Sunday, June 9, 2019

Doomsday Clock #10: Superman and Dr. Manhattan

Doomsday Clock #10 was unusually packed in reinterpreting DC history, and there are so many facets to it, I will split my comments into two posts. In this one, I will focus on the major players in the issue and what seems to be the message of the issue, at this late stage in the game, comprising a lot of the message that Johns intends for the series. In a second post, I will comment on the Justice Society and the striking – to me – omission of Batman.

Doomsday Clock #9 featured one of the most sprawling casts the DCU can muster, with a huge force of superheroes taking part in a showdown on Mars. Issue #10, in contrast, shrank the whole story down to a few principal characters; though a few characters from the past and some from this story had extended cameos, almost all of the major narration focused on a few men. These characters are not merely playing roles in this story. Johns uses them to deliver a reframing of the history of superhero stories. It is probably most instructive to see these major characters in the issue as archetypes, standing for major eras in comic book / heroic fiction. The focus of the issue is primarily about the use of and messages conveyed by Johns' use of the following: Nathaniel Dusk, Alan Scott, Superman, and Doctor Manhattan. Along the way, there is heavy use of Carver Colman, the actor who plays Dusk in the movies.

The story intertwines, in a legitimately weird way, several different substories – some of them classics of the superhero genre – some more obscure stories from the past, one – of course – Moore's Watchmen, a comment on the superhero genre, and then the main plot of Johns' work that we're discussing here – Doomsday Clock, along with the side plots and stories within a story. All told, we have nearly a dozen separate fictional universes wound together into one larger story. But, unlike the pre-Crisis or Morrisonian DC Multiverse, these worlds are not parallel. Part of what Johns is doing here, within his story and no doubt to launch a reframing of DC's sub-universes is to discard the notion that all these separate universes are separate but equal. C'mon, we always knew that Earth 3 and Earth 19 and Earth whatever were not universes equal to Silver Age Earth One. Most of the universes in the Multiverse are and always were derivatives of the main DCU. Johns is advancing the conversation in this issue by recognizing that in the cosmology, the main Earth is special, and other things flow from it.

The story has so many threads going, of such different kinds, that the issue alone needs a map of them, or at least a list. It goes as follows:

1) DCU timelines, keying around the origin of Superman:
            Golden Age 1: Superman debuted in 1938 before Alan Scott
            Golden Age 2: Alan Scott debuted in 1940 in a world without Superman
            Silver Age: Superman debuted in 1956 in a world without Alan Scott
            Byrne: Superman debuted in 1986, long after Alan Scott
            Birthright: Same Golden Age backstory as GA2
            Secret Origin: Same Golden Age backstory as GA2
                        Wally West and Johnny Thunder remember this
            New 52: Same Golden Age backstory as SA
            Rebirth: Same Golden Age backstory as SA
            Seemingly inevitable reboot: Same as Secret Origin?
2) The Watchmen Universe
3) The Nathaniel Dusk universe
4) Carver Colman's story: He inhabits various DCU timelines, possibly all of them, though we only get direct indications of his intersection with the first two DCU timelines, and after that, at least in the one we last saw, he is dead.

One of the jarring aspects of the story is how profoundly obscure Dusk and Colman are, and yet Johns elevates them to central roles in the story. The Colman plot takes a man of no particular importance and gives him one of the most influential roles in DC history, with the (in some respects) godlike Dr. Manhattan pairing up with him in a strange and somewhat incomprehensible partnership, meeting once a year in the same location. It is easy to see how Dr. Manhattan's vision of the future provides a pivotal, life-changing boost for the career of Colman, but less obvious why the company of such an unimportant man would be a draw for Dr. Manhattan. Similarly, the Dusk sideplot is, on the surface, a distraction from the main story, of no causal relationship to it. Neither Colman nor Dusk seems of interest on a par with the superbeings who headline the series. Why did Johns give them these roles?

