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. Issue seven really picks up speed compared to the last installment and some dots are finally starting to connect.
The cover depicts a blue moth on top of the Green Power Lantern. The meaning of the moth is unexplained but it brings to mind Byron Lewis aka Mothman, and the colour of Dr Manhattan. The first panels immediately tell this issue is going to have some weight, because the blue narration boxes reveal it’s Dr Manhattan himself speaking for the first time in the series. For six issues he has been a looming but hidden presence and now we finally see what his thoughts about the events in the DC and “Watchmen” universes are. He clearly has some sort of agenda since he here interferes with DCU history radically. He prevents Alan Scott from ever becoming Green Lantern by killing him, and thus prevents the Justice Society of America from forming. This is the first concrete piece of evidence of Dr Manhattan messing with the DC timeline, the mystery of which was introduced at the very start of Rebirth in 2016. The JSA not existing also undoes the events of 1950, when the House Un-American Activities Committee demanded the JSA unmask to in front of them, which lead to the team disbanding. 1950 is the last point in time that Manhattan mentions, meaning the HUAC incident was probably the moment he wanted to change by killing Scott. The Golden Age heroes of the JSA retiring is also quite similar to what happened to the Minutemen in “Watchmen.”
The date of Alan’s death, July 16th in 1940, comes from the character’s debut in “All-American Comics” #16 from July 1940. The date comes from the issue number since the month comes from the issue’s cover date, which rarely is the actual publication month and only states the month and the year. In contrast, November 22nd 1940 is the exact in-store date of “All-Star Comics” #3, where the JSA debuted. November 22nd is also the day when Jon Osterman turned into Dr Manhattan in 1959 and the day when “Doomsday Clock” #1 came out.
Rorschach and Saturn Girl have taken Johnny Thunder into their company. The bus stop they’re standing at has an advert for Nathaniel Dusk and another for the Travodart supplement, which appeared in the attached documents of issue two and is a reference to both JSA member Hourman and the embracing couple image from “Watchmen.” Rorschach mentions Aladdin, which was one of the books on Johnny Thunder’s table. Johnny Thunder tries to summon his Thunderbolt, but nothing happens.
We get a briefing on the hot political debate on metahumans. There is something shady going on in Markovia, where hundreds of refugees have vanished despite Geo-Force trying to play nice in fear of Russia’s metahumans. “Doomsday Clock” has referenced real-life politics that much after its debut issue, but now mentions Putin and Xi Jinping, the latter claiming he was attacked by Australian metahumans in his dreams. Firestorm refuses to comment in a crude manner yet again, calling the Supermen Theory debate fake news. Right now, evidence – such as the Typhoon documents – points to the Supermen Theory being real, but that doesn’t yet confirm its validity. Superman seems to be the only hero who still has international support. Despite his “Truth, Justice and the American Way” slogan, Superman has also been portrayed as an international hero in the past, even deciding to renounce his US citizenship in “Action Comics” #900.
Adrian Veidt’s kitten clone of Bubastis can detect traces of Manhattan on the Green Power Lantern and using the cat as a navigator, the group heads where the trace points them. Saturn Girl tells Johnny Thunder not to worry about the outcome of all of this, but that is hardly reassuring considering her outlook on the future has seemed a bit inconsistent. It has changed from optimistic in “DC Rebirth Special” #1 to pessimistic in “Batman” and now she seems to think everything will be okay again. The issue’s title, “Blind spot,” is a giveaway for the issue’s theme, vision. Being from the future, Saturn Girl seems to always be sure of the outcome be it positive or negative, but the outcome isn’t fixed after all. Saturn Girl says she is here to protect Superman from an unknown anomaly in the time stream that is threatening him, presumably meaning Dr Manhattan. Having left the “Watchmen” universe in 1985, Manhattan has been in the DCU at least from 1940 (in DC time) onward. In “Watchmen” Manhattan was never shown time travelling in the literal sense, rather than being able to perceive the past and the future and possessing the ability to teleport. When leaving the “Watchmen” universe, he most likely was able to choose what time in the DCU he would enter. There are still a lot of unknown factors of the exact mechanics of these time shenanigans, but later in the issue we see that it’s not so clear even to Dr Manhattan himself.Continued below
Entering the Joker’s hideout, we can see classic paraphernalia like a toxic gas balloon from 1989’s Batman and a Jokermobile that seems to be inspired by a toy from Mego. Joker also still keeps a big picture of Harley Quinn on his wall, but there’s something sprayed on top of it. The imprisoned Comedian reveals the hit ordered by Manhattan wasn’t actually on Veidt, but on Bubastis Junior. The cat can now sense so much of Dr Manhattan on the Comedian and the lantern that Manhattan feels pulled to her like a magnet. Then, finally it happens. Dr Manhattan shows up in all his glory.
Manhattan teleports the “Watchmen” characters away with him to have private discussion. The beautiful nature scenery with a butterfly flapping around is sort of reminiscent of Veidt’s Antarctic headquarters in “Watchmen” #11. Manhattan straight up refuses to help save the “Watchmen” universe. Veidt had also asked Laurie Juspeczyk to try to lure Manhattan back, but Laurie had refused, telling him to resort to Mime and Marionette. Manhattan now reveals quite a few secrets, first of all telling that Marionette is pregnant again and that her firstborn will get up to something big when he grows up. He also reveals Veidt’s cancer was all a lie to manipulate Rorschach to work with him. Making himself look like a victim is a typical move from Veidt, who in “Watchmen” faked an assassination attempt on himself. Rorschach can’t accept this, to which Veidt comments “You see what you want to see.” This was a reoccurring phrase in “Doomsday Clock” #4. Byron Lewis giving Reggie is father’s notes on the original Rorschach also happened in that same issue. Veidt tells the truth of how Rorschach’s dark worldview really affected Reggie’s father Dr Malcolm Long. What he says is a bit of an exaggeration since Malcolm and his wife Gloria didn’t truly despise each other at the time of their death, as they were trying to make amends at least some way right before being unsuspecting victims of Veidt’s squid attack.
