Bendis at DC: Do’s and Don’ts
A ripple was sent through the comic book community recently when it was announced that Marvel Comics stalwart Brian Michael Bendis had signed an exclusive multiyear deal with DC Comics. For close to two decades the writer fans either love or hate has had his say on every character at the House of Ideas, but now he is playing in a new sandbox. Whether you love him or hate him, fans are curious to see what the veteran writer will bring to DC Comics and a whole universe of character he has never utilized before. The editorial staff at DC Comics has not come to me for suggestions (….yet), but when they do I am ready with my suggestions of what Brian Michael Bendis should do and what they should prohibit him from working on.
Gotham Central: On his now legendary run on Daredevil, Brian Michael Bendis established himself as a force in mainstream comics. Along with the moody artwork of Alex Maleev, he crafted a beautiful noir-esque comic featuring the long suffering vigilante. If you want to look at what he has done before that, Bendis ended up on the radar of the comic industry with an acclaimed indie book about the Torso Killer. What I am trying to say with all of this, is that the man knows how to write a crime comic. It makes sense that if you put him in charge of telling the stories of the DCU’s most popular police department he would thrive. In 2002 the team of Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, and Michael Lark created the comic Gotham Central, which focused on Gotham’s men and women in law enforcement, and while it never did gangbuster sales, it was inundated with critical acclaim. Now with the TV series Gotham, attracting new fans to this elements of the Batman mythos, it seems like the right time to revive this series. The original team has since gone their separate ways, but Bendis has proven he has the chops to take this concept and run with it.
Legion of Superheroes: When Brian Michael Bendis took over the Guardians of the Galaxy, many bemoaned what he did to the team; but the facts about it can not be ignored. Propelled by the surprise success of the film, Bendis took this once obscure cosmic series and turned it into something appealing to the casual reader. DC has their own cult favorite cosmic team yearning to finally find mainstream success in the Legion of Superheroes. Made up teens from all over the universe of the 31st century, this gives him lots of options as to who he puts on the team, plus his (in)famous “Bendis speak” always sounds best when spoken by teenage characters, so this would definitely play to his strengths.
Green Lanterns: While on the topic of cosmic themed heroes, one of the biggest successes DC has had in Rebirth has been teaming Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz in the series Green Lanterns. Two characters from a traditionally space themed franchise learning the ropes plays very well into Bendis territory. From the Spider-Men of the Ultimate Universe to Iron Heart, Bendis has a knack for writing superheroes who are in the midst of figuring everything out and learning on the job. With two such characters, with very different and clashing personalities, he could have a field day with this book.
Teen Titans: One of the most successful comics of the 2000’s was Ultimate Spider-Man from Bendis and artist Mark Bagley. In this long running series, the scribe proved he had a gift for writing for teenagers, which he claimed was gained from hanging out at malls and eavesdropping on conversations. With this innate ability to write teenage drama and have it be compelling even for adults the Teen Titans would be the ideal team for him to plot adventures for. With a diverse group of characters on the team, Bendis would have no shortage of plots to draw from as they interact with each other.
A New Character: One of the most critically acclaimed books Bendis was responsible for during his career was a little mature reader book called Alias. That title may not ring a bell for you, but you are probably familiar with its lead character Jessica Jones. Without decades of continuity to worry about, Bendis was able to forge his own compelling character who has become a major fan favorite and even found mainstream success. The powers that be at DC Comics have made it clear that coming out of the event Dark Nights: Metal there will be a host of new characters and concepts hitting the book shelves. This presents a great opportunity for the acclaimed writer to bring something new to the table and draw reader’s attention to this new slate of books.
Justice League: Sure when he took over the Avengers, Bendis made the book a bestseller but he did this by tearing the team apart and offending numerous longtime fans. When the Avengers reformed after Avengers: Disassembled they were unrecognizable when compared to the traditional team. While this may sound pretentious, and I will no doubt be accused of DC Fanboyism, the Justice League is on a different level from the Avengers. Many forget that for much of its existence the Avengers was a middling book, at one point the characters from the team were sent to another dimension by Onslaught, because Marvel was so desperate to get readers to pay attention to them. True the Justice League has had its downs (Detroit League anyone?) but they are still held up as the standard-bearers in the DC Universe. The League has often been compared to a pantheon and meddling with them drastically like he did with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, tends not to work very well.
Superman: The strengths Bendis has as a writer is with very flawed and human characters, who spout sarcastic dialogue often on a street level. None of that applies to the Man of Steel. A Superman book requires a certain type of writer who understands that Superman is the pinnacle of what we should strive to be like, and makes what many might see as a boring character into something fun and exciting (currently Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Dan Jurgens are killing it on this franchise). The Man of Steel does not fall into the category of superhero Bendis has shown he can write for, there is nothing wrong with that, it is just difficult to see this in his wheelhouse.
Steel: With his run on Iron Man, the controversial writer has successfully infuriated the vast majority of fans of the Armored Avenger. Beginning with making Tony Stark a child of adoption out of nowhere to randomly putting the character in the coma out of the blue. The abrupt shifts in tones and stories with no build up or payoff was frustrating to readers, though the character of Riri Williams is cool. As such, perhaps it would be best if DC kept Bendis at a distance from their own armored engineer who fights crime.
Big Crossover Event: After Civil War II I believe it is safe to say the writer should not be tackling any large events with sprawling casts. The problems with this event have been well documented; a slow pace (especially for an event book), nonsensical plot, his inability to write dialogue for multiple characters, and killing off beloved characters simply for shock value. His greatest in offense on Civil War II was easily taking Captain Marvel, a beloved character the publisher is hoping to build into one of their biggest names, and turning her heel simply to have another hero for Iron Man to fight, damaging her character in the eyes of fans ever since. Currently Carol Danvers is still struggling to regain the momentum she had before this comic. Before this he wrote the epic Siege, where the looming threat the heroes and villains faced was hilariously undercut by the constant out of place “Bendis speak” and witty banter, before the event just abruptly ended. Needless to say when DC Comics pulls the trigger on their next big event, perhaps they need to look to another writer to take charge.