For Dusk, the answer is clear: He is an archetype of the detective genre. His kind starred in comic books, novels, and movies, peaking in approximately that order. The "D" in DC stands for "detective" and that hearkens back to 1937, a little over a year before the debut of Superman. One of the detectives who launched the Detective Comics title in issue #1 was Bruce Nelson, name-checked by Johns in the end materials in Doomsday Clock #3. Nelson and other, generally similar, tough guys who tackle crime appeared in the monthly title for 26 issues until they were overshadowed by, and ultimately replaced and virtually eliminated by a new feature in that title — Batman. Ultimately, old-style detectives did not survive contact with the likes of Batman; he immediately took over the cover art of the title and the conventional detective stories inside the issue rapidly became scarce, as well. A similar rise and fall took place in the movies, as well, with the film noir genre starting to peter out during the same mid-50s timeframe that, in Johns' story, sees the onscreen death of Nathaniel Dusk. Dusk serves as a single example of that kind of character, standing in for comic book Bruce Nelson (whose run ended in 1940), and movie detectives like Nick Charles, Mike Hammer, and Sam Spade, whose popularity also rose then fell (but later enjoyed various revivals).

Dusk's story, though, is packed with references to the meta-story arc that Johns gives us about DC history, most obviously when he is given a glass globe representing a "world" from the past, and he smashes it while using it as a weapon, with the voiceover narration echoing a Crisis on Infinite Earths tagline, "Worlds live. Worlds Die." Just as various DC timelines (and eras) have died, just as the eras of comic book and movie detectives ended (or, at least, greatly waned in popularity), Dusk's storyline came to a definitive end in The Adjournment. Moments after Dusk shatters the globe, he is shot in the back, and his world – his time as a detective in the movies, anyway – also dies.

Much the way that Batman and other costumed heroes ended the run of Bruce Nelson and his kind, Dr. Manhattan elevates, then indirectly ends the life of Carver Colman. Colman initially feels (literally) blessed by the presence of Dr. Manhattan in his life, wondering if the erstwhile superhero is an angel. But from the beginning, their association takes Colman down a tragic path. Colman's movie success brings him fame and riches, but his fame combines with secrets and lies to attract the blackmailing that ends his life. Colman receives from Dr. Manhattan in much the way that Faust received from Mephistopheles, getting precisely what he wished for in the short run, but damnation in the long run.

Clearly, the rise and fall of Dusk and the actor who played him, Colman, are told in parallel fashion, both killed from behind in successive panels after being betrayed by a woman they loved. As I have suggested that Murray Abrahams plays a part intended to parallel that of Dr. Manhattan, we see them occupy the same position in that pair of panels. However, Abrahams is actively the killer, facing Dusk and pulling the trigger, while Dr. Manhattan passively brings about the end of Colman, with his back turned as Colman is killed. As Dr. Manhattan himself narrates, he could have stopped it, but did nothing. He is a being of inaction in a world where the heroes practice action.

"Action" is the title of the issue's story, and it should be interpreted on a few different levels. It is yelled by the director on the set, and it is what, in Dr. Manhattan's formulation, distinguishes Superman from himself. It is, of course, the title of the series that launched Superman, the title whose first issue appeared on the newsstands on April 18, 1938, the very date during which Dr. Manhattan appears in the DCU. Johns also slipped the title of the famous comic book into the climactic dialogue at the end of Infinite Crisis, with Superman telling Superboy Prime that being Superman is "about action." (Much the same synopsis of heroism delivered a couple of years later in Batman Begins: "It's… what we do that defines us.")

Dusk and Colman are no-name characters used as archetypes in Doomsday Clock, and Dr. Manhattan is also an archetype, created by Alan Moore to make a comment of his own. It may be easy to forget reading Doomsday Clock in 2019 that, if there is a single character that Dr. Manhattan was meant to represent, it was Superman, at least Superman as he was when Moore plotted the story around 1984. Blue, buff, godlike, weirdly dysfunctional in relationships with women, incapable of symmetric relationships with the people closest to him, phenomenally self-absorbed (as Moore has Superman say of himself in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, "over-rated and too wrapped up in himself"): These are the characteristics of Bronze Age Superman that Moore packed, with distaste, into his rendition of Dr. Manhattan.

Dr. Manhattan is toxic, and he was meant to be. Moore was trying to use him to tell comics fans, see how sterile, self-serving, and off-putting your heroes really are. Johns turns Dr. Manhattan loose in his interactions with Colman, all of his godlike powers ultimately availing his friend nothing when he watches unconcerned as Colman is murdered by his own mother.