Dr Manhattan teleports the group to a protest at what is presumably Washington DC with the White House in the background. Now he drops the biggest piece of information in the whole series so far. He had originally arrived to the DCU thinking he might fit in this world full of super-powered individuals but was shocked by a vision of the future. He saw the most hopeful DC character – meaning Superman – turned hopeless heading towards him. Most importantly, he can’t see any further into the future after this moment. This is where stuff really gets interesting, as the characters are teleported again, this time into the Nathaniel Dusk movie ‘The Adjournment.’ Manhattan reveals he was at the set of the film in 1954 and at the scene of Dusk actor Carver Colman’s death. Manhattan says Carver Colman was once hopeful but lost hope, and this clearly affected Manhattan in some way. We suspected in the annotations of issue three that Manhattan might’ve had something to do with Carver Colman, but the exact connection is still shadowy. Issue number three’s backmatter also had a lot of references to JSA members and those are a puzzle too. A small detail that could be important is that Ring Lardner Jr, a writer for one of the Dusk movies, was imprisoned for failing to answer to HUAC, the same committee that led to the end of the JSA. Lardner was actually a real-life person investigated by HUAC and then blacklisted from Hollywood.
Still, it’s finally becoming clear how this story within a story relates to the main plot. The line “Two men were playing a game of chess. Both were shot and killed before the game was finished” doesn’t promise anything good for Manhattan nor Superman. The characters are also standing on a piece of checkered floor from the Joker’s lair, like a chess board. Manhattan now delivers an antithesis to his famous quote “Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends” by saying: “But I was wrong, Adrian. Everything ends.” He then drops the others back at the Joker’s headquarters and disappears again, leaving a chaotic situation in his wake. Joker electrocutes Batman on the mouth, Rorschach covers the Joker’s mouth with his hand and then draws a smiley face on his own mask with blood, creating quite a chilling image.Continued below
When Ozymandias returns to the Owlship, Saturn Girl gets shocked when reading his mind. Veidt has apparently made a bad decision and now the future perhaps could be changed for the worse. He has a new plan to save not only his own world, but the DC one too. With Saturn Girl now hanging out with the “Watchmen” crew and having mentioned her powers, couldn’t Manhattan seek her out since she knows what happens in the future that he cannot see? Also, there is the question about Manhattan knowing what will happen to Marionette and Mime’s child in the future. Did he previously see into the future further than one month? Or is the child a character supposed to live in the “Watchmen” universe, where Manhattan was able to see the whole timeline? The latter option is likely, but the last time we saw the “Watchmen” world, America was undergoing nuclear destruction and probably won’t be a very inhabitable place in the future without some history-altering shenanigans.
The penultimate page is a montage with a television narration overlaid. Black Adam has entered Jerusalem and the conflict escalates quickly, the narration ending with one of the broadcasters screaming in agony. “Beware the Creeper!” is a reference to Jack Ryder aka the Creeper, who was saved by Black Adam in an earlier issue. Reggie wanders lost and alone amongst homeless people. A hand clad in a white glove with blood stains mails a letter to Lois Lane, presumably containing something about the Supermen Theory. The blood stains point to Rorschach, but his gloves are black instead of white. We return to the Nathaniel Dusk chess element as Dr Manhattan teleports to Mars to ponder his vision, making the connection with the main story even more evident. One month into the future, Manhattan sees a raging, red-eyed Superman throwing a single punch at him in a world that is crumbling apart around them. After this he doesn’t see anything, no matter if he looks a second or a millennium into the future. He concludes that either Superman destroys Dr Manhattan or Dr Manhattan destroys the DC universe. This is a quite literal actualization of the what Geoff Johns has wanted to explore with this series: the clashing of these two universes and their storytelling methods. However, it is unlikely that things will go down exactly like this, because a punch from Superman isn’t likely to destroy Dr Manhattan. The final panel is the image of Jon and Sarah at Palisades Amusement Park, a reminder of the time when Jon still actively cared about human life.
The ending quote is appropriate to the issue’s theme, as usual. R. Buckminster Fuller was an architect, designer and futurist among other things. He lived from 1895 to 1983 and is most famous for popularizing the geodesic dome construct. The issue’s attached documents detail the “birth” of Bubastis II, who came into being one bodily system at a time just like Dr Manhattan, whose DNA is included in the kitten. Veidt’s notes explain that because of Manhattan’s DNA, Bubastis II can track the tachyon particles that Manhattan emits. In real-world physics, tachyon particles are hypothetical particles that would always move faster than light. Veidt used these particles against Manhattan in “Watchmen” too. Visible on these pages are also Bubastis action figures from the toy line Veidt launched after retiring from being a superhero.
This issue was quite a ride that both gave us answers and left us with new questions. What is Dr Manhattan’s exact relation to Carver Colman and is the JSA somehow related to the Dusk movies too? Why did Manhattan see it best for the JSA to never exist? What in the conversation with Manhattan made Veidt change his plans about saving the universe(s)? Come back in December to see what we find out next!