First, there was DC Universe: Rebirth, a one-shot comic that seemed to exist almost entirely to find an in-universe way to address all the criticism lapsed fans had at the time. Then, there was “The Button”, a four-part crossover between Batman and The Flash that saw the two titular characters explore the reasoning behind a strange smiley face button discovered in the Batcave, as well as looking into the most troubling thing Wally West had told Barry after his return from the Speed Force -- that their world was being altered by someone trying to weaken them.
Now, this November it’s time for the next step in the “Rebirth” saga over at DC. Revealed at the end of “The Button” crossover, “Doomsday Clock” is a story that DC doesn’t even have to promise will rock the universe to its core forever. The stories leading up to it have already made it clear: Superman confronts the being who was responsible for the New 52, and potentially every cosmic change we’ve seen for decades -- Dr. Manhattan, from Alan Moore’s Watchmen. And now, CBR counts down everything we’ve learned from Geoff Johns and DC about Doomsday Clock…and some things we hope to discover by the end of it.
15 WHAT WE KNOW: THE CREATIVE TEAM
Let’s start at the beginning: the creative team for Doomsday Clock is Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson, all creators who have proven time and again they do fantastic work together. From their run together on Superman, to their New 52 revival of Shazam!, all the way up to the two volumes of Batman: Earth One, they're known for doing unique takes on the biggest and best heroes DC has to offer.
Their stories often distill the characters we know and love down to their core elements, presenting them in ways that feel familiar to long-time fans, approachable to new fans, and fresh to everyone who reads their stories. Given the nature of Doomsday Clock, their talents are going to prove crucial for this project going forward.
14 WHAT WE HOPE: NO FILL-INS
So with that said, we hope there won’t be a need for any fill-in work on the project. Events have a way of somehow drifting off schedule or requiring different pencillers to keep things either on schedule or close to schedule, as the massive casts that event comics generally require can prove to be some of the most arduous work for even the fastest artists.
And while both DC and Marvel are known to find artists that are just as talented as the ones they’re replacing, it still takes away from the cohesiveness of a project if issues 3, 7, and 9 are being done by someone else. To be fair to DC and the team involved though, there’s a ton of lead time built into this, as the first issue doesn’t even hit stands until late November.
13 WHAT WE KNOW: DR. MANHATTAN IS INVOLVED
From the moment we got to the end of last May’s DC Universe: Rebirth, DC fans have been dealing with the bombshell knowledge that Dr. Manhattan has not only been living in the DC Universe, but has been responsible for everything. At the very least, he's the reason for the existence of the New 52 following Flashpoint, but there has also been conjecture supported by the comics that he’s been behind all the reality altering DC Comics has dealt with since Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but we do know that Dr. Manhattan is looking to test the DC Universe, altering it to see whether it can stand up to being weakened on crucial emotional levels, and having it’s core heroes changed while others vanish entirely.
12 WHAT WE HOPE: OTHER WATCHMEN MAKE AN APPEARANCE
Doomsday Clock will feature Dr. Manhattan heavily, but we aren’t sure whether or not any other Watchmen will be popping up. Admittedly, most of the Watchmen cast were just regular men and women caught at the maelstrom of an earth-shaking mystery, so it’s unlikely we’ll hear from Silk Spectre or Nite Owl. But at SDCC Geoff teased a conversation between the smartest men of two worlds in this series, mentioning that Lex Luthor was the smartest man of the DC Universe, but kept pretty mum about who the smartest man of Watchmen's world could be.
That's a very obvious hint which reminds of us a certain Mr. Oz, who's identity is still hidden and could indeed be the genius mastermind behind the events of the original Watchmen series. And if there's one character besides Manhattan who would fit in the easiest in the DCU, it would definitely be Ozymandias.
11 WHAT WE KNOW: THERE'S NO TIE-INS
In what is probably the most surprising bit of news we’ve learned about Doomsday Clock so far, writer Geoff Johns has confirmed that the maxi-series will have no tie-in issues whatsoever. Buying the 12 issues he and Gary Frank will be releasing over the year will be all readers need to stay filled in on what is potentially the biggest event comic since the first Crisis.
It’s a bold step for DC Comics, showing how much they believe in the story as well as how much they want the fans to believe in it, creating a low barrier of entry that’s meant to make this as welcoming as possible to fans. Hopefully it pays off for DC Comics, and it allows Johns and Frank to tell the story the way they want to tell it, rather than having to figure out how other characters from other ancillary series fit.
10 WHAT WE HOPE: THEY KNOW WHAT COMES NEXT
Back in May of 2016, DC embarked on a long journey with the publishing of DC Universe: Rebirth #1. It was a story of reconnecting lost loves and friendships, and rekindling a worn relationship with fans. But when Doomsday Clock ends in October 2018, that entire story also comes to an end. If that’s the case, then hopefully they have something planned for what comes after.
DC has had the heart and minds of the fans before only to lose them when it became apparent they didn’t have as strong a plan as we thought -- from One Year Later to New 52. Geoff said this story leads us into “the future” of the DCU, so hopefully they do have an idea for what happens to all of your favorite characters going forward.
9 WHAT WE KNOW: IT'S SUPERMAN V. DR. MANHATTAN
When we turned the final page of The Flash #22 and reached the end of “The Button” crossover between Flash and Batman and saw the battered “S” shield shown above, our collective jaws hit the floor. Johns has stated that this story is very much about Superman vs. Dr. Manhattan, even going so far as to suggest the story is about how far Superman can fall.
Johns even pointed out that Dr. Manhattan was isolating Superman from his friends, as “The Button” revealed Bruce Wayne hesitating to go out as Batman after his father from the Flashpoint timeline urged him to quit and live a normal life. So while this story is very much going to be about these two comic book titans going head-to-head…
8 WHAT WE HOPE: IT DOESN'T BECOME A FIST FIGHT
While there’s nothing wrong with most superhero events being massive fist fights -- indeed, that’s how most of them should end -- it would be pretty depressing if a story like this succumbed to the same fate. To begin with, Dr. Manhattan seems to possess ultimate power over the DC Universe’s reality, altering it as he sees fit -- even Superman shouldn’t just be able to trade blows with a guy like that.
Though Geoff is typically known for his talents with lore-building and bombastic action, this needs to be more of a cerebral story that sees these two characters engage in a different way from the norm. Can Superman remain himself in the face of Manhattan’s reality changes? And can Manhattan learn to hope, or re-connect with his human side from watching the Man of Steel? These are the questions this story should be asking.
7 WHAT WE KNOW: IT HAPPENS A YEAR AFTER REBIRTH AND METAL
During San Diego Comic Con Johns stated this story takes place a year ahead of “Metal” and Rebirth, and that the entire universe will “catch up” by the time the story ends, likely the month after in November 2018. In the past, DC has tried to avoid moves like this -- where they’re forced to “stack” events, and suddenly fans are already aware of the next one before the current one has properly released yet.
Particularly since it could be argued that this can be seen to some as trivializing “Metal”, since judging by the promotional material Batman is very much a part of this story, but since Doomsday Clock is presumably the final stage of DC’s Rebirth initiative, it makes sense that this story is a time-skip for all of our heroes.
6 WHAT WE HOPE: IT LEADS TO KEY REVIVALS
Since Rebirth began, DC has been slowly adding back elements of its original universe that fans have been clamoring for, from the original Wally West to Jay Garrick to just reconnecting characters that have always been together, like Black Canary and Green Arrow.
But there’s still much left to add -- the Justice Society of America, Kon-El, and the Legion of Super-Heroes are all still notable returns that while hinted at in either DC Universe: Rebirth or interviews following its release, have yet to materialize. Despite being 12 issues long, it feels unlikely that Doomsday Clock will take time out of its story to specifically restore these characters to their former glories, but it would be nice if the event set things up for their potential return when the dust settles.
5 WHAT WE KNOW: IT'S A CELEBRATION OF EVERYTHING DC
When asked what Doomsday Clock was about, Johns said it was “a celebration of everything from Action Comics #1 in 1938 all the way to today”. That speaks to the epic nature of the story he seems to be telling here, and how he has a desire to pull elements from several eras of the DC Universe and put them all into this single tale.
It also perhaps hints at just how far-reaching Dr. Manhattan’s changes to the DC Universe might be? After all, arguably the DCU has been fighting its own constant war of optimism versus cynicism since not long after Watchmen finished being released in 1987, and Doomsday Clock is an excellent chance to explain the changing tastes of readers throughout the eras inside the universe itself.
4 WHAT WE HOPE: IT'S NOT DRAGGED DOWN BY CONTINUITY
Still, while Johns is pulling from all these disparate eras of the DCU, we hope it doesn’t require a manual or several pages in the back of each issue devoted to necessary reference issues to follow along. DC’s been publishing comics for nearly 80 years, and it’s probably safe to say most fans haven’t read a vast majority of them. So while this story is meant to celebrate everything DC’s done, ideally it won’t be so bogged down in continuity that only the most die-hard fans will understand what’s happening.
Fortunately, Johns has proven time and again that although your experience with his work is enriched by having read older DC stories, and certainly from reading his own older work, it’s never required. Plus, if he can make Hawkman approachable, this should be a cinch.
3 WHAT WE KNOW: IT WILL BE TOLD IN WATCHMEN STYLE
As fans of Watchmen are already aware, the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons seminal classic was told in a very intricate, specific style -- running as a 12-issue mini-series, and being told in a three-by-three, nine panel grid. Presumably to bring home just how serious they’re taking this story’s connection to Watchmen, this is a style that Johns and Frank will be imitating, as Doomsday Clock is both 12 issues long and being told using that same three-by-three nine panel grid system.
Artist Gary Frank also mentioned in the initial press release that “each panel is extremely detailed and [he] is constantly thinking through the position of each element”, which is also reminiscent of Watchmen, a work that often contained repeated themes and background elements in the art that would stick out to people who analyzed the work closely enough.
2 WHAT WE HOPE: IT'S THEMATICALLY STRONG
Still, both the length of the series and the nine-panel grid method of conveying the story are both merely surface elements of the original. The real meat of Watchmen was in its themes, clashing ideologies, well-developed characters, and the way it took an unflinching look at what a world with superheroes might realistically look like.
And while it’s admirable of Johns and Frank to want to imitate the style of Watchmen, to avoid looking like a poor one they’ll need to have themes as strong to hold this series up. They’re halfway there, though -- Johns’ discussions on the two zeitgeist states of the nation, an increasing trend towards extremism, and battles between optimism and pessimism, hope and despair, is pretty heady stuff that can easily make for a great comic.
1 WHAT WE KNOW: IT'S NOT A WATCHMEN SEQUEL
One of the first things Johns mentioned in regards to this series is an emphatic statement that this isn’t a sequel to Watchmen. More specifically Johns described Doomsday Clock as, “something else. It is Watchmen colliding with the DC Universe.” In other words, don’t expect Doomsday Clock to give the Watchmen characters some new storylines going forward -- and the original story was already self-contained so there’s nothing to pick up and run with.
This story, and indeed everything about “Rebirth”, has been about the DC Universe confronting the legacy of Watchmen. The story here is how that story has affected the DCU, not the other way around. Hopefully our heroes can survive the experience.
What do you think should happen in Doomsday Clock? Be sure to let us know in the comments.