Welcome to “Keeping a Watch on Doomsday Clock,” our column dedicated to annotating the first ever DCU/Watchmen crossover that most of us probably didn’t need but is here nonetheless! Since this 12-issue maxiseries relies so heavily on “Watchmen,” a comic that has a ton to unpack in itself, there are a lot of details and references to look at. This penultimate issue focuses on the Supermen theory conflict and catches up with a few characters that we haven’t seen in a while. The clock is one minute to midnight, so get prepared for the finale by digging through every detail of this issue with us!
We open up with Batman preventing soldiers from launching a nuclear missile. Chaos reigns everywhere: Gotham is taken over by a gang war between The Joker and Mime and Marionette, and Wonder Woman is locked in battle with the metahumans of Kahndaq. The Justice League is still out of commission on Mars and Batman is being overpowered yet again. The finale of ‘The Adjournment’, which we covered in our previous annotations, is still rolling on a stolen TV. The ‘you see what you want to see’ phrase makes its first appearance of the issue. The excerpt Alfred is reading from Rorschach’s diary is from “Watchmen” #10.
Lois Lane’s father General Sam Lane proposes to the president that the US government should publicly reveal its involvement in the Supermen Theory. The general believes that if people knew some metahumans to be creations of their nation, their faith in the heroes would be restored. This is basically the opposite of people’s initial reactions to the claims that heroes such as Firestorm would be government puppets, and the president refuses Lane’s idea too. The two wonder whether the Amazons will arrive to help Diana. The Amazons talk about purple light, which refers to the light of the Purple Healing Ray, a piece of Amazonian healing technology that can bring a person back from the dead.
Russia has given the US until midnight to hand Superman over, which is yet another addition to the imagery of a clock ticking down to midnight in both “Watchmen” and “Doomsday Clock.” The actual Doomsday Clock maintained by Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is also shown on this page, moved only one minute to midnight. In real life, the clock has been set to two minutes until midnight since 2018, which is the closest to destruction it has been since 1953.
Lex Luthor and Lois Lane are discussing the events of “Doomsday Clock” #2, where the Comedian shot Luthor after Veidt had approached him. Luthor says this happened a few weeks ago, which sets a timeframe for the story. According to the news broadcast, it has been a few days since the Justice League left for their unlucky trip to Mars. This chaotic television montage is similar to how the first issue of the series was structured. The origin of the Moscow explosion is not only a topic of discussion within the hero community, but is also now a public debate. The news also tells us someone has burned the Flash Museum and the superhero themed restaurant Planet Krypton near it. The restaurant looks exactly like it did in “Kingdom Come” #1, where it was originally introduced in 1996.
Adrian Veidt quotes Joyce Gulino’s final line in ‘The Adjournment’ while watching the cacophony of television channels. The snippet about the breaking dam could be seen as an allegory for refusal to take action before the doomsday has already arrived and hopeless plans to save the situation. Veidt goes to visit his prisoners Johnny Thunder and Saturn Girl – a man from the past and a girl from the future.
The next pages offer an explanation for a mystery that has been puzzling us for a long time, as Lex Luthor explains the origins of the Jon Osterman photograph that has been appearing in various places throughout the series. It is not just a singular item, but multiple copies of the same photo. Luthor shows Lois the copy of the photo that was found at Carver Colman’s house after his death. The inscription on the back says the picture was originally found April 18th, 1938. This date appeared multiple times in the last issue, where it held a great deal of importance as the date of Superman’s debut in “Action Comics” #1 and also the day Dr Manhattan first entered the DCU.Continued below
Luthor originally discovered the mystery of the photos while tracking “abnormal chronal energy spikes.” This investigation lead Luthor to the site where the original Wally West returned in “DC Universe: Rebirth Special” #1. There he discovered the photograph and items related to the Flash characters. This also explains how the Justice Society of America video that Luthor sent to Lois ended up existing in a timeline where the Justice Society itself hadn’t existed. Luthor displays a collection of the same photograph he has retrieved from various places, and says they always appear where Dr Manhattan has visited because he creates new copies of it without his knowledge. We’ll take a closer look at the locations of the photos at the end of the annotations. Luthor also mentions other mysteries he has investigated, such as the existence of aliens and the treath of Nibiru. The Nibiru cataclysm is in real life a highly controversial doomsday scenario about Earth colliding with a large planetary object. In the DCU, Nibiru featured in the 2016 limited series “Superman: The Coming of the Supermen,” so that’s probably what Luthor is referring to.