Remembering this, consider the question that Dr. Manhattan has asked of the blackout following his upcoming encounter with Superman: Does Dr. Manhattan destroy the universe or does Superman destroy him? The interesting thing is not to take this as the headline on a "versus" thread – how do the powers of the two characters match up in a fight – but how do the two visions of a comic book superhero square off? And here, I think we return to the message that Morrison closed on in Final Crisis, with Mandrakk representing, for the most part, Alan Moore in that story and Dr. Manhattan representing Moore's worldview in this one. If Moore was right, the superhero genre was on a path towards oblivion way back in 1985. This is 2019, and the good guys haven't given up yet, so Johns has plenty of room to take the opposite side of the argument.

And in case there's any doubt where that is going, the final lines of the end materials, featuring the screenplay of The Adjournment give it away: Dusk, seemingly shot dead during the scenes that were filmed, survives the shooting and recuperates to walk again. The good guys aren't dead yet.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Doomsday Clock: The Adjournment

Doomsday Clock has paid considerable attention to a story within the story, a 1954 detective movie called The Adjournment. Like the pirate story "Marooned" in Watchmen, the story within a story can and almost certainly does provide insight regarding the main story. This is particularly fertile given that the star of The Adjournment is intertwined with some of Doomsday Clock's main characters, and the screenwriter himself is a Golden Age superhero. It's certain to be with good reason that Geoff Johns has devoted seven pages so far to giving us the story of The Adjournment, but what is that reason, and what does this story tell us?

There are at least three directions to follow in understanding The Adjournment.

1) On a surface level, what is its story? It's a story we've only seen the early portions of and we don't know its ending and/or the answer to its central murder mystery. This may not be highly compelling in and of itself, but it is part of the big picture.

2) Probably most important, what does the movie plot tell us about the main Doomsday Clock story? It seems highly likely that it parallels part of the main plot, and understanding that parallel could be used either to predict what is coming or to see what Johns is emphasizing as the most important aspects of the larger story.

3) Because the superhero Tarantula is the movie's screenwriter, the story may tell us something important about him and his relationships with other Golden Age characters.

The Adjournment's Plot

First, the facts. We have seen only the first portion of the movie, and while we have two spoilers regarding the upcoming portions, we don't know how it will end, nor do we know if there are more major characters to be seen. But we do know this:

• Nathaniel Dusk is an ex-cop turned detective.
• On Christmas Eve, a former colleague of his, Murray Abrahams, comes with him asking for help with a case that involves the death of Abrahams' brother-in-law.
• Two men, Alastair Tempus and Bentley Farmer, have been shot dead and lie in blood on Tempus' floor alongside the pieces of a chess game.
• Dusk and Abrahams visit three different buildings: The crime scene; the former home of Dusk's dead lover, Joyce; and, the home of Tempus' employee Wellington.
• There is considerable friction in the lives of these men: Dusk doesn't consider Abrahams a friend; Abrahams "never liked" Farmer; Wellington stole from Tempus; Farmer is divorced; Dusk has enemies he's hiding from on both sides of the law. At both of the last two stops, Abrahams warns Dusk against "breaking and entering."
• We are told of the men's various female companions: Dusk's "greatest love" is dead. Abrahams is married with young kids. Tempus' wife is dead. Farmer is divorced. Wellington claims to want a sex-change operation, which may or may not be an excuse for the women's clothing in his luggage.
• The crime scene appears suspicious: There is only one chair visible near the chessboard. A white knight is standing on its base on the floor, an extremely unlikely position for a chess piece to settle into after a table is knocked over. Dusk is in a position to see if the knight was on the floor before blood flowed around it or if it was set down into the blood.
• Dusk seems to believe that Wellington is not the killer, despite the cash he has stolen from Tempus.
• In the last frame we have seen, two scarab beetles appear onscreen behind Dr. Manhattan. I don't see the relevance of this, but they are linked to Blue Beetle, who was the inspiration for Nite Owl, and there were two Nite Owls in the Watchmen Universe.
• We are told of a "big twist, where one of the dead guys turns out to be a killer, too."
• The cover of DC #10 shows a man stepping on Dusk's head while a woman in an eye-catching dress looks on with scorn.
• The very first comment by Abrahams in analyzing the scene concludes that Tempus was the killer's intended target and Farmer was not. Dusk does not agree that this is certain.

