Trade Perspectives: Reactions to Forbes on Brian Michael Bendis, Superman news

Thursday, February 01, 2018

On Thursday Mark Hughes released on Forbes a surprisingly in-depth and far-ranging interview with new DC Comics-exclusive writer Brian Michael Bendis. (At what point business magazine Forbes began covering comics-writer shakeups I'm not sure, but I guess when comics goes mainstream, comics goes mainstream.)

Kudos to Hughes for an interview with as many twists and turns as any good superhero epic; probably my mouth hasn't hung open as much reading about DC's upcoming plans since their live Rebirth roll-out. As I noted on Twitter, there's a lot to unpack here, and indeed I'd like to do just that in a "quick hits" (or "not-so-quick-hits") format -- snag some quotes from the Hughes interview and offer my reactions as a starting point for further conversation. Again, you can read the full interview over at Forbes.

"Award-winning fan-favorite writer Brian Michael Bendis ... will be taking over writing duties on DC Comics' monthly Superman and Action Comics titles."

That's a bomb dropped right in the first sentence, because of course this means the exit of Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason (except Gleason is staying with Bendis on Action). I'm not totally bummed about this because I have not been thrilled by Action's direction since "Oz Effect," and while I haven't been keeping as close an eye on Superman, my sense is Tomasi and Gleason have been keeping it light in deference to the big events in Action. So it's not as though either team is killing it, though I am eager to see where Tomasi and Gleason go, being a powerhouse duo in their own right.

Also Superman and Action get the same writer, making them essentially a weekly book -- except, if that detail is right, Superman and Action will become monthly now instead of twice monthly, so essentially now we have just one twice weekly Superman title.

"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..."

First thing, that sounds very strongly like DC won't be publishing Superman stories for about a month between Action Comics #1000 and Man of Steel, which has almost never happened except for during "Death of Superman" (and excepting the Superman story in DC Nation #0 on May 2).

Second, calling the miniseries Man of Steel is most assuredly a gauntlet thrown, because that assuredly hearkens back to when John Byrne revamped Superman after Crisis (dare I call it the most successful revamp ever?). Obviously there's similarities too to Byrne and Bendis having left Marvel for DC. But boy does DC want to claim something here by calling it Man of Steel, hubris to an almost frightening degree.

And now cue an army of worried DC fans -- that's just four of the covers for Man of Steel's six issues, but there's nary a young Jon Kent in sight ...

"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.'"

Well, that's fantastic. I had been wondering whether Action Comics #1000 would contain any "of the moment" storytelling or if it would be all anniversary tales. I sooner expected something to finish off Dan Jurgens's present Action stories -- and that may yet still be -- but we know at least the book will lead off Bendis's run.

Which -- by the way -- makes this listing for the Action Comics Vol. 6 collection, supposedly collecting Action #1001-1006 and written by Dan Jurgens -- absolutely hogwash now, and indeed that book appears to have been cancelled.

"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!'"

I don't like to judge before a book comes out. There's nothing new under the sun, on one hand, and on the other hand, Bendis isn't this big a deal for nothing, so I'm sure something good is on the way. But take umpteen Zod stories, or J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Earth One, or Scott Snyder's Superman: Unchained, or any of a number of other Superman stories, and this "tied to his birthright" bit has just been done to death. And that's what I see in the Man of Steel #3 cover with "evil alien figure"'s face over the exploding Krypton ... but I recognize this is the most basic of speculation.

"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."

I've been reading comics long enough at this point that when something big starts -- especially Rebirth, after New 52 -- among my first curiosities is how's it going to end. What we learn here is that after probably 50 or less issues, the Rebirth Superman title will relaunch with a new #1, having lasted fewer than the New 52 title. There's no question, as I've opined before, that comics publishers don't want big numbers on their comics because they're afraid the numbers scare away readers, but at the same time every time you publish an issue, the issue count ticks up. The result is this: short of a comic in the 1,000s, no book is going to surpass a hundred issues any more unbroken, certainly not unless the creative team doesn't change. At some point comics publishers ought just quit with series altogether and simply publish strings of related miniseries -- if they don't otherwise start going straight to trade, that is.