Dr Manhattan ponders on his upcoming meeting with Superman and the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981. He mentions this event because it is a difference between the DC world and the “Watchmen” world. In “Watchmen,” Richard Nixon was still in office during the events of the comic in 1985. “Doomsday Clock” #1 told us he was followed by actor Robert Redford, with Reagan never sitting in office. Superman is now back in action and being taken to meet the president.
Reggie Long is getting some focus after being mostly absent for a long while. The pancakes, which were heavily featured in initial promotion of “Doomsday Clock” but have mostly been irrelevant also make an appearance. Reggie dreams of his father Dr. Malcolm Long and the death of Byron Lewis from issue four, with ‘you see what you want to see’ being repeated again. Batman needs Reggie’s help to find Veidt and prove Superman’s innocence, but Reggie refuses to cooperate.
Mime and Marionette also make a comeback in this issue, and the relevance of their eldest child is finally revealed. Dr Manhattan had saved Mime and Marionette’s unborn son for another reason than what Veidt had originally thought. Manhattan didn’t act because he pitied the pregnant woman, but because he knew the child would later become dear to someone important to him. The boy was adopted by Laurie Juspeczyk and Dan Dreidberg, who in “Watchmen” #12 were shown to be living a new life under the aliases of Sandra and Sam Hollis. This is the first time the couple is shown in “Doomsday Clock.” It was Dr Manhattan’s past feelings towards Laurie that made him spare Marionette’s life.
Veidt recaps his world-saving plan and sheds light on some previously unexplained details. The truth about the Supermen Theory is that the conspiracy was partially true. The US government had started experimenting with the creation of metahumans after the appearance of Superman. One of these heroes created was Firestorm, whom Veidt then manipulated by leaking the classified information about him to his Russian counterpart Pozhar. The Moscow explosion to frame Firestorm and Superman was created by baby Bubastis. It was intentionally made to be traceable to Dr Manhattan to trick the majority of the DC heroes to leave for Mars. Now even Wonder Woman is out of commission as the Amazons abduct her to Themyscira. Superman is faced by Black Adam and the Supermen Theory metahumans on the grounds of the White House. This scene is sort of reminiscent of the “Superman/Batman” story “The World’s Finest” aka “Public Enemies,” where Superman also had to fight a crew of metahumans in the same location. Some of the attackers are even the same as in that story, such as Giganta and Killer Frost.
Meanwhile at Veidt’s lair, Saturn Girl fades out of existence as she realizes she cannot exist in this timeline. It is a bit unclear why Superman wouldn’t remember her, since he had met the Legion of Super-Heroes both in the preboot continuity and the New 52. The reason for wiping Saturn Girl away is probably that the publication of this series was delayed so many times that the Legion reboot was already given to Brian Michael Bendis in the meantime, and Johns’ possible further plans for Saturn Girl’s role in the story fell through. This isn’t the only way time has driven past “Doomsday Clock.” While the original idea was that the series would take place a year into the future so that the rest of the DCU would catch up to it over time, the series has taken so long to come out that other DC series have already gone past it in the passage of time. For example, Lex Luthor currently plays a key role in the “Year of the Villain” event, which there is no mention of in this issue. Veidt talking about his tomb being his monument is somewhat reminiscent of the Ozymandias poems featured in the first issue of the series. The news broadcast also mentions the Giza pyramids being destroyed, which is another reference to tombs. His comment about how the past won’t be erased is also notable, considering that the past of the Justice Society being wiped away is exactly what Dr Manhattan has done.Continued below
Black Adam punches Superman so hard he flies to a whole other area in the city, where Dr Manhattan also arrives. The players are now in position for the grand finale, waiting for one of them to make the first move. This differs greatly from the penultimate issue of “Watchmen” where the catastrophe already happens, and the last issue is devoted to showing the horrifying damage and aftermath of the story. Now we are still just getting ready for the final showdown without any twists, which is one of the many structural decisions that make “Doomsday Clock” much more straightforward compared to the meticulous clockwork of “Watchmen.” The four final panels are playing with the idea of the circle symbol with a dot at the top that first appeared in the “Watchmen” logo, the ticking clock and Dr Manhattan’s insignia. Here it is taken further with the Earth and the Moon and the eye on the Ozymandias symbol, with his speech bubble serving as the dot.
