Among the mysteries following the publication of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 is the nature of the two Supermen co-existing in DC's primary universe.
The two characters were previously believed to be two separate characters. For the sake of simplicity we'll call them as follows:
- "New 52" Superman: the introduced-in-2011, younger, bully-fighting "New 52" version of Superman, who died a few weeks ago, and…
- post-Crisis Superman: the older, married, post-Crisis Superman, who traveled to the "New 52" Earth after the events of Convergence.
But the nature and identity of both characters is being called into question by a series of events surrounding Rebirth — particularly since the hooded character called Mr. Oz appeared in DC Universe: Rebirth and questioned the nature of both Supermen.
What's motivating the mystery? Here are a few of the clues.
Not What They Seem:
In a two-page spread in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, which was written by Rebirth architect and DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, a character called Mr. Oz tells post-Crisis Superman that he's there to tell him something in the wake of this "tragedy." (The quotation marks are his, implying that "New 52" Superman's death wasn't a tragedy at all.) "You and your family are not what you believe you are," he says. "And neither was the fallen Superman."
Newsarama has already detailed why we suspect Mr. Oz is actually Ozymandias from Watchmen. As the Rebirth one-shot revealed, someone (or more than one someone) from the Watchmen universe has been watching the DCU and actually messed with time at the end of Flashpoint — stealing 10 years and changing character histories. Now, the post-Crisis and "New 52" universes appear to be combining into something new, restoring legacies and relationships, as well as giving characters back their memories.
Oz's statement that the Superman characters are not what they believe might be related to how different the existence of two Supermen is when compared to just about every other character in the DCU. The revelations of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 has established that the current heroes of the DCU are a sort of selective amalgam of their post-Crisis versions and their "New 52" versions — with bits and pieces from both timelines sort of combined into one character, as they begin to sense again their life and, in some cases, memories, before the establishment of the "New 52" in 2011 .
However, that's not the case with Superman and Lois Lane. There have been two separate versions of these characters — post-Crisis and "New 52" — occupying one universe for some time.
By implying — via Mr. Oz — that "New 52" Superman wasn't exactly what he seemed, and post-Crisis Superman wasn't either, DC appears to be heading toward an explanation of exactly how these two characters occupied the same space, separately, when all other versions of DC characters were sort of merged into one.
Glowing Blue Hand:
In the first few pages of Superman #1 by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, post-Crisis Superman takes a moment to visit "New 52" Superman's grave. When the older hero touches the ground above his dead counterpart's body, a glowing blue handprint forms in the grass.
At that exact same moment that the blue handprint appears, Superman's thoughts turn toward Mr. Oz. "That's weird," a caption box says, depicting Superman's thoughts when he sees the glowing blue handprint. "I'm still trying to figure out what that character calling himself Mr. Oz meant when he said that me and the family are not what we think we are … now this?"
The juxtaposition of the blue handprint and the mention of Mr. Oz cannot be a coincidence. Clearly, the two situations are related. But how?
The blue glow could represent a type of energy. In the case of Wally West and Barry Allen, the Speed Force was allowing — even encouraging — them to remember each other. Maybe there's a similar type of energy emminating from the "New 52" Superman, from within his grave, somehow connecting him to post-Crisis Superman. Could the two characters be more related than we knew?
Then again, the fact that the handprint is blue and glowing might also be connected to a certain other glowing, blue character, Dr. Manhattan. Readers already suspect that he was the Watchmen character who attacked the DCU's timeline and caused the creation of the "New 52" – after all, he'd probably be the only one powerful enough to do it.
But if the blue handprint is connected somehow to Dr. Manhattan, what does it mean? Was "New 52" Superman connected to Dr. Manhattan? Is the post-Crisis Superman connected to him? Or both?
Mr. Oz originally appeared in issues of Superman by Johns and John Romita Jr., more than a year before DC Universe: Rebirth #1, and there were a few hints at that time that something weird was going on with him and "New 52" Superman.
In his first appearance in Superman #32, when Mr. Oz saw "New 52" Superman fall down, he said, "come on now, Superman … Clark … you always get up when you get knocked down. I taught you that."
With Rebirth establishing that the "New 52" Universe was created by one or more characters from Watchmen — and with Mr. Oz possibly being one of those Watchmen characters — this could explain why he thinks he taught Superman something.
Or maybe Oz's "teaching" could be interpreted as supporting the idea that there's a connection between New 52 Superman and Dr. Manhattan. If "New 52" Superman was a being of energy — which is supported by the fact that his energy and powers have been transferred to other characters lately — then maybe that energy was also created by the Watchmen characters. Maybe that energy was even an extension of Dr. Manhattan himself.
Hey, it's a stretch, but with a glowing blue handprint showing up on "New 52" Superman's grave, and Dr. Manhattan in play again, that blue glowy coincidence is tough to ignore.
And let's not forget that Mr. Oz has someone imprisoned behind a pair of doors. In Superman #34, Mr. Oz talks to someone he trapped, saying, "If I let you out, I'm sure you'd offer an opinion." Some people have interpreted that prisoner to be Dr. Manhattan, while others wonder if there's another Watchmen character in there. But it's worth noting that the "opinion" statement from Mr. Oz was in direct follow-up to some comments he made about Superman. So there's a good chance the prisoner and the mysteries about Superman are connected.
The montage in Superman #1, which seemed to depict the character's origin and history, incorporated costumes and elements from more than one Superman, even thought the juxtaposition with the post-Crisis Superman character implied it was only his history.
But technically, it wasn't his history.
If the Rebirth version of post-Crisis Superman's history is starting to incorporate elements from not only the "New 52" but even pre-Crisis, then maybe he's more like the rest of the DC characters than we suspect.
One other clue that might be related to this idea is that in Superman: Lois and Clark, when post-Crisis Superman visited the Fortress of Solitude, the statues of Jor-El and Lara were surprisingly non-committal on what Krypton looked like — they weren't a perfect reproduction of any past version of Krypton.
These events, coupled with the idea of there being "energy" coming from "New 52" Superman's grave, points toward the two Superman characters maybe not being separate after all. Could this new Superman be some type of amalgamation of all former Supermen? If Dr. Manhattan (or whatever Watchmen influence) caused the "New 52," who's to say he wasn't able to cause other adjustments to DC's history? Mr. Oz mentioned "the long game" in the Rebirth one-shot. Could the manipulations involve more than just the short time period before the "New 52" was formed? And if "New 52" Superman is a being whose energy can transfer to other characters, is there also a possibly that his energy could be (or maybe already is being) absorbed into the post-Crisis Superman?
Of course, there's no right answer to any of these questions — just lots of clues and hint-dropping by the Superman writers and artists, with more surely to come. One theory, at this point, is perhaps as good as another. What's yours?