"The Supermen Theory," which seems poised to drive much of the narrative in Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson's DC/Watchmen crossover Doomsday Clock, appears to have saddled at least one DC superhero and one supervillain with a controversial new backstory.
As revealed in today's Doomsday Clock #2, both Rex Mason (Metamorpho) and Kurt Langstrom (Man-Bat) have been implicated in the conspiracy theory, which holds that many American superheroes were created by and for the government, with their heroic and villainous exploits all simply a cover to give them a more palatable and benevolent appearance to the public and on the world stage.
Everyday people in the DC Universe seem to be skeptical of superheroes following a report out of Markovia that suggests the concentration of most of the world's superheroes in the United States is because the U.S. government has been experimenting on its own people for years, and that many of the world's self-appointed protectors are in fact agents of the government who can be turned against the rest of the world if the President wills it.
Mason is singled out in "The Supermen Theory," with documents ostensibly proving that his powers did not happen in an accident, as has always been suggested, but by design and with Mason's consent. It further claims that Mason's public comments -- and his disdain for Simon Stagg, the businessman whose industrial accident supposedly created Metamorpho -- is all part of his cover.
A number of Metamorpho's enemies have come forward to "validate" the claims of the "leaked" documents with their own testimony, and Langstrom “has admitted that the research that led to his own transformation was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Metahuman Affairs,” according to Doomsday Clock #2.
It is curious that those publicly admitting to wrongdoing are already supervillains, who might see a way out of prosecution by playing into the "Supermen Theory" narrative.
The notion that superheroics are "all a cover" to keep the true agenda of the metahuman population obscured from view would, if true, be a game-changing revelation but what seems more likely is that it is either all an elaborate hoax (perhaps with Lex Luthor, who seems to be riding a tide of anti-metahuman sentiment based on the articles linked to in the The Bulletin), or at best a tweak to DC's history by Doctor Manhattan.
The wave of anti-superhero sentiment, and particularly the visual of police lining up to protest against masked vigilantes, feels very much in keeping with the events that brought on the Keene Act in Watchmen -- a law that made it illegal for masked adventurers to operate, unless they were employees of the government, subject to oversight and with their identities known to their superiors.
It seems unlikely that DC would introduce such a status quo into its comics, since it would be remarkably similar to what Marvel did following the events of Civil War nearly a decade ago -- and it would fly in the face of much of what DC's Rebirth initiative is all about. Still, the notion that Markovian and Russian scientists are coming together to promote this conspiracy theory (?) is an interesting and potentially dangerous element of Doomsday Clock that had not yet been revealed in promotional interviews or within the pages of the first issue, which took place almost exclusively on the Watchmen world.
The theory seems to have turned some people against Batman, likely because one of the examples they use -- Rex Mason, aka Metamorpho -- has a long history of working alongside the Dark Knight with The Outsiders.
How or if this will impact Metamorpho's role in The Terrifics, the forthcoming "New Age of Heroes" title from writer Jeff Lemire," is not yet clear.