And I just go ahead and relitigate anyway.

§ October 28th, 2022 § Filed under watchmen § 14 Comments

So, being the proud owner of the “Absolute Edition” of Watchmen, the oversized hardcover reprinting the series and included the production notes and back matter from the earlier Graphitti Designs hardcover I didn’t buy when I had the chance and regretted for years, I of course had to have the accompanying Absolute Edition of Doomsday Clock.

Now I don’t know if I need to relitigate this series yet again (you can read my initial reaction to the series’ conclusion right here), but it was interesting to 1) read the whole story in relatively short order instead of the couple of years it originally took, and 2) read it with mostly-functional eyes, versus having to use, like, magnifying glasses and trying to look at it with blood-blurred vision during its run. Doomsday Clock was, for a period of about a year and a half, literally the only comic book I’d read as my eye problems made it too difficult to do any reading. But I had to see what they were doing with the Watchmen characters in the DC Universe.

What I found with the reread was…I didn’t miss much in my initial pass. I did forget that the character of Nostalgia, who hilariously appears at the end of the recently-concluded Flashpoint Beyond, was introduced in the final pages of Doomsday Clock. But otherwise, no, I retained nearly all the major plot points and actions. There was no “oh, I missed this nuance the first time but caught it on the revisit,” as there is no nuance. It’s all surface level. It has the appearance of depth, but it’s all…well, I’ve called this a “cargo cult” comic, superficially mimicking the original in the hopes of attracting the same attention and acclaim.

The comic is at its best when dealing with Superman. If Geoff Johns has an affinity for writing anything, it’s ol’ Supes. And the best bit is the tying of Superman to the evolution of the DCU, though as I said before, it would have been nice if they could have done this without involving the Watchmen characters, but then they wouldn’t have pulled in the readers. And this series did sell well.

I should also note that the art by Gary Frank is absolutely gorgeous, and the Absolute format showcases it wonderfully. In all, it’s not like I hate this comic or anything. It’s certainly questionable that it should have been done at all, and it’s filled with bits that are especially weird and not in a good way. But it’s competently done and keeps your interest up, even as its explicitly stated purpose (“sorry about the New 52, everyone”) becomes increasingly obvious. Every change to DC’s fictional milieu apparently requires convoluted explanations, and devoting Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen to yet another one of those said explanations seems like a bit of overkill.

Anyway, that’s not what I came here to tell you about. I wanted to point out a special unsung extra in the Absolute Edition. There are a few dozen pages of material in the back, mostly showing off covers and promo posters. There are character sketches and designs, other production work, plenty of notes, etc. Makes for an entertaining perusal.

As I got to the last page of the book, however, I was literally startled to find this stuck in-between the credits page and the endpaper — a coated cardboard reproduction of the photo of Jon and Janey, taken just prior to Jon’s accident that transforms him into Dr. Manhattan:

And it’s inscribed with their names on the back of the “photo” as well. I was not expecting to see that, and I definitely gave out a little “whoa!” of surprise when I happened upon it. It’s a neat little addition, and actually ties thematically to events in the book, just to find this photo where you least expect it.

That’s really all I wanted to mention, but I can’t bring up Doomsday Clock without pointing out the misguided-yet-complelling-at-least-to-me aspects of the series. It’s fascinating in its own way, in its disuse of Watchmen, and how its inspired further exploitation farther and farther away from the intentions of its creators. I suspect that last phrase would actually describe a lot of comics.

14 Responses to “And I just go ahead and relitigate anyway.”

  • King of the Moon says:

    Whoa. That little piece of ephemera is so well done and just slipped in there…it really almost gets me to go buy the absolute edition

    DC knows their nerds sometimes

  • Daniel says:

    “…there is no nuance. It’s all surface level. It has the appearance of depth…”

    Probably the most accurate description of Geoff Johns’ work that I’ve ever read.

    Decades from now, when the definitive history of DC is written, I’m convinced that it will become accepted wisdom that the hiring of Goeff Johns at every stage of his tenure at the company (as writer, as Chief Creative Officer, as Head of DC Films, as showrunner of DC TV series) was the nexus point(s) at which the company went off the rails and never recovered.