"'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.'"

Once upon a time, I was certain ahead of time that Superman: Our World at War was going to have the most far-reaching effects of any Superman story before or since. After that I figured out what the comics hype machine was.

"'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.'"

Requisite paragraph to assure fans that indeed Jon Kent isn't going anywhere. At the same time, what we understand is that Superman will be seeing his biggest changes ever and also not changing at all. You may have and also eat your cake now.

"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.'"

Love it. First of all I delight in looking at the retro-modern José Luis García-López art in the clothing stores, drawing Cyborg in with the Justice League in modern fashion and so on. What a thrill that he'll be drawing this story.

Also so glad to see DC publishing another one of these twenty-five cent issues again; these were fun in their short heyday. I also miss when the Free Comic Book Day issue was an actual event launch comic and not just a reprint; this isn't that, but close.

If I can nitpick though, I do not like Jorge Jimenez's depiction of the newly-restore trunks on that cover; they look weirdly like shorts, and this is not the kind of problems we should be having this soon after the trunks are restored. Also it looks like Superman has some sort of bracelets on his right arm?

"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.'"

Again, feel like I've been here before; I think I'd prefer to hear Bendis say he's going to be revitalizing the somewhat-overlooked Superman core cast over creating all-new characters, but I'll reserve judgment for the actual books. What's not here though, I note, is any mention of synchronicity with Geoff Johns's Doomsday Clock, which one might think would be a Very Big Deal. Less than twenty issues after Oz Effect, are we to understand that all of that is said and done in the Superman titles? This seems a rather quiet end to Rebirth's raucous launch.

That's a lot from me. What do you all think?
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14 comments:

  1. Very excited. I really enjoy Bendis on individual character books (USM, Daredevil) and find him just okay on team books, so this works perfectly for me (I was afraid he'd take over JL when it was first announced he was coming to DC, but it kinda sounds like Scott Snyder has that all sewn up).

    I saw a couple creators on Twitter basically trying to calm the Tomasi fans down - saying he's got something coming out, too, and we'll love it - so I'm wondering if we'll get him on a Super-adjacent title - relaunching Trinity, a Superman Family-esque book, or even Adventures of Superman. Superman and Action together charted four books between 20 and 29 in December, so there's clearly an appetite for good Super-content four times a month - I'd be shocked if DC doesn't fill in that space somehow (I suppose it'd be too much to hope for a Tom King Lois and Catwoman book in that space).

    I share your reticence about another villain tied to Krypton - there are plenty of similar stories. I'll still read it, of course, and I think Bendis can find a good angle on this, but it's definitely not a path I find that interesting.

    RE: DC Nation #0 - totally in. I love the free/cheap intro issues. DC Universe #0, Batman's Ten Cent Adventure (not to be confused with the far inferior Twelve Cent Adventure), etc. Bendis on Superman, King on Batman, Snyder on JL - that's a great lineup. I wish they'd put that much effort back into WW, though.

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    1. I should also say, with a few more days to think about it, that I am glad that Action Comics #1000 will have some consequence. This could have easily "just" been an anniversary issue with some nice stories in it and then Jurgens, Tomasi, and Gleason could have continued on their merry way, and Action Comics #1000 would have been nice but not an event per se. This is a rather significant shaking up of the Superman titles, a new miniseries, a renumbering, etc. -- all of that at least gives Action Comics #1000 some consequence, for which I'm glad.

      Also, while I was dubious of the new Superman numbering, I realized that what this gives us is Action Comics #1001 and Superman #1, Action Comics #1002 and Superman #2, etc., which is exceptionally cool (for however long it lasts).

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    2. I'm with you. One would imagine the Jurgens and Tomasi/Gleason stories will be (impromptu?) codas to their runs, while Bendis's will kick off his run. That'd be enough for a big anniversary, but then there are a ton of other stories in the book!