The Solution

In a strict sense, we cannot solve this mystery with any certainty. Johns has a free hand to augment considerably the little we have seen of the movie, even bringing in several new characters. What we know so far may end up insignificant in comparison to what is coming. However, if we can solve it given what we've seen, there is only one plausible solution (and it is bolstered by working backwards from some things that would follow if the rest is true):

The killer (of at least one of the two men) is Murray Abrahams. Farmer is a primary target of the killing.

We have the following evidence:
• The crime scene was tampered with. Abrahams saw it before Dusk did.
• Abrahams did not like Farmer.
• Abrahams is not a friend of Dusk, which makes him suspect.
• Abrahams is smarter than Dusk gives him credit for.
• The only characters in the movie besides Abrahams are Dusk, the two dead men (at least one of which had a killer who wasn't one of those two), Wellington (who, Dusk assures us, is innocent), and two unnamed women (Farmer's sister and Farmer's ex).
• One more reason involving a parallel to the main plot that I will mention later.

Abrahams knows more than he is letting on, and is either the killer or, at the outside, is covering for the killer. He is looking for Dusk to solve the case incorrectly, and in so doing, clear him. Therefore, he wants to lead Dusk off the correct track.

Perhaps we will see more Adjournment characters in the story yet to come, and my solution will prove to be off-track, but there are reasons besides the internal logic of The Adjournment that make it an effective solution.

Parallel Plots

Whether this or something else is the solution to the whodunit, we still have to deduce why Johns is sharing any of this with us. I have, over the past several months, considered many combinations of characters in the main story and in this one, trying to find patterns where someone in the movie matches someone in the main DC plot.

1) Alastair Tempus = Alan Scott?

A few clues point me in a particular direction. First, the killing of someone, in this story, if it's to represent a pivotal event, would stand a good chance of representing Dr. Manhattan's killing of Alan Scott in 1940, changing the timeline. Now, zero in on the first part of "time"line and note that Alastair Tempus' last name is Latin for "time." This seems like a good place to start. Does Alastair Tempus represent Alan Scott? There are some matching characteristics, such as age and wealth. And look at the name alone:

ALA_S_Tair   ALAn ScotT

It's quite an odd choice of given name, increasingly the likelihood that that similarity is deliberate. (Also note: Alastair is derived from Alexander and Veidt is obsessed with Alexander the Great.) But "tempus" means "time" in Latin, not "lantern" or "scott." It may be more apt to posit that Tempus represents the post-COIE or post-Infinite Crisis timeline, with the JSA living in the JLA's past, and that the death of Alastair Tempus represents the end of the Alan Scott timeline, which is to say the entire pre-Flashpoint continuity.

2) Nathaniel Dusk = Adrian Veidt?

Another pair who may match up is Dusk and Veidt. Look at these panels that occur in DC #3, Veidt in the lower-left corner of page 7 and Dusk in the lower-left panel on page 17 – ten pages apart, in the same part of the page. The composition is identical, and their hair is similar, though the lighting is nearly opposite. Now consider the following lines of dialogue:

Erika Manson to Veidt: "What's the price on your head anyway?"
Abrahams to Dusk: "Everyone knows about the price on your head."

And, consider the thematic arcs for each: Veidt is disgraced and preoccupied with tragedy in his past while trying to make sense of a new mystery. This is also true of Dusk. Most to the point: The prime mover in the Doomsday Clock plot is Veidt undertaking a plan to save the Watchmen Universe by finding Dr. Manhattan. The Adjournment centers on the investigation by Dusk of a pair of murders. The central figure of The Adjournment should likely correspond to a central character in Doomsday Clock and that's quite a short list. The aforementioned clues place the focus on Veidt.

3) Murray Abrahams = Dr. Manhattan?

If the first two matches are correct, then Abrahams has to be Dr. Manhattan. We already know that Dr. Manhattan is the killer of Alan Scott; killing Scott changed the timeline and Tempus is the timeline, so whoever killed Tempus represents Dr. Manhattan. Dusk and Abrahams have an established relationship, have worked together before, but are not friends. Reggie, the New Rorschach could also fit the bill of Abrahams, but then he certainly didn't work with Veidt before this case. And Dusk asks Abrahams for the favor of helping him revisit Joyce's home; Veidt's entire mission begins with seeking Dr. Manhattan's help, and nobody else in The Adjournment plays that role. These panels from #5 and #7 may provide another clue that this pair of characters is linked.

