There are a few hints in what Geoff Johns has said about Doomsday Clock, but piecing them together with clues that readers have already seen in "Rebirth" stories begins to better define the picture he, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson have planned.
Of course, that picture will become even more clear after this week's The Flash #22, the final chapter in the DC crossover, "The Button."
But taking a first look at the information about Doomsday Clock, it looks like this DC event may cover many more years than we might expect, and will help Johns cut to the "core" he so often describes when talking about the DCU.
Thematic and Literal
Johns has said Doomsday Clock will "touch the thematic and literal essence of DC."
Picking up on that idea of thematic essence - there's been a lot of talk about "hope" when Johns refers to the DCU and its future. "I believe in the power of these icons. I believe in the power of hope, and optimism," he's saying about this story.
Johns has been implying since the beginning of "Rebirth" that Watchmen represents cynicism, while the DCU represents - or at least should represent - hope. As Wally West says in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, there's a war coming between "hope and despair."
There was a similar theme presented in-story when Barry Allen referred to "hope" whenever he talked about seeing Jay Garrick's helmet.
There was also a reference to hope in one of Mr. Oz's very first appearances, way back in 2015's Superman #34. Mr. Oz is watching Superman on his many computer screens, and he points out that even though Clark faces tragedy every day, he "never gives up hope." He questions whether Superman ever can give up hope.
But Johns' statement this week didn't just talk about the themes of the DCU - he said Doomsday Clock will touch the literal essence of DC. Is he using the word literal to mean actual, as so many people do? Or is he talking about "literal" in a way that more resembles literary?
If our suspicions are right and Dr. Manhattan is the reason that old DC timelines have been kept around (as seen in "The Button"), then this story really could be all about the "literary" essence of the DCU. And it can, potentially, trace its roots back to the beginning of the DCU.
And if the story addresses the beginning of the DCU, then it must also touch upon the end, if the word "doomsday" is to be believed.
And speaking of the "beginning" of the DCU, it's probably not a coincidence that Superman will be a focus of Doomsday Clock just as Action Comics counts down to an April 2018 Action Comics #1000 (if it keeps its twice-monthly schedule) and an 80th anniversary for the Man of Steel that year.
The story of Mr. Oz - who's certainly connected to this whole thing - began in Johns' run on Superman. (Although the writer now claims the story didn't fully form until the U.S. presidential election in November 2016, Oz appeared all the way back in early 2015.)
Publicly, the threads of "Rebirth" and Doomsday Clock began as a Superman story, and it ties into the history of the DCU. And Oz has frequently stated that he "taught" Superman, which implies that he was around in the past. And all this talk about "essence" also echoes what happened to Superman in "Superman Reborn" - his "essence" was split into two, and he was reformed, presumably into his whole "essence" (and one that gathers inspiration from his entire history).
The idea of the "history" or the "story" of Superman and the DCU was also hinted about in Oz's early appearances. Johns wrote a mysterious scene for Oz in Superman #39, where the hooded figure mailed a blank book to Clark Kent. It had a note that said, "The future is unwritten Clark, but you and your friends will see it soon enough."
Oz also frequently refers to the "long game," implying that this isn't simply a current-day battle, but something that will cover many years, or perhaps has already covered many years - maybe at least 80?
If there's one thing that's really starting to become apparent, it's that Doomsday Clock and all the seeds planted in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 are really Geoff Johns' story. And only Geoff Johns' story. That's been insinuated from the start, as various writers have claimed they aren't involved with the "three Jokers" or Metron's chair..
The story of Dr. Manhattan - and many of the more mysterious elements of DC Universe: Rebirth - are apparently waiting for Johns to finish. Even "The Button," which is probably the most closely tied DC story since Rebirth began, was plotted by Johns.
In interviews, Johns has stated that the only people who know the whole story of Doomsday Clock - outside Johns and his artist - are the publishers and editors at DC.
It sounds like DC is letting Johns (who is DC's Chief Creative Officer and a co-President alongside Diane Nelson) do Doomsday Clock without much interference. Unlike the irresistible urge DC had to "count down" or tie in to epic stories by other high-profile writers, this time it appears that they're giving him a wide berth to tell it the way he wants.