The ending quote is from James Joyce, a modernist Irish author who lived from 1881 to 1941. The quote is from his first novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and reflects here the catastrophic situation the characters have ended up in and especially Veidt’s willingness to take extreme risks in his plans. The attached documents include the Jon and Sarah photographs collected by Lex Luthor around the world. Many of the dates and locations have been seen throughout previous issues. The first picture was found at Carver Colman’s house after his death, just like Luthor stated earlier in the issue. The second one was found in his dressing room at the RKO Pantages Theatre, where he accepted an Academy Award as shown in the last issue. This means Manhattan was present at the event, which was not apparent in the previous issue. Picture number three was found in the remains of the train wreck that killed Alan Scott in 1940. The picture is said to have been discovered in a second hand store between the pages of a used copy of B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two, which also appeared on Clark Kent’s bedside in “Doomsday Clock” #1. It is unclear whether this is the same copy of the book or not.
The fourth photo was found in 1955, on the significant date of April 18th. It was located in Arnold’s Diner, the Hollywood restaurant Colman and Dr Manhattan used to meet up in until Colman’s death in 1954. The fifth one was found in a house owned by Wesley Dodds aka Sandman. Dodds was a founding member of the JSA, and this house is likely where the JSA headquarters were located. Dodds had seen Jon in his dreams and even knew his alias to be Dr Manhattan. Picture number six was found in a cemetery in Smallville after the death of Clark Kent’s parents in the Silver Age. The seventh one also appeared in Smallville, in the field where baby Kal-El’s rocket crashed in 1986. The photo was discovered in the album of the Hubbard family, who are neighbours of the Kents in various Superman adaptations.
The eighth photograph was found in Arkham Asulym after Reggie broke out of his cell there in “Doomsday Clock” #4. The ninth photo is the most puzzling one. According to the notes, it was found in the Congo Basin “a few weeks ago” and Luthor also tells this to Lois earlier in the issue. However, we can’t remember Dr Manhattan, or any other character for that matter, visiting Congo during the story. The tenth one was found at the movie theatre where Dr Manhattan took the “Watchmen” crew during a Nathaniel Dusk movie marathon. Luthor, unaware of Dr Manhattan’s true motives, hypothesizes Manhattan could’ve even been romantically infatuated with Colman.
The eleventh photo was discovered in the Joker’s safe house after Manhattan appeared there in issue seven. Lastly, we see a twelfth photograph with a different subject. It shows Jay Garrick and Barry Allen just like in the classic cover of “Flash” #123. The photograph was discovered at the same site where Luthor saw the return of Wally West and found the first Jon photo. This made Luthor come to the correct conclusion that reality has been altered and Jon is to blame. Less correctly, his huge ego also makes him assume that this means the entire history of the world centers around his never-ending fight with Superman, and that he must find Jon to close this endless loop between the two of them.
This time around even the back cover has an interesting detail. The descending red colour that could have easily been thought to be blood just like in “Watchmen” turns out to have a double meaning: not only is it a call back to the dripping blood of “Watchmen,” but also Superman’s flowing cape. That’s all for now, be sure to come back for the annotations of the final thrillingly catastrophic issue!