T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
These are exciting times to be a DC Comics fan. The publisher’s Rebirth relaunch has been a stunning success, and the promises of Geoff Johns’s DC Universe: Rebirth #1 are starting to come to fruition, with Superman: Reborn underway and The Button forthcoming next month. ComiConverse contributor T. Kyle King has some theories to offer as the post-New 52 superhero continuity officially ties into Alan Moore’s seminal Watchmen.
Where Does Watchmen Fit Into the Rebirth DC Universe?
From the moment DC declined to allow Alan Moore to use its recently acquired Charlton Comics characters in what was to become Watchmen, the standout series has stood apart from the rest of the DC Universe. Grant Morrison’s multiverse map includes the Charlton heroes — who were central to The Multiversity’s distinctive chapter riffing on Watchmen — but nowhere is the world of the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, and Rorschach to be found. Now that we know Watchmen actually is integrated into the larger DC Comics continuity, we have to wonder where it fits into the bigger picture.
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My money is on Earth-46, for reasons that ought to be readily apparent as soon as you have taken a glance at the multiverse map below. Since all but seven of the Earths in the Orrery of Worlds are accounted for, Watchmen has to take place in one of the mystery universes, and Earth-46, the sixth of the seven unknown worlds, was described in The Multiversity Guidebook as the “second most mysterious” among them. Naturally, the tachyons Adrian Veidt released in order to keep his scheme secret from Jon Osterman might account for the inscrutability of this world to the remainder of the multiverse, as well.
Earth-46 is situated in the quadrant of the Orrery that is nearer to the pit than to the pinnacle and more the province of order than of chaos. It is difficult to imagine a more perfect place to put the planet that was the setting for Watchmen, with its famously dystopian themes and meticulous organization, and Earth-46 is one of only two mystery worlds lying entirely inside that portion of the Orrery. In addition, Earth-46 sits between Earth-4 and Earth-35. The former is home to the Charlton heroes who inspired Watchmen; the latter is home to Supremo, who was influenced by Moore’s reinvention of Image Comics’ Supreme. Again, where better to situate a world wholly of Moore’s creation than between the source material from which he drew and a product drawn from his source material?
Furthermore, Earth-46 is located more or less at the midpoint of the axis running between the hub of the House of Heroes and the outlying Underworld. The latter shares its name with a more realistic and experimental DC Comics publication of the mid- to late ‘80s, but this Underworld was the fountainhead for the publisher’s demonic 1990s world-rebuilding efforts, from which few, if any, longstanding characters emerged improved. Once again, it’s not difficult to imagine Morrison dropping Watchmen into such a spot as a sly inside joke, just to see if anyone caught it.
The final bit of evidence that identifies Earth-46 as Dr. Manhattan’s putative point of origin is its placement on the same ring of the Orrery occupied both by the New 52’s Earth-0 and by our own world, Earth-33. Earth-46 is nearer to the former than to the latter… which perhaps explains the recent discovery of the Comedian’s iconic pin on the “New Earth” on which the events of Rebirth are unfolding. In fact, only one world separates Earth-0 from Earth-46 in the Orrery, and that is Earth-9, which is the most heavily influenced by its metahuman superheroes. Earth-9 exists in the Tangent Universe created by Dan Jurgens, where Richard Nixon — who had been re-elected continuously following the repeal of the 22nd Amendment in Watchmen — instead was assassinated while on a presidential visit to China. Conveniently, the world Alan Moore built now is bridging that gap between (presumably) Earth-46 and Earth-0 in a story partially penned by Jurgens across a multiverse that last was spanned in an adventure that included the Super-Man of China.
What, though, does Watchmen really have to do with Superman: Reborn? The current crossover running between Action Comics and Superman seeks to unravel the enduring mystery of Mr. Oz. For a variety of compelling reasons, the manipulative villain is widely believed to be Ozymandias… but, even if he isn’t Adrian Veidt, he nevertheless is connected to Watchmen. During the New 52 era, Mr. Oz mailed a package to Clark Kent. We learned in Superman #39 (which was written by Johns, also the author of DC Universe: Rebirth #1) that the shadowy figure had sent the Man of Steel a bound notebook with an embossed cover, one very much like the journal kept by Walter Joseph Kovacs. The critical difference between the two, of course, was that Rorschach had completed writing his story, while Superman’s remained unfinished.
It ought to give us pause, therefore, that, last Wednesday, in Superman #18, young Jonathan Kent gave his mother, Lois Lane, a gift… which, once unwrapped, was revealed to be a blank bound journal with an engraving on the front. Lois’s tale — which, by her own admission, was to be a great adventure involving her son — had yet to be penned, but (as Wally West warned us in DC Universe: Rebirth #1) the Watchmen-related theft of time at the outset of the New 52 resulted in the bonds between characters being “erased.” Hence, when an album of old family photographs later showed up, Jon’s apparent erasure from existence on Earth-0 was accompanied by the vanishing of the pictures of his parents’ life together, calling to mind this image:
Where will Watchmen finally fully enter the DC Universe’s Rebirth continuity, and what impact will Dr. Manhattan’s evidently impending arrival have on Superman, Batman, the Flash, and the rest of the superhero pantheon?
I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to the upcoming issues — starting with Dan Jurgens’s Action Comics #975 this coming Wednesday — that will tell us the answers.
You are encouraged to jump on board for the ride, and to ComiConverse with your fellow fans in the comments.
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics