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. Now we have finally arrived at the last bombastic issue where the faith of the DC universe is determined.
The cover shows the Superman logo with a blood smear similar to the “Watchmen” logo. We open with a plethora of time related lines from Dr Manhattan’s ponderings. He refers to his famous quote from “Watchmen” #12 and the events of “Watchmen” #4. Unlike the post-apocalyptic scenery at the beginning of the final issue of “Watchmen,” here the final confrontation is only about to start. The meeting between Superman and Dr Manhattan is interrupted by the People’s Heroes and the Outsiders. Black Adam also arrives with the Kahndaq metahumans, demanding Superman to answer for his supposed crimes. Dr Manhattan thinks about Laurie Juspeczyk and Dan Dreidberg’s relationship and Superman’s debut, two things that will be surprisingly tied together at the end of the issue. Knights Inc. from the United Kingdom are coming to aid in the conflict, as well as the Sleeping Soldiers from Australia and Hayoth from Israel. The members of Knights Inc. and Hayoth were listed in the backmatter of issue five, and the Sleeping Soldiers were mentioned in issue six. China’s Great Twenty and Japan’s Big Monster Action are also joining the fight, which is escalating into a war according to the broadcasts.
Alfred Pennyworth finds Reggie Long, who is in deep depths of despair. Just like Dr Manhattan, Reggie sees no other option than everything ending in destruction. He gives a surprisingly long speech on political polarization and hate speech in the digital age, despite having been mostly nonverbal and out of touch with everything since his encounter with the “Watchmen” characters and the Joker in issue seven. Batman apologizes to Reggie for imprisoning him, while Superman lifts a car mimicking his often-referenced debut. Lex Luthor tells Lois Lane to go reveal to the world Dr Manhattan has altered its history, and picks up a weapon called vibrational emitter that hasn’t appeared before this. The coexistence of different Earths has in the past been explained by different vibrational frequencies, and this weapon seems to utilize that.
The “you see what you want to see” theme is finally brought to a conclusion when Batman tells Reggie to transform the Rorschach legacy into something different. Reggie realizes that he can both see the truth of what has happened but also see things from a new perspective. Meanwhile Dr Manhattan admits to Superman he has eliminated many important figures from his life and calmly waits for Superman’s punch, seemingly more willing to take the option of Superman destroying him than him destroying the world. But that punch to his face never comes, and instead Superman protects Manhattan from Pozhar’s attack. This was the vision of an aggressive Superman he had been having, and soon the darkness he saw gets an explanation too. Superman prompts Dr Manhattan to make a choice instead of resorting to the two black and white options he had concluded based on what he saw of the future. Neither of them has to destroy each other, there can be a third option. Superman reminds Manhattan of his humanity by asking about the Janey Slater photograph and makes Manhattan understand he can change things for the better. There is a parallel between Batman inspiring Reggie to see things differently and take action, and Superman doing the same for Dr Manhattan.
Dr Manhattan uses his powers to indeed end everything that is going on as the main cast of the series is douched in blue light and everything fades to black, the Superman symbol being the last thing left. The next page is just all-consuming blackness, with the nine-panel grid on the following page indicating the return of order to the universe. The blackness turns into outer space where Krypton explodes and the rocket of baby Kal-El arrives on Earth throughout millennia starting from prehistoric Earth and finally in the 20th century on the Kent farm. Since there are no superheroes prior to Superman in the continuity Dr Manhattan created, Jonathan Kent believes people would not accept Clark’s powers and advices him to hide. Thanks to Dr Manhattan now undoing Alan Scott’s death, things change so that the JSA has existed before Superman and Jonathan Kent is able to remember stories of the heroes from his youth. Encouraged by the words of his father, Clark takes up the role of Superboy and saves his parents from the car crash in his classic Superboy outfit.Continued below
Due to Superboy existing again, the Legion of Super-Heroes is also born. R. J. Brande founded the Legion with Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad after being saved by them. Brande, originally a Durlan alien trapped in human form, is the main funder of the Legion. Dr Manhattan has now undone the major changes he caused in Superman’s life, and the JSA and Legion come to Superman’s aid in the battle. The person named Soultaker on page 32 seems to be a new addition to the Legion roster. Johnny Thunder is able to remember that he can turn into the Thunderbolt himself and attacks Black Adam.
