Does Brian Michael Bendis Like Superman?

Brian Michael Bendis, the longtime Marvel writer who created Jessica Jones and wrote for all the company’s big heroes from Spider-Man to The Avengers, is going to DC Comics. In a November 7 tweet, Bendis announced to the world that he’d be joining DC Comics. This month at the South by Southwest conference, he sat on a panel with DC comics artist Jim Lee and writer Frank Miller to discuss the recently turned 80-years-old icon he’ll work on: Superman.

“I’m a little Jewish boy from Cleveland, and in Cleveland, you grow up and are told, ‘Rock n’ Roll and Superman were born here’—that’s all we have plus some decent pizza,” Bendis told the crowd. “Everyone thought maybe I came [to DC] to do Batman, but all I wanted was Superman.”

Except for a story in Action #1000 written by Bendis his duties writing Superman will begin with a Man of Steel, No. 1 (May 2), a six-issue event where each issue will be illustrated by a different artistic legend. Soon after, Bendis will follow that up with a title restart, Superman, No. 1 (July 11), before starting his run on Action Comics, No. 1,001 (July 25).

“By the end [of Man of Steel], we’ll have a new status quo for Superman and his arrangement in the DC universe,” Bendis said. “[This miniseries] teases everything you’ll need to know going forward. We drop a bomb on our last page that will hopefully have everyone talking about it even more so than his underpants.“

Man of Steel

Bendis, Lee, and others in attendance did not reveal the future plans, but they hinted at them. Asked a question about whether Lois Lane might get her own miniseries, Lee admitted he must stick to company PR policy. “We can’t disclose any plans, and if we had any plans we wouldn’t blink twice,” said Lee, blinking twice. “All I can say is, Brian has a lot of plans and is a tremendous writer, and all our writers have this tremendous passion for the wide-ranging DC mythology. We’d be remiss to not address the desire of that fanbase.” Bendis called Lois the bravest person in the universe. And Miller quickly noted she’s the one who, in the original 1978 Richard Donner movie, tests whether or not Clark could fly by throwing herself off a skyscraper.

“To emphasize how important the Daily Planet is, I actually spent a day shadowing The Oregonian this week,” Bendis said. “On top of journalism being under siege in a way it never has been in my life, a lot of what has happened to Clark has happened to him—he was sent here, after all. But Clark chose to be a reporter when he didn’t need to do anything. Of all the jobs he could have, he needed this one. Why? Truth, there are simply parts of truth and justice Superman can’t punch his way through. But Clark can…”

“Today is actually a wonderful case where you can show his courage,” Miller interjected. “On the old George Reeves TV show, when something is going down and Perry White says, ‘Where’s Kent?’, Lois says, ‘You know Clark, he’s taking care of something.’ The mild-mannered thing came later; I like a brazen Clark Kent.”

Lee – Miller – Bendis

“Now more than ever, we need Superman, it’s time,” Bendis said. “He exudes hope to all around him, but that’s also a burden. We’ve seen it in other characters that represent something so much larger… and now we’ll experience that through him.”

After reading the comments from Bendis and others at the South by Southwest conference I thought back on an interview I conducted with Bendis in September of 2016 at the Rose City Comic Con in Portland Oregon. I asked him whose idea it was to kill off Bruce Banner (The Hulk) in the Civil War series he was writing for Marvel? He said it was his idea. I asked him why and he said to make room for other characters like She-Hulk, Amadeus Cho, Riri Williams (Ironheart). It made me realize he is not afraid to shake things up for the sake of the direction he feels a story should go.

Bendis has promised bigger changes to the world of Superman when he takes over the now-monthly comics, Superman and Action Comics later this year, since Crisis. But he also talks about respecting what Dan Jurgens, Pete Tomasi, and Peter Gleason had built up on the character since the DC Rebirth, with bringing back the marriage to Lois Lane and establishing Jonathan Kent as his super-son. So he back petals a little and promises to stay true to the roots of the Superman mythology.

I was recently reminded of remarks he has made in the past concerning Superman:

In 2006 – WHAT’D YOU THINK OF RUCKA’S SUPERMAN?“I am not a big Supes guy but I will read Rucka’s. I did get the Gotham Central trade and it’s gorgeous.”

Date?? – IF YOU COULD DO WHATEVER YOU WANTED ON A SUPERMAN BOOK, NO CONTINUITY, USE PROFANITY, WHATEVER, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?Realize the character has no value in our more modern culture and cancel it.. Then USM would be the number TWO book.

Date?? – YOU STATED THAT SUPERMAN WASN’T A RELEVANT CHARACTER ANYMORE. WHY?No, I said I didn’t think he was identifiable. Peter Parker is totally identifiable, I wonder if Superman is.

In 2009: There’s Superman who’s the greatest American hero. He’s a liar. He’s lying to Lois Lane. He’s lying, lying, lying all the time. That’s not very heroic.

What can you conclude from his current remarks in contrast to his earlier statements? There will be a true shake-up of the character we call Superman as much as his editors will allow him to write. First I think Clark Kent will exercise more power with the pin than he has in the past tackling more controversial subjects in his writing. Second I think Bendis will try to make Superman more identifiable to his readers and more important to the DC comic universe as an icon of hope.

Thirdly I think he will attempt to build on the family aspect of Clark and Lois and their son Jonathan. He will also change some of the legends of Krypton to give Kal-El more challenges and surprise him about the events and facts of his home planet.

In the title of this article I asked the question: “Does Brian Michael Bendis Like Superman?” In truth, I think he has not liked some of the earlier Superman stories, but he will build on the things he likes and re-define the last son of Krypton into his vision of the hero. Looks like he has a lot of room to change things in the way John Byrne did after Crisis On Infinite Earths in the eighties.

The final judge will be the readers and sales of the comics. Brian Michael Bendis has done some great work in writing in the past and been heavily criticized for other work recently, with some saying he has lost his imagination for a good story. Brian Michael Bendis writer and Mark Bagley art produced the very popular series Ultimate Spider-Man for seven years and amazed readers with great stories. He also had a great run on Avengers. Can Bendis do it again with Superman? We shall see and report to you at Comics Talk. Join us for more. 🙂 Walt

SXSW 2018 – Superman: 80 Years of Truth, Justice, and Hope (Full Panel)