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A Deep Dive into Doomsday Clock #1

December 02, 2017 234Views

We’re so lucky to have an old buddy of mine and comic book aficionado Bill Williams as a contributor to the site! Bill has done it all in the comic book industry—writer, penciller, inker, letterer, editor…you name the job, he’s done it. Bill has been published by DC Comics, IDW, Ape Entertainment, and more. He’s currently working on the coming-of-age superhero series “Punchline” for ComiXology. He’s joined by Michael Ossowski, a media ecologist and comic book retailer. In Michael’s spare time, he edits together weird music videos and runs a late night pirate TV station called “The Black Lodge” on the interwebs. He’s also performed with Miranda July, sang for Bright Eyes, and runs an anti-ad campaign on Negativland. Both Bill and Michael reside in Austin, TX.

 

 

In this audioblog, Bill and Michael take us on a deep dive into issue #1 of “Doomsday Clock,” the sequel to “Watchmen.”

 

TRANSCRIPTION OF AUDIOBLOG

 

This is Bill Williams with Cheek to Geek, and I’m here with Michael Ossowski, and today we’re talking about “Doomsday Clock” #1. Hi Mike.

 

Michael says

Hello. I guess the readers can’t tell that you pronounced my name correctly, but I’m impressed.

 

Bill says

Well, you wrote it out phonetically. I can be pretty stupid from time to time. And speaking of stupid, how did you like that “Doomsday Clock” #1?

 

Michael says

Well, you know, I hate to be like, “They missed the point. They missed the point,” but they missed the point. They try to mimic and ape, and I feel like it just misses essential ingredients, like its ability to see how we lie to ourselves, which is what I think is the strongest thing [Alan Moore] brings to the table. His ability to understand how we lie to ourselves. As great of a writer as I think Geoff Johns often is, I don’t think he’s necessarily able to understand how the other side from him, whatever his position is, thinks.

 

Bill says

Doomsday Clock #1 is a sequel to Watchmen. One of the characters in that book is called Mime, and I think Mime is actually a pretty good metaphor for the whole first issue. Needless to say they’re going to be spoilers for “Doomsday Clock” #1 and for “Watchmen” coming along after this. It starts out with sort of the same structure as “Watchmen.”

 

Michael says

Sorta.

 

Bill says

It starts out with some of the same imagery sort of. Why don’t you dive into that?

 

Michael says

Of course it goes with the classic nine-panel grid and tries its best not to deviate from that. Now the original doesn’t deviate from that except for one page where it uses four panels. It might even have two pages where it uses four panels, but I think it's just the one page. And they deviated from that twice, so it mimics that and apes just fine and perfect and dandy. Whereas I feel like Rorschach is a character in the original that you’re clearly not supposed to sympathize with. By the end of the story, he’s said good men like his father, which we found out later probably isn’t a good man, or President Truman. He’s made a whole bunch of really questionable comments and regards. And some people empathize with this character and don’t see that he is terrible in certain ways. Other people see that even if he has his good points, he’s mostly just a monster. He’s not a good person.

 

Bill says

Yeah. Rorschach is kind of a hobo supervillain whose objectivist viewpoint really makes him problematic--just to use a pop culture kinda word right now.

 

Michael says

He’s homophobic, and about half way through the book, we see that he’s clearly homophobic. Comments about whores and politicians and communists. The whole communist line on the first page just seems to expose that he’s a person who only sees one side of the issue. And this new Rorschach, which is a different character, it’s supposed to be that he sees both sides of the issue, and he somehow finds himself on neither side, which is a completely different character.

 

Bill says

Well, the original Rorschach was pretty much an objectivist and Ayn Randian character, which is very much in the mode of the Steve Ditko stuff where you're either white or black and there's no gray in between, and that is reflected by the rotating images on his mask. But the thing that got me as I’m reading along is in the original “Watchmen,” you had characters that were kind of products the 50s and 60s. They were active in the 70s and 80s, and they spout things that would be horrible cliché for us, but they were the kind of things that they grew up with like “A day's pay for a day's work” that kind of thing. When Johns is writing in “Doomsday Clock,” he uses a cliché that just sets my teeth on edge. Whenever somebody says, “Their American dream blah blah blah American nightmare,” it irritates the fudge out of me.

