incidentally, looks very good for a man who would have been nearly 70 in 1992; perhaps this was meant to be his son, Christopher Buckley?) This led us to speculate that the sitting president would be Reagan or Bush the Elder.
But with the release of the full issue of Doomsday Clock #1, we discover that the president is someone else entirely -- someone who makes perfect sense, and tells us a bit more about the evolution of the Watchmen universe leading into Doomsday Clock.
Hail to the Chief, President Robert Redford.
Actor Turned President
Instead of Reagan, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and A River Runs Through It star Robert Redford serves as the Doomsday Clock universe's actor-turned-president. Reagan, of course, also served two terms as governor of California before rising to the role of Commander in Chief, but in this fictional world it's entirely possible that Redford did something similar, likely in Utah.
In almost any world, though, Redford would have been a better-known actor than was Reagan, and by this time would also have been acclaimed for his work as a director and founder of the Sundance Film Festival. And as we know, fame does a solid job of getting folks elected.