DC Comics has been releasing a series called DOOMSDAY CLOCK which is arguably the SLIDERS REBORN of the Superman mythology. Actually, I would say that DOOMSDAY CLOCK is SLIDERS REBORN, Part 4, "Reminiscence" where Quinn reflects upon five years of crazy continuity and explains why episodes aired in the wrong order, why the extra sliders and Henry disappeared, why Season 3 had monsters, why the Kromagg Prime backstory made no sense, why the show was stuck on the backlot in Season 5, why Quinn-doubles vanished after Season 4 and, most importantly, why it's 1994 in the Pilot but 1995 in "Summer of Love."
DOOMSDAY CLOCK is fascinating in its blatant metatextualism and a sequel to WATCHMEN, a seminal superhero epic published independently of DC Comics in 1986. Written by comic book visionary Alan Moore, WATCHMEN featured superheroes in a starkly realistic context in contrast to other superhero comics. In WATCHMEN, superheroes are a part of American history and led to America's victory in Vietnam with President Nixon never ousted and most heroes becoming part of the military and part of a global arms race of superhumans leading inevitably to another world war.
Mad Scientists: The most powerful of the WATCHMEN heroes, Dr. Manhattan, is a detached, aloof being of omnipotent, time-altering, reality-warping power devoid of empathy or love; becoming super has completely eroded his humanity. One of the supposed heroes attacks civilians, murdering half of New York City, then claims non-existent aliens were responsible in order to unite all countries and avert WWIII.
Dr. Manhattan elects to leave Earth, tiring of human life and its confusion and disorder. WATCHMEN is a cynical, insistently logical take on superheroes declaring that in a realistic world, superpowers would corrupt any human who had them. It was highly influential and very much why other superhero comics adopted the 'grimdark' in which Zach Snyder labours for not only his DC movies, but the WATCHMEN movie he directed.
Genesis: In 2011, DC rebooted its universe with the New 52 relaunch. Many superheroes got new starts while superheroes who sold well (like Batman and Green Lantern) continued their pre-reboot plots as though nothing had changed. Superman had not been selling well; Superman was rebooted into a more alien version to emphasize his detachment from normal people. Some good stories were told with this Superman, but a few years in, DC editorial decided it had been a mistake to eliminate Superman's marriage.
A LOIS AND CLARK mini-series revealed that the pre-reboot Superman had survived the relaunch; he and Lois were living under false identities in this new universe, avoiding contact or interference with the current Superman, and they'd also produced a son named Jon. The contrast was striking; this extremely human Superman struggling to wrangle his kid and having conflicts with his wife was a lot more fun to read.
The Unstuck Man: In a reality-warping plotline where reality around the Loises and Clarks began to break down, it was revealed that the New 52 Superman and Lois had were not doubles, but fragments of the originals. The story ends with the love between the original Lois and Clark restabilizing reality and they absorb their fragments back into themselves. The pre and post New 52 timelines are reconciled into one reality with the original Lois and Clark having never been absent. Their friends Jimmy and Perry and others now remembered Lois giving birth to Jon and Lois and Clark raising him.
It was inelegant, but it took the sting off deleting either version of Superman. DC had decided to merge their two Loises and Clarks much in the same way Dr. Geiger had combined Jerry O'Connell and Robert Floyd. Long-term fans were placated; new readers weren't that interested, but superhero comics lately have really been research and development for movies and TV shows and for superheroes, sales matter less than in other publishing endeavours.
Roads Taken: Despite the happier situation, Superman and Lois were still unsure: what mysterious force had attempted to sever Superman's connection to humanity? What unknown entity had cut open his timeline to remove the Legion? To kill Jonathan and Martha Kent earlier? To erase his marriage? And why did the reality around them begin to fall apart?
This is also the period where Wally West, the red-haired Flash who was erased from existence, also returned to the DC Universe. Wally warns that some dark force from beyond has been changing the DC Universe, erasing Wally, erasing families, legacies, histories, ripping time itself out of the superheroes' lives, making them angrier, colder, crueller and alone. The man responsible for all this is revealed to be Dr. Manhattan from WATCHMEN.
Revelations: Doomsday Clock delves into what Dr. Manhattan has been doing to the DC Universe. Ever since the events of WATCHMEN, he has been wandering. He has become fascinated by the DC Universe's heroes but found them difficult to relate to and their history of shifting retcons and reboots confusing. He sees that it starts out straightforward enough with the Golden Age Earth where Superman debuted in 1938.
