Joe Glass went to the Doomsday Clock panel at New York Comic Con, He’s got a copy of the ashcan. You haven’t. He writes,
The big panel to end the Friday night at New York Comic Con 2017 belongs to DC, as the crowd filled the Main Stage hall to let us finally know some more info about Doomsday Clock. With the pre-panel entertainer bringing up everyone in the room dressed as a DC character up on stage for a group picture, warming up the crowd as they got to see a group of very talented cosplayers covering a broad range of DC characters (and even a cross company invasion by a Bat-Deadpool).
Introduced to the stage was Lev Grossman, who hosted the panel, writer of Magicians and a professional Watchmen fan. Reading out a list of Geoff Johns’ extensive bibliography, and then brought him out to the stage.
Johns thanked everyone for coming on a Friday night, when of course they could have been at a bar, and then showed off the things that people would be getting after the panel.
Asked when was the first time he read Watchmen, Johns says he was about 12 years old when he read it, and it was the Rorschach’s origin issue that was the first issue he read. Grossman described Watchmen as transformative to him, and Johns was thankful for the book getting graphic novels onto the best books list.
Johns says he’d only just started reading comics, so it was still all pretty new to him, he’d mainly read books like Superman, Man of Steel and Crisis, but there was nothing else like Watchmen on the stands at the time.
A smattering of yelps when Johns asks if anyone in the room has not read Watchmen. On how long Johns had been wanting to draw Watchmen into the larger DC Multiverse, and Johns said he’d never really thought about it until a year and a half ago when writing the Rebirth one shot.
Back then, he felt that all he was going to do was hint at it, and he talked about it a bit but it wasn’t until much later that they went ahead with it, because he and artist Gary Frank felt it could only be done if it was a story they both felt HAD to be done.
On what was missing from the DC Universe, Johns says it was missing relationships, emotional story-telling and those things are what made him interested in contrasting it against Watchmen.
Johns said he and Frank could have done anything they wanted to do, from more Shazam, Batman or, he throws out surprisingly, Hulk. He points out the feeling of Watchmen as sacrilegious, and that Doomsday Clock is something else, they are not changing anything about the original.
Johns says he likes when things are a challenge, and this felt like the biggest challenge.
Johns admits he knows Alan Moore will never read it, he’ll never look at it, but does feel the ghost of Moore almost hovering over him writing it, but they have to have the right to do it.
Asked if the outcome of the election tied into the decision to make Doomsday Clock, Johns said about how he loves comic conventions and if things were like that every day things would be awesome, but you can’t have comic cons every day. He talks about being on the set of Wonder Woman, with Frank, discussing the story but how he felt he didn’t HAVE to do it yet, and Frank said he didn’t want to do it Johns didn’t feel he had to do it. And it wasn’t until after events at the end of last year that he pitched the story to Frank, having reached the point he felt he had to do it.
Johns pushed for Frank, telling the other editors at DC that if Frank didn’t draw it, he wouldn’t write it. He says Frank is the only artist who could do it. Johns says he’s proud of everything they’ve done together. He mentioned the process they have is the only way he felt he could work on this. They can talk about a single panel for an hour, and they talk all the time, dissecting it down and Johns fully explains the intent of everything before Frank reads the scripts.
The storytelling is based on a nine panel grid, it’s a very character driven book, all inspired by Watchmen, so readers visually will get a feeling of an echo of the classic work.
Moving onto showing the actual artwork, they throw up the first page, which Johns explains as clearly reminiscent of the original Watchmen first page. The very first caption says ‘November 22nd, 1992…or is it the 23rd’ – showing how long it’s been since the original Watchmen and also that the narrator is not reliable. Clearly, in page one, we are in the world of the Watchmen, in 1992.
A look across the world that is self-destructing since the end of Watchmen, and the world having lost Doctor Manhattan. Ozymandias’ building being broken into by rioters outside, as we see that the world has learned the truth of Ozymandias’ actions in the original Watchmen. Inside his base, and it becomes clear from the artwork that the character who is suffering with a tumour in his brain may well be Ozymandias himself.
The panels end with the reveal that Rorschach is in fact back, and is the narrator, and has somehow survived the end of the original Watchmen. Rorschach is a central figure according to Johns, as he goes on the hunt to find Doctor Manhattan, who Johns says is in a familiar place for readers of the DC Universe.
Grossman talks about what he loved about seeing those panels is that they were really kind of funny, paraphrasing a Moore quote of how people took the wrong thing from Watchmen making everyone like Rorschach and going overly gritty and dark. Johns points out that that was exactly what they were going for, and that yeah things are funny and quirky, that’s the world we live in.
Have superhero comics got to the point where Superman can stand in the same frame as Doctor Manhattan, a meta commentary on the character? Johns says simply, we are going to find out. Johns says comics have come a long way in that time, and that there’s plenty that can now be done. He wouldn’t have done this now unless it felt like it was something worthy of it.
Does the DC Universe have something to say back to Watchmen now? Johns – “That’s exactly why I’m doing it”.
Johns says this is not an event, there are no one shots, no crossovers, the whole story is told within its own 12 issues. You don’t need really to read anything to understand what is going on, except maybe the original Watchmen.
Johns says Rorschach is the most fun character he has ever written in his entire life. And yes, Doctor Manhattan will be naked.
Is this a political story? Johns says he doesn’t know about that so much, which is helped by Rorschach’s viewpoint being so apolitical. Johns does say you can’t really do a story, especially involving Watchmen, without politics being a part of it as well. Johns says this story is about extremes, as he thinks the world is becoming a very extreme world, and people thinking you have to pick a side.
Moving onto audience questions, the first fan thanked Johns for making it out to the East Coast, and hopes we may see him here in the future. What did they learn from Before Watchmen that they took to heart this time and did they give Moore a call? Johns jokes that he’s not sure Moore even has a phone. Johns points out how he didn’t work on Before Watchmen but he did read it, but what he did approaching this was studying what he describes as like the Watchmen rule book, the grid structure, themes etc.
What does Johns think is the next influence in the DC movies? Johns says he doesn’t really want to answer that so is sticking to Doomsday Clock.
How will DC villains be affected by this story, and will there be a black and white version? Johns says he thinks eventually there may be a black and white version. Johns also said that he feels Frank is underrated as an artist and he hopes this raises his status. Johns says that the villains will be part of it, and it will be interesting and unexpected ones to be seen.
Brad Anderson’s pulling from the original series’ colour palette for the series too.
How are they planning the Watchmen characters in a world of change, and hoping they don’t do anything too crazy like, say, Hydra Cap. Johns – “Well, Superman isn’t going to be a Nazi”. Fave JL or Watchmen members and why? Rorschach and JL changes, but he loved Flash as a kid.
On the time differences between the Watchmen world and the current DCU, Johns says that will a hundred per cent be explained, and things you may not expect to be explained will in fact be explained. Johns then teases that 1992 was an important year for DC too. (Note: 1992 was the year that Death of Superman occurred).
Johns talks about how Black Freighter was an important part of Watchmen, and while Johns and Franks didn’t want to repeat that but they are experimenting with something.
Johns doesn’t see himself as a fixer of broken characters, but rather someone capable of unlocking things, and that’s what he tries to do is unlock the potential in characters that he can see it in. He is drawn to characters that are under-appreciated.
Johns on the all-powerful nature of Doctor Manhattan, it is fun to work with a character with no restrictions.
I just bet it is.