CBR published a very interesting theory on the notion that the real big bad of Doomsday Clock, the new 4-issue event from Geoff Johns, Gary Frank and Brad Anderson coming November that promises to be the resolution of the DC/Watchmen/Rebirth mystery, may in fact be Superboy-Prime.
It's a great article, with a ton of fantastic points to explain the possibility, included the character becoming something of a favourite plot point for Johns to return to, a walking, talking commentary on fanboy entitlement, and suggested to at least in one possible future to become The Time Trapper.
But I think there's actually a lot more to suggest that this may be the case, looking at the stories Johns has written or plotted since, and including, Rebirth, and the interviews that launched the announcement of Doomsday Clock.
Now bare in mind, while this is all ostensibly speculation and theory, it will also discuss spoilers for past events and also the upcoming Flash #22 which completes The Button plot, the current step in the Rebirth mystery.
Let's start with that initial interview with Blastr. While Johns discusses a fair bit about Doomsday Clock being the battle between Superman and Dr. Manhattan, this could be a case of not giving the whole truth. And there was also something Johns said that really stuck with me, especially as he chose the line in his own tweet of the announcement:
— Geoff Johns (@geoffjohns) May 15, 2017
Well, to suggest that the inclusion of Dr. Manhattan is part of every piece of work he's done in comics leading to Doomsday Clock wouldn't really be accurate. It's fairly recent. Superboy-Prime, however…
Now another thing to consider is Dr. Manhattan himself.
One could argue that given where Manhattan is left off at the end of Watchmen, literally leaving earth to 'leave the tangle of their lives' would make it very odd that he then found himself deeply invested in the lives of gaudily-dressed superheroes with crazy powers. Why would he be interested in these people, when he no longer felt connection to his humanity and the people he actually knew in his life?
Moreover, he is the one who is manipulating time and reality to the extent that is suggested, then why did he kill Pandora? Why did he kill Metron and Owlman, who had stolen the Mobius Chair, at the end of The Darkseid War? He surely could have just altered time and reality to repair any damage to his plan.
But then there's those last pages to Flash #22, the end of The Button, out tomorrow, where I think Johns is basically telling us exactly why.
Dr. Manhattan ISN'T the puppet-master of Rebirth like many, ourselves included, had assumed. Rather, he himself is a puppet still, just along for the ride.
And who better for Johns to use as puppet-master than his favourite meta bad guy, Superboy-Prime. It would tie into everything he has ever done with the character. It could easily tie into the atmosphere in the world today, which Johns says was the driving force to go ahead with Doomsday Clock. Oddly enough, I had written an article myself a few months ago about how an earlier event by Johns, Infinite Crisis, was very relevant reading now, ostensibly for Superboy-Prime.
There's all kinds of other little clues that have been running throughout the books that may suggest it too.
If Mr. Oz is in fact Watchmen character Ozymandias, then why would he be so afraid of Dr. Manhattan? After all, he's manipulated the god-like being himself before, with little fear. And what purpose would he have for capturing someone like Doomsday, a being that no matter how tough, Dr. Manhattan could vaporise in an instant, making him no threat. Doomsday, however, has a proven track record against Supermen.
If Johns wanted to get meta about how the writers and readers influence the stories of the characters of the DC universe, inserting grim and gritty realism and darkness in place of hope, one could suggest that the puppet-master would be us. But is that not what Superboy-Prime ostensibly is? A character from the 'real' world, who has looked at these stories and found them wanting, and made promises, even breaking the fourth wall to tell the reader that he will fix it?
Superboy-Prime also has proven capabilities to affect reality itself, and possibly time given his possible future identity. And the mystery seems to also involve Superman, the Flashes, and the Legion of Super-Heroes, all characters that Superboy-Prime has had close ties with.
So could this be the real secret of the Rebirth mystery? Could it be that the Watchmen characters inclusion in the DCU is just one element, and the real threat is something yet to be revealed and yet that readers will know very well? I suppose we will have to wait and see…but I know who I'd place my best on.