But then there's a second Silver Age Earth where Superman first appeared in 1956 and both Earths' timelines begin to overlap. Then the Crisis moves Superman's origin to 1986. And Dr. Manhattan notes that moving Superman's debut changes the underlying structure of reality: Batman and Wonder Woman always come after Superman with the past rewritten to move Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince to be born later in time.
This confounds Manhattan; the confusing, asynchronous, unchronological nature of events in the DC Universe is troubling and he begins to experiment, wondering if he can make the DC Universe more orderly, more sensible.
A Thousand Deaths: He makes one small change in the DC Universe: he observed the origin story of first Green Lantern, Alan Scott, was a 1940 railway engineer who was caught in a bridge collapse. Alan survived by grabbing a nearby lantern that turned out to have paranormal properties that gave him his powers. Manhattan alters time to move the lantern six inches away. Alan Scott dies, never becomes Green Lantern, never establishes the WWII Justice Society, never creates a legacy of heroism that will later inspire the Legion -- and the ripple effect creates the New 52 version of the superheroes and a Superman who debuts in 2011. This Superman is distant from humanity due to losing Jonathan and Martha at a very young age.
Applied Physics: Manhattan declares that he prefers this detached, aloof Superman, that Manhattan finds him more relatable -- and Manhattan is alarmed when the original Superman is restored. Manhattan realizees that the DC Universe is resisting Manhattan's changes, and that the DC Universe is, in his observation, a DC Metaverse, a central reality of which other universes are branches and reflections. It defends itself. And Superman is the crux of the DC Metaverse.
Manhattan notes that supervillains like the Anti Monitor of the 1986 Crisis or the Monarch of the 1994 Zero Hour situation have altered history to make Superman darker and colder, but Superman's hope and humanity are always restored -- and now Superman has become aware of Dr. Manhattan and is coming for him.
"To this universe of hope, I have become the villain," Manhattan observes. "I am a being of inaction on a collision course with a man of action."
The thing I like about DOOMSDAY CLOCK -- everything it's asserting within the fictional reality of the DCU/DCM -- it's true. It is completely true. The text reflects the reality and writer Geoff Johns has found a way to create a beautiful synchronicity between truth and reality from writers trying to alter Superman's hope and optimism to suit passing trends to WATCHMEN having darkened the DC heroes and the reality itself of the DC heroes now fighting back.
I almost wish I could go back and rewrite SLIDERS REBORN to tap into some of these metatextual techniques. The alterations to SLIDERS continuity detailed in "Reminiscence" (5) are explained as Dr. Geiger's Combine experiment retroactively altering the past, changing four years of happy adventures in alternate histories with the original quartet into the horror show it became by Seasons 3 - 4.
However, the motive for this is non-existent: "Reminiscence" asserts that it was completely accidental on Dr. Geiger's part, the unwitting effect of ripping Quinn Mallory and all of his doubles out of all realities, with Quinns (who are mostly sliders) having entangled themselves in so many timelines that removing him is like taking load bearing walls out of the apartment complex that is reality: it begins to collapse upon itself. I wonder if "Reminiscence" would have gained anything from making the alterations more deliberate and malicious.
Eye of the Storm: The other thing I really like is the awareness that Superman's presence specifically rewrites reality in ways that are still not fully understood. This is something you can only get away with when writing of a cultural icon like Superman. In X-MEN FIRST CLASS and APOCALYPSE, it was ridiculous to see Cyclops, Jean Grey and Angel appearing in the 60s and 80s when they would have either been non-existent or infants in order to be at their twentysomething ages in the 2000-era X-MEN films. Superman arriving to Earth later by two to six decades shouldn't change Batman and Wonder Woman debuting in the 1930s and 1940s, but it does -- and the justification that the DC Metaverse has made Superman its crux makes complete sense because this is SUPERMAN.
The Seer: The other fascinating thing is how Dr. Manhattan, while separated from any real emotion beyond empty and uncaring curiosity and a desire for order, seems to be at the closest he can get to experiencing fear. Dr. Manhattan can see time to beginning and end, but when he looks at the end for himself in the DC Universe, he sees Superman facing him and then nothing with the sense that Superman confronting him will result in some sort of cataclysmic end to time itself. Dr. Manhattan is afraid of Superman.
In contrast, I can't actually imagine any villain -- ever -- being afraid of Quinn. Quinn comes off as incompetent and barely functional and prone to being underestimated by his villains.
DOOMSDAY CLOCK is... wow. I normally wait until a series is complete before expressing anything towards it, even positivity, but wow.
Oh, I forgot to post about SUPERGIRL's Season 4 finale! I liked it.