Exclusive: DC Comics' Geoff Johns reveals teaser, details on Watchmen/Rebirth title Doomsday Clock

Contributed by
May 14, 2017

[Spoiler warning: The final two questions contain plot information regarding DC Comics' The Flash #22, available this Wednesday.]

Let the countdown begin, because Geoff Johns' story about "The Button" is coming full circle this November with Doomsday Clock.

The standalone DC-published miniseries written by Chief Creative Officer Johns, with artist Gary Frank, will continue the narrative that began last year with his Rebirth Special #1, and more recently unfolded in a four-part arc in Batman #21, and concludes this Wednesday with The Flash #22.

Based on our exclusive reveal of the teaser image for Doomsday Clock below, the story behind Watchmen's entrance into the DC Universe aims to be, well, super. It is an understatement to say that seeing the Superman shield in the top slot of the clock from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' seminal work raises questions. Intrigue is further piqued by the title itself, its "D.C." initials, presented in that yellow, bold Watchmen typeface -- and the word "doomsday," the same name of the villain who famously killed Superman 25 years ago.

Based on what Johns told me, there is a lot (I mean, a lot) that will unfold in this title about forces from Watchmen who have been meddling with our DCU heroes' timelines and history. And as the timer begins ticking down for Doomsday Clock this November, here are 12 things about the comic book you can set your watch to.

1.This is not a Watchmen sequel

"It is something else. It is Watchmen colliding with the DC Universe. It is the most personal and most epic, utterly mind-bending project I have ever worked on in my career. With Rebirth, I opened the door to Manhattan. Part of that was I loved the real-world influence Watchmen has. I put Manhattan out there, and always thought there was a Manhattan/Superman story to be told, but then ... it grew. And grew. It took my heart and soul over. Still, at the core of it, there’s a being who has lost his humanity, and distanced himself from it, and an alien who embodies humanity more than most humans. I love the idea that Watchmen influenced DC, but what would that look like in reverse? And it goes well beyond that."

2. This is a standalone story

"We’re not going to do a story like this unless we one-thousand percent believe in it. It is all about the story; it is only about the story. There are no crossovers. No watered down one-shots or mini-series on top of this one. This is a standalone story. There is only Doomsday Clock. We had no interest in doing a crossover with this. We didn’t want to see Doctor Manhattan facing off against Superman in Action Comics, with all due respect. That is not what this is about. It is about something different … It will have an impact on the entire DC Universe. It will affect everything moving forward and everything that has come before. It will touch the thematic and literal essence of DC."

3. What characters are involved in the story

"There will be DC characters throughout this, but this focuses in on only a handful. There is a lot of focus on Superman, and Doctor Manhattan. Doctor Manhattan is a huge focus, and his reasons for being here, and doing what he does, ultimately have to do with Superman. And there are many, many more characters to be involved, but it is a bit early to discuss."

4. The origins of the story

"When Rebirth kicked off, and I wrote the special and worked with all the teams, and all the books did their own thing, I talked to Gary, and said there is a really interesting story with Doctor Manhattan, and his point of view, and the intersection into what is the DC Universe. We debated whether we would ever want to do it, because it is a big job. We talked for six months, and the truth is, it wasn’t until the election, and post-election, that I called Gary and said, 'I’ve got the complete story.'"

5. This is a timely story (And a story for our times?)

"It is about much more than the American president or the reactions to him. That is low hanging fruit to me. It goes bigger, deeper. It is about the world, and the attitude of people. I feel like there are extremes now everywhere, extremes on all sides. There is no more olive branch. It doesn’t exist. I feel like people, more and more, are separated. They are choosing sides, instead of figuring out how to make life better together. There is a real sense of anger, and frustration, and there is not a lot of compassion, or willingness to understand in the world. Telling a story of two extremes, and exploring what our collective zeitgeist states through these characters is what we are doing. We think it’s important … The truth is, if the world and the country didn’t go a certain way, I don’t know that we would be telling this story. For us, the story would not exist if the last year didn’t unfold the way it did, and the rise of extremism wasn't so palpable."

6. On Johns’ partnership with Gary Frank

"I said if Gary Frank doesn’t draw this, I’m not doing this book. There is no other artist that can do this on the planet. We have been working together nonstop since, I think, 2005. Everything I have done with Gary, I would hand to somebody and say, “You want to know what I do?” This. Here is Braniac, Legion of Super Heroes, Shazam, here’s Batman: Earth One. Everything we’ve ever done together is super new-reader friendly. You can read them in any order. We meld on a creative level, and you don’t find that often. He was the only one, to me, that can capture something like this. We were working on Batman: Earth One, Vol. 3, which is almost done. And as we were, we were talking, and this came up. He was very on the fence because of the material, but once we talked about the story, we thought it was something – maybe more than anything else we’ve done – we believe in. We have never been more enthusiastic about a project. This is the most powerful creative energy I have felt working in comics. Everything I have ever done in comics has led to Doomsday Clock."

By the way, Brian Cunningham, our editor, we specifically requested him. He’s the best for us. As a team, he brings a lot of this. He’s the only other one who knows the whole story, along with Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. I feel like he is the producer, I’m the screenwriter, and Gary is the director."

7. About that title

"It takes the iconic elements of both Superman and Watchmen, and the DC Universe. It felt like the perfect title. I like the “DC.” It used to be called 'The Doomsday Clock,' but I took 'The' off. Obviously people know who Doomsday is, but he’s not a part of the story, but I like the implications of it. People will think the last time they heard Doomsday and Superman, he died, so what is this going to be? What is he going to go through this time? And how will it affect them going forward?"

8. If Rebirth brought hope back to the DCU, will the grime of Watchmen infect it?

"That’s exactly the point of the story. Will it? Can it?

I believe in the power of these icons. I believe in the power of hope, and optimism. I don’t think it’s fake. People tend to say if it’s grim, and gritty, it’s real, and grounded. I refuse that … And I don’t care if it stirs up drama. But I want it to be drama in the right way. I think Gary and I have earned the right to do a story we believe in. With Rebirth, I think we proved we care, and take this seriously. We love Watchmen. We love the DC Universe."

9. If there were doubts in tackling this story

"Have I had doubts about this story? That’s why it’s not coming out until November. It didn’t come out last November, or last July. Gary and I both equally thought, only if we have a story that we have to tell. It took eight months for us to go, 'You know what, we do.' We take the responsibility extremely seriously."

10. On the emotional connection to the Rebirth Special

"The Rebirth Special was so personal, so important to me. It was not about relaunching a line. It was about a story I wanted to tell. That’s why it was good. I don’t think all my comics turn out great, but that one, I do. Because I believed in it so much. I felt it. I didn't like the DC Universe where it was, and wanted a story that put back what I missed as a fan. This challenges Rebirth, and is the story of, 'Can I reaffirm Rebirth?'"

[Spoilery questions about The Flash #22]

11. At the end of The Flash #22, Batman sees the signal from Wayne Manor, and questions answering it...

"That’s exactly what Manhattan wanted. What he wanted was to get Bruce out of the way."

12. About the final page of The Flash #22, which shows a battered Superman shield.

"That is by design. What are the flaws in Superman? How far can Superman fall. We’re going to find out. There is still so much more to come, but we'll get deeper into it soon."