Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett looks at the announcement of writer Brian Michael Bendis working on Superman titles and shares his excitement at the Shazam! movie getting under way.Multitude of Brian Michael Bendis Titles Revealed By DC”) is likewise a big deal. The fact he’ll be writing a new weekly Man of Steel mini-series and a new Superman #1, it’s hard to imagine that those titles won’t be good for a lot of retailers bottom lines.
But having Bendis writing Superman and Action Comics also came as something of a relief to me because it’s exactly where he's needed most. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with the current Superman comics or people who working on them, but "nothing wrong" isn’t really a ringing endorsement. And as someone who loves the character, I want to look forward to reading the latest issue of Superman the way I look forward to the new Batman. Right now, that just isn't the case.
Whether it's fair or not, the current consensus on Superman is that he’s the character everyone knows but nobody cares about. Since 1986, when the first Man of Steel mini-series by John Byrne came out, DC has tried to make readers care. After that I couldn’t count how many attention-grabbing stunts, endlessly continued epics and temporary tweaks the character has had to endure over the years. Superman has been married, murdered and (worst yet) mulleted, and as much as I hate to admit it, some of these things have actually gotten people’s attention. But it hasn’t kept it, not in the long run.
Now, I could be wrong, I often am, but I think the reason Batman is more popular than Superman isn’t that Superman is "dull," old-fashioned, or too powerful to relate to. Nor is Batman so popular because of all his cool stuff; the car, the cave, all the cool villains. It's because he's an idea; he's the man in the dark who can't be stopped and could be you. The idea behind Superman, according to writer Grant Morrison (who calls it "our greatest idea as a species") is “Somewhere, in our darkest night, we made up the story of a man who will never let us down.”
DC needs to own that idea, honor it, and at long last stop trying to make Superman like all of the other superheroes, when really, they’re just pale reflections of him. He needs a creator who can make that idea catch fire in readers minds, and Brian Bendis could be that writer. I hope he has a run on Superman and Action Comics that's at least the equal to his run on Ultimate Spider-Man. I believe he could do it, if, for once, DC can just stay the hell out their own way. By which I mean, none of the kind of micromanaging or editorial interference which have stymied far too many other writers. Bendis has the job, now all you have to do is let him do it.
I’ve long been an advocate for marketing comics to younger readers, particularly female ones, and over the years Marvel and DC have made several attempts to do just that, but with only limited results. However, I have high hopes for DC’s latest, which is creating two new imprints aimed at that market (see “DC Zoom and DC Ink”), Zoom being intended for middle schoolers and Ink the imprint intended for young adults. Since that was announced DC has also released a list of their first offerings (see “DC Shares More Offerings for DC Zoom and DC Ink”).
There are a lot of titles of interest there, but naturally, the one I’m looking forward to most is Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Yang. No plot details were given, but from the title, I’ll assume it has something to do with the 1947 Superman radio show serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross” where Superman deals with a Klan-like hate organization. I’ve talked about that before, at least the movie adaptation (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy - What a Little Politeness Can Accomplish”). It’s entirely possible the comic will just tell the story of how the program was made, but I’m hoping we’ll actually get to see Superman beating the crap out of some Klansmen.'Shazam!' Plot Released.”) It's way too far in the future for me to even think about whether it’ll be good or not. On the other hand, I was absolutely knocked out by the beautiful uncredited artwork which accompanied the piece. I’m just going to go ahead and assume that it’s the work of Evan “Doc” Shaner and hope someone at DC sees it we'll be soon be seeing a Shazam! graphic novel from DC Zoom.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.