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Watchmen paints quite a bleak view of humanity’s ability not to destroy itself through nuclear war, but it turns out the world’s real-life scientists are even more pessimistic on our odds.
The threat of nuclear destruction looms large throughout the 1986-87 comic book series by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, with the idea of time running out being one of its key themes. Issue No. 1 establishes that this alternative history’s Doomsday Clock, in which midnight represents disaster for mankind, is set at five minutes until midnight. In real life, the clock was set at six minutes to midnight when the stories were being published — and that seemed bad enough.
Thirty years later, the Watchmen Doomsday Clock seems quaint compared to what we have in real life.
On Thursday, the scientists who oversee it moved the real Doomsday Clock from three minutes until midnight to two minutes and 30 seconds from midnight. The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists cited climate change and nuclear threats — as well as rhetoric on these issues from President Donald Trump.
“We’re so concerned about the rhetoric, and the lack of respect for expertise, that we moved it 30 seconds,” the board’s Rachel Bronson told The New York Times. “Rather than create panic, we’re hoping that this drives action.”
The clock was first introduced in 1947, and it fell to an all-time low of 11:43 p.m. in 1991, the year the Cold War ended. The last time we were back in the “good old days” of just five minutes until midnight was 2015, when the clock moved forward from five to three minutes before midnight.
Here’s the panel from Watchmen No. 1 introducing the clock, as well as a scene from the ultimate cut of Zack Snyder’s 2009 adaptation.
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Sterling K. Brown