Did Geoff Johns tell readers about the Watchmen ties to the DCU all the way back in 2015?
Among the many new questions raised by DC Universe Rebirth is the identity of Mr. Oz, the hooded figure who talked to post-Crisis Superman outside his hotel room. The last time we saw Mr. Oz was in the Geoff Johns/John Romita Jr. run on Superman. His true identity was never revealed. Nor was the meaning of his appearance. It seemed to be a dangling plot thread.
But now, adding up the clues in both Rebirth and Superman about the identity of the character, it looks like Mr. Oz could actually be Ozymandias from Watchmen. The evidence:
- First, the obvious. In Rebirth, the colorist has very deliberately portrayed the hooded figure's eyes as blue, which is the same eye color as Ozymandias. And the name, "Mr. Oz," is also a clue.
And well ... he's been 'watching' Superman.
- The meaning of the character's appearance in Superman was never explained — a strange, dangling plot thread left open by Geoff Johns when he ended his run on the title. In April 2015, when Romita was temporarily going solo on the title after Johns had left, Newsarama asked Romita about the hooded Mr. Oz. "Ooo! I don't think I can say anything," Romita said. "Give me $50,000 and I'll tell you exactly what's going to happen. Bribery is not above me. I am a civilian. I can't really tell you anything beyond that. But it's an amazing storyline that Geoff Johns wrote out when I first started working with him on the title. And the end of what he had — the tail end of his complete treatment — is what's coming. And it's fantastic." In June, when Gene Luen Yang started on the book, Newsarama asked him whether he'd be picking up the Mr. Oz story, but he said he knew nothing about it.
- In March 2015's Superman #39, a woman named Janet is working for Mr. Oz, and she's shown to have an "Oz" tattoo that looks a lot like the Nostalgia Perfume bottle in Watchmen (look at the last panel in the page to your left). And looking around the web, the prize goes to a blogger with the user name 'Anj' on comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com, who said of the tattoo at the time: "At first, I thought it was Adrian Veidt's Nostalgia Perfume." Good eyes. Of course, the blogger didn't take the resemblance seriously. Who would have more than a year ago?
- The first appearances of the mysterious hooded figure in Superman often portrayed him looking at many computer screens, reminiscent of Adrian Veidt standing in front of TV screens in Watchmen.
- In his first appearance in Superman #32, when Mr. Oz saw Superman fall down, he said, "come on now, Superman … Clark … you always get up when you get knocked down. I taught you that." Coupled with the implication in Rebirth that the story and characters in Watchmen not only influenced the DCU but actually created the "New 52," this claim of "teaching" New 52 Superman may refer to that.
- In Superman #34, Mr. Oz is shown again with many computer screens, pointing out that even though Clark faces tragedy every day, he "never gives up hope." He questions whether "New 52" Superman can ever give up hope. If this is, indeed, Adrian Veidt — and if Wally is correct that there's a war coming between "hope and despair" — then his interest in Superman's "hope" ties in nicely.
- He has someone with him. On the same page in Superman #34, Mr. Oz also talks to someone he appears to have imprisoned behind a pair of doors. "If I let you out, I'm sure you'd offer an opinion." Who was trapped behind the doors? If Mr. Oz is Ozymandias, was this prisoner Dr. Manhattan? Or another Watchmen character?
- The character's last appearance before Rebirth hints that there's a much bigger story coming. On the final page of Superman #39, the end of Johns' run, Mr. Oz mailed a blank book to Clark Kent — a book with a Superman symbol on front — with a not that said, "The future is unwritten Clark, but you and your friends will see it soon enough."
- The character admits in Rebirth that "Mr. Oz" isn't his real name. "Who I am does not matter," he says. "At least, not yet. For now you can call me Mr. Oz, if you like. What I am, oh, that's a different story. Friend or enemy is too simple a term when you consider the long game. Some might call this that."
So what is Mr. Oz's "long game?" If he really is Ozymandias, then Johns hinted about this development more than a year ago. And if he's been watching and knowing all this time, then his warning that the Superman family are not what they believe they are might all tie into the manipulations being done by the Watchmen characters. (Readers should keep an eye on the new Superboy, in whom Mr. Oz has taken an interest.)
And if this really is Adrian Veidt, then Wally West's warning about a coming war "between hope and despair" — which seems to indicate a Watchmen vs. DCU fight — will involve more than just Dr. Manhattan.