The next few pages are quite heavy talk about DC continuity as an awe-struck Dr Manhattan reviews past and future events of the universe. First, he mentions the original DC continuity that started in 1938 with Superman’s debut. Then Barry Allen becoming Flash moves things forward into the Silver Age and Superman’s timeline is shifted up into the 1950s, which is here explained by effects the birth of the Speed Force had on the universe. This division into two timelines creates the Multiverse, as the past timeline replaced by the new one splits away into Earth-2. In the same manner the old timeline left behind after “Crisis on Infinite Earths” turns into Earth-1985, which hasn’t been mentioned before, unlike the well-known concept of Earth-2. Manhattan understands the purpose of these different Earths to be preserving every version of Superman. Thus, the New 52 continuity created by him is still out there somewhere too. Manhattan calls the New 52 timeline “Earth-52” but this is best to be understood as a nickname the same way he uses “Earth-1985.”
Then Dr Manhattan turns his gaze to the future and gives a tease of possible upcoming DC events. He offers a glimpse into 2020, 2025 and even 2030. Next year, old gods (or perhaps Old Gods, the beings that preceded the New Gods) will interfere with the DCU and cause the continuity to change again. In 2025 Dr Manhattan believes the DCU will be facing a crisis titled the “Time Masters,” which will yet again renew Superman. It’s unclear who the comeback of his greatest allies refers to, since the Legion has now already come back and most of the central Super-family characters are currently appearing in comics too. The next big thing is the timeline being restored in 2026. Talk about restoring implies something old being brought back, but this is said to lead into Earth-5G, which could refer to a 5th generation of heroes. The same year Superman is said to go on a quest to find Batman’s lost daughter to save one of his sons. The 2030 DC/Marvel crossover predicted seems like a faraway idea, especially the death of Hulk hinted here sounds very unlikely to be something DC could actually decide or reveal. The name “Secret Crisis” is of course a combination of DC’s Crisis events and Marvel’s “Secret Wars” event. DC and Marvel have crossed over multiple times in the past, the latest event being “JLA/Avengers” in 2004.
In a future timeline Superman will debut in 2038 after having arrived on Earth in 2016, which was the year Rebirth started. After the next timeline shift, 2038 doesn’t mark Superman’s debut but his arrival on Earth. This time Jonathan and Martha Kent already have a child named Colin, who hasn’t appeared in a comic before this. The same events repeat throughout the centuries. Clara Kent from the 22nd century hasn’t appeared before this either, even though a female version of Clark with the same name has appeared in “Superman” #349. The Superman of 2965 is known to be Klar Ken T-5477, who appeared in “Superman” #181. Wonder Woman’s timeline is affected too, she is now remembered to have fought alongside the JSA during World War II.
