Award-winning fan-favorite writer Brian Michael Bendis has joined DC Entertainment, and will be taking over writing duties on DC Comics’ monthly Superman and Action Comics titles. In addition, DC will re-release Bendis’ acclaimed creator-owned Jinxworld comics and publish new content from him as well. Before his run on the main Superman titles begins, Bendis also has a major miniseries coming to shake up the status quo for the Kryptonian hero. I have an exclusive first look at the cover art for that miniseries, plus a long and in-depth interview with Bendis, so read on for all of the details!
Bendis is perhaps best know for helping launching the Marvel Comics’ Ultimate imprint, including the monthly titles Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men, as well as his Eisner Award-winning writing on the MAX imprint title Alias (on which the hit Netflix series Jessica Jones is based) and the regular monthly series Daredevil. He is also widely recognized for his original creator-owned work, including the popular Jinx and Powers.
In early November last year, DC announced an exclusive multi-year deal with Bendis beginning in 2018. Within days of that announcement, Marvel ceased publication of the author’s original titles, causing instant speculation about the fate of those books. A week later, however, Bendis hinted at what most everyone already suspected, when he tweeted out a statement noting the end of publication by Marvel didn’t mean “cancellation,” but rather “switching publishers.” Today, I can confirm that the exclusive deal with DC includes all of Bendis’ Jinxworld content, both re-printing and publication of new stories.
Speaking with me about his new exclusive deal with DC Entertainment, Bendis told me, “I’m very excited about this, it’s a very big deal.” He continued, “When I was first approached by DC, there was a lot of speculation about what I would do and what characters I’m interested in. But the one at the top of my list — and it surprised some people — but at the top of my list was Superman.”
Bendis will contribute to Action Comics #1000 on April 18, after which DC will release his 6-issue miniseries Man of Steel starting May 30. Published on a weekly basis, Man of Steel will include art by such comic book luminaries as Ivan Reis, Evan “Doc” Shaner, Ryan Sook, Kevin Maguire, Adam Hughes, and Jason Fabok. Check out this first look at the original pencil art for four of the six covers for Man of Steel…
The journey to writing Superman actually took Bendis through Superman’s literal birthplace. The character was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster while they lived in Cleveland, and the state is very proud of that history. Bendis is, too. “I’m a little Jewish boy from Cleveland,” he said, “and my connection to Superman is very, very deep, genetically.”
That connection was central to Bendis’ eventual acceptance of the DC deal. He explained, “It just so happened I was back in Cleveland for the first time in years for my brother’s wedding, when the offer was put forth [by DC]. I went to visit my friend John [Skrtic] who runs the Cleveland public library — we grew up together — and he had a Superman exhibition. And I walked in there and it was like the universe was speaking to me, telling me ‘Oh you’ve got to do this!’ And it flooded back to me in the biggest way possible, and here we are.”
DC’s offer for Bendis to start work with such a seminal moment in Superman’s publication history came as a bit of a surprise.
“My first appearance in DC Comics will be Action Comics #1000,” Bendis said. “It was a lovely offer from [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio when we were discussing my plans and what I could or couldn’t do. He called me up the next day and he goes, ‘I don’t want to be greedy or rush you, but we happen to have this once in a lifetime Superman situation going on with Action Comics #1000.’ And I’m desperately in love with the DC anniversary editions, I’ve always been in love with them. Superman #400 for example is one of the best comics ever made, it’s such a celebration of art.”
DiDio’s offer ended up framed in a larger context that sold Bendis on moving faster than expected on this entry into the DC universe. As the writer continued explaining, “Dan goes, ‘There is a possibility we could give you a first shot to write in Action Comics #1000, and make it really a big part of the Superman legacy and our legacy. What if we put our foot down and say this is a big part of the character, where we’re headed is a big thing and we believe in it, so there’s no better place to put it than in Action Comics #1000 with our publisher Jim Lee drawing it.’ And I was like, of course I’m going to say yes to this!”
But lest you think he’s merely talking about a small contribution to a special event issue that won’t factor into his later work with the character, Bendis wants you to know that’s not the case. “In that first story,” he said, “it’s not just some random backup story or flight of fancy. It is a major chapter in what we’re doing, with some really big bombs we’re dropping in Superman’s life — and two of them happen right there in Action Comics #1000. So it’s a huge tease of what we’re doing and what’s coming up in Superman’s life.”