4) Bentley Farmer = The Reverse Flash?

Two players in this story are associated with changed timelines. Two, counting "The Button," are killed by Dr. Manhattan. Thawne recognized Dr. Manhattan when he saw him, indicating a past interaction between the two. And Alan Scott is not a killer, so the other of the two victims must be. Pandora – killed by Dr. Manhattan in Rebirth – could possibly also fit the bill, but for centrality to the larger story, a better match is the Reverse Flash. If you recall the details of "The Button," Reverse Flash actively sought out Dr. Manhattan, with confidence that the latter had never faced anyone like him. That didn't go well for Eobard Thawne. The two had some past association, just as Farmer and Abrams are related by marriage. The art, again, may hold clues, as Farmer was shot in the left side of his face and Thawne was blasted, strangely, with the left side of his face blown off. To match the main plot, we may end up learning that Farmer tried to kill Abrahams, but was himself killed in the attempt.

5) Jasper Wellington = Johnny Thunder?

There's a curious complication about the JSA's removal from the timeline, which seems to involve both Alan Scott and Johnny Thunder: We know that the JSA is not part of anyone's memory in the current timeline. The fact that Dr. Manhattan removed Alan Scott from the timeline might seem to be part of a larger pattern that removed the entire JSA. Dr. Manhattan indicates in DC #7 that when he removed Alan Scott's survival from the timeline, the meeting of the JSA in November 1940 did not go on to occur. According to Rebirth, Johnny Thunder belonged to a "covert team of mystery men." He later told his Thunderbolt to protect the JSA at the meeting wherein McCarthy told them "Take off your masks" in October 1951. It appears that the JSA was removed from the timeline in two steps: First, Dr. Manhattan moving the lantern in 1940, then Johnny Thunder sought to protect them via his Thunderbolt at the hearing in 1951. The cause-and-effect relationship of timeline alteration may be pretty tricky, but the chronology of those two "events" goes from Dr. Manhattan in 1940 to Johnny Thunder in 1951. Now, we can say that he removed the JSA from their would-be lives, but unlike Dr. Manhattan's killing of Alan Scott and the Reverse Flash, he didn't actually kill anyone. The visuals are a tip-off, too. Check out this pair of panels, both from issue #5. And how many characters wear a bowtie? Finally, one of those ambiguous speech balloons in that issue refers to Wellington with "This poor man never hurt anybody" and overlaps with a panel of Johnny Thunder, a hint that they are the same "poor man."

6) Chess pieces = Characters in the DC Universe?

If Tempus and Farmer represent Scott and the Reverse Flash, who in turn involve timeline manipulation, then the chessboards and pieces may represent those timelines and the characters within them. Flashpoint has been referenced in this for a reason. Perhaps each of the pieces we see represents particular DC characters. When we see, then, Dusk closely examining the white and black kings, this may represent Veidt considering the DCU, and contemplating two opposing sides, either the heroes and villains, or the polar icons of Superman and Batman.

Now, does all of this wash? I wouldn't bet the farm on this, but a lot of details fit together in a pretty comprehensive way. Others don't, such as the fact that Alan Scott and the Reverse Flash never played a game of chess against one another, so far as I know, and if any characters in the larger plot are akin to chess opponents, there would be better ones to choose from. Because this is all on the level of symbolism, the story isn't obliged to declare that the plots are parallel in the way I describe here; this is the sort of thing one may see or not see or argue about weeks or years after the series is over. I'm going to go out on a limb, though, and suggest that these alignments of details in the plot and the art are part of an intended framework of parallels.

In any case, the Adjournment plot is much smaller than the Doomsday Clock one and I spent some time considering if the older and younger victims might represent the personalities of Firestorm – Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond. It could just be that they work in that fashion, too, because parallels aren't obligated to be unique. "Marooned" certainly doesn't map to the Watchmen plot in a singular way. This or other parallels may work in addition to or instead of the ones I have mentioned. We don't know, but in the meantime, I find myself thinking that the art parallels are not likely a coincidence.

