Ever since the publication of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 in May 2016, readers have been asking: Are there really Watchmen characters manipulating the DCU?
There were multiple hints in the Rebirth opener that pointed toward the involvement of Watchmen character in the DCU. From the obvious use of a clock/watch theme, to the powerful character shown to be on a red planet, to the blood-splattered button in the wall of the Batcave, all the clues seemed to point toward Dr. Manhattan being the character who stole 10 years from DCU and the "darkness" that "infected" it.
Then the clues about Mr. Oz, which can be traced back to even earlier to the "New 52," started pointing toward that mysterious character also being connected to Watchmen.
But one year after the publication of Rebirth, there's been very few revelations about what all those Watchmen clues really meant. Even a few issues into the much-anticipated "The Button" crossover, there are still no Watchmen characters confirmed as being involved in the DCU and no real confirmation that they ever were.
Instead, readers' confidence about the meaning of the Watchmen clues has been waning. Alternate theories have emerged, with varying degrees of probability.
Including the original, mind-blowing idea that Dr. Manhattan messed with the DCU, here are a few of the leading theories about the power behind time's manipulation and why each idea does - or doesn't - make sense.
The theory: At some point in the past of the DCU, Dr. Manhattan began manipulating the DCU. He was able to remove a decade. The Watchmen character's reasoning is unclear, but he existed outside of time and noticed history unraveling when Flashpoint was created, then he "attacked" and changes the timeline.
Why it makes sense: There have been a slew of clues about Dr. Manhattan being the perpetrator of this phenomenon.
First, almost every powerful move had been done in a glow of blue, one of Manhattan's signatures. There have been several murders seemingly perpetrated by the suspect (Owl Man, Metron, Pandora, and now Reverse-Flash), and they all seem to involve vaporizing the victims, which is within Manhattan's ability.
There's also been confirmation that the character behind it all is male (called "him" by Mr. Oz at the end of "Superman Reborn"). And the constant hints about a Mars (or the red planet in Rebirth) also echo Manhattan's time on the planet in Watchmen.
And Geoff Johns, who orchestrated "Rebirth," has been quoted talking about how future stories about the DC heroes dealing with this attack will "not involve double page spreads of superheroes smashing their fists into Dr. Manhattan. You've got to treat that very, very carefully."
As if he's planned the fight.
At the end of Watchmen, Manhattan is leaving that universe, it seems, and one could imagine him wanting to start anew somewhere else, maybe even hoping he could remake that world.
The idea behind the whole thing also provides a little bit of commentary on the history of the DCU itself. Watchmen infected the DCU? Made it darker? Doesn't that sound suspiciously like what really happened to comic books after Watchmen was published?
Also, DC themselves have said that their stories "strongly inferred in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 that Doctor Manhattan is involved with what’s taken place with the timeline."
Why it might not make sense: Well, the man question is, why? What could possibly motivate Dr. Manhattan to somehow discover the DCU, plan a specific move against it, only take out 10 years, maybe split only Superman and Lois Lane into pieces, and all this other stuff, then do nothing for a while? After all, the universe appears to be reshaping itself. It's difficult to understand the motivation.
And although there aren't many problems with the theory, it's also the one DC revealed years before Johns gets to come back and allegedly write the big finale. So…the early hints might be misleading.
And lastly, if DC's website is leaning towards Manhattan being the culprit - can that be seen as a misdirect?
The theory: Someone is controlling Dr. Manhattan - someone who cares about the DCU and is pulling the strings behind the scene.
Why it makes sense: It would provide a much-needed motivation for Dr. Manhattan caring about the DCU. If another villain is working with Manhattan, or even controlling him, than there might be a revenge story, or a tale of passion, or a world-ruling motivation behind this.
Plus, in "The Button," Saturn Girl specifically says "they" are going to kill, and put an end to the Legion of Super-Heroes, and hurt her friends. If she's talking about the perpetrator of the missing 10 years, which appears to be the case, than there's more than one character involved.
And it would give Johns and the DC folks another big reveal for a future story (since Watchmen was already spoiled early on).
Why it doesn't make sense: Control Manhattan? Really? Plus, at the end of "Superman Reborn," it was made clear that the danger was "him." Not "they."
Oz = Ozymandias
The Theory: Mr. Oz is actually Adrian Veidt, the character known in Watchmen as Ozymandias. And the reason he knows about the scary "him" on Mars (mentioned at the end of "Superman Reborn") is that, well, "him" is Manhattan. The two have history, after all.