      I'm still waiting to see how AC 1000 gets collected. I could see a deluxe HC like Rebirth, it getting parceled up into the last Tomasi and Jurgens trades + Bendis's MoS collection, or a bunch of stuff never making it to trade.

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    3. Tomasi said on Twitter that his and Gleason's run will end on a 38-page special that will come out after the conclusion of the "Bizarroverse" in Superman #45. I'm assuming that's coming out in May.

      Action Comics is also getting a 38-page special by Jurgens according to him, so hopefully that will be collected along with issue #1,000.

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    4. Glad that the series will get specials, but the gymnastics involved with this ... I'm mostly concerned that after all the Rebirth build up, Dan Jurgens's Mr. Oz storyline is now going to peter out with no resolution, so hopefully this is a sign it will not. I'm glad to see DC keeping making headlines, but looking at all of this I worry that the Rebirth storyline will be ending with a whimper even as it started with a bang.

      I expect a deluxe hardcover of the single Action Comics #1000 issue, and after that I wouldn't be surprised if the individual Bendis, Jurgens, and Tomasi stories were chopped up and collected with those individual writers collections. I'm sure the Superman titles trades are going to restart numbering, too.

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  2. CEB, great post as usual. keep up the Trade Perspectives. The news that BMB going to DC is massive and with a massive announcement it's no surprise that he his getting Superman. Personally Bendis has been hit or miss. I liked his run on DD. I guess it depend on what character he his on. Also, I'm a little gun-shy on the Man Of Steel series. I don't think we need another retailing of the origin (movies and TV aside), but I would like to get back into Superman and this may be the way I can do it.

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  3. To add something unmentioned to the conversation, I want to say that personally I enjoy Bendis the most when he gets multiple related series to write concurrently -- such as his Avengers relaunch, and more recently Iron Man for example. Having him take over all Superman titles is very exciting to me.

    I hadn't noticed the change in publication schedule, so thank you for pointing that out and doing the math. I'm hoping that between this and the new mini-series and one shot, it is buying the art teams enough time to get ahead of the game and then we can enjoy a consistent look and feel for a while.

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  4. It's certainly bold of Bendis to invite comparisons with Byrne, but his move to DC really is as eventful and attention-grabbing as Byrne's was in the '80s. And I think the Superman books need a kick in the pants right now. Jurgens's Action Comics has never risen above OK to me, and while I loved the beginning of Tomasi and Gleason's Superman, their second year hasn't been as good. I also welcome the switch to a monthly schedule, which will hopefully allow Reis to pencil a full arc for the first time since Aquaman.

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    1. No disagreement but just a logistics question, is Bendis inviting the Byrne comparisons specifically or is that juat from the Man of Steel title, etc.? Because that could be DC editorial, too. (And has Byrne said anything about all this?)

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    2. I was assuming the 6-issue Man of Steel thing was Bendis's idea, and it didn't occur to me that it could be editorial's. Also, I can't recall anyone else writing Superman and Action Comics regularly at the same time since Byrne.

      I just checked out the Byrne Robotics forum, and while someone asked his opinion on the Bendis news, he's been avoiding commenting on it so far.

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  5. What do I think of this? I think Bendis gathered everyone in one room, walked up to a desk, pulled his zipper down, and unleashed Godzilla as the giant monster thumping shakes the ground! AKA I'm intrigued and kind of excited.

    On a side note - I just had the thought that Tomasi would make an amazing Shazam writer, and I'm shocked I never considered it before.

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    1. Why Shazam necessarily? From writing kids?

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  6. As confirmed by the May solicitations and creator follow-up, all Superman family titles cancelled in wake of the Bendis takeover. Super Sons, Supergirl, and previously announced Trinity. Tomasi promises more Super Sons. And Supergirl can't stay without a title for long, given her TV series. But I have to ask: what hath Bendis wrought?

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    1. I'm not sure you can totally blame Bendis though, can you? Surely DC editorial has to call some of the shots there. See also that Supergirl is on the cover of the final issue of Man of Steel, so it doesn't appear Kara's going away. No Jon on the cover, though ...

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