 

Michael says

So do you think that Johns does that intentionally here and is trying to point out that? Because I don’t think he is. It seems to be like that’s the character. We’re supposed to empathize with this Rorschach at least saying, “This is the American nightmare.” We’re supposed to be hand in hand with him there. Like, “Yes, this is terrible. This is awful, and this is exactly what we don't want.” As opposed to using clichés and turning them on themselves and making us see how awful they are, he’s just using a cliché and sort of embracing it wholeheartedly. Right?

 

Bill says

I think so. I supposed it was inevitable because now that they’re beloved corporate icons we were going to get a sequel to “Watchmen.” I much preferred the before “Watchmen” books—the Silk Spectre book and some of those books.

 

Michael says

Darwyn Cooke had some class.

 

Bill says

Yes. And those were some interesting books, and they weren’t directly mimicking what came before them. I thought that there was a Trump reference with the endless references to the “golfing president.”

 

Michael says

The golf was obviously a Trump reference. Really what bothered me the most right from the get go was really just panel three starts with “the undeplorables.” I don't care who you are, that’s just clunky language. I don’t think I’ve ever heard or seen anyone write the word “undeplorable.” It’s obvious that this is a reference to Hillary Clinton calling them “a basket of deplorables.” But no one uses that. It’s clunky language, and if you were trying to show somebody a character that lives on the other side of the fence from your viewpoint, it’s incumbent upon you to go out there in the world and meet some of those people, talk to them, find out the language they use, and use that language.

 

Bill says

The other bit of modern politics that I thought was really a cheap shot was making the mouthpiece for the national news network a guy named William F. Buckley Jr. who was the famous conservative who founded the “National Review” who is a libertarian who was a big fan of laissez-faire economics, which is kind of a “hands off, let people kind of go about their business and live their lives” approach to life. He's now a fascist mouthpiece, and I guess that’s a subtle way to stick your thumb at half your audience's eye. I don't know if I would have done that, but it's one of those things where that is so specific a name, why do that?

 

Michael says

Why do that when there's so many other easy targets that do exist that are on television right now that you can twist around, and if this is supposedly the DC universe, well, I guess maybe this is the Watchmen universe, not the DC universe. So I guess it wouldn’t be G. Gordon Godfrey or whatever his name is. [laughs]

 

Bill says

I thought that was just a weirdly unnecessary shot. I thought that the prison scene was okay. I thought that the scene with Ozymandias was okay. It just struck me as kind of blah. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was expecting something with a bite to it.

 

Michael says

When you have the ultraviolence in the first issue where Rorschach is breaking the fingers. He’s breaking the finger first of all of someone completely innocent, completely new in town. It’s a character note. He walks into a random bar and just start breaking somebody’s fingers for the stupidest insult. It gets him nowhere in the case. All it does is convince everyone in the bar that he's a psychopath. He judges them as being heroin addicts and something else. It’s very obvious why the violence is used. The violence that’s used by Mime I feel like is way over the top. And it doesn’t necessarily give us too much of a character note beside that he’s a sadist who really enjoys this, who has some sort of issue. I think she actually even puts her finger on that he has some sort of issue, etc.

 

Bill says

Yeah, I thought that it was weak. There are a lot of books I like more than that. They're lot of Geoff Johns books I like more than that. We disagreed about a couple things. I think I ran into him at a San Diego show, and we are sitting in the bar before the show started, and we had a conversation about the Wildcat character from “Justice Society.” I made a couple of points; he made some points. I thought that we disagreed, but we both had a good view of whether that would make a good lead character or not, because I think the character is awesome. Geoff Johns wrote one of my favorite Wildcat stories. I think he can write good stuff. I'm just still waiting.

 

Michael says

Yeah. One of his early things was a one-shot for either “Superman Adventures” or “Superman Action,” but it was about Number 10 from the Royal Flush Gang, about the day she defeated Superman. She defeats Superman in the end by sort of making him feel guilty for arresting such a low-level crook that’s basically trying to mostly survive or get through in the world. That’s how she wins. That’s a great story and really well told. I know he has good stories in him. He’s told good stories.