With his first step into the DC world coming at such a special point in Superman’s publication history, and taking such a huge step toward significant changes in the character’s life, Bendis was obviously under a great deal of pressure. “Handing in that script was as nerve racking as anything I’ve ever done,” he admits. “Not only was it my first statement on this universe I’ve just joined, but it’s in the middle of this amazing anniversary filled with not only the greatest comic book creators of all time, but literally my heroes. There are people there who I look at in complete awe, and it was an honor just to be asked for those ten pages, let alone the first ten pages of what will hopefully be a long and successful run.”
As for his Man of Steel miniseries, Bendis hints at significant upheaval ahead for Superman. “It’s a big weekly Man of Steel event,” he said, continuing, “It’s six issues, and I’m writing all of them. They’re telling the giant new story that’s the status quo, what’s going to be going on with Superman and Metropolis and everything around him. Again, it’s following up on the big bombs we drop not only in Action Comics #1000, but following up all of those beats and digging in even deeper.”
The lineup of artists involved in the miniseries is enough to humble any writer, as Bendis makes clear. “Every single issue is being drawn by one of the great DC artists working today, who are also some of the greatest DC artists of all time,” he noted. “I’m very honored to be doing my first project with all of these artists I’ve never worked with before, who I think are amazing. The only artist I’ve worked with before in the run is Kevin Macguire, and I wouldn’t do this without him, because I think he’s one of the greatest DC artists of all time. But then I get to launch with Ivan Reis, Doc Shaner, Jason Fabok, and others who’ve done amazing runs with the character or who’ve been waiting to do very special thing with the character. I’m very honored they all said yes to this.”
While keeping as much secret as he could, Bendis was willing to give us a little hint about what to expect from the miniseries. “The Man of Steel story will debut a huge new villain, a blockbuster villain who connects deeply to Superman’s origin story and to his birthright,” Bendis revealed. “We’re going to dig in very hard, this is one of my goals, to be a additive to Superman as possible. The characters we debut right away, including this new villain, will send ripples of horror across the entire Superman family and beyond!”
After Man of Steel’s publication, Bendis will take over writing duties on the monthly titles Superman and Action Comics. The Superman monthly will relaunch with a new issue #1 on July 11, while Action Comics picks up with issue #1001 on July 25, and each will have a different approach and tone. While the main Superman title will be an adventure-driven book, Action Comics will delve into Clark Kent’s daily life.
But when the two regular monthlies pick back up, things won’t be the same in Superman’ world. “The fallout of Man of Steel #6 is enormous,” Bendis insists. “It’s some of the biggest status quo changes to Superman literally since Crisis. So we’ll be launching Superman with a brand new #1, and that’s going to be very Superman-focused and big DC action stories. Action Comics will be launching with #1001, I’m very happy to say, and that will be focused more on Clark and Metropolis and the Daily Planet, and how the world of Superman effects the world of DC.”
Bendis sounds energized as he lays out the extent of his plans, and credits the creative freedom of his deal with DC for helping galvanize his imagination. “It’s pretty elaborate plotting and I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s all new toys, all new characters — we’ll be introducing a lot of new characters, both heroes and villains. DC set up a situation where my partnership with them is so exciting, it inspires me to create as many new thing as possible. And Superman is long overdue for it.”
That said, it’s important to understand this will not be a “reboot” of the character or his world, something that might disturb some fans and purists. “For those who are worried, they should not be,” assures Bendis. “The last runs on Superman by Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason have been phenomenal runs, and my run will be following their runs. We’re not throwing anything out, we’re not abandoning anything, we’re following what’s been going on and taking it to surprising new areas.”
I asked Bendis how much his Jewish background factors into his particular approach and vision for Superman. Specifically, Superman was original conceived as representing a great deal of Jewish social ideals and opinion, not to mention quite obvious storytelling influence from the story of Moses and the use of the name “El” (and the associated implications of the Hebrew l?med to “L”). Later, however, stories focused on Christian symbolism and treated Superman as comparable to Jesus. I always favored the original approach, and wondered if Bendis would return the character to those traditional roots once more.
