The news broke Tuesday that Brian Michael Bendis, a writer whose name has been synonymous with the Marvel brand for almost two decades, is wrapping up his tenure and creating new work for its Distinguished Competition. It’s a huge development in the American comics industry. I’ve been a big fan of a lot of Bendis’s work at Marvel — mainly the solo titles as opposed to team books — and as a guy who started out reading only DC comics as a kid, I’m excited to see what Bendis will do with some of my cherished childhood icons.
As an aside, it merits noting that this major move doesn’t mark Bendis’s debut at DC Comics. Before his tenure at Marvel first got underway, he wrote a six-page alternate or “Elseworlds” continuity story titled “Citizen Wayne,” in which noted DC characters were cast into the classic Citizen Kane story. It was published in Batman Chronicles #21 in 2000, and the artist on that short story was MIchael Gaydos, who would later go on to create Jessica Jones at Marvel with Bendis for Alias and who now illustrates the ongoing Jessica Jones (the fate of which, in light of Bendis’s departure from the House of Ideas is unknown).
In any case, while it’s unlikely Bendis will be given free reign to do whatever he wants at DC — editorial control of the core super-hero line at the publisher has reportedly been tight during co-publisher Dan Didio’s time there — it stands to reason that he’ll no doubt be given great latitude in his choice of projects. I also fully expect that he’ll be tapped to helm a crossover event title at DC. Just as Scott Snyder, one of DC’s most popular writers, is the driving force behind its current Metal event and chief creative officer Geoff Johns has been planting the seeds for his upcoming Doomsday Clock event book, I suspect DC will want to capitalize on Bendis’s fanbase by having him develop another big line-spanning story. He’s done it at Marvel many times, so it would be familiar territory for him, after all.
It’s understandable that people are excited to see what the writer will do now that he gets to play with some new (to him) toys. I’m also not surprised to see some grumbling online among some fans, as so many people are resistant any kind of change.
Personally, while I’ll definitely check out what Bendis writes under the DC banner, rather than doing something new like that, I would’ve appreciate him doing something old — namely, the indie/small-press comics world in which he started out. Fortune & Glory, his autobiographical comic (which he also illustrated) published by Oni Press, detailed his initial and confusing adventures in Hollywood, as studios expressed interest in those early, created-owned works. It’s one of my favorite Bendis books, and I daresay it would be interesting for him to revisit that world now that he’s been immersed in the world of TV as a writer and producer.
My absolute favorite Bendis comic, though, is Scarlet, a creator-owned book he did with frequent collaborator Alex Maleev. Though published under Marvel’s Icon imprint, It’s quite indy and even subversive in tone. Now that the writer is leaving Marvel, I’m honestly curious and concerned about the fate of Scarlet, as the story isn’t finished.
What I’d love to see is for Bendis to return to his creator-owned roots. That’s where he’s at his strongest, and where we’re going to see more daring and different stories from him. Now, DC isn’t known that much as of late as a haven of creator-owned work. Its Vertigo line has stepped away from such projects, and the edgier Young Animal imprint still focuses exclusively on established DC properties or new ones set in its super-hero universe. My hope is that Bendis’s deal with DC allows for his continued exploration of creator-owned work, both continuing and new. If that were the case, that could pave the way for more such projects, and more innovative stories from one of the original publishers of the medium.
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