…and I’m not happy about that.
By now, everyone following comics knows who Bendis is and that he will be making the jump over to DC this year. When that news was first announced in November, it seemed to make sense given that BMB had been with Marvel for nearly two decades and had written every character in their stable many times over. He clearly wanted to do something different as a creator, and as a high profile one knew he could punch his ticket anywhere he wanted. In comes DC Comics, and subsequently the Superman books, for which he will be given carte blanche.
I’ve always been a fan of Bendis, or rather, haven’t hated his work as much as others do. He clearly specializes in slice-of-life, day-in-the-life type stories- real people doing real things. For many characters, this works extremely well in an urban, superhero setting. I loved his Daredevil run with Alex Maleev, which for me might be the best run on that character outside of Frank Miller. I love Jessica Jones as a character, not so much in her own series (which was too graphic for my taste), but definitely in her Netflix show (although also a little too graphic for me). His work with Luke Cage in Alias and New Avengers was the first time since the ’70s that the character had become a part of the mainstream Marvel Universe again, and probably the main reason Luke got his own Netflix show last year. Bendis has pedigree as a writer, and strengths which many others do not.
On the other hand, I can’t say that I have ever cared for his work on mainstream superhero books at all. I gave many of them a good try and just don’t think it works. I’m all about making characters who wear spandex and capes relatable, but at some point there has to be a complete suspension of disbelief when reading them. Spider-Man is not going to walk into a bar in his full on costume, sit down and start talking about his sex life and swearing like a sailor, but this is what Bendis-written characters often do. I hated his Avengers run and never saw the big deal with Secret Invasion, Secret War, or Ultimate Spider-Man (the latter of which, admittedly, was a little more palatable). If you want gritty realism, either do it with characters that lend themselves to that like those mentioned above, or completely remake the character so that they are no longer wearing spandex and tights and inhabit a different universe altogether.
Tim Truman did this extremely well in Hawkworld, Peter David did it in The Atlantis Chronicles, and of course Frank Miller did it in The Dark Knight Returns and Year One for Hawkman, Aquaman, and Batman, respectively. Miller’s Batman will never fight on a gigantic typewriter with Bat-Mite hovering next to him, nor will Truman’s Hawkman ever fight the Matter Master. The two styles clash and don’t work. Bendis, and Marvel’s upper management who first hired him, seem to feel otherwise and think you can combine superhero stories and action with very unheroic character flaws that are firmly entrenched in reality. Although some might say that was Stan Lee’s whole purpose when co-creating the Marvel U, I would counter by saying that Bendis takes it too far to be enjoyable.
Other famous Bendis-isms include decompressed storylines, juvenile one-liners and incessant amounts of dialogue, which, during his tenure at Marvel, annoyingly became the norm for all books. The readers, however, don’t seem to care as Marvel has consistently outsold DC during his tenure there. Even though numbers of individual comic book issues are no where near where they once were in the ’80s and ’90s in today’s trade-driven market, Marvel has cornered the lion’s share of whatever is left. As a result, it is not a stretch to say that Bendis revolutionized Marvel Comics while there.
All of this is fine and good, as to each their own.
Having said that, nothing about his track record makes me believe, even for a second, that he can write Superman.
The Superman books, as I’ve mentioned before, are in a great place right now. I’m not sure about sales, but I know from online buzz that both Tomasi/Gleason’s and Jurgens’ books are well received, and more of what we’re used to with Superman. Since we can’t leave well enough alone, however, after signing a high-profile creator, he must be put on a high-profile character, or so goes the logic, creativity be damned. The Batman books have been DC’s best sellers for the last seven years or so, and Superman’s sales have likely needed a shot in the arm to reach those numbers. From a financial standpoint, a writer of Bendis’ renown would be such a shot in the arm, and DC intends to take full advantage.
I get it. The book will create buzz. It will sell well. Relaunching a book as a new #1 always spikes sales as well, not to mention #1001. They’ll even be giving Bendis a weekly Man of Steel six-issue miniseries to launch his “Superman brand,” if you will, as they did for John Byrne when he was given the reins to the character in 1986. I get the sales logic behind this. I just think that that is the ONLY reason it is being done, and that is extremely disappointing.
The Superman Rebirth books will be ending in May. Action Comics #1000 will be published in April, which will feature stories from the Rebirth teams as well as Bendis’ first ever for Superman. I’m looking forward to all three of these books immensely, but I fear that it will be my last association with the Man of Steel, at least in comic book format, for quite some time. I don’t have the energy or the patience to put up with yet another retcon, especially when I hear about redoing Superman’s origin with an “exciting new villain,” etc. The character’s origin does not need to be fixed, it’s already the greatest in comic book history!! But of course, Bendis will bring his droves of fans from Marvel along with him, and it will be a well-publicized launch, and so it will sell well. Hence, we’ll probably have to put up with his name on the tagline of Superman covers for some time to come.
Of course I’m mildly curious, but I will not be spending money on this. If someone loans me a copy or I see the first trade at the library some day, I will read it. And if Bendis ever gets put on a Batman title, a Gotham Central-esque police procedural or some other urban style character in DC’s stable, sure, I’ll happily check it out. But why Superman? We had just gotten him back, too.
I will be the happiest person in comicdom to be proven wrong with this. But otherwise, I’m out.