13 Thoughts About Doomsday Clock #1 – Learning From History, Condemned To Repeat It Anyway (SPOILERS)

Two hours ago, Doomsday Clock #1 launched in comic stores in the UK – Forbidden Planet in London was my choice…

These, then, are my twelve thoughts about the first issue by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank and Brad Anderson from DC Comics. There are spoilers, yes, and they get more spoilery as they go down, but my intent is not to “spoil” the book, but to analyse certain aspects of it. If it starts to get too spoilery for you, stop. Come back after you’ve read the comic.

We had some annotation thoughts about the first six pages here. Then a seventh. Now we’re moving on.

1. Screw The Midnight Exclusive Variant Cover, It’s All About The Lenticular

Lots of people at the store for a midnight opening, with the exclusive black-and-white 11.57pm cover for participating retailers. And no one wants them, they all want the Rorschach lenticular variant, taking Dave Gibbons artwork and transforming the inkblots into the Warner Bros DCEU superhero IP properties.

2. A Most Absorbing Comic

The very first thing you will notice about Doomsday Clock #1 after you’ve got past the cover, is paper stock. It’s a rather thick newsprint facsimile material. It’s not the plastic smooth you may be expecting, it’s a little rough and absorbent, and slightly reminiscent in a very textual sense to picking up a copy of Watchmen. Someone, somewhere was very very clever.

3. He’s On A Mission From God

Bleeding Cool told you about the Charlton character origin of characters Mime and Marionette, following the pattern of other Charlton characters into Watchmen. And it’s all part of a Blues Brothers or Preacher-style quest, Dr Manhattan as God.

4. Counting Down To What?

But Flash! We have only three hours and thirty-four minutes to save the Earth! And a dodgy watch is very different to the precise watches of Watchmen. After all Dr Manhattan is no longer here. And the nukes are flying. Or are about to fly. Maybe.

5. This Is Not Your Father’s Rorschach.

Note, this Rorschach compromises a lot to get peple to do what he wants them to do. The old one wasn’t a fan of that.

Exactly. He just broke fingers.

6. What’s Been Going On, In International Politics?

Ozymandias may have watched The Outer Limits to get his idea for the Watchmen plot (as revealed by Len Wein in Before Watchmen) but… it seems like he based the rest of his international politics policy on watching Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. By getting rid of all the nukes.

Here we have a post-incident America voting in an actor on an anti-nuke tickets, and a far less malleable Gorbachev being challenged earlier into his time as PRemier, and Yetsin getting into office two years early…

The Vela Incident, is real, also known as the South Atlantic Flash, an unidentified “double flash” of light detected by an American Vela Hotel satellite on 22 September 1979, near the Prince Edward Islands off Antarctica. The most common theory among those who believe the flash was of nuclear origin is that it resulted from a joint South African–Israeli nuclear test. In this history, Ozymandias use that to embarrass Israel into telling the truth – and then dealing with it.

And yes, Robert Redford was elected President in 1986 and in 1992 seems to have got re-elected. Just as Seymour suggested…

Also note the changes in policy regarding Israel’s ownership of nuclear weapons, known by everyone but denied by the state. It is known as the world’s worst kept military secret of all time.

7. Talking Of Seymour

It was Seymour who chose to run the Rorschach Journal in the New Frontiersman, this scene referring to the ending of the classic Kind Hearts And Coronets. Sadly it didn’t have the impact some of us though it might in our mind’s eye, and the public response came from other sources as the truth was revealed. So what happened to Seymour anyway, after all he wasn’t in New York when the massacre happened. Could he be the new Rorschach?

No, but what? What the hell? Seymour?

8. The Emperor Strkes Back

President Robert Redford has launched Operation Commodus to discover the truth about Veidt.

Aurelius Commodus, was Roman emperor from 177 to 192. He ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father’s death in 180 and solely after that. During his father’s reign, he accompanied Marcus Aurelius during the Marcomannic Wars in 172 and on a tour of the Eastern provinces in 176. He was made the youngest consul in Roman history in 177 and later that year elevated to co-emperor with his father. His accession was the first time a son had succeeded his biological father since Titus succeeded Vespasian in 79. He was also the first emperor to have both a father and grandfather (who had adopted his father) as the two preceding emperors. Commodus was the first (and until 337, the only) emperor “born in the purple”, i.e., during his father’s reign. During his solo reign, the Empire enjoyed a period of reduced military conflict compared with the reign of Marcus Aurelius, but intrigues and conspiracies abounded, leading Commodus to an increasingly dictatorial style of leadership that culminated in a God-like personality cult. His assassination in 192 marked the end of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty. He was succeeded by Pertinax, the first emperor in the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors.

He was recently played by Aaron Jakubenko as the lead in Roman Empire: Reign Of Blood on Netflix. Something about sons inheriting from fathers?

9. When Dr Manhattan Dissed The DC Comics Universe

From the final issue of Watchmen, Dr Manhattan said it…

Leaving this galaxy for one less complicated. And Ozymandias is going to have to find him, lump or no lump.

You realise that’s a diss at the DC Universe? 75 years worth of shared continuity and history- and still Watchmen does more in twelve issues.

10. It’s All About Parents And Sons

We pointed out the issues with Dr Manhattan and his father, and both Superman and Batman and theirs, last week. Above, you see Marionatte’s reaction to losing her son.

We know that Dr Manhattan has used Superman’s father Jor-El and Batman’ father Thoma Wayne to interfere in their lives and to try and stop them both being heroes. This week’s Action Comics #992 reminds us of this.

Both involved crossing space and time barriers. Something Manhattan is adept at. As we are reminded in this week’s Detective Comics #969

And in Doomsday Clock, we see Jonathan and Marth Kent and their adopted son, Clark.

And then the scene of his parents’ death.

But is that a light from the side? Could Jonathan Kent have been saved as Jor-El was? As a transdimensional Thomas Wayne was? What else can Dr Manhattan change?

11. So Who Is Rorschach Anyway?

This is a new Rorschach. The man behind the throne already leaked but what of the man behind the mask? Someone intimately acquainted with Rorschach to want to be him and take on his many ticas, appearances, and methodology. However…

…he is black. There weren’t many black characters of note in Watchmen, the kid at the news stand and Malcolm Long, Rorschach’s psychiatrist and his wife Gloria. Could Malcolm have become so obsessed with treating Walter Kovacs that he became Rorschach? Doomsday Clock also has this upcoming tease, seen here for the first time that underlined just who this might be…

But the comic itself doesn’t tell you verbatim. And also… Michael Long died, caught in the psychic blast that obliterated half of New York’s population.

Unless he somehow used his training to resist… his eyes are open after all.

13. What’s With All Those Pancakes?

Beats me.

And finally…

13. Watcha Readin’ Superman?

As Superman is trying to sleep, in a pose ripped out of the original Watchmen… he’s also got a book. But books are never just books in Watchmen.

And this would be Walden Two a scifi novel by behavioural psychologist B. F. Skinner, first published in 1948. It predicted what is best now known as applied behaviour analysis. Walden Two is controversial novel because its characters speak of a rejection of free will, including a rejection of the proposition that human behaviour is controlled by a non-corporeal entity, such as a spirit or a soul. Walden Two embraces the proposition that the behaviour of organisms, including humans, is determined by environmental variables, and that systematically altering environmental variables can generate a sociocultural system that very closely approximates utopia.

Is that what Superman is trying to do? Or what Dr Manhattan is trying to nudge? Something is trying to change things.

Doomsday Clock #1 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank is published tonight by DC Comics. What did you think? What did you see?


About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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