Author, Author

The Golden Age Tarantula is not one of DC's most beloved and enduring characters, but Johns has mentioned Tarantula's alter ego, John Law, in some detail in DC #3. As the screenwriter of The Adjournment and a suspect in Colman's murder, Law has at least two roles to play in this story. His divorce from Libby Lawrence may be driving some animosity between any other man who has tried or succeeded in winning Lawrence over. This could explain why he's a suspect in Colman's death. If so, there's some a major soap opera style plot going on. Consider that Lawrence, the original Liberty Belle, is the mother of Jesse Quick / the second Liberty Belle, and the possible connection (via "tick tock") between Colman and Hourman: A romance between Lawrence and Colman could be a one-generation-earlier pairing up like the marriage between Rick Tyler and Jesse Chambers, a romance originally authored by Geoff Johns.

In addition, Law's angst over losing Lawrence (shown in great detail in The Golden Age) could also surface in the plot of The Adjournment. In only seven pages, we've seen how no fewer than three men have lost the women in their lives – two to death and one to divorce. The evil-looking woman on the cover of #10 may be another facet of Law's bitter feelings towards women and romantic relationships.

Wheels Within Wheels

One unmistakable characteristic of Doomsday Clock is the attention to detail, something we have not seen in all that many works, including some of Johns' more sprawling epics like "Sinestro Corps War" and "Blackest Night" that are more broad and vast than deep. I, for one, admire the obvious degree of intricacy in the scripting, and I'm more than accepting of the slower release schedule that has been necessary. It's a pleasure to have a story with our favorite superheroes be worthy of this much attention. However posterity may remember Doomsday Clock in relation to Watchmen, I think fans will salute the effort that Johns put in and the intricacy that resulted. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next three issues bring and how well the patterns I cite here continue – or don't – as the story moves towards a finish.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Doomsday Clock: Carver Colman

A significant degree of screentime in Doomsday Clock has been devoted to the integration of a sideplot (Carver Colman). Dr. Manhattan has indicated that Carver Colman figured large in his thoughts. What role does the Colman sideplot play in relation to the main story?

Colman is tied directly to the main plot. He lived in the New 52 DCU timeline in which Doomsday Clock begins. He was born circa 1912, moved to Hollywood as teenagr in 1928, and starred in the Nathaniel Dusk films from 1943 to 1954, dying in a mysterious murder that mirrors the original Nite Owl's death in Watchmen. In the meantime, he had at least one encounter with Dr. Manhattan that significantly altered that being's perspectives because Carver Colman "was once full of hope" before dying.

I emphasize dates because there are at least three significant connections to be made that have not, so far as I have seen, been made online yet. Two of these involve the McCarthy "Red Scare" witch hunt that has been intertwined with the Justice Society backstory since 1979 and other ways in which Colman's timeline intersects with the DCU superheroes'.

1. Colman's death occurs in the early hours of June 9, 1954. This is not an arbitrary date. In the real world, an Army attorney named Joseph Welch had an encounter with Senator Joseph McCarthy on that date which famously ended public and political support for McCarthy. The pivotal quotation, which many have heard in Welch's Iowan accent culminated with, " Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

We know that Colman's life intersected with the Red Scare because Ring Lardner Jr., the screenwriter of his third movie – a real man from the real world – was part of the Hollywood Ten, a group that was prosecuted criminally and blacklisted by Hollywood for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. (Lardner returned to screenwriting decades later and won an Oscar in 1970.)

We know from discussion in Johnny Thunder's retirement home that Colman is remembered as a deviant by some and a hero by others. What was so polarizing?

The timing suggests that Colman's "hope" was extinguished just hours before McCarthyism was otherwise eliminated. He had eaten dinner with Hollywood power brokers shortly before his murder. Presumably, they learned that he had views that were dangerous to them during the reign of McCarthyism. It seems likely that he died on the last possible day before his views, sympathetic to Communism or, at least, hostile to McCarthyism, would have become acceptable. Colman's death seems to be a key trigger for Dr. Manhattan, making him experience feelings, such as he has them, of futility and abandoning hope, a path that has taken him into encounters with Firestorm and, eventually, Superman, with a dangerous disregard for the worthwhileness of human life.

