Welcome to “Keeping a Watch on Doomsday Clock,” our column dedicated to annotating the first ever DCU/Watchmen crossover 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. We now take a look at the second issue, where we see a whole lot more of the DC universe.
The cover for “Doomsday Clock” #2 shows Marionette’s costume with some Nostalgia perfume and makeup. This time, the “Watchmen” idea of the cover image being a close-up of the first panel is followed more closely than in the first issue. Nostalgia was a brand created by Veidt Enterprises and discontinued in 1986, when Veidt thought times had changed and people would rather look into the future than the past. The brand was replaced by a new one called Millenium, which Marionette here describes as poison that makes her gag.
In “Watchmen,” Nostalgia represented looking into the past in multiple ways. As a brand, it was meant to invoke longing into the idyllic past in a world characterized by fear of the future. Its larger meaning in the storytelling was to symbolize characters looking or being stuck in the past. It often appeared near flashbacks, and here in “Doomsday Clock” its appearance leads us to a look in the past too. The panels on the first page start alternating between showing Marionette and Mime getting dressed up in the “present” of 1992 and showing a surveillance feed, which then turns into an actual flashback sequence. Varying between two different scenes was also how “Watchmen” #2 started, but like with the first issue, the layout quickly deviates from “Watchmen.”
The flashback showing Marionette and Mime robbing a bank is pretty straight-forward stuff until Dr Manhattan suddenly appears, sporting his black briefs. His appearance dates this flashback as happening before late 1985, as he left Earth for Mars after that. A detail to notice is the cashier lady having a bottle of Nostalgia perfume in her bag. Dr Manhattan decides to space Marionette and Mime’s lives when he hears the heartbeat of their unborn baby. In the present day, Ozymandias claims to know Jon “intimately well, both physically and emotionally” which sounds multiple kinds of weird. He says he needs Marionette because she could serve as a reminder of Manhattan’s past. The idea is that when they find Manhattan, his memory of sparing the pregnant Marionette’s life could remind him of compassion he once had for humanity. This plan seems kind of flimsy but knowing Ozymandias, that’s not all there is to it.
All the screens they’re looking at suddenly switch to static, indicating that nuclear missiles have been launched. We see the protesters from the previous issue as they notice an approaching missile. “Look! Up in the sky!” a man in the crowd exclaims, re-purposing the iconic Superman introduction line for something much, much darker. Still, the nuke arrives almost unceremoniously and very early on, opposed to the prolonged, constantly looming and ticking threat they are in “Watchmen.” Taking flight in Archie the owl ship, Ozymandias explains they will find their way to Dr Manhattan using a method called quantum tunneling. Travelling between different Earths in the DC Universe most commonly requires to the travelers to alter the vibrational frequency of their molecules, and quantum tunneling is probably something quite similar. Ozymandias manages to activate quantum tunneling just a few seconds after the nuke drops and midtown New York is apparently destroyed once again. This is where we shift to the DC universe.
Bruce Wayne is taking a Rorschach test and pretending to see some kind of boat in every ink blot. This brings to mind the original Rorschach taking the test and being just as dishonest. “Doomsday Clock” takes place a year into the future. We learn that at that time the public opinion has turned against Batman. Bruce Wayne isn’t viewed in a very good light either. Some protesters even see Batman as fascistic. The questions of whether or not Batman is actually good for Gotham and whether being a masked vigilante is fascistic or not have often been discussed in real life among readers and the general public. Exploring this in the story fits the Watchmen idea of exploring the impact of superheroes in a more cynical light. It remains to be seen how straight Geoff Johns will play this approach, since he has stated that in his opinion the darker views of “Watchmen” shouldn’t be applied to superheroes at large.Continued below
Archie the owl ship lands into an abandoned amusement park. While abandoned amusement parks seem to be the most common locations in Gotham City just after abandoned toy factories, Gary Frank has drawn the surroundings to look very familiar to many readers. It appears to be the same amusement park the Joker used in “The Killing Joke,” another famous story by Alan Moore. Ozymandias comments about the DC world lagging behind their own world in some ways, for example electric cars aren’t widely used. Noir movies about private eye Nathaniel Dusk are advertised on TV. Nathaniel Dusk was the star of two DC miniseries of the same name in the 1980s. Gotham has always had the foggy gothic industrial look, but the black and white noir movies add to the feeling of being somehow stuck in the past.
Gotham City Public Library has the statues of Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf and Vladimir Mayakovsky, who are important writers from the early 1900s. Rorschach’s comment about the three writers having something in common probably refers to the fact that all of them died by their own hand. That doesn’t explain why those three would specifically have a bust in a Gotham library, though. The subject is dropped quickly when Veidt starts discussing the differences of the two Earths. He mentions that some of the masked heroes of the DC universe are just fictional characters in the world of “Watchmen.” This was already a known fact, since the first Nite Owl Hollis Mason mentions in his memoir in “Watchmen” that he was inspired to become a costumed hero by “Action Comics” #1 and Superman. The universe-hopping aspect now connects this with the DC multiverse idea of people on one Earth being fictional characters on other Earths. Before this, the DC characters simply were fictional characters, who didn’t exist anywhere outside paper and ink, to the characters of “Watchmen.” As for the role of “Watchmen” in the DC universe, it most likely didn’t exist even as a comic book. Now both DC and “Watchmen” are equally “real,” just not existing in the same reality.