Bendis replied, “I can honestly tell you the choices we’ve made and bring to Superman are deeply connected to his origins. I don’t want to say too much right now, but it’s a reflection of where he came from and the world we live in now.”
That’s great news, in my opinion, and I think it will help bring a fresh tonal approach allowing readers to appreciate and consider the character and his relevance in important ways both highly traditional and uniquely modern.
Prior to the release of Man of Steel, Bendis will also contribute to the special comic book event DC Nation #0 on May 2. And hang on to your hats, DC fans, because joining the author for that story is one of the greatest and most iconic artists to ever work at DC Comics. Bendis eagerly told me, “In between Action Comics #1000 and Man of Steel #1, there will be another special chapter, this one by myself and — I’m so excited to say these words out loud — very special art by José Luis García-López, who came out of semi-retirement to do this with me.”
García-López’s artwork is so famous, even if you don’t read comic books you’ve almost surely seen his DC superhero renderings somewhere in your life. His art is licensed for toys packaging, books, posters, clothing, and all manner of DC merchandise.
Said Bendis, “He’s one of my bucket list names, someone I never thought I’d ever get to work with. To go right from Jim Lee, who was also at the top of my bucket list, to José Luis García-López, was amazing. I can’t tell you enough what a lovely human being he is, and how nice it is even to have just met him, let alone have the experience to work with him.”
As for the relevance of DC Nation #0 to the rest of what’s to come for Superman, Bendis proclaimed, “That storyline will set up a lot of what’s going to be going on in Action Comics, we’ll dig really deep into what’s going on at the Daily Planet, and introduce some new cast members at the Daily Planet and some new villains in Metropolis.”
Expanding the scope and detail in Superman’s city is crucial to Bendis’ long term planning. “I have a lot of goals for Superman,” he says, “one of which is to help turn Metropolis into something as provocative and unique as Gotham City is. I think everyone will agree Gotham is one of the most built and best places in all of fictional cities, and Metropolis should follow suit. So Action Comics and DC Nation will be the first hints at how we’re going to be building up Metropolis. Both in people and in culture, it’ll be more than just the place Superman lives. We’ll be taking a good look at a lot of place we haven’t looked at before.”
(Fun side scoop: Batman fans will be interested to know DC Nation #0 includes a story about the Joker learning of Batman and Catwoman’s imminent nuptials.)
Summarizing his feelings about taking over the direction of Superman at DC, Bendis grew philosophical. “Writing Superman in today’s day and age is a such powerful experience. We live in a world where we’ve heard, ‘Truth, justice, and the American way’ our whole lives, right? But this is the first time those things are really not to be taken for granted.” Continuing, he noted with regret, “Truth has been revealed to not be as black and white as we thought it was; justice is sadly not always for everybody; and the American Dream, the American way of everybody coming here to pursue the idea that they can live a safe and healthy life — these are ideas we always took for granted, but now we don’t. No matter where you are politically, we just don’t take these things for granted anymore.”
Bringing it all back to the point at hand, Bendis concluded, “And now I think it’s time Superman stand up and give us that hope we always want from him. It’s a great thing to be writing a character who exudes hope at a time when people really, really need it.”
As excited as fans will be to hear about Bendis’ plans for Superman, they’ll be equally enthused to find out what’s in store for Jinxworld.
“The big headline here,” Bendis asserted, “is this isn’t just DC grabbing some of my books and giving me a safe place. They came and offered me a genuine partnership. They’ve offered creator-owned books before, but what they’re doing here is something brand new for them and for comics. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come in the future.”
Explaining what precisely the deal entails, Bendis said, “They’re going to take my entire library — and by mine I mean the stuff I own with my co-creators and collaborators — from Powers to Jinx, and to Scarlet and others, and we’ll be releasing it all digitally and in print through Jinxworld, through DC Comics.”
What exactly makes this deal so different from past situations for creator-owned content? “Two things are happening that are unique to this partnership and to how comics usually work,” Bendis told me. “Number one, DC is going to be hosting Jinxworld as a whole,” he said, “so everything I’ve ever done in the creator-owned world will be coming to DC. And on top of that, we’ll be debuting brand new material, brand new series that I think will be exciting for the marketplace and for fans, stuff I haven’t tried before and stuff people have been begging us for. We’ll be debuting that all this year.”
