SUPERMAN WEEK: Bendis is coming? Bendis is here.
It’s SUPERMAN WEEK! We’re celebrating Action Comics #1000 — and the 80th anniversary of the Man of Steel. For the complete index of features and tributes — many by some of the top creators in comics — click here.
We’ve spent the bulk of SUPERMAN WEEK focusing on Superman’s first 80 years, culminating in the release of Action Comics #1000.
Now it’s time to look ahead.
With the exception of two specials in May by the departing creative teams on Superman and Action — and a big round of applause, please, for Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason and co. — the Man of Steel is now in the hands of writer Brian Michael Bendis, Marvel’s biggest creative force of the last (roughly) 20 years. (Though Gleason is sticking around as an artist on Action.)
So what do we want to see from Bendis — whose first story appeared in Action Comics #1000?
We turned to podcaster and comics-history writer Chris Franklin, avowed Superfan and co-host of the wonderful Superman Movie Minute, which chronicled Superman: The Movie five minutes at a time. (Check it out here. It’s brilliant.)
Chris was more than eager to take up the challenge with 13 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE FROM BENDIS’ SUPERMAN:
By CHRIS FRANKLIN
First there was Kirby.
And now Bendis.
Each a cornerstone of the Marvel of their time (heck Kirby was basically the foundation!), they all left the House of Ideas after years of exclusive work, to ply their trade at the Distinguished Competition, on the granddaddy of all long-underwear-types, Superman.
Sure, Kirby only inherited the low-selling Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen as he launched his Fourth World series, but Superman was just as much the star as his freckled friend. A decade and a half later, Byrne got the keys to the kingdom, rebuilding the Superman mythos (with assistance from Marv Wolfman, Jerry Ordway and Andy Helfer) from the ground up.
So now, Brian Michael Bendis, the man who steered Marvel’s course more than any other creator over the past 18 years, is taking on the Man of Steel. Superman fans are in the unique position of having a much anticipated and speculated-on creative reboot coming on the tail of a well-regarded run on Superman by Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, and Action Comics by character veteran Dan Jurgens. Many (including myself) are actually sad to see these creative teams go, but there’s no denying that the idea of Bendis, THE Marvel guy of the past two decades, taking on the Last Son of Krypton is very exciting indeed.
With that in mind, here are 13 things we’d like to see in Bendis’ Man of Steel miniseries, and subsequent runs on Superman and Action Comics (and maybe a spin-off):
13. Lex Luthor, the Greatest Criminal Mind of Our Time. Let’s let bad guys be BAD. Lex can be charming, and even have understandable motivations, but let’s get past this move to make him a hero, as a member of the Justice League, or a Steel fill-in. We’re hereby serving notice that whether he’s a physical threat in power armor (or a jet-booted jumpsuit) or a Machiavellian mastermind pulling strings behind the scenes, we want our Luthor just as bad as Superman is good. It’s the dichotomy that makes their dynamic sing.
12. March of the Villains. We know that Bendis is introducing a heretofore unknown threat to Superman that will rock his world beyond the Man of Steelmini. (He’s called Rogol Zaar. Click here for more on him.) But what else does he have in store? Superman’s Rogues Gallery often takes lumps for being a bit weak compared to the hero they constantly badger. One can only imagine Bendis is going to meet this challenge head on. A deadlier Brainiac? Almost guaranteed. But what kind of new life can he breathe into the Parasite or Toyman? Or even Terra Man!?! Just please give Doomsday a break. Been there. Done that. Still have the black armband.
11. The Return of Connor Kent/Kon-El. Bendis is well known for having a knack for writing young heroes. One who has been missing since 2011 is Superboy Conner Kent (or Kon-El). Introduced by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummet as a young clone of the Real Steel Deal in the epic Reign of the Supermen arc of the ’90s, this Teen of Steel headlined his own series into the next decade, and even had a short-lived spin-off. Geoff Johns gave him a new look and attitude, and some additional DNA from Lex Luthor. But poor Conner died in Infinite Crisis, only to return to the DCU shortly before the New 52 wiped him from existence. (A different version of him was around for awhile after that linewide reboot but it didn’t take.) With Jon Kent now firmly in the Superboy role, Conner would need a new designation, and destiny. But just think what Bendis could do with him, even if he remained some kind of pre-Flashpoint anachronism lost in time and space, like the original Wally West.
10. Ma and Pa Kent. It’s uncertain how much retooling Bendis is going to do with Superman’s back story. The Rebirth era teams did a good job of sweeping what didn’t work about the New 52 version under the rug, but one element that remained was the death of the Kents early in Clark’s life. Byrne’s greatest contribution to the canon may have been the gift of the Kents’ counsel. Clark’s earnest talks with his folks put the MAN in Superman, and forever gave us a reason DC’s other biggest icon, Batman, was so different from his World’s Finest pal. Whether they live into the present or not, let’s hope we hear some homespun wisdom from everyone’s favorite Midwestern parental figures, from the man who actually made Aunt May something more than an eternally terminal plot device.
