The Wizeguy: Metanarrative

Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock was the event series that launched in 2017. It takes places in the past, present, and future …and is eventually setting up the series next event (spoiler) – the showdown between Superman and Dr. Manhattan. The second-to-last issue dropped a little over a week ago and while it gives answers to established questions, it also reimagines the DC Universe as a whole.

Hey, how about that Watchmen? Remember Watchmen?! (Spoilers ahead)

Having the original Ubermensch boy scout get into a universe altering punching match with his own cynical 1980s parody doppelgänger just feels unbelievably stupid and dull, and it’s infuriating that it takes itself so seriously. I honestly think there’s just not much interesting left to explore in the fundamental concepts of these characters. The Ubermensch is played out.

Once upon a time it was awe inspiring to have Superman be faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – but now it’s honestly just kind of quaint.

And yet even after his physical powers stopped being interesting, he could at least fall back onto the fact that he was a paragon of virtue. But nowadays, not even that helps, since you have figures like Captain America who have become better “Superman” figures than Superman himself.

Dr. Manhattan is even worse – he’s a walking deconstruction of Superman, emphasizing the dehumanizing aspects of possessing such superhuman powers. He’s an invincible flying time traveler who can reshape reality on a whim, and it has left him utterly bored with existence itself, spending all his time alone in his Fortress of Solitude, preoccupied in useless navel-gazing. 

He’s essentially the God of Ennui. He has too much perspective, and so he simply doesn’t care about anything unless it ends up on a cosmic scale. And that makes for terrible storytelling, because it forces every story to be about bullshit psychobabble about the nature of the universe or multiverse or metaverse or whatever.

Why do superhero comic books today spend so much of their time referencing and recapitulating stories that even their current, diminished, aged 20s-to-30s target audience is too young to have read when they first appeared? Whatever the reason, the Big Two have winnowed their readers down to a dubious core that seems to desire, over and above an interesting or engaging story, constant proof that the writer of a story has read all the “right” Wikipedia articles.

I get it. Either you stay consistent and eventually lose fanbase slowly, or shake things up for jump on points and piss off the old timers. Some events can fix a ton of problems or introduce new ones. None of this will last forever, nor can it. It isn’t much different from the rest of me me me, nostalgia-obsessed pop culture out there these days. The history of comic books is built upon iterating upon the past; anything and everything, especially Watchmen, is up for grabs.

Still, the arc and influence of Geoff Johns has been one of the most interesting metastories in recent years and I really hope, even if I know it isn’t likely, that someday there will be a behind the scenes or something that really digs in what was happening in the shadows during his rise and seeming fall. In the sense of what most cape comics readers want now, endless repetition free of uncomfortable novelty, Johns truly is the spirit of the age.


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