At the end of November, DC Comics released Doomsday Clock #1, the first in a twelve part sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ legendary superhero deconstruction Watchmen. Doomsday Clock writer Geoff Johns, aided by artists Gary Frank and Brad Anderson, feature in their story not only Watchmen characters Ozymandias and Rorschach, but also two figures unconnected to the 1985 original: Superman and Lois Lane, the first of many popular DC heroes slated to appear in the series.
Doomsday Clock is the culmination of Johns’s year-long project enfolding the Watchmen characters into the mainstream DC Comics Universe. Or, more accurately, enfolding mainstream DC characters into the Watchmen universe. Various stories by Johns, beginning with 2016’s DC Universe: Rebirth #1, have revealed the company’s line-wide reboot—which largely erased the characters’ past histories so their stories can begin anew—to be the result of meddling by Watchmen’s godlike Doctor Manhattan.
On a plot level, these stories find Batman, Flash, and others fighting to defend decency against Manhattan’s machinations. On a metatextual level, they pin the blame on Watchmen for the comics industry’s turn from away from optimistic do-gooders toward gritty anti-heroes such as Wolverine, Lobo, and Deadpool.
I find this move doubly disingenuous. It ignores both Alan Moore’s super-hero reconstructions, like 1963 or Tom Strong, and Geoff Johns’s own tendencies to mix sex and violence into his stories. And worse, the move subscribes to an intensely shallow reading of Watchmen.