In the world of comics, Brian Michael Bendis is a household name. And you’ve experienced some of his work if you’ve ever watched the Marvel Netflix series: He turned Daredevil into a slow-burn drama, created Jessica Jones, and helped revive interest in Luke Cage. And when he moved from Marvel to DC, it took the entire comics world by surprise. Now we know what he’s up to over at DC: He’ll be taking on Superman. But that’s not even the most interesting part.
First of all, Bendis’ plans for Superman are ambitious even for one of the most beloved heroes in comics. He’ll contribute to the upcoming Action Comics #1000, and then start a six-issue miniseries called Man Of Steel, reflecting the influential ’80s relaunch by John Bryne under the same title. Then there will be a two-fold approach with Bendis writing Action Comics, about Superman’s day to day life and how he affects Metropolis, and Superman, which will be all about the big sprawling action stories Superman lends himself to. And he’s getting a surprising number of artists, right down to the man who drew much of the art that people associate with Superman, José Luis García-López. If you see a piece of merchandise with line art of Superman on it, it was likely drawn by García-López. So, yes, DC is putting a lot behind the Man of Tomorrow.
Just as intriguing, though, is that Bendis is bringing over all his creator-owned work, and publishing new stories, to DC, as well as getting his own imprint to publish new work of his own and of others. Bendis created Powers, the basis for an underrated TV series that ran two seasons, for example, and his story Scarlet, about an angry woman who sets off a new American revolution, has been knocking around Hollywood for a while. That’s particularly interesting because DC Comics is one tiny branch of the enormous media hedge that is Time-Warner, owners of several movie studios and TV networks, including HBO. Bendis, it should be noted, was also instrumental in the early success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so we doubt he’ll be limited just to comic books with his role at DC.
Of course, it’s no surprise that a comics creator might have his work tapped by Hollywood, especially since Netflix recently got into the comics business. But this deal makes DC look a bit more like the #3 publisher in the market, Image Comics, which is essentially a platform for creators: Image provides the infrastructure, and the rest is up to the book’s creative team. In the case of, say, The Walking Dead, that deal has paid off handsomely. In general, the comics industry is trying to figure out how to shift from just superheroes to a broader range of comics, both to find new audiences and to open up new markets for TV shows and movies. Bendis’ arrival at DC may just be the first hint of a much larger change for the industry as a whole.