Is DC Comics about to ruin Watchmen, the seminal graphic novel that added a new level of complexity to comics? The forthcoming DC series, Doomsday Clock, suggests that the answer is yes.
Watchmen, the 1986 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, has several intersecting storylines and touches on many different themes. But at its climax, the story comes down to an intriguing face-off. On one side is Rorschach, a right-wing vigilante, and on the other is Adrian Veidt, a wealthy elitist. Veidt, known by his superhero name, Ozymandias, and referred to as “the smartest man in the world,” causes the death of millions in an attempt to get Russia and the United States to end the arms race. After Veidt deploys his plan, Rorschach delivers the truth to the world by dropping a written account of Veidt’s crimes to the New Frontiersman, a far right-wing publication (think of it as a precursor to Breitbart).
It’s an unusual story arc for a comic—the world is saved, or at least the truth is discovered, thanks to a deplorable ultra-conservative outsider. His nemesis is a globalist who doesn’t trust regular people and is willing to kill to create a more perfect world.
DC is now revisiting the world of Watchmen with Doomsday Clock, a series that, as the preview of its first pages reveals, picks up where Watchmen left off. Set to release on November 22, Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank will take place seven years after the original Watchmen. As one review described:
While it’s still in the past, Doomsday Clock appropriates today’s hellish political landscape; in the first six pages previewed at New York Comic Con, an absent U.S. president is hitting the links while the country plummets into chaos. ‘Deplorables’ take the streets, and independent journalism is shuttered in favor of propagandistic, state-run cable news.
In other words, Doomsday Clock will be a liberal view of conservatism. This is sadly predictable and a huge disservice to the original Watchmen. Original writer Alan Moore is too complex a thinker to have given readers unambiguous characters; while ultimately it’s a good thing that the truth about Adrian Veidt’s plan got out, for example, the messenger, Rorschach, is often a hard character to root for. His sadism has to be checked by other superheroes, and the New Frontiersman, the paper he reads and ultimately tips off, is filled with racist caricatures of Jews, blacks and Italians—its motto is, “In your hearts, you know it’s right.” And for all his egomania, the villain Ozymandias is trying to save lives. This ambiguity, along with the well-drawn relationships of the characters, makes Watchmen a landmark work.
By contrast, the new Doomsday Clock seems like more predictable virtue-signaling by the left. To offer just one example: Included in the Doomsday Clock preview pages is the story of how the repressive state takes over the media and forms the National News Network; the anchor of that network is a man named William F. Buckley, Jr. Doomsday Clock writer Geoff Johns doesn’t seem to realize that naming a mouthpiece of the totalitarian state William F. Buckley is risible, as the real Buckley was a founding father of modern conservatism and one of the great anti-statists of the twentieth century. Buckley was also an erudite and tolerant man who would have abhorred the racism of Rorschach and the New Frontiersman. Sadly, the kind of nuance needed to create such a character on the page seems lost on the writers of Doomsday Clock.