Sometimes in history, the right stories come at the right time. I’d argue that Doomsday Clock and the recent Watchmen TV Series are two of those examples.
We, in the United States, are living in a time of change. It doesn’t matter where you stand politically or socially, this is an undeniable time of transition. Covid-19 and the continued protests have challenged deep assumptions about the people and systemic values of the United States as a nation. This isn’t to say that this is all bad or all good, but rather in flux; only time will tell how deep these changes will go.
As humans living in the present, we have always sensationalized our moment in history. Ever since the first humans spoke words, they said, “Now THIS is the MOST IMPORTANT time to be alive.” It probably wasn’t then, and it probably isn’t now.
“Humanity is leaving its childhood and moving into its adolescence as its powers infuse into a realm hitherto beyond our reach.” – Dr. Gregory Stock
If you’re unfamiliar with Watchmen, I can’t recommend it enough. It was revolutionary in its reception, and the only graphic novel to be listed on Time’s 100 greatest novels since 1923. It was a moment when comic books forever changed. While some of you reading this may be a little tired of reading and hearing about Alan Moore and his writing style, there’s no doubt in his monumental impact on the comics medium. It tackles the issue of absolutist thinking: this vs. that / right vs. wrong / good vs. evil, but challenges the reader to address their deep-seated assumptions. Placed in a time when Soviet threat was perceived as inevitable, it flips the paradigm on its head. What if our deeply held beliefs are not only misguided but entirely delusional?
Watchmen #1 9.8 FMV = $475
Concluding The New 52 era in DC, Doomsday Clock is a direct sequel to the events of Watchmen and written by Geoff Johns, penciled by Gary Frank, and colored by Brad Anderson. The premise is a simple one: Dr. Manhattan meets Superman. That, of course, is an oversimplification, but it is the crux at the center of the story.
In what is a faithful expansion of the Watchmen universe into the DC universe, the story can be dense, difficult, and demanding. It’ll make you think. And that was part of the problem with the release of the 12-book series over the course of two years. The story needed more continuity.
While this is not a perfect work of fiction (unlike Watchmen), it is certainly relevant today. The world of Doomsday Clock is in unrest as people are leery of “metahumans” as a possible invention of a government. The series gathers wonderful pairings in Batman/Rorschach, Lex Luthor/Ozymandias, Joker/Comedian, etc. and tackles the question of the multiverse in the DCU (and maybe our own).
Doomsday Clock #1 (Standard Cover) 9.8 FMV $28
Watchmen HBO Series
The series opens in what was one of the United States’ darkest moments in history: The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. Because the death toll is debated, it’s difficult to determine if the Tulsa Race Massacre was as deadly as the 1919 East St. Louis Race Riot or the 1992 L.A. riots following the beating of Rodney King, but that’s beside the point: the events in Tulsa set the stage for the narrative. HBO’s Watchmen plays out 34 years after the end of the comic book in a country wrought with tension and provides a faithful building upon the universe created by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore so many years ago. It tackles difficult questions of race, inequality, energy, nuclear threats, and more. If it hadn’t come out a couple months too early, it would be a pretty accurate reflection of the U.S.’s own events mirrored in an alternate universe.
While the show might not be for everyone, it was certainly for me. The writing, direction, editing, acting, and overall story were of a masterful level and I’d recommend it to any fans of the philosophical underpinnings of the original series. If you’re a fanboy of the comics and don’t want to see any change to your favorite characters, then don’t watch it. Just go read Watchmen again.
Reading and watching these stories in our current social context allowed me to extract elements I missed when first reading them. These works of literature and film ask heavy questions of us: questions we need to answer as a collective group beyond our family, work group, friend group, political party, race, nation, and continent. The global “us.” The reality is that while the world has certainly gotten better over the past 10,000 years for humans, it doesn’t mean we can sit back and rest. Hope is an active state that must be continuously decided, not a passive one of wishing things were better. It takes energy, dedication, and purpose to fight the good fight, to perpetuate love, and to bring one another together.
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