Why Superman Is Different From Marvel, According to Brian Michael Bendis
Ahead of 'The Man of Steel,' Bendis explains why Superman bothers to be Clark Kent at all.
Bendis has arrived. And after 20 years of writing comics, he’s just getting started. Following his debut in Action Comics #1000 and ahead of Free Comic Book Day this Saturday, a preview of Brian Michael Bendis’s The Man of Steel is available now in DC Nation #0, a sampler that includes peeks at Batman #50 by Tom King and Justice League: No Justice by James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson. Readers can pick up DC Nation for 25 cents, or free on digital.
During his long tenure at Marvel, Brian Michael Bendis brought new life to characters like Spider-Man, Daredevil, Moon Knight, and the X-Men, and invented new icons like Jessica Jones and Miles Morales. But in late 2017, the comic book world shook when Bendis left for DC Comics, marking the first time in years when a talent transfer of this caliber made headlines.
Now, Bendis is looking at superhero stories through a new pair of heat vision eyes: Superman’s. More specifically, it’s through Superman’s alter ego, intrepid Daily Planet reporter and father, Clark Kent.
“He got sent here and was told what to do. A lot of things happened to him,” Bendis explains to Inverse as his thesis for Superman. “People forget, he wants to connect with us. To be a reporter means he wants to tell the truth. And with all his power, there’s still so much Superman can’t get to, whereas Clark Kent can.” And as a reporter, what would Clark Kent make of Michelle Wolf’s jokes at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner? “It’s freedom of speech,” he says. “People have to speak their minds. That’s the American way, right?”
Of the three Superman comics Bendis is writing — including Action Comics and Superman concurrently — The Man of Steel, out May 30 and illustrated by DC icon Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, will hone in on Clark’s gig at Metropolis’s stalwart paper where he’s finally made a name for himself. But that won’t last long, as Clark will clash with a new hire: Robinsoon Goode, a new character Bendis teases will have a big role in the upcoming story.
“You’ve seen a lot of turnaround in your profession, I’m sure,” Bendis says to me. (He’s right.) “People jump from paper to paper. Adding new characters is really easy: You hire new people with new perspectives from different parts of the DC Universe. Robinson is one of them.”
Hailing from The Flash’s hometown of Central City, Goode is a star reporter who is quickly catching up to Clark in the newsroom. “She’s got Clark’s old job. She’s the city beat reporter. Her and Clark will be on the streets of Metropolis looking at the same story from different perspectives,” he explains. “She may be his rival, she may be his friend, but we’re gonna find out she’s got a secret life. She is not as pure as many Daily Planet reporters are.”
Bendis adds that Robinson “is gonna come in with an agenda” and see Metropolis “with a completely unique perspective.” “She is my favorite kind of character,” he adds.
Though her motives appear nefarious, it’s not hard to see bits of Bendis in Robinson Goode. Like Robinson, Bendis is also arriving in a new place wide-eyed a feeling Bendis admits he hasn’t felt in years. ‘Even though I’ve been making comics my adult life, it does feel like a new job where everything is super, hyper exciting. Everything is new,” he says. “DC and Marvel do everything different behind the scenes. So I am enamored with it because I’m such a crafts junkie and love trying new things. I love to experiment.”
In 2014, Bendis published his textbook Words for Pictures, a paperback tome that collected his Marvel scripts, illustrated pages, and interviews with other comic book pros on the art of making comics. Words for Pictures was acclaimed for its insights, but Bendis’s new gig at DC proves to him there’s still plenty to learn, even at the ripe age of 50. “This completely terrifies me, it completely excites me, and now that feeling is wrapped around this different universe with characters whose perspective of the world is completely different.”
Bendis also admits it took him years to write a larger than life character like Superman. “I’m writing Superman at the right age,” the 50-year-old reveals. “I feel more connected to Superman than I would have at 30. Now I’m a dad. I have adult responsibilities and have lived enough life to feel like you’ve figured out things. Not everything, but enough. You know enough to know what you don’t know and that’s a special place.”
The morning of our interview, Bendis was sending his next batch of Superman scripts when he found himself looking back at two major Marvel characters he spent a huge chunk of his career writing: Daredevil and Spider-Man.
“Spider-Man was to my nervous teenage years and always will be, whereas Superman is my experiences as an adult,” he says. But it’s Daredevil, the blind son of a boxer murdered in Hell’s Kitchen, whom Bendis remembers the most when it comes to writing the Last Son of Krypton.
“Superman’s perspective is enhanced by his senses, seeing and breathing and tasting the world different than us,” he says. “Daredevil, on his good days would be very pessimistic about what he’s hearing and tasting. Superman’s resting face is hopeful. He truly loves what he breathes. I think Green Arrow says to him, ‘What a nightmare, you hear us all day.’ He says, ‘No, I hear people helping. That’s what I get to hear. People trying.”
Like his heroes, Bendis is using new senses he’s never had before. “It feels like I’m expressing a part of myself that I may not have used before,” he says.
“With that mindset, I write Superman.”
DC Nation #0 is available now for free on digital. The Man of Steel #1 by Brian Michael Bendis will be released on May 30.