 

Bill says

This just isn’t one of them.

 

Michael says

This just isn’t one of them, at least not so far. I will say there was a high word count, which I was happy with. It felt very deconstructed, like not a lot happened, but it didn’t have a lack of word count, which the nine panel grid helps force you to use more words or you’re just going to end up with too many silent panels of which there are a number, but they are well used and appropriate most of the time.

 

Bill says

In the first issue of “Watchmen,” since Rorschach doesn't talk to himself, I mean he's crazy in other ways, he spent a whole lot of time by himself investigating things, and he visually demonstrates how you find these things so there's a lot of wordless panels in that first issue of “Watchmen” that work. And in this case, it's people still walking down a tunnel. I'm not sure that conveys the same kind of thing.

 

Michael says

Here’s the thing. “Watchmen” as a standalone, a graphic novel of all on its own, say if you’ve never read a comic book in your life, because for a time, it was that one graphic novel that was on the “New York Times” bestseller list or whatever. And why is that? It’s because it’s a mystery novel. Right from the get go you’re basically shown a murder, you’re showing someone investigating a murder, they go about and meet all the principal characters and introduce these characters. If you read that first chapter and you’ve never read before, you’d say, “Oh, this is a   murder mystery book.” I get to the end of the first issue of this, and even as a comic book reader or not a comic book reader, I get to the end of the first issue, and I’m like, “What was that?”  

 

Bill says

I agree. I don't know if I’m going to want to talk about further issues of this going forward because I have the feeling I'm going to read it but it, but I may end up hate reading it. I am going to call a shot though right now. It's obvious that the new Rorschach was a guy who was damaged in the attack on New York, and I think probably with a pretty good couple scars to go along with it. So I'm going to call that shot now.

 

Michael says

I could go on and on about the differences between the new Rorschach and the old Rorschach. In the first issue again of the old series, he’s the one carrying “The End Is Nigh” sign. He’s doing that because he knows nobody looks at crazy homeless guy with the “End Is Nigh” sign. Here we’re seeing on the variant cover, that was pretty prominent and wasn’t that variant, I believe by Gary Frank, we’ve got the person holding the “End Is Here” sign. And he’s holding it up like he really believes in that. And he’s featured full face on the cover. I don’t think that’s the new Rorschach, even though he seems to be dressed in the ski cap and the jacket. So maybe he is. But nonetheless, Rorschach wasn’t actually carrying the sign because he was walking up and down the street screaming that the end is nigh. It’s his disguise, because he knows that that guy is invisible.

 

Bill says

Yeah, one of the things that you’ve mentioned that just occurred to me is that we don’t see the rest of the original surviving Watchmen characters in the book. No Nite Owl, no Silk Spectre.

 

Michael says

We get Ozymandias, and that’s it.

 

Bill says

I think that those two characters are the only two, if you want to call them, decent human beings out of the “Watchmen” books. And they also realize that it’s an insane thing to do, so they retire at the end of “Watchmen.” I think that part of the way that the book will progress for me is how those characters are treated going forward.

 

Michael says

Right. Because all the other characters in “Watchmen” are pretty much just awful. I mean we got John, Dr. Manhattan, who is devoid of empathy and really any sort of emotion. He’s cold. And Ozymandias and Rorschach are both victims of their fears. Ozymandias is the ultimate victim of her fears. He’s daunted by this world that he feels helpless in because he can’t really control it. Things are going one way or the other. He's constantly obsessed with watching the news, basically overexamining and obsessing over his lack of control, which is what leads him to commit a terrorist attack on his own people.

 

Bill says

I read some of the back matter in that book. I tried to give it a shot and read it cover to cover. I just didn’t think that the alleged timeline between the two books works. It just didn't work for me. If you say that there's a seven-year gap between the things and it's clear that Ozymandias has some of his goons show up and beat a reporter to death for finding Rorschach's journal, and I just thought that doesn't work at all for me.