  • Andrew says:

    I’ve never quite understood all the Geoff-hate, but to each their own.

    As far as Doomsday Clock, I was late to the party and picked up 1-10 at one time and then read 11 and 12 as they came out. I highly recommend it. I can’t imagine having read it in bits and pieces over time and can definitely see where that would mar the enjoyment of the story.

    Lots of problems with the overall story (Firestorm really gets mistreated but then, I think that’s a product of the character probably being difficult to write long term) but the Superman as the focal point of the reason for all the changes to continuity isn’t one of them – in fact, I remember getting goosebumps during those pages, particularly the flash forwards to potential further reboots in the future. I thought it was a great explanation of how everything has been jumbled over the past 35/40 years. I mean, it’s as good an explanation as any. Of course, it’d be great if the industry company didn’t need to rearrange their continuity every few years but as of yet, no one has come up with a good solution for how to keep the characters young and saless healthy. Sigh.

  • Signal Watch says:

    it’s just shocking how much the series didn’t matter. At all. No one really talked about it while it was happening, and it was never clear that there was ever a plan for it mattering in the slightest, or that it fit anywhere into continuity, such as its been for 20 years at DC. (I don’t blame Johns so much as Didio for what will be that retrospective). It certainly was pitched as “this is super important, so even if you hate that it’s happening, you better read it”. But like every DC event since Flashpoint, totally and utterly ignored in the mega-narrative of the DCU when it *could* have mattered and drawn in readers and made anything happening in the DCU feel like it might matter. But, instead, DC and the comic ran the other direction. Just mind-boggling.

  • Thom H. says:

    Johns, as a writer anyway, always seemed to want things to be classic but also edgy. Bring back the original characters *and* rip arms off all over the place. That combo was jarring, at least for me.

    I was excited when he brought back the adult Legion of Super-heroes, for example, but didn’t like reading about them because the tone was so abrasive.

    I don’t doubt he really wanted to honor the legacy of many of the superheroes he wrote — and it sounds like he had some fine moments in Doomsday Clock with Superman — but the way he leans into “grim and gritty” is off-putting for some fans.

    Love the Jon and Janey photo, by the way. I wish they made more little “extras” like that — they’re like collector catnip for me.

  • Andrew says:

    Signal watch: You are correct. And it seems as soon as it was over, they were launching into a million different directions. I feel like that with Dark Crisis/Beyond Flashpoint happening at the same time (I bleeped over the entire Death Metal stuff – I read one and went ‘nope’). Although I *think* Doomsday Clock was supposed to veer into 5G which was supposed to (I think) age the trinity (well, Batman, anyway, I suppose) and give the spotlight to the Silver Age sidekicks (at least that’s how I understood the event that didn’t end up happening bc Didio got sacked). I think the 5G material got melded into the Future State books (some of which, like the Wonder Girl book, were fantastic). Anyway, it’s unfortunate that it’s such a mess and that the company can’t seem to pick a direction. As a life long DC fan, I long for the day when we’ve finally figured out how to move past Crisis on Infinite Earth reduxs.

  • I enjoyed DC for what it was. Until the Joker showed up, and I know a few friends who flat out quit the book. I saw it as three parts, with Joker in the second, so just dealt with it. I thought Gary Frank was great on the art.

    Unfortunate that it took so long to finish that it overlapped with that Metal crap. And, you know, the stupidest thing Johns did was have Barry Allen’s mother murdered in FLASH: REBIRTH, because if he let things just be, there wouldn’t have been a FLASHPOINT or a BEYOND FLASHPOINT. I sorta want to blame Barry for going back in time. I know there was more to it than that in FLASHPOINT, but I mean in REBIRTH.

    DC is what it is. I enjoyed it much better in the two trades than as singles. Other than Joker. And I guess SECRET CRISIS 2020 was COVID-19.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Barry Allen fans can also squint at the Doomsday Clock Jon and Janey “photo” and pretend that the couple in the photo is Silver Age buzz cut-era Barry Allen and Iris West in happier times…before the death of Iris, the Trial of the Flash, COIE, Flashpoint, and all the other unpleasantness that befell Barry and Iris
    (and Wally!) over the last four decades…

  • Andrew says:

    Sean – the death of Iris and the subsequent Trial of the Flash was SO bad that it caused me to stop reading. Why would you trade the unique way the character was written for …. whatever all of that was? And the art was nightmarish – if it’d been a year story or something, that would have, I guess been ok… but it kept going on and on and on and on for something crazy like the last 5 years of the character’s original run. Killing him in Crisis was a blessing to be honest and bringing back Iris (in the 90s?) was the BEST thing that the company ever did.

    Wayne – I wasn’t really reading much when the comic book Flashpoint happened but I definitely did a double take when I heard about the rebooted ‘Reverse Flash kills Barrys mother’ angle. Where did that even come from? But it was a jumping off point for me when the TV show went ahead and made Flashpoint a part of the show. That one act caused me to distrust the character – how could he do something SO stupid and selfish? It really ruined the show for me. (I kept watching sporadically but kept thinking “uh Cisco’s brother and Diggles daughter were affected by his foolishness… how is Flash not a villain??”)

  • Rich Handley says:

    I’m someone who can usually find things to enjoy about a Watchmen spinoff. I liked BEFORE WATCHMEN a lot more than most fans. I enjoyed the HBO series more than most fans. And I liked the RORSCHACH comic. DOOMSDAY CLOCK was… well, it was a fun story, but it was surprisingly unimportant. I expected more of it, given all the leadup.

  • MisterJayEm says:

    I really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, but the sheer number of Capitalized Events reminded me of why my love of DC (and Marvel) comics has been mostly theoretical for the last 20+ years.

    — MrJM

  • Snark Shark says:

    “I’ve called this a “cargo cult” comic”

    That’s actually a good way to put it!

    “to relitigate this series yet again”

    I am NOT cleaning that up.

    “It’s certainly questionable that it should have been done at all”

    THIS. Not that corporations care about ETHICS.

    “a coated cardboard reproduction of the photo of Jon and Janey”

    THAT. IS. NEAT!!!!!

    Sean Mageean: “Barry Allen fans can also squint at the Doomsday Clock Jon and Janey “photo” and pretend that the couple in the photo is Silver Age buzz cut-era Barry Allen and Iris West in happier times”

    WHOA it does look like them!

    Rich Handley: “And I liked the RORSCHACH comic.”

    Me too! I wonder what Frank Miller thought of it?

    MisterJayEm: “the sheer number of Capitalized Events reminded me of why my love of DC (and Marvel) comics has been mostly theoretical for the last 20+ years”

    yup. That and the decompressed storytelling and the gawddamn high prices! But I AM glad they both still exist. A kid should be able to go into a store and buy a new Batman or Spider-Man comic. I’ll still prefer the old ones, though.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Andrew: Many good points! It did get to the point where in his own comic The Flash stories were less interesting than the Dr. Fate back up stories with the cool Giffen art. And that Trial of the Flash did drag on forever. I wonder if anybody’s written a thesis yet about the wherefores and the whys of DC management deciding to effectively trash Barry Allen and Hal Jordan in the ’80s — the two characters who basically heralded the arrival of the Silver Age at DC Comics?

    As to Doomsday Clock and all the other post-Watchmen attempts at using Moore and Gibbons concepts and characters, collectively or individually, I still say that Grant Morrison’s “Pax Americana” story from Multiversity featuring the Charlton Comics characters, is better written and more engaging.

    Snark Shark:

    Yep! It’s gotten to the point where I prefer the old ones as well. I think for really young readers, the Scooby Doo and Batman comic was a nice jumping on point. It seems that DC could do some diversifying and bring back some more young readers comics…maybe a Super Friends title or something like the old Spidey comic that Marvel had in the ’70s.

  • […] first one, the one I already talked about, is the Absolute Edition of Doomsday Clock. Yes, it’s garbage, but it’s well-presented […]