Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock #1 contains a few surprises for the eager reader. The most notable of those is probably the return of Rorschach, but Doomsday Clock also introduces two new characters to the setting of Watchmen.
Except, they’re not actually that new. Watchmen’s cast are all original characters created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons — but ones that were created to hark back to specific superhero archetypes, as well as characters from Charlton Comics, which DC had recently acquired.
And Marionette and Mime, created by Johns and Frank for Doomsday Clock, share the same lineage.
[Warning: This post contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #1. Duh.]
We are introduced to Erika Manson, the Marionette, when Rorschach arrives to spring her from jail — he and his partner apparently need her to help them “save the world.” In return, Rorschach’s partner will give her information on the location of her young son. But Erika refuses to leave without her silent husband, Marcos Maez, aka the Mime, who effortlessly beats half-a-dozen men to the ground while wearing a performer’s smile.
Then the couple insists that Mime can’t go anywhere without his gear ... which appears to be either invisible or imaginary.
Marionette and Mime are the Watchmen versions of Punch and Jewelee, Johns revealed at a press event during New York Comic Con. Their child was born while they were imprisoned — which explains both why he was separated from them and why they don’t know where he is.
“One thing that I thought [Moore and Gibbons] did so beautifully was they took these echoes of Charlton characters,” to make the main cast of Watchmen, Johns said at a Doomsday Clock press event during New York Comic Con. “And one of the things that frees Gary and I up to do in [Doomsday Clock] is to introduce new characters. There were these old Charlton characters called Punch and Jewelee that became the inspiration — just the touch of an inspiration, just like the Question was for Rorschach.”
Punch and Jewelee first appeared in Charlton Comics’ Captain Atom #85 in 1967, written by David Kaler and drawn by Steve Ditko. They were a loving pair of puppeteers-turned-supercriminals who’d found some alien weaponry and were attempting to use it to steal corporate secrets. They’ve appeared very intermittently since, briefly serving on the roster of the Suicide Squad after Charlton’s characters were incorporated into the main DC Universe, but retiring once Jewelee became pregnant.
Most recently, they’ve appeared in Batman, also on a secret Suicide Squad mission.
In their DC Universe incarnations, the two are amoral, unpredictable, deadly and disgustingly in love — seriously, it’s non-stop PDA, pet names and bloody murder with these two. Marionette and Mime are “very different,” than Punch and Jewelee, according to Johns, but they still “echo” them, in the same way that Rorschach echoes the Question and Doctor Manhattan echoes Captain Atom.
“The rules [Moore and Gibbons] established story-telling-wise and universe-wise are something that we really are trying to maintain,” Johns said at the press event. He also cited the Mime’s Hispanic heritage as an example of trying to incorporate more diversity into the comic’s cast, along with Marionette and another surprise character.
Ironically, Punch and Jewelee are now easily mistaken for an inferior echo of Harley Quinn and the Joker, a comedic-influenced supervillain couple who didn’t even exist when they were created — and whose star has risen precipitously in the years since Watchmen’s publication. And given that Watchmen also used its Charlton-based characters to echo DC’s bravest and boldest, well ...
Many folks looked at this upcoming variant cover of Doomsday Clock #5 and assumed that it depicted the Joker. Now, I’m not so sure.
There’s a lot you can do with greasepaint, lipstick and hair dye.