For Brian Michael Bendis, the feeling he gets writing Superman is actually comparable to his years guiding Marvel Comics' Spider-Man.
Both heroes give him a sense of hope for humanity.
But Bendis wants Superman fans to know the comparison pretty much stops there, as he's not making the type of major continuity changes to the character that he once brought to his legendary run on Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man or the more recent Spider-Man.
In fact, as Bendis launches his new Man of Steel mini-series later this month, the writer wants the story to fit into current Superman continuity as it leads into his run on DC's ongoing Super-books starting in July.
And no, as long as he's addressing continuity changes, Bendis says he doesn't want to destroy Lois Lane (despite fan accusations to the contrary).
That said, Bendis has already messed with one of Superman's core concepts: The writer's Action Comics #1000 story earlier this month featured a villain named Rogol Zaar who claimed he (and not a natural disaster) was behind the destruction of Superman's home planet, Krypton. That story thread will feature heavily in the plot of Man of Steel, a mini-series that DC has hyped as having "devastating repercussions."
So what's behind the possible change to Krypton's historical destruction? And what does Bendis' story have to do with Moses and Cleveland, Ohio? Newsarama talked to Bendis to find out more about his plans for Superman, his feelings about Lois and Jon, and his launch of Man of Steel.
Newsarama: Brian, let's just start up front clarifying what this series will do to Superman. The implication of the Action Comics #1000 story, combined with some of DC's promotional copy, is that you're shaking up Superman's continuity a bit.
Brian Michael Bendis: Well, actually, we're not shaking up his continuity. We're continuing on with the continuity as is, which is something that people are worried about, so I always like to tell them that. I do know, historically, the Man of Steel limited series, the John Byrne one, is one of the biggest reboots in the history of culture. So when they the words, they assume that might be what we're going to do, but that isn't the case.
There was nothing broken in the continuity. There's nothing broken in the character or his relationships.
But there was a lot of great new story to be told with where they are right now. So that is what we're going to start in the Man of Steel story.
A big bomb is going to drop on them, but it's going to be within the story that's being told.
So if you've been a fan of Superman this whole time, great. Here we go. If you're hopping on board, it'll be very clear what the situation is and what needs to be done, no matter what your level of Superman expertise is.
Nrama: OK, so that clarified, let's back up. What drew you to Superman? I think most people in your position, coming to DC for the first time, have gravitated toward Batman first. Why Superman?
Bendis: I was just looking at this weird, "What if I came to DC, what would I do?" And it just seemed to me that Superman was calling me.
It wasn't a thought, like, that I thought over and over again in my head, but it's sitting there going, "OK, we're coming to DC. What do you want?" And I'm like "… Superman."
What I actually said was, if it ever becomes available, that would be what I want.
I did not know about Action Comics #1000. I did not know that they were going to have a place at Action Comics #1000 where they could start a new era of Superman. And they were already deciding to do that before I got there.
So when I said Superman, he called me up the next day and goes, "Listen, I don't want to be greedy, but Action Comics #1000," and he didn't know that Superman #400 is, like, my favorite DC comic.
So I of course was like we'll move heaven and earth to make this work. And everything just started to snowball.
Nrama: As you said, you're not changing the current continuity, aside from those red trunks that I know you're going to explain at some point. But you've still got Jon and Lois in Superman's family, and he's still working at The Daily Planet. But there was a surprise in Action Comics #1000 about the destruction of Krypton. Of course, we don't know if the villain is telling the truth…
Bendis: Yeah! He could be just sh*t-talking! He could just be a mean a$$hole who says mean things to people.
Nrama: That said, it feels like there's a good chance that he did. What drew you to something like this? Was it a case of, well, if you're going to shake Superman within the story, this is about as core to his being as you can get?
Bendis: Yeah, no, I was re-reading a lot of stories, and reading a lot of essays about Siegel and Shuster and a lot of think pieces as well. There's this outstanding introduction by Ray Bradbury, I think, in Man of Steel, the John Byrne mini-series, an excellent article about what Superman is and what he represents.
I started just really thinking about it.
I'm Jewish, and as a Jewish boy from Cