It has been almost a year to the day since Geoff Johns helped lead DC Comics to one of its most successful relaunches with the new “rebirth” era. Johns is again asking for fans to believe in him while he takes care of some of their most sacred characters.
The first issue of “Doomsday Clock,” a 12-issue maxi-series that will revisit the world of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s “Watchmen” while combining the tale with heroes of the DC Comics universe, arrives Nov. 22.
Johns will script the sure-to-be controversial story, reuniting with a frequent collaborator, artist Gary Frank. DC has visited the “Watchmen” world before with its “Before Watchmen” miniseries, but those stories took place in the past. “Doomsday Clock” will serve as an “After Watchmen” of sorts.
There were hints that the “Watchmen” world existed in the DC universe that Johns and Frank teased in the final pages of the one-shot “Rebirth” issue last year. The duo spent months debating whether they would look further into those clues. Johns even invited Frank to London — where he was working on the set of the “Wonder Woman” movie — so the two could chat in person about whether to create a new story in a world that many fans think should be left alone.
“We walked around the set for like an hour just talking about the story, the series, the responsibility, the commitment, everything,” Johns told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “And by the end of the walk, we actually decided not to do anything.”
Months later, after their meeting in London, Johns called Frank, convinced that he had a Watchmen/DC story they could move forward with.
“It was a very long process to get here because we know the expectations and the weight, and some people will say it shouldn’t exist,” Johns said. “But I really believe in the story that we’re telling, and I really believe Gary has done the art of his career on it already.”
Frank and Johns have collaborated frequently on comic projects over the years. One of their most popular works is their run on “Action Comics,” featuring Frank’s Christopher Reeve-inspired rendition of Clark Kent/Superman. “Doomsday Clock” will see Frank return to drawing Superman while also using hints of the nine-panel, grid-page layout style that Gibbons made famous while illustrating “Watchmen.” Frank shared all the nerves and reservations Johns did when debating whether to move forward with their new comic, but says those hesitations went away once Johns confidently came to him with a story he was sure would work for that world.
“When there was finally something to say [in the story] and finally a reason to do it, then at that point I was sold,” Frank said.
Johns and Frank didn’t want to talk too much about the plot of “Doomsday Clock,” including which Watchmen characters will first appear, the twists involving those characters and Doctor Manhattan’s involvement in everything. They’d rather the first issue be as much of a surprise to fans as possible.
For now, Johns, who has been primarily occupied with DC’s coming movie slate since becoming the president of DC Entertainment, can enjoy a rare opportunity to come back and write comics knowing that “rebirth” has been successful enough that he and Frank can take a chance with some bold storytelling.
“I feel very lucky that I’m in a position right here where I can take a rest and do a story that we believe in that some might find controversial,” Johns said. “We are taking some chances and doing things that we wouldn’t normally do. I think ‘Doomsday Clock,’ hopefully, will be unlike anything Gary and I have done to date.”