Batman and Rorschach confront Adrian Veidt, who reveals he left the evidence of Superman’s innocence to be found out on purpose. The conversation is cut short when Dr Manhattan teleports all the “Watchmen” characters to have a confrontation at the Washington monument. Veidt reveals his masterplan was to arrange a meeting between Manhattan and Superman to have Manhattan get inspired to save the “Watchmen” universe. Veidt calls his plan a game as a final connection between him and Nathaniel Dusk, who ended his last movie with “It’s not who wins or loses, it’s about how you played the game.” The Comedian isn’t feeling so glad about Veidt’s ideas and shoots him, only to be attacked by Lex Luthor’s vibrational emitter that seems to have powers similar to those of Dr Manhattan. Luthor sends the Comedian back to where he came from, falling to his death at the beginning of “Watchmen.” Rorschach saves the dying Veidt because he wants him to answer for his crimes. Just like Nathaniel Dusk at the end of the film, Veidt survives getting shot. Dr Manhattan leaves Mime and Marionette permanently in the DCU. When Marionette demands their son back, Dr Manhattan says they will meet each other again because their son will need an anchor in this world just like Manhattan did. The fate of their son is explained a few pages later, but this comment adds an enigmatic element to it.Continued below
The newly hopeful Manhattan realizes the destructive effects his deterministic comments had on Carver Colman’s life. He returns to 1954 and decides to encourage him to not hide his orientation anymore now that he himself can see other futures than the bleak one he originally told Colman about. Colman comes out, making the blackmail attempts from Colman’s mother futile. Even though he loses his career and home for a long time, he is able to blossom in his later life. The television broadcast also reveals the Justice League has finally returned from Mars and the JSA is investigating the Department of Metahuman Affairs for the Supermen Theory. Martin Stein has been arrested and Ronnie Raymond is receiving treatment. Superman has started talks between the Justice League and the People’s Heroes. Wonder Woman has initiated bringing back the international superhero team Global Guardians, which originally appeared in the Super Friends cartoon. Actor Jonathan Lord first appeared in “Silverblade” #1 and starred in the in-universe movie of the same name. Lord had the power to physically transform into any character he played onscreen.
Dr Manhattan, Rorschach and Adrian Vedit have returned to their own world, which is in shambles after the nuclear explosion in issue one. A piece of Walter Kovacs’ sign can be seen, as well as adverts for Veidt’s Nostalgia perfume. Reggie forgives Byron Lewis and thanks him for trying to give him hope. Manhattan hints at a young girl named Cleopatra Pak taking up the Ozymandias legacy in the future with the aid of Bubastis. Her codename Nostalgia obviously comes from the now imprisoned Veidt’s old perfume brand.
Now we get to know that Dr Manhattan stole Marionette and Mime’s newborn child from the hospital. Manhattan reflects back on his cold and calculating father, compares that to the Kent family and walks on Mars with the child while wearing a suit like any regular human father. He fantasizes about having a family with Janey Slater until he fades away, giving his powers to the child. At the house of Laurie Juspeczyk and Dan Dreidberg, now known as the Hollis family, we learn that Dr Manhattan has made every nuclear weapon on Earth disappear and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has reset the Doomsday Clock. Young Sally Hollis opens the door, finding Mime and Marionette’s child, who Dr Manhattan named Clark and infused with his powers. Manhattan wanted the “Watchmen” universe to have a hero like Superman and decided this would be best achieved by giving his own powers to the child and making good parents like the Hollis family raise him. But judging by what Manhattan said to Mime and Marionette, the child will not stay in the “Watchmen” universe and will one day arrive in the DCU.
The final ending quote of the series is courtesy of Rabindranath Tagore, a writer, musician and artist from India. Here the God of the quote can be understood to be Dr Manhattan, who found new hope and interest in mankind, and because of this created the super-child. The only backmatter of this issue is an image of Carver Colman’s star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One of the flowers is from Dr Manhattan, judging by the attached photograph.
And so we conclude what we’ve been calling the first DCU/Watchmen crossover, but what actually would best be described as a story playing with “Watchmen” toys such as the characters and more mature content than usual, but following the logic of the DC universe. Despite its idea that superheroes’ simplistic moral codes wouldn’t really work because you can’t predict what is going to happen, the very structure of “Watchmen” makes the story feel predetermined. The story is built with such intricate clockwork that the catastrophe at the end feels inevitable. “Doomsday Clock” is a much more traditional superhero comic where at the end there is a hopeful twist no matter how terrible things were turning. In this issue this was reflected in the worldviews of Dr Manhattan and Reggie, who saw no way out of the situation before being inspired by the heroes of the DC universe. Throughout its long publication schedule the series partially drifted away from it’s original purposes of being the future state of the DCU, but it offered a ton of references and details in every issue nonetheless. Hopefully you all had as much fun going through them as we did!