The next step of Veidt’s plan is to talk with this Earth’s two smartest people, who he has identified as Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne. Much like physical strength stats, the relative levels of superhero comic character’s intelligence fluctuate for storytelling purposes. The question here really isn’t whether or not Bruce Wayne really is the world’s second smartest man, it’s more about where Veidt got that idea. Luthor and Wayne are both known as extremely successful businessmen. The difference is that Luthor is also known as a scientist who has come up with a lot of LexCorp’s innovations himself. Meanwhile Bruce Wayne is more seen as the philantrophist owner of Wayne Enterprises and even portrayed as quite an airhead by the media sometimes. Taking this into account, it’s likely Veidt discovered Wayne’s hidden intellect by actually reading Batman comics. Veidt goes to LexCorp, wanting to meet the smarter one of the two, and Rorschach pays a visit to Wayne Manor. This is where this comic just gets really bizarre to read, with important DC and “Watchmen” characters actually interacting. Not surprisingly, Luthor thinks Ozymandias is out of his mind. The painting on Luthor’s wall looks like a version of Jacob wrestling with the angel. Being a human who fights a godly being and wins is definitely something Luthor would liken himself to.
Meanwhile elsewhere, after eating Batman’s pancake breakfast, Rorscach finds the grandfather clock entrance to the Batcave and enters. This is a parallel to the original Rorschach finding the Comedian’s secret closet. It seems weird that the secret door could just be pulled open by hand when it’s locked. Like in the “Doomsday Clock” logo, the clock is four minutes to midnight. To unlock the door the hands of the clock would need to be set to 10:47, the time of the Wayne’s death. A lot of the memorabilia in the cave is pretty standard stuff. The green and pink suit was Mr. Freeze’s first suit, back from when he was called Mr. Zero. Rorschach sees Batman’s trophies as horrifying tokens taken from victims by a monster. On a more realistic and less demonizing note, hoarding can actually be a trauma response. Rorschach deems both Batman and Ozymandias as unable to let the past go, which ties to the nostalgia theme. At LexCorp, Ozymandias is shot at. He manages to dodge so the bullet scrapes Luthor instead. On the last page, the shooter is shown to be the Comedian, seemingly back from the dead. When Batman returns to his cave, he and Rorschach stand in front of the giant penny with a panel border in between them. This is a pretty ham-fisted “two sides of the same coin” metaphor.Continued below
The final panel shows that Mime and Marionette have escaped, which immediately directs thoughts to something relating to the Joker happening later on. The ending quote of the issue is from American novelist and poet Carson McCullers. Nostalgia clearly has been the operative word of the issue, and it appears in this quote too. From the viewpoint of the “Watchmen” characters, a “place we have never known” is the DC universe. The quote can also be interpreted so that we comic readers are torn between nostalgia for old good comics and wanting to see something new. Often creators try to repeat the success of a well-received work while having to come up with new ideas to keep readers interested. “Doomsday Clock” itself fits this, being a previously unthinkable event comic utilizing one of the mediums most famous works.
Again, there’s a lot to look at in the attached documents at the back of the issue. An important new plot point introduced is “The Supermen Theory.” Wayne Enterprises and LexCorp are competing in researching the metagene and debate about the origins of metahumans is getting hot. Here it could be useful to refresh our memories of the history of the metagene, which gives people in the DC universe the ability to develop metahuman powers. Approximately 12% of Earth’s population carries the metagene. That a person carries the gene doesn’t automatically mean that they have some sort of powers, just that they have the ability to develop them in case an incident causing extreme physiological stress occurs. Nevertheless there are people who were born with the gene being already active, such as Black Canary. For the majority of metahumans, the powers they develop are something very minor, like being able to slightly move objects with their mind. A small percentage gets to a level of power that is useful for being a superhero or villain. The term “metahuman” has also been used when referring to characters such as Superman, whose superpowers are not a result of the metagene. Generally speaking, humans with an active metagene have not been discriminated against in the DC universe, unlike for example the mutant characters at Marvel. This might be changing with the introduction of “The Supermen Theory.” The main thesis of the theory, first presented by a Markovian scientist, is that the superheroes operating in the United States are in fact government created and sponsored living weapons. Markovia is a European country in the DCU, now said to have a military alliance with Russia. The theory was created when scientists wanted to answer the question: “Why are most of the world’s metahumans American?” Of course, the real-world explanation for this is that DC Comics is an American company and superheroes are a mostly American cultural phenomenon. The article mentions leaked documents that confirm Rex Mason aka Metamorpho and Kirk Langstrom aka Manbat to have gained their powers thanks to the influence of the government.
An advert for a medicine or some kind of supplement called Travodart has two points of interest. The more obvious one is the image of the embracing couple. It resembles the “Hiroshima lovers” graffiti, which was a reoccurring image in “Watchmen.” For the other one you have to read the small print at the bottom. The medicine is manufactured by Bannermain Chemical Company, which was the working place of Rex Tyler, who was known as the Golden Age superhero Hourman. Working at the company, Tyler created a vitamin supplement called Miraclo, which gave him superstrength and superspeed for one hour at a time. “If you experience muscle spasms for more than one hour, contact your doctor immediately” says the warning at the bottom, the mention of one hour confirming that this is indeed a reference to Hourman. Hourman was a member of the JSA, which was talked about in “DC Rebirth Special” #1 back in 2016. Are there more hints about the Justice Society of America on these pages? Yes, in a headline reporting about a mysterious green fire at an All-American factory building. This is very likely to be a reference to Green Lantern and JSA founding member Alan Scott. Scott debuted in “All-American Comics” and the source of his power sometimes took the form of a green flame.Continued below
“Doomsday Clock” #2 offered us a slim look at the near future of the DC universe. This could be interesting even to those who don’t care for the comic otherwise. On the other hand, the appearance of the Comedian seemed to be the last straw for many readers. The first issue was much heavier on real world politics and media references, while this time around there were mostly comic references to discuss. It seems like that will be the situation for the rest of the series if we remain in the DC universe. Come back next month to see what there is to analyse in “Doomsday Clock” #3!