This November will see the release of Doomsday Clock #1 and one of the most iconic teams in comic book history will make its debut in the pages of mainstream DC Comics. The Watchmen.
So who are they and what bought us to the point where they could possibly be a defining factor in how the DCU is shaped moving forward?
Created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons the original run took place back in 1986 as a 12-issue maxi-series. It started with the murder of The Comedian, a former member of the Watchmen. As the others investigate his death they discover a conspiracy that will see millions die and their world changed forever. It is considered by many to be the greatest comic ever.
Watchmen showed its heroes as flawed, often psychologically troubled, human beings and looked closely at the idea of ‘What kind of person puts on a mask to go out and fight crime’?
If you haven’t read it, I am going to give you a quick spoiler warning.
Ozymandias did it. One of the Watchmen killed his own former teammate because he got too close to figuring out his evil plan. This story leads to one of the greatest endings of all time. As the heroes stand poised to defeat the villain he reveals that the only reason he is explaining his devilish plan to them is because he already did it…. 30 minutes ago.
The ending of Watchmen is mind blowing in both its genius and its simplicity. Ozymandias, the villain revealed, actually succeeds and by the time the rest of the Watchmen even set foot in his evil lair to save the world they are already too late. As brilliant as the entire series is and it is brilliant, it is this ending that made it legendary.
The original 12-part series has been collected and reprinted over and over through the years. This is as much a legal maneuver for DC as it is about sales. A provision was written into the original creators contracts stating that the comic and the characters would revert back to Moore and Gibbons once the series went out of print. As a result Watchmen never has.
In 2009, a Watchmen movie directed by Zack (I need a ‘Directors Cut’) Snyder was released by Warner Bros. Artist Dave Gibbons was happy to support the movie, even supplying artwork for promotion, but by this point, Alan Moore’s relationship with DC Comics was non-existent. He referred to the movie as “regurgitated worms” without even seeing it and if he has held true to his word still hasn’t to this day.
In 2012, a prequel series was released. It was made up of seven different titles, each focusing on a different character from the original book. Before Watchmen was an interesting idea but didn’t even come close to making the same impact as the original series. Alan Moore was again less than impressed with the idea of DC playing with his toys. In an interview with the New York Times Moore made that obvious:
“I don’t want money. What I want is for this not to happen.”
When Rebirth #1 was released on May 25, 2016, no-one expected to find the cause of the troubles that the DC Universe had been facing over the years was Dr. Manhattan, the only super powered being from the Watchmen Universe. Most thought it was simply the editors.
The revelation was unexpected yet also made perfect sense. The DCU has been through many universe altering events over the years, The New 52, Flashpoint, Multiversity and the upheaval was all tied up in nice neat little blue ball. It worked over at Marvel a few years back, why not here as well.
It was during Before Watchmen, that the seeds were sown for what would come in Rebirth. Manhattan is shown altering time, taking events and altering them slightly to observe the new outcome. The last page of Dr Manhattan showed him creating a new universe. Could that have been the DCU?
All we know for sure is that Dr. Manhattan is doing something with the DC Universe and he has been for quite some time.
The Doomsday Clock starts ticking. What is ‘The Button’?
During Rebirth, Wally West, the original Kid Flash was attempting to break back into reality. After being ‘misplaced’ when the New 52 was born, he hopped from person to person trying to convince them who he was. During his time with Batman, a mysterious object was drawn from the void with him. A button. A smiley face button.
This was our first clue that something was happening not just with Dr. Manhattan, but with the rest of the Watchmen as well.
The Button ran through both The Flash and Batman, right now it is fresh enough that I don’t want to spoil it.
There are some great twists and turns through the story and it makes brilliant use of the whole time travel device. By the time it ends, we are left with some major hints about what will happen moving forward. This arc doesn’t just set up what is happening with the Watchmen. We also get to see that some old friends are about ready to make a dramatic return as well. Like many great stories we are left with more questions than answers, thus setting us up for Doomsday Clock.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
The meaning of this metaphor is basically ‘discovering truth by building on previous discoveries’. Considering what the Doomsday Clock is attempting, I think it is a metaphor that fits very well.
Geoff Johns and Gary Frank both have incredible talent so the book does appear to be in good hands. The promo materials are all looking great so far. We have seen Batman in possession of Rorschach’s journal and we know that the Joker will be gracing the cover of issue five. The book itself will also be self contained so no need to pick up 59 crossovers to follow the story.
But standing on the shoulders of giants can be dangerous, the Doomsday Clock will immediately draw comparisons to the original material and when you are dealing with one of the most revered stories in comics, those comparisons may be harsh even if the new material is excellent.
The Doomsday Clock is a risk. Any time that you tamper with something legendary, it is a risky move. The brilliance of the original Watchmen can never be dimmed. It is simply bulletproof. The risk lies in DC using this material to try and correct the errors it has made over the past few years. The Doomsday Clock needs to work for the DCU to work moving forward.
When standing on the shoulders of giants you need to be very careful, it is a long drop if you fall.