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What Does DOOMSDAY CLOCK Mean for WATCHMEN and the DC Universe?

What Does DOOMSDAY CLOCK Mean for WATCHMEN and the DC Universe?

Sunday night, DC made the announcement that Superman will encounter Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan in a new event series called Doomsday Clock, with Geoff Johns and Gary Frank attached as the creative team. The crossover itself wasn’t a surprise, since it was Johns and Frank who set up that angle in DC Universe: Rebirth # 1 with the discovery of the Comedian’s button in the Batcave. That angle is still playing out in “The Button” within The Flash and Batman monthly series.

Looking back, the door for these latest developments was first opened in 2012 with the launch of Before Watchmen, a series of miniseries designed as prequels to the original tale by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. For almost three decades, no one at DC dared to go near Moore and Gibbons’ masterpiece. But the implication of Doomsday Clock and the larger DC Rebirth stories is clear: Watchmen is no longer untouchable at DC. This is really happening, whether the purists want it or not.

batman-and-the-flash-watchmen

There is a strong argument to be made about keeping Watchmen separate from the rest of the DC Universe. Watchmen is a genuine classic and it doesn’t need a connection to Superman, Batman, or the rest of the DC heroes. It stands on its own. And really, would you crossover Maus with a superhero book? Or Blankets? Or any of the other comic books and graphic novels that have earned critical recognition from outside of the industry?

And yet there is something very intriguing about the conflict that Johns has laid out for Doomsday Clock. Superman is an alien who has always embodied the best of humanity, and he’ll be going up against Doctor Manhattan, a god-like being who has all but given up on his humanity. If it was simply a fight, then it would be over before it began. Doctor Manhattan is simply far more powerful than the Man of Steel. But the thing that makes Superman special is his ability to inspire. If Superman is going to win this battle, it’s going to be with his words and actions, not his fists.

Superman Doomsday Clock

Over his many years in the industry, Johns has demonstrated that he puts a lot of heart into his books. One of the reasons that DC Universe: Rebirth # 1 resonated so deeply was because of the way he and his artistic collaborators depicted the bond between Barry Allen and Wally West. The Watchmen connection was simply the exclamation point. We trust that Johns will tell us a good story, and Frank is among the best artists in the industry. We’re not worried about Doomsday Clock. It’s what comes after that concerns us.

Let’s be clear: Watchmen 2 is a bad idea, but it may happen. Someday, some brave souls will invite comparison to Moore and Gibbons as they try to chronicle the events that took place after Watchmen came to an end. The ambiguity of that particular ending was so powerful that it would be unfortunate to see someone attempt to improve upon it. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting stories to tell within that world. Despite critical misgivings from industry observers, some of the Before Watchmen tales are quite good. Especially the ones by the late Darwyn Cooke. With the right creative teams, that world is worth revisiting.

Before Watchmen Minutemen 1

The thing to avoid is making the Watchmen universe into just another destination in the DC multiverse. Johns seems to understand that, as he told Syfy Wire that Doomsday Clock won’t go the traditional route of chasing every dollar through spinoff miniseries and one-shots. As intriguing as it would be to see the Watchmen characters encounter the original Charlton superheroes that inspired them, we don’t necessarily need to see the Question vs. Rorschach. The concern is that we’d eventually see the Watchmen characters in pointless stories like Countdown: Arena. That miniseries pit so many DC Elseworlds characters against each other that their appearances lost all meaning.

The original Watchmen will always have an important place in comic book history, and not even the worst spinoff idea could ever change that. For now, Watchmen is still special, even if it’s no longer protected in the way that it once was. As long as DC recognizes that and doesn’t oversaturate the characters and their world, then it can remain special. Execution is everything, and even Doomsday Clock is going to have to be great to pull off its ambitions. DC may watch the Watchmen, but we’re watching them.

How do you feel about the integration of Watchmen into the DC Universe? Let’s discuss in the comment section below!

Images: DC Comics

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