Geoff Johns was an acclaimed writer for DC Comics long before he rose to prominence as a creative force in the big-screen DC Extended Universe. Now the president and chief creative officer of DC Entertainment, Johns has an active role in upcoming films like Justice League, Aquaman, and The Flash. But at his Spotlight panel on Thursday at the San Diego Comic-Con, Johns kept the focus on comic books and teased his ambitious new 12-part series, Doomsday Clock, which follows last year’s massive DC Rebirth special, promises to bring the characters from the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons masterwork Watchmen into the mainstream DC universe.
Seriously, it’s ambitious: Johns described it as “a comic book that encompasses everything from Action Comics #1 in 1938, all the way until today, and it leads the DC universe into tomorrow.”
Much of the buzz coming out of Rebirth focused on the apparent return of Dr. Manhattan, and Johns confirmed that the character would have a key role in Doomsday Clock. “You don’t want to just do a cameo. It’s not a gimmick. I don’t want to have Dr. Manhattan show up for the end of Rebirth, and then he’s in two pages of a book later on.” Johns teased Dr. Manhattan’s arc by contrasting his appearance in Rebirth with the return of Wally West. For Johns, West symbolizes the return of heart and hope to the DC Universe. Whereas: “If there’s one being out there that could mess with time in such a radical way and challenge hope, I just felt like Dr. Manhattan was it.”
Doomsday Clock will be drawn by Gary Frank and will kick off with a first issue releasing Thanksgiving week. Johns explained that Doomsday Clock #1 will begin one year after the current DC continuity, but all comics in the line will catch up to the story by issue #12.
In lieu of a traditional preview, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio played a game with Johns, flashing single panels from Doomsday on screen. Some were abstract: a close-up on a woman, a fence cut open, a car stopped in the middle of a road. But there was one panel that showed a close-up of a sign that reads, “THE END IS HERE” — a reference to a sign that the Watchmen character Rorschach carried around in his civilian identity. (Rorschach’s sign actually said “THE END IS NIGH,” so things have trended downwards.)
And when another panel showed the familiar Daily Planet sign atop a building in Metropolis, Dan Didio asked Johns: “Is Superman integral to the story?”
“He is the story,” Johns explained, with no follow-up.
Well, some follow-up. The panel debuted a promotional image of several heavy-hitter DC superheroes — Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, the Flash, a couple of Green Lanterns — emblazoned with the phrase, “WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN?”
And Johns also mentioned a scene from Doomsday Clock he was especially proud of. “I love seeing the smartest man from one world talking to the smartest man from another,” he said, smiling. “The smartest man from this world, DC, is Lex Luthor. That’s all I’ll say.”
It’s an easy guess that the smartest man from another world is Ozymandias, a.k.a. Adrian Veidt, described in Watchmen as the world’s smartest man. Left up to the imagination: whether Veidt and Luthor are working together or against each other.
Doomsday Clock debuts Thanksgiving week.