“And number two,” Bendis continued, “separate from Jinxworld, is that I will be hosting and curating an imprint, a custom imprint not unlike what Gerard Way is doing with [DC imprint] Young Animal. It’s going to be a select series of special comics, and we’ll debut what those are later in the year. I’ll be writing some of those and curating the others, but they’ll all be under this imprint and add a very special flavor to the DC Universe. I’m happy to say it will star some of my all-time favorite DC characters in unique situations, and that I could not be more excited for.”
So this multi-year deal between Brian Michael Bendis and DC is wide ranging and gives the writer not only a great deal of control over the future of Superman’s stories and world within the established DC comic book universe, but also carves out a large corner for Bendis to continue developing his original content while also overseeing a whole line of additional stories and content involving a variety of creators and characters.
“Before, I had put my deep love of the DC universe aside just because I didn’t need it for work,” Bendis told me. “But now to open that box and have everything come flying out, the things I love so much from my childhood, from last week, from ten years ago, I can’t wait to dive in and explore all of it.”
The writer says the changes to Jinxworld were inevitable even before his deal with DC. “I’d already announced I had dedicated this year to creating as many new things as I could,” Bendis point out, “so when publishers like DC came to me, they were very interested in what those new things were and what they could do to be in business with them. So my itch to create new things and DC’s itch for me to come over here kind of mirrored and matched, and here we are!”
Readers, however, needn’t fear any radical revamping of their favorite Jinxworld titles due to the change of publishers. “For most people buying the books, they won’t feel any difference,” Bendis assured me. “But behind the scenes, this partnership is very different. Marvel was a gracious and very cool about publishing my stuff through Icon, but what DC is doing for Jinxworld is a much more robust partnership. They’re backing it, they’re marketing it, they’re treating it like it’s their books, and I’m very excited about that. When people see the size and scope of the ambition, even the most die-hard fans are going to be like, ‘Well all right, look who’s coming through!’ “
This is part of a much larger plan by DC to reshape the company’s approach to publishing and relationships with creators and their content, adopting a more “cradle-to-grave” mindset toward the use of their products for existing and new audiences.
For his own part, Bendis revealed a major personal motivation was to challenge and scare himself. “And then I landed into the hands of the best possible partners you could have for such a thing,” he said. “When you roll up your sleeves and say, ‘Okay I’m going to scare myself,’ you do want someone to have your back. And DC and Warner Bros, and Diane Nelson and Dan DiDio have been unbelievable partners.They’re very dedicate to really taking a look at the comic book community and market, and making it special.“
Bendis’ enthusiasm for the partnership isn’t merely rhetoric — in an era where mass media and mobile platforms offer more constant entertainment options and artistic content than ever before in human history, Bendis feels he’s part of a new dynamic that will reinvigorate the comic market and remind the world where the biggest movie and TV genres got their start. “What people who make comics do is as unique, as special, as anything that goes on in any part of the culture,” Bendis insists. “We’re all dedicated to making sure people understand that comics are where it all starts, and comics are still the most exciting place to read about these characters and hear about these characters.”
Providing a big-picture summation of today’s news, Bendis remarked, “These are the big pieces, and it shows how ambitious we are right at the start. We’re starting with Superman, and here comes Jinxworld, and then right after Jinxworld we’ll be debuting the new imprint, which will feature both new characters and classic characters. DC has given me the thumbs-up to be as additive in every corner of the DC universe that I can get my hands on.”
Bendis concluded his thoughts by saying, “What’s going on at DC and Marvel couldn’t be more exciting right now, and by summertime I think comic book stores are going to be the most exciting places in our culture. I hope people get a sense of all of this, and go into a comic book store and see if there’s something for them.”
I’ll have more stories coming soon with additional exclusive details about the future of DC Comics — from new imprints, YA content, this year’s 25th anniversary of Vertigo, and exciting details about new prestige imprints that will have fans jumping for joy.
Stay tuned for all of that and more, and meanwhile enjoy these additional closeups of the first four covers from the upcoming Brian Michael Bendis miniseries Man of Steel…
So you have all of the news, now let me know what you think of today’s news, dear readers, by sounding off in the comments below!