Last night, DC Comics announced its big Watchmen crossover story Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. The series is touted as featuring the arrival of the Watchmen set of characters, specifically Dr. Manhattan, to the DC Universe based on the events and revelations of last year’s DC Universe: Rebirth #1. However, what if it doesn’t stop there? What if the true big bad of Doomsday Clock, and the person actually responsible for The New 52 as a whole, is the one villain who hates that DC Universe more than any other character? What if it’s someone that Johns has a particular love of? What if the big bad of Doomsday Clock… is Superboy Prime?
To start off with a little bit of background, DC Universe: Rebirth #1 established that someone stole ten years of love, happiness and relationships of the DC heroes from their timeline. This meant that the reality of Earth-0 wasn’t a separate, rebooted reality to pre-Flashpoint, it was the same reality, only altered by outside forces. The issue ended with a watch repairing itself on the surface of Mars, with captioned dialogue of Doctor Manhattan’s final exchange with Ozymandias where he declared, “Nothing ever ends."
Superboy Prime was originally introduced in an Elseworlds story that told the tale of a Superboy that lived in our universe. In DC continuity, “Prime” universe is the real one, the one we live in. Thus, Superboy Prime is a character that had access to DC Comics growing up and knows all about Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. He was also one of the few alternate reality characters to survive the Crisis on Infinite Earths as he entered a paradise dimension alongside Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2 and Alexander Luthor of Earth-3.
Geoff Johns brought Superboy Prime back twenty years later as the main villain of Infinite Crisis, where he portrayed the hero as having been driven somewhat mad by his time in paradise, where all he had to keep him occupied was a window into the remaining Earth where he saw his heroes stray from what he liked about them as a kid. A daring reinvention, Superboy Prime became an interesting and nuanced critique of fan entitlement by the man who brought Hal Jordan back from crazed supervillain to his more traditional role as the greatest Green Lantern. Following the end of Infinite Crisis, Prime’s story continued through a number of different Johns stories.
The character was eventually drafted into The Sinestro Corps, where he quickly went rogue, defeated The Anti-Monitor and fought against the heroes of the DC Universe. It took a Guardian sacrificing their life to rip a hole in spacetime, thus stranding Superboy Prime in The Bleed, the matter that separates the fifty two different universes that comprise DC’s Multiverse. He then reappeared as a supporting villain in the best-left-forgotten weekly series Countdown, but it was in Goff Johns and George Perez’s Final Crisis: The Legion of Three Worlds where he got a big power upgrade.
This is all coming back to Doomsday Clock, I promise.
In Legion of Three Worlds, Superboy Prime led the Legion of Supervillains against DC’s three separate and distinct Legion of Super-Heroes teams. Along the way, he discovered that at some possible point in the future, he himself becomes The Time Trapper. When he attacked his possible-future self, it resulted in a paradox that blew him out of the DC Universe and back to the recreated Earth-Prime. Here, he found his parents alive and well -- but they had learned all about him because of the comic books he’d been in, and were thus terrified of what he was capable of.
Things got super-meta in the Blackest Night tie-ins to Adventure Comics, where Superboy Prime was seen sitting in his basement reading DC comics and complaining about them on message boards. He reads the solicits of Adventure Comics that tout his return and prepares for his involvement in the event, fighting the Black Lantern Alexander Luthor. A short time later, he was brought back to the DC Universe to fight the Teen Titans and was ultimately imprisoned in the Source Wall.
Okay, so what does all of that have to do with DC Rebirth and Doomsday Clock. Well, Superboy Prime returned to his home dimension, ostensibly our dimension, and had twenty-five years worth of comics to catch up on. So what’s among the first things he’s likely to pick up and check out? Watchmen, a story notorious for changing how creators approached the way in which they tell superhero stories -- changes that weren’t always for the better.
It’s arguable that a lot of the worst comics of the late-'80s and the '90s were at least somewhat influenced by Watchmen’s post-modern take on the superhero genre, and a lot of comic creators learned the wrong lesson from the classic tale. If all you get from Watchmen is that dark and brooding heroes are cool, extreme violence is edgy, and Rorschach is the hero of the story, then you misunderstood Watchmen. Which is precisely why Superboy Prime would find Rorschach to be the hero of Watchmen.
Here, we have an immensely powered hero with the ability to cross between dimensions and is, in some timelines, destined to be The Time Trapper. What’s stopping Superboy Prime from looking at the DC Universe in 2010/2011 and thinking “This needs to change” based on the wrong lessons he took from reading Watchmen? One of the big criticisms of The New 52 is how much it felt like a return to what everyone hated about the 1990s, but wouldn’t it make sense if The New 52 was the result of meddling by a spoiled kid who really loves Watchmen?
Superboy Prime as the villain of Doomsday Clock and the being responsible for the integration of the Watchmen characters into the DC Universe would not only be genius, it’d be a knowing nod to the criticisms of bringing up the Watchmen characters again against the creators’ wishes. It would keep the legacy of Watchmen intact while still giving readers the big summer event that features Superman and Doctor Manhattan in the same comic. YEs, this is an incredibly tricky line-to-walk, but if our theory holds true, DC Comics and Geoff Johns just might be able to pull it off.