Warning: SPOILERS for Doomsday Clock #7 and illustrated BLUE NUDITY.
After DC Comics chose to censor art of Batman's penis from their "mature" Black Label, the publisher has welcomed back Watchmen star Dr. Manhattan, blue penis and all, without issue. Needless to say, Bruce Wayne is going to have some questions, along with some fans.
Even if comic book movie fans paid little attention to Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel, they've certainly heard of the completely-nude Dr. Manhattan, if not seen him (it?) for themselves. The anatomically correct, completely nude, blue-hued man became a hot topic when Zack Snyder's Watchmen film didn't shy away from depicting his penis on-screen. And now that Manhattan has returned to the regular, everyday, normal DC Universe in Doomsday Clock, it seems the publisher may be flip-flopping on the question of male nudity.
It's unlikely that any comic fans actually missed Batman's penis revealed in comic book form with the release of Batman: Damned #1, but if they picked up a digital copy of the issue, they would have discovered that Batman's penis had been erased. DC clarified the discrepancy soon, stating that the penis-containing panels would be censored in all future versions, since it wasn't "additive to the story."
And so we arrive at Doomsday Clock #7, hitting newsstands digitally and physically just one week later, in which Dr. Manhattan finally makes his... full debut:
While fans have known that this Dr. Manhattan reveal was coming for some time, and that the Watchmen super-man had created the biggest changes to DC's previous New 52 reboot, the timing is fortuitous - and telling. There's no way that writer Geoff Johns or artist Gary Frank could have known that Doomsday Clock #7 would arrive so soon after Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo confirmed Batman's codpiece isn't just for show. But fate has intervened to make Joker's horror at such full-frontal nudity more than a little meta.
The arrival of Jon Osterman a.k.a. Dr. Manhattan a.k.a. 'the naked blue guy in Watchmen' happens in just a few panels, appearing in his full, naked form before Batman, Joker, Ozymandias, The Comedian, the new Rorschach, and the Doomsday Clock additions Marionette and Mime. The characters pulled from the Watchmen reality into that of DC's main universe are familiar with Manhattan's infamous appendage, but Joker isn't, and he makes it known that in DC's world, you don't just walk around with your penis out.
Which is followed immediately by a wide image of Dr. Manhattan before them all, genitals on display in his typical fashion.
The double-standard is on full display whether we call it out or not, especially since DC hasn't really placed a strict 'no nudity' clause on Dr. Manhattan in the past. In fact, every issue of the then-controversial prequel comic line Before Watchmen focused on Manhattan included his penis, straightforwardly rendered by Adam Hughes (and colored by Laura Martin). Comics which, we should point out, bore a "Rated M for Mature" warning on their cover.
Those images, like these in Doomsday Clock depict a fully naked man exactly as he would appear, penis and all. Which raises the question: how is DC justifying the decision that Batman: Damned's artwork - with Bruce Wayne cloaked in almost total shadow, revealing far less of his penis - is somehow over a line? Given that Manhattan is always naked at this point, and Bruce has never been shown in that state, how can it even be argued that it's Batman: Damned's nudity that is "not additive to the story"?
Comic fans who assume that the Bat-penis controversy was merely a publicity stunt now have another leg to stand on, with the only real conclusion being that DC doesn't want people to see, or talk about Batman's penis. But the masses can apparently go nuts when it comes to Dr. Manhattan's, since... nobody really cares anymore.
Doomsday Clock #7 is available now from DC Comics.