November's DCU/Watchmen crossover Doomsday Clock will pick up one of the major threads from May 2016's DC Universe: Rebirth #1, and according to Geoff Johns it is inspired by the recent elections in the United States and a broader wave of extremism in the real world.
""When 'Rebirth' kicked off, and I wrote the special and worked with all the teams, and all the books did their own thing, I talked to Gary, and said there is a really interesting story with Doctor Manhattan, and his point of view, and the intersection into what is the DC Universe," Johns told Blastr. "We debated whether we would ever want to do it, because it is a big job. We talked for six months, and the truth is, it wasn’t until the election, and post-election, that I called Gary and said, 'I’ve got the complete story.'"
While the U.S. elections might have been a catalyst for Doomsday Clock, Johns is careful to say it's about "much more" than Donald Trump.
"It is about much more than the American president or the reactions to him. That is low hanging fruit to me. It goes bigger, deeper. It is about the world, and the attitude of people," said Johns. "I feel like there are extremes now everywhere, extremes on all sides. There is no more olive branch. It doesn’t exist. I feel like people, more and more, are separated. They are choosing sides, instead of figuring out how to make life better together. There is a real sense of anger, and frustration, and there is not a lot of compassion, or willingness to understand in the world. Telling a story of two extremes, and exploring what our collective zeitgeist states through these characters is what we are doing. We think it’s important … The truth is, if the world and the country didn’t go a certain way, I don’t know that we would be telling this story. For us, the story would not exist if the last year didn’t unfold the way it did, and the rise of extremism wasn't so palpable."
The initials of Doomsday Clock being 'D.C.' isn't lost on Johns, nor is the fact that one of Superman's major villains is named Doomsday.
"[Doomsday Clock] takes the iconic elements of both Superman and Watchmen, and the DC Universe. It felt like the perfect title. I like the 'DC. It used to be called The Doomsday Clock, but I took 'The' off," said Johns. "Obviously people know who Doomsday is, but he’s not a part of the story, but I like the implications of it. People will think the last time they heard Doomsday and Superman, he died, so what is this going to be? What is he going to go through this time? And how will it affect them going forward?'"
On January 1, 2017, Johns tweeted out the first word that he was working on a Watchmen-based follow-up to DC Universe: Rebirth #1. The current "The Button" crossover between Batman and The Flash was co-plotted by Johns, along with series writers Tom King and Joshua Williamson. But unlike that, Doomsday Clock won't crossover with other titles - and somewhat unique in the modern comics landscape - won't have any tie-ins at all.
"We’re not going to do a story like this unless we one-thousand percent believe in it. It is all about the story; it is only about the story. There are no crossovers. No watered down one-shots or mini-series on top of this one. This is a standalone story," said Johns, who in addition to being a top writer for DC is also it's Chief Creative Officer and a President. "There is only Doomsday Clock. We had no interest in doing a crossover with this. We didn’t want to see Doctor Manhattan facing off against Superman in Action Comics, with all due respect. That is not what this is about. It is about something different … It will have an impact on the entire DC Universe. It will affect everything moving forward and everything that has come before. It will touch the thematic and literal essence of DC."
While Superman and Doctor Manhattan will be the primary characters of Doomsday Clock, there will be a "handful" of others.
"There will be DC characters throughout this, but this focuses in on only a handful. There is a lot of focus on Superman, and Doctor Manhattan," said Johns. "Doctor Manhattan is a huge focus, and his reasons for being here, and doing what he does, ultimately have to do with Superman. And there are many, many more characters to be involved, but it is a bit early to discuss."
Due to Doomsday Clock only developing in late 2016, it prompted Johns and Frank to put on-hold their other major project - a third volume to Batman: Earth One. Frank could have finished that project, but Johns said the artist was key to Doomsday Clock happening.
"I said if Gary Frank doesn’t draw this, I’m not doing this book. There is no other artist that can do this on the planet. We have been working together nonstop since, I think, 2005. Everything I have done with Gary, I would hand to somebody and say, 'You want to know what I do?' This. Here is Braniac, Legion of Super Heroes, Shazam, here’s Batman: Earth One. Everything we’ve ever done together is super new-reader friendly. You can read them in any order," said Johns. "We meld on a creative level, and you don’t find that often. He was the only one, to me, that can capture something like this. We were working on Batman: Earth One, Vol. 3, which is almost done. And as we were, we were talking, and this came up. He was very on the fence because of the material, but once we talked about the story, we thought it was something – maybe more than anything else we’ve done – we believe in. We have never been more enthusiastic about a project. This is the most powerful creative energy I have felt working in comics. Everything I have ever done in comics has led to Doomsday Clock."
Doomsday Clock is scheduled to debut in November.