 

Michael says

We were talking earlier about miming. The fact that it has the newspaper back matter in the back of “Doomday Clock” is clearly miming and aping the back matter that appeared [in “Watchmen”]. In the first issue of Watchmen, it’s a huge word count. It’s a massive word count. Basically a short story in and of itself, all by itself.

 

Bill says

Yeah, it’s one of those massive Alan Moore info dumps that doesn’t impede the story progress as it plays out on the panels.

 

Michael says

Right. And the back matter in this is also an info dump, but even one of the pages is wasted on a menu. Another quarter of a page is wasted on a combination pliers ad that's a joke because there was a mention of pliers earlier in the issue I guess. It seemed to miss the point of having that back matter. If you’re just aping it, you know, why I bother?

 

Bill says

I think that we may see a book that has the same problem that the Marvel TV shows have where you're contractually obligated to fill 12 issues or 10 episodes and you’ve got enough story for 6 or 8, so you just stretch whatever you got to make it fit the space available.

 

Michael says

Right. And I also guess sandwiched into certain constraints. And not the constraint of having to mimic it but having to have some newspaper back matter.

 

Bill says

Can you imagine how many people had to sign off on this project and had to sign off on it every step of the way?

 

Michael says

And look at it and overlook at it and double look at it. I was talking to someone at Comic Con recently about a book they were writing for one of the major two companies. I think it was DC. And they sent them the script, and the script was sent back saying, “This is too happy. No characters are sad or upset or depressed. Everyone is happy and having fun the whole issue. You have to rewrite this.”

 

Bill says

Nice.

 

Michael says

That to me even was, pre-52—a few years before, I felt like was one of the strongest points DC Comics has been at in years. It was tightly looked after, but it didn’t seem like they were restricting the writers with what the writers could do terribly too much. But apparently I was completely mistaken. They’re apparently very heavy handed, even back then, and I’m sure they still are.

 

Bill says

The difference is with independent books you can work from the bottom up. For example, if I have an idea for a book I can write a script, find an artist, put together a comic book, and put it out. A good example of that would be my “Punchline” comic, which is out on the ComiXology app and the new Comic Haus [C-o-m-i-c H-a-u-s, that kind of Comic Haus] app. The other version of it is easier if you’re a writer. What happens is somebody at editorial says, “You know we've got this villain event. We want you to write it. We will give you a beat sheet. It's already preapproved and needs to run 9 issues. Go have fun with it.” And it's a difference between spending all of this time working on a high-concept book and taking that to somebody trying to get them to like it as opposed to them liking the idea and handing it to you and saying execute it. It's way easier to get approval on something they already like. So there's no education involved. There's no argument involved. You find a lot of the comics that come out from the big two companies are totally top down.

 

Michael says

This might be Geoff Johns’s baby, and what he wants to do and what he’s been wanting to do for forever. And it might be that they said, “We’re going to do this,” and he said, “Well, I’m going to be the one that writes it because I don’t trust anybody else to write it or do this.” [Unintelligible]

 

Bill says

Well, there’s a difference when you’re talking about waiting on a project. Clint Eastwood sat on the script for Unforgiven for 10 years until he looked old enough to fit the part and thought he would do the best job with it. That’s incredible patience and dedication to project. This feels a little bit different. This one does.

 

Michael says

And that was my problem with the back matter. It’s clear from that back matter of that first issue that, however long it took Alan Moore to do it, how much effort went into it. And I don’t feel like as much effort seems to have gone into this.

 

Bill says

Good point. Why don’t you tell the people about your pirate stuff you're doing?

 

Michael says

I do a pirate television Internet broadcast midnights Central time called “The Black Lodge.”

 

Bill says

And what kind of stuff is on there?

 

Michael says

It’s all night psychotropic programming for weirdos, aliens, mutants, freaks, and other people who don't fit in. Anything ultra-weird that’s going to blow your mind in a very Night Flight-esque format.

 

Bill says

All right. Cool.

Bill Williams

Bill Williams

Bill Williams has done it all in the comic book industry. Writer, penciller, inker, letterer, editor… you name the job, he’s done it. Bill has been published by DC Comics, IDW, Ape Entertainment, and more. He is currently working on the coming-of-age super-hero series Punchline for comiXology.

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