9. The Daily Planet. How do you make a great Metropolitan newspaper relevant in today’s information age? I really don’t know. But that’s why Bendis is getting paid the big bucks. Clark Kent MUST be a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. Whether the Planet becomes connected to a 24-hour news network (a la the Bronze Age’s Galaxy Broadcasting) or some other kind of media outlet, it must be made a thriving, relatable aspect of Clark and Lois’ lives.
8. Jimmy Olsen. Poor Jimmy. Once the star of a very popular spin-off comic. Once graced by the likes of Curt Swan and Jack Kirby. And for the better part of the last several decades, furniture that just kind of comes with the house. Jimmy hasn’t really shined since the halcyon days of the Mike Carlin-edited era. The man who gave us relatable young adults in Ultimate Spider-Man should be able to crack the Olsen code, and provide us a Jimmy worthy of that signal watch.
7. Lois Lane. Apparently Action Comics is going to focus more on Clark Kent’s role at the Daily Planet. But isn’t now the perfect time to get the man who created Netflix darling Jessica Jones on a Lois Lane title? Lois hasn’t had her own ongoing book since the early ’70s. Who better to write the adventures of the first lady of comics than the man who has quite a knack for tough, independent (but married) heroines?
6. The Kent Family Remains. Undoubtedly the BEST aspect of the Superman books since Rebirth is the family dynamic between Clark, Lois and Jon. It would be easy for DC to jettison the kid and even the marriage to make Superman seem more youthful and less domesticated, but it would be a huge mistake. Superman has evolved and grown, and despite the many DC reboots and cosmic hiccups, the Lois and Clark marriage refused to die like Spider-Man’s across town. Hitting the reset button would seem really cheap now. Bendis’ ear for true-to-life dialogue will be a huge plus for those talks around the dinner table. And of course he can only add to the already well-established and lovable character of young Jon Kent, which leads us to our next item…
5. Tomorrow’s Superman, Today. The man who gave us both a new take on a teen Peter Parker and co-created Miles Morales should have no problem charting the course of the boy who will no doubt one day (at least in theory) take his father’s place as Earth’s greatest hero. In Morales, Bendis did the impossible — developing a character many fans worldwide accepted as a worthy heir to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s greatest creation. Who’s to say he can’t do the same for Siegel and Shuster’s?
4. And Who, Disguised as Clark Kent…Will Bendis make Clark Kent the crusading reporter or the bumbling façade that hides the world’s greatest secret? Or perhaps a bit of both? Is Clark the real man, or is he just the disguise? Are there two Clark Kents, the one Metropolis knows, and another who comes home to Lois and Jon? There have been subtle and not-so-subtle variations to the character of Clark Kent over the last 80 years. It’s fascinating to think which direction Bendis will go in.
3. The DCU by That Marvel Guy. From one of the covers to the new Man of Steel mini-series, we can see the Justice League makes an appearance. And of course Bendis SHOULD be able to sneak in some guest spots by the League members from time to time — even Batman! Bendis wrote one Batman story for The Batman Chronicles in 2000 before the launch of Ultimate Spider-Man, believe it or not. And of course with his long stint on various Avengers titles and many Marvel crossover events, it will be interesting to see how he handles the be-all-end-all of DC superhero teams by comparison.
2. The Face of the DC Universe. Although I’m a fan of Superman, one look around my house will tell you that at my core, I’m more of a Batman guy. That being said, Superman should be THE preeminent hero of the DC Universe. He should be the guy in the middle, not off to the side of either Batman or Wonder Woman. He’s the rock the DCU was built on, and he needs to be the lead guy, the unofficial leader of the Justice League, and by extension the superhero community in general. In addition to being in the forefront of the DCU, the Man of Steel should be THE iconic mascot of the company to both fans and the public at large. After all, for decades, the DC bullet read “Superman DC Comics.” Batman taking center stage permanently is like turning over the keys of the Magic Kingdom to Donald Duck. It’s just not right, and with one of comics’ most popular writers at the helm, now may finally be the time when the king takes back his throne.
1. The Symbol For Hope. Remember the lyrics to Genesis’ Land of Confusion? “Oh Superman, where are you now? When everything’s gone wrong somehow…” In the last decade, we’ve seen Superman feared and hated in both the comics and on the big screen. Sure, it’s probably a more realistic portrayal than the decades of usually unwavering adulation that preceded it. But it’s not what most of us want, or what the world needs right now. We need Superman. We need someone who is going to do what is right, as Dan Greenfield himself has put it, “because it’s the right thing to do.” As Christopher Reeve shone as an earnest beacon of friendship and hope in a troubled, cynical time, so should the Superman of today. Let’s hope Bendis can deliver the Superman we may not always deserve, but so desperately need.
Chris Franklin co-hosts Superman Movie Minute with 13th Dimension regular Rob Kelly. He also co-hosts Batman: Knightcast with Ryan Daly, and, with his wife Cindy, produces JLUCast. These and other fine shows are part of the Fire and Water Podcast Network, found at www.fireandwaterpodcast.com.
— ACTION COMICS #1000 REVIEW: Bendis Didn’t Come to Play. Click here.
— For the complete SUPERMAN WEEK index of features and tributes, click here.