Hope vs. Despair: How the DCU Is Being Primed For Clash Between Two Extremes

"The Flash #9" excerpt
Credit: Jorge Corona (DC Comics)
Credit: Gary Frank (DC Comics)

There's sure a lot of "hope" clashing with "despair" in the DCU lately, and that's by design.

"Rebirth" architect and Doomsday Clock writer Geoff Johns has been implying since the beginning of "Rebirth" that Watchmen and Dr. Manhattan represent cynicism, while Superman and the DCU represent hope.

And in an era when pessimism about the future seems to come from every direction, Johns wants to make the DCU a place where readers can experience optimism winning. "I believe in the power of these icons. I believe in the power of hope, and optimism," Johns said when "Rebirth" first launched.

As Doomsday Clock begins in just over a week, the DCU will be immersed even further in the theme of optimism versus pessimism.

As Wally West said in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 in May 2016, the issue that kicked off "Rebirth" and teased the events of Doomsday Clock, there's a war coming between "hope and despair."

But in many ways, that war has already started. With Doomsday Clock about to begin, Newsarama takes a look at the areas of the DCU where the theme of hope has recently been ramping up in the company's comic books.

Credit: Dan Jurgens/Viktor Bogdanovic/Trevor Scott/Scott Hanna/Mike Spicer/Rob Leigh (DC Comics)

Mr. Oz

A character who is connected to Dr. Manhattan and the threats coming to the DCU in Doomsday Clock, Mr. Oz was that mysterious character who watched the DCU from afar and appears to be imprisoning people to help Dr. Manhattan.

But Oz turned out to be Jor-El, Superman's father from Krypton, and he wasn't necessarily the one pulling the strings at the prison.

The key motivation for Oz/Jor-El was that he had no hope for humanity. He wanted to protect his son, but he also wanted to get Superman and his family off planet Earth. His goal was to convince Superman that there is no hope for Earth, making him believe that it would be better to abandon the world.

Credit: DC Comics

One of Mr. Oz's very first appearances referenced the idea of hope, way back in 2015's Superman #34. Mr. Oz was watching Superman on his many monitors, and he pointed out that even though Clark faces tragedy every day, he "never gives up hope." He questioned whether Superman ever can give up hope. Years later, readers now understand why Jor-El contemplated this possibility: Jor-El wanted Superman to give up his hope for humanity.

And with Doomsday Clock about to begin, it's clear that this version of Jor-El represented despair, while Superman represented hope.

Newsarama also recently theorized that the meaning of the name "Oz" might be a veiled reference to hope versus despair. The idea is that flipping the Superman symbol around turns the letter into a Z, and that might be the meaning of the Z in Oz. And because the familiar "S-shield" has been said to mean "hope," making it into a Z-shape might also flip around the word "hope" to mean "no hope."


Credit: DC Comics

Tim Drake

It's still not exactly clear why Tim Drake was taken from the DCU and imprisoned outside of time, but his trip back has been immersed in the idea of hope versus despair.

Credit: Credit: Eddy Barrows/Eber Ferreira/Adriano Lucas (DC Comics)

When Tim escaped from his prison, he teamed up with the "Titans Tomorrow" version of himself - a dark, unhappy Tim who became a gun-wielding Batman.

As Detective Comics writer James Tynion IV put it: "It's a Tim who has experienced incredible loss. He feels the weight of the world on his shoulders... and that expresses itself through this really cynical view of the world."

Tynion's storyline, which just finished in Detective Comics, showed what the writer called "our current Tim's optimism up against that future Tim's pessimism."

Tynion told Newsarama that the juxtaposition of the Superman/Oz story and the Tim Drake/Tim of Tomorrow story was on purpose, and it leads right into Doomsday Clock.

"You have characters confronted by what gives them hope in a way that sort of brings them to despair," Tynion said. "That is deliberate. … They are absolutely, 100 percent meant to be thematically linked."

The Flash and the Justice Society of America

Credit: Jorge Corona (DC Comics)

The return of the Justice Society of America has been hinted about by DC for many months, but their return has also been linked to the idea of "hope" in the DCU.

Specifially, the Golden Age Flash character Jay Garrick of the Justice Society was equated with "hope" when he showed up briefly in past issues. On the final page of Flash #9, the helmet associated with Jay surprisingly showed up on the final pages. Barry said that he saw the helmet when he was in the Speed Force.

"I had one last vision… and I saw something in the Speed Force I don't think I was supposed to see," Barry said. "I don't know what it was but… it filled me with hope."

Dark Multiverse

Although Dark Nights: Metal writer Scott Snyder has made it clear that he's not touching upon any of the major mysteries from DC Universe: Rebirth, but that doesn't mean he isn't touching upon some of the same themes.

Credit: DC Comics

"What my job is, with Metal, is to give you a story that works in coordination with that and also speaks to that a bit. There are reasons that Metal happens before that," Snyder told Newsarama. "It will work in collusion with that story. So they're coordinated with each other really carefully, so that they speak to each other and they support each other."

One of the themes that may overlap with Doomsday Clock is the idea that the Dark Multiverse is based on hopes for the future - and fears about the future. In other words, hope versus despair.

As Snyder put it, "the idea is that everyone who goes in [the Dark Multiverse], whatever your worst fears and hopes are, they materialize around you. And you have to guide yourself through them down there."

In fact, hopes and fears are behind the Multiverse itself, Snyder said. "If enough people fear the same thing or hope for the same thing or believe in the same thing sometimes," Snyder said, "those worlds are the ones that form - or concretize enough - that they can be pulled up through the world orrery into the Multiverse itself."

So the Dark Multiverse can be hopes made real, or fears about the future made real - and if enough people believe the same thing, whether hope or despair, it can bubble up through the world orrery and become a permanent fixture of the DCU itself.

By examining the hope and despair so prevalent in recent storylines, it looks as if the DCU is being primed for a battle between two extremes - hope and despair.

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