Perhaps incidental to the story, Colman's death reminds me, in certain ways, of that of George Reeves, the actor who once played Superman on TV. Like Colman, Reeves was a Hollywood actor who played a hero, and after socializing with other Hollywood figures, and died somewhat mysteriously, with an official ruling of suicide but some suspicion that the shooting was actually a murder.

2. Dr. Manhattan's brief biography of Alan Scott highlights that Scott spoke before HUAC (another arm of McCarthyism, although McCarthy was a member of the Senate, not the House, and did not belong to HUAC) on January 8, 1950 and "refuses to implicate anyone in his employ." Aficionados of JSA lore may recall that Scott and the JSA spoke before HUAC and refused to cooperate with them, and at that point retired from their superhero identities, another loss of hope.

However, this is not the same event. Back in 1979, a story in Adventure Comics #466 explained the backstory of the Justice Society, who had retired before Jay Garrick met Barry Allen in Flash #123. (To be precise, Jay claims to have retired in 1949.) According to Adventure #466, the JSA appears, led by Alan Scott, before HUAC on October 13, 1951, and rather than unmask themselves, leave the proceedings and retire from their superhero roles.

The January 8 event, however, took place over a year earlier. This is not the hearing involving the JSA, but rather one involving the professional role of Alan Scott as a businessman, and it is depicted in the 1993 Elseworlds work The Golden Age with the same date. It is not clear if the events, in Dr. Manhattan's timeline, are the same as depicted in The Golden Age, but it is, strikingly, this meeting before HUAC that Dr. Manhattan cites, not the one involving the JSA. In the new timeline, Dr. Manhattan visits Alan Scott's grave on January 1950, ten years after Scott's death and at the time he would have – but in the new timeline – meet with HUAC. Subtly, then, Dr. Manhattan is twice motivated by events involving McCarthyism.

Why did Dr. Manhattan kill Alan Scott? These details imply that he was profoundly disturbed by the outcome of the January 8, 1950 meeting, but it is not clear why, and we can't be sure that the events of The Golden Age, leading to a showdown with the Ultra-Humanite, are part of the timeline in question. It is probably impossible for us to guess why Alan Scott's testimony so disturbed Dr. Manhattan, but it seems likely that some unanticipated consequence of his heroic stance led to the defeat of "hope" and that Dr. Manhattan canceled the entire timeline by killing Alan Scott, just to prevent that outcome. In the new timeline, Colman Carver becomes a new source of hope before he dies. And now Superman plays that role. Maybe Superman will demonstrate hope that cannot be defeated, and redeem the DCU for Dr. Manhattan.

What is Veidt's plan? The cover of Doomsday Clock #8 shows Veidt manipulating Superman and Dr. Manhattan as marionettes. The best we could say for Veidt is that he is orchestrating the meeting between them because it will end with Dr. Manhattan concluding his experiments in the DCU, and will lead to Dr. Manhattan returning to the Watchmen Universe to save it. This would amount to Superman providing the hope that Alan Scott, in an earlier time and earlier timeline, could not.

Doomsday Clock #10 vs. Showcase #4
3. The cover of Doomsday Clock #10 shows a boy on a farm whose mailbox reads "Colman." The boy is reading All Star Comics #3, the comic book issue that in our world introduced the Justice Society. However, this has a major twist: Dr. Manhattan is seated at the table with the Justice Society. Obviously, no such event ever took place in any DC timeline that we've ever seen. A cover is not bound to narrate fact, but this cover is asserting something – what is it?

I looked at this cover many times, supposing that the blonde boy there was a young Carver Colman, but the timeline doesn't fit. Colman would have been 28 years old in 1940 and working as a man in Hollywood, while the boy in the picture is much younger. Although timeline manipulation is part of the story, it seems that the boy is not Colman. It is, more likely, Barry Allen. Compare that cover with the first two panels depicting Barry Allen back in Showcase #4. Though Barry here is a man, not a boy, and the details are provided in two panels rather than one, it shows similar composition and intent, with the "real" superheroes appearing fictional on a comic book cover, and Jay Garrick part of the cover in both cases. However, given that Barry Allen's youth has remained fixed since 1956, we can no longer posit that Barry was alive and reading comic books in 1940, so it could be that the Allen boy seen here is not Barry but Barry's father or even grandfather. That would match the claim made by Wally that the watch was once owned by Barry's grandfather.

This scene likely could not have happened in any of the timelines we're familiar with but it does assert a few remarkable things. Strikingly, it suggests that in at least one timeline, Dr. Manhattan tried to "find a place among them" by serving as a member of the Justice Society. One imagines that this may have gone badly, with the squeaky-clean and optimistic Golden Age Heroes clashing with Dr. Manhattan, a clash that may have ended with his murdering them and terminating that timeline. However, that is, given the previous discussion, likely not the reason why Alan Scott and the JSA were eliminated from the New 52 timeline. That is due to some combination of Alan Scott's HUAC testimony, Johnny Thunder using his Thunderbolt "trying to protect them" from their testimony before McCarthy (who, again, was not a member of HUAC; this detail may be a mistake), and Dr. Manhattan going back to July 1940 and killing Alan Scott.

However, it does suggest, strikingly, a connection between Barry Allen and Carver Colman. There may be no way to make the timelines work nicely anymore and match the current Barry Allen to any kid who would have been alive and reading comic books before 1950, but there is one more reason to suspect a significant connection between Carver Colman and Barry Allen – a watch.

One detail of Colman's death is that his watch was missing. A watch is, of course, the metaphor that runs throughout Watchmen, beginning with the first syllable of its title. It is also what we see first and last in DC Rebirth, but the watch there, as signified by the inscription, "Every Second is A Gift," belongs to Wally West. That watch, or so Wally believes, belonged to Barry Allen's grandfather. The cover and the "two" watches suggest a link between Colman and the past of Barry Allen (and further, on to Wally West). Furthermore, as Colman's family is from Indiana, as the farm location reinforces, that provides a plausible geographical link as well to the pasts of the Allen and West families, who are Midwestern.

Additionally, Colman is tied plausibly to the JSA and Golden Age superheroes, and could even be one of them, living a life where timeline manipulation, say by Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt, may have placed him safely in a life where the HUAC showdown in 1951 would not affect him. Because his bio associated the phrase "tick tock" with him, and a fascination with clocks, I repeat my earlier supposition that Carver Colman is Rex Tyler, "Tick Tock" Tyler, the Hour-Man, hidden in an alternative life. Born in 1912, he would have been 28 in 1940, a fine age for a scientist–superhero to begin his career. Sadly, both of his lives turned out poorly, from some level of analysis, with Hourman retiring due to HUAC pressure in 1951 and, in the new timeline, Carver Colman being murdered due to political reasons in 1954. Dr. Manhattan is aware of this, was physically present in the life of Colman, and feels hopelessness due to the poor ends that Tyler-Colman inevitably met.

This would provide an interesting additional thread of connection, for a chain of continuity involving time-based heroes if Hourman passed a watch to Barry Allen who passed it to Wally West. Time and watches/clocks thus serve as a symbol, as they did in Watchmen, but here the generations of superhero become the "hours" that tick by: Golden Age, Silver Age, and then on to the generation of Wally West (though he debuted in the Silver Age).

Furthermore, Colman had an association with John Law, the Golden Age superhero known as Tarantula, who was present for the culminating battle in January 1950 in The Golden Age. Law was a writer in his original formulation and, in the end-notes of DC #3, a screenwriter, and therefore also plausibly entangled in the Hollywood-HUAC mess that brought down many real people as well as some in this story.

I don't think the entire story and reveals to come can be guessed with certainty now, particularly as there are timelines involved that we've never seen, but the Carver Colman story will take, at least, the loose outlines of this form, and in so doing provides thematic support to the main plot, and even a direct role in the JSA-HUAC-timeline part of the story that's largely been hidden from us.

The case of Carver's biography aside, Carver Colman is tied to a completely different sideplot – the plot of The Adjournment, the Nathaniel Dusk movie whose action has been shown to us directly in several scenes. The plot of a story within a story has no logical requirement to correspond to the main story in any way, but it is not for nothing that Johns has chosen to devote a few pages. In my next post, I'll ask what roleThe Adjournment  plays in Doomsday Clock.