WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #2 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, in stores now.
After only two issues, Doomsday Clock is already having a significant impact on the DC Universe. But amid the whirlwind of revelations, it’s easy to forget the event unfolds a year in the future of the DCU, and that new concepts are a part of its fabric — among them, “The Superman Theory.”
Introduced by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank in Doomsday Clock #2, it’s an in-universe conspiracy theory that began to gain traction in the months before the story opens. The issue’s backmatter material delves into this belief in the form of news articles, and there’s a lot of information there to unpack. What is this “Supermen Theory,” and just how important is it to the rest of the DCU?
According to The Bulletin articles featured in Issue 2, the theory surfaced when scientists began to wonder why most of the metahuman population of the world originated in the United States. It posits the very real possibility that this is no accident, and that most of these superheroes and supervillains were actually created, and sponsored, by the government. We come to learn that such was the case for Rex Mason, aka Metamorpho, whose origin has now been retconned into being a part of this conspiracy theory. Leaked documents related to Mason’s ties to the government helped “The Superman Theory” take shape, and it was then given more credence by the revelation that the work of Dr. Kirk Langstrom, the mad scientist who became Man-Bat, had in fact been sponsored by the U.S. government.
This theory looks to be the most recent in-universe explanation for why there are so many metahumans in the DC Universe. For example, the 1993 DC event Bloodlines explored the meddling of an alien race that managed to create a number of new metahumans on Earth. But now, it looks as if Johns is looking to make things a bit more streamlined, more dark, and infinitely more personal. In fact, in an interview with CBR, the Doomsday Clock writer said, ‘We wanted to go more internally for the characters, which is why we introduced this concept of the Supermen Theory, which is starting to play out in issue #2. One of the things we wanted to do is go inward — go inside. Go in the characters in what superheroes and supervillains would mean in a world like this, into the characters individually, into the world, the DC Universe, and how it would react to metahumans.”
That would seem to indicate the backmatter information of this so-called “Supermen Theory” is only the beginning of a concept that will be fully explored in the series, and one that just might have repercussions throughout the DCU. “It’s kind of the DC Universe’s version of growing tension, this concept of the Supermen Theory,” Johns explained. “When you look at a world map, 97 percent of all metahumans are American. Why is that? What is the truth behind these supervillains and superheroes? ”
With so many characters involved in his series — some we have already seen, and others who have yet to appear — it seems like Johns has some clear plans for what this theory means for each of them. “One of the big things that is going to have a major impact in the DC Universe is this concept of the Supermen Theory and where it goes,” he told CBR. “I can’t overstate that enough.” Clearly, this is merely the beginning of this conspiracy theory.
The original Watchmen was very much focused on conspiracy theories. Rorschach saw through the fabric of the world and realized what was at play in the dark; he was a conspiracy theorist, always on the hunt for hidden truths. Doomsday Clock will likewise venture into conspiracy territory, in the process keeping the spirit of the original series alive, and creating a mystery that spans the entire DC Universe. Here, Johns introduces some interesting questions and, as a writer who has been known to pull off some ingenious retcons throughout his career, he just might have saved one of his greatest tricks for DC’s biggest event series in years — one that could redefine the DCU.