WARNING: This article contains potential SPOILERS for Watchmen & Doomsday Clock
DC’s Doomsday Clock comic may be a sequel to the original Watchmen, but early clues make it an origin story for The Joker – and how Ozymandias became the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s a bold, shocking suggestion on its own, and on the surface may seem like the worst case scenario many Watchmen purists warned of when Doomsday Clock was first announced. Geoff Johns has emphasized his respect and investment in the original series from the start…but there’s no denying that the early hints of Ozymandias finally “getting the joke” will ruffle feathers (and blow some minds).
It shouldn’t be treated as a “spoiler,” since it’s pure speculation on our part (and maybe a little wishful thinking). Even if Adrian Veidt trades his purple tunic for a purple tuxedo, that doesn’t reveal much about the overall events, story, or purpose of Doomsday Clock – nor the role played by Superman or Dr. Manhattan. And lest we forget, the launch of DC’s Rebirth mystery began with the revelation that there wasn’t just one Joker in the DC Universe, but THREE.
So, was one of those Jokers being Watchmen‘s villain Adrian Veidt Geoff Johns’s idea from the start? And if it was, where does this re-imagining of both Watchmen and The Joker end up? Is he seemingly doomed like the rest of Watchmen’s world… or does he, like Manhattan, seek out a new reality? First things first: let’s get to the clues in Doomsday Clock #1, so fans can decide if we’re really on to something.
For those who may have missed the big beats of Doomsday Clock #1, the story picks up seven years after the original in 1992. And as an extension of that fictional world’s nightmarish reality, things are about as bad as readers would expect. The plot hatched by Adrian Veidt a.k.a. Ozymandias to unite the world by killing three million civilians in New York City – victims of an artificial ‘alien attack’ – was discovered and exposed. The result was Veidt becoming the world’s most hated criminal, and the world’s nations running right back to the nuclear standoff Veidt had tried to prevent in the first place.
To anyone, it would seem like a tragedy. To Watchmen‘s Comedian, it might seem too obvious a joke to even smirk at. But in Veidt’s retelling of the story, he appreciates the irony in an unexpected way. Having the wisdom to know that all greatness eventually fades, and taking the name “Ozymandias” as reference to the poem of the same name and message, he had much to learn. Even a single life’s work can crumble to nothing, as his did. His response? “Laughing uncontrollably… Laughing until it hurt.”
At which point Geoff Johns and artists Gary Frank and Brand Anderson emulate Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s narrative style, juxtaposing Veidt with a news broadcast advising viewers, “Do not believe their lies.” To most readers, a sign of Veidt’s illness. To some, perhaps a vague connection to the kind of ‘laughter in the face of horror’ that The Joker embodies. With a hint of Veidt breaking the fourth wall, seeming to glare beyond his panel at the news reader. But the real evidence comes in the next panels.
It’s at this point in the story that Veidt’s real condition is confirmed, after x-rays first appearing during the looting of his offices are explained. The context given is that Adrian Veidt is dying of cancer. Judging by the x-rays, a brain tumor the size of a ping pong ball and growing – explaining why his earlier laughter was cut short by a pained grunt. What comes next is a narrative box lamenting that the cancer is “taking what is most precious to me,” placed over the image of peace posters being smashed by glass bottles. Violence, the story says, has reclaimed the unity and peace Veidt hoped to grow. Except… that’s probably not what he means.
For lapsed fans or those who have never read Watchmen, there’s little doubt that Adrian Veidt’s brain is what’s most precious to him. He’s famous for being “the smartest man on the planet,” and Geoff Johns has confirmed that fact himself. His muscles and martial arts make him impressive in a fight, but they were always – always – defined as an extension of his intellect. Veidt’s greatest asset is his mind. And thanks to the tumor in his skull, he’s slowly losing it. Which means the clock is ticking to find the one person who still can save the world: Dr. Manhattan.
If the promise of Watchmen being connected to DC’s Universe, Adrian Veidt erupting into uncontrollable laughter as his purpose dissolves, and the admission that he’s losing his mind doesn’t persuade you… well, the placement of that tumor just might.
We’ll get to Gary Frank’s cover art for Doomsday Clock #5, depicting Joker donning his signature makeup with Veidt’s “Nostalgia” product line in a moment. But first, the tumor. Without a side scan it’s impossible to discern its location front-to-back, so we judge based on what appears: the tumor is located on the right side of the brain, presumably closer to the front of the skull. That plants it squarely in the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that largely composes personality. Or, in the words of the Centre For Neuro Skills, the frontal lobe controls “problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgement, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior.”
So what lies ahead for Adrian Veidt? Well, what symptoms arise in patients with frontal lobe illnesses – specifically those on the right side of the brain? For starters, control of facial expressions is affected (fewer, generally). As studies cited by the CNS state, “behavioral spontaneity” is another side effect, leading to excessive speech patterns for lesions on the right frontal lobe. “Risk-taking,” “non-compliance with rules,” and “dramatic changes in personality” can occur, as well as “reduced sexual interest” in lesions located above the eyeball plane. And finally, “Left frontal damage usually manifests as pseudodepression and right frontal damage as pseudopsychopathic.”
In other words, if you wanted to turn a man as brilliant and measured as Adrian Veidt into someone like The Joker, you could just plant a tumor in his right frontal lobe, and let his brain do the rest. The same brain that he admits in Doomsday Clock is being “taken” from him, after realizing his mass murdering was meaningless… and laughing uncontrollably “until it hurt.” Add in The Joker seeming to ‘get into character’ with Veidt cosmetics on Issue #5’s cover, and we think you’ll agree: it’s hard not to consider it.
And as we said from the start, spotting these clues and anticipating Veidt’s descent into The Joker doesn’t actually reveal the heart of Doomsday Clock‘s story. So let us know what you think of our theory in the comments, and whether you’re excited or disappointed to even consider it.
Doomsday Clock #1 is available now.
Source: Centre For Neuro Skills