Why it makes sense: A woman shown working for Oz had a tattoo that looked like the Ozymandias' Nostalgia Perfume bottle in Watchmen. The Oz character also "watches" the DCU from afar, often on multiple TV screens similar to the ones Ozymandias used to watch. Oz has eyes of a hue that is similar to Adrian's. And he has minions who do his bidding, like he's used to being a leader, which fits Adrian's history.
Why it might not make sense: Oz has a definite interest in Superman, one that is tough to explain if he's Ozymandias. In fact, he claims to have taught "New 52" Superman and is even proud of his accomplishments. Unless Oz was the one who created the "New 52" (unlikely) and/or the one who split Superman in two (wait, could that be it?), he wouldn't be able to claim a history with Superman.
Oz also carries some type of staff, which is not an Ozymandias prop. And his knowledge and interest in the DCU is surprising for a Watchmen character.
The Theory: Superboy-Prime is involved somehow. Some theories point toward him being Oz, others toward him working with Manhattan or another powerful character to steal time and remake the DCU.
Why it makes sense: If there's anyone who would want to "fix" the DCU, it's Superman-Prime. He's obsessed with DC characters and what they do. In fact, it would be pretty easy to imagine him trying to mess with the timeline and the characters.
If he's Mr. Oz, that would explain the fascination with Superman.
And the costume is very similar to what Prime wore when he was the Time Trapper in Legion of Three Worlds. And speaking of that Geoff Johns story - the aged Superboy Prime had the ability to control time itself. Sound familiar?
And let's not forget that Superboy-Prime learned about the DCU through comic books on his own world. And what other comic book would he read? Watchmen. He'd know about the characters from that story, about the smiley face button, and about Dr. Mahattan's powers.
And he would know about other characters who have gotten the attention of Mr. Oz, from Mr. Mxyzptlk to Tim Drake to Doomsday. Any long-time comic book fan like Superboy-Prime would be aware of these connections, and with Time Trapper's abilities, he'd be able to do something about it.
The Theory: Mr. Oz is Lex Luthor from another world - maybe even another DC timeline.
Why it makes sense: Oz is clearly most interested in Superman, which fits with Lex Luthor. And Oz says he helped create and make Superman into the hero he is today, which fits well with Lex Luthor being the character's secret identity.
And his nonchalant imprisoning of characters and manipulation of the world around him is definitely Luthor-ish, as is his employment of minions to do his bidding.
Why is might not make sense: There are a huge number of reasons. There's no reason for him to steal 10 years but keep Superman around to watch. Plus Luthor doesn't have the powers we've seen. And who would be the "him" on Mars?
The Theory: The Monitor (or maybe even the Overmonitor from Final Crisis) is either the Oz character, or the one who manipulated time.
Why it makes sense: Fits with the whole "watch" theme - the Monitors are sort of watchers who try to prevent another Crisis. If the Monitor is Oz, then he's theoretically taking people "off the playing field" to prevent Crises. He's worried about the long game, and is trying to manipulate it.
Plus, how does Oz watch the world? On monitors.
Why it might not make sense: There's been absolutely no mention of Monitors before this. And it doesn't fit at all with the Watchmen clues from DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
The Theory: A gone-rogue Martian Manhunter is either behind all this stuff or he's trying to stop it. He's either Oz or the Mars-based manipulator himself.
Why it makes sense: Well, come on - how many times have we seen Mars as a clue? And the absence of the character lately is kind of obvious.
Why it might not make sense: Time manipulation is not in Manhunter's power set. And watching the world on TV screens is sooooo not his style.
The Theory: The Thunderbolt once controlled by Johnny Thunder has gone rogue and stolen years from the DC timeline, or he's working for someone else.
Why it makes sense: The character is an all-powerful genie and could pretty much accomplish all of these feats, theoretically. And he's been mentioned in Rebirth clues a few times.
And he's missing - Johnny Thunder can't call him, as we've seen more than once.
Why it might not make sense: Well, first off, he's historically portrayed as being pink, not blue. Of course, if he's gone villain, maybe that explains the color change. And he has no motivation for this, nor does he tie into the watch theme, or the other clues about Watchmen.
The Theory: Mr. Oz is Pa Kent. When Oz says he taught Clark Kent to have hope, he wasn't speaking figuratively He really meant it.
Why it makes sense: Well, it doesn't. The only clue that really works with this theory is that Mr. Oz claims to have taught Superman. And Pa Kent taught Superman.
Why it might not make sense: It just plain doesn't make sense. Pa's human, he's a good person, and he's dead. But hey, this is comic books. Anything's possible.