Welcome to Wednesday! Today I’m going to discuss some of the
realities of Watchmen that make its inclusion in DC Rebirth totally okay. It’s
divided into three sections. And, as a reward for reading, there’s a totally free, totally original comic from my own brain, just for you. (And if you just skip to the
end, I’ll never know!)
There are plenty of reviews and rebukes of the issue and
reframing of the DC universe. To my knowledge, mine will be different because
I’m going to use actual quotes from ABSOLUTE WATCHMEN. I haven’t seen any other
published pieces doing that.
And finally, I’d like to disclaim here at the top an
understanding of the relationship and history between Watchmen’s creators, Alan
Moore and Dave Gibbons, with DC. I know about it but its principles are not
what I’m examining. Rather, I’m examining the principles of the collection
and the DC universe only and not how some people have decided to be shitty.
Without further ado,
this week’s Wednesday Wittling:
Section One: NOTHING IS SACRED AND THAT’S OKAY.
Like any good plot twist, the end of Rebirth was
Some people were okay with seeing the Comedian’s smiley pin
sticking out of the Batcave wall. Some people liked it. Some, though, felt it was
simply foolish. The tone of Watchmen doesn’t match the tone of the rest of the
DC universe. It’s why they’ve been apart since their inception and why no one
bothers talking about Before Watchmen.
But think for a second, and then a second longer. The very
differences create the most plausible reasons for Watchmen to be included with
the rest of the DC universe. It’s naturally compelling when two unlike things
are put together. North and south magnetic poles. Sweet and salty crunch. Lamb
and tuna fish, or spaghetti and meat ball if you prefer. Putting opposites
together incites creative pursuit and, lately, I can’t dismiss that. I’m trying
to create more myself. I’ve gained some
understanding for what it is to 1) come up with an idea, 2) go for it, and 3)
see it through. It takes a lot.
I think the tonal aspect of Watchmen that least fits the current
DC universe, or really, any comic universe, is the Cold War. We’re so far
removed from what gives the book the most weight for the time it was published. To
maintain that the current DC universe and Watchmen don’t belong together because
of tonal difference is to accept without curiosity being “raised in [a] rigidly
structured and industrially oriented culture” of comics. But that’s not what
comics have ever been.
Section Two: TOO MUCH IS RULED BY LOSS…BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE
Dr. Manhattan is assumed to be the party responsible for
Rebirth. The Wall Street Journal notes how the man behind Rebirth, Geoff Johns, has emphasized that Dr.
Manhattan is an antagonist, not a
supervillain. And with that, it’s really, really important to consider the
walking meta conflict that he is.
Rebirth has four chapters: Loss, Legacy, Love, and Life. Through
the issue’s pages we see how important those things are to all the characters.
But none of those things are important to Dr. Manhattan. None. Of. Them. And only one really manifests: loss.
When nothing gets to compile – not time, not feelings, not experience – loss defines everything. That’s what it is for Dr. Manhattan. And for us as readers loss seems to define DC’s recent history
more than most anything else. We get a book, we read it, we move on when we’re done. For me, and a lot of people I know, DC books are very easy to put down.
We most often keep them in physical form only.
But Watchmen is something that sticks with people. It’s like moving a couch with someone only for them to drop it without telling you and walking away, and then having to finish the job yourself. Rebirth challenges both of these kinds of loss.
The mobile conundrum that is Dr. Manhattan builds off part one above in that putting opposites together is fun. It makes
complete and total sense that Dr. Manhattan would want to alter the timeline of
the rest of the universe (and without their knowledge). If “there is no past. There is no future,” why would he? Time and timelines are simply
happening to him, and simultaneously. It’s not unrealistic to think he’s
expanded on his mindset to the point of doing something about it with his vast
And if the rest of the DC universe does care about Loss, Legacy, Love, and Life then get ready for a
fight. Reasonably, it “burns [everyone’s] ass to be so damn disposable,” and that’s what Manhattan has made them by erasing the last ten years. The fight might not
be the flashy, polished fight you’d expect out of DC in recent history. I think
it’s going to be a more cognitive fight. Landing a punch isn’t going to
supplant an ideal. Cognitive fights – ones centered on the belief of
self-assigned value and worked out in earnest curiosity – lead to the most fascinating,
imperative moments a person can experience. And a major publisher is actively putting that into their comics?! Baller!
Section Three: THE BREADCRUMBS WERE GIVEN TO THE HUNGRIEST
Just in terms of its setup, Rebirth is good storytelling: an
engaging note of potential truth dropped from nowhere; a clue provided to give
it weight. Take out DC, take out Watchmen, and it’s still the framework to
something that hooks a reader. But the clue was put in the absolute perfect
More than a superhero Batman is a super detective. The
Comedian’s pin in the wall of the Batcave puts the biggest, most puzzling clue
in the entire world in front of the guy who will most want to know more. They
did the most practical thing which, in the case of DC, is oddly refreshing.
I thought Batman: Rebirth #1 was going to get more into the
clue right away, but it didn’t (the issue was still fun though). Regardless, the most engaging part of
Batman is the endlessly inquisitive man under the cowl. This is a mystery worth digging into, even if it’s going to take a tiny Andy Dufresne rock hammer
over two years. It’s not about “semi-precious stones scarcely worth
the collecting” for me, and it feels like DC has realized that, too.
DC has given us plenty of reason to question them over the
last few years. They’ve also given us plenty of reasons to not have faith that they’ll
execute well after a strong start. Geoff
Johns can’t write every issue of every book. In reality, he’ll probably write
very little, given his new job as head of DC Films. But he’s planted the seeds
with tremendous care; enough to give the rest of the new books a real chance of
growing with flourish. He’s deliberately put the universe in position to do what Doctor Manhattan says it doesn’t.
Is DC actually going to deliver, or are they going to end up a step further in exploitative abyss? I don’t know. I really don’t. But, unlike
three weeks ago, I actually want to find out. They’ve earned it.
Here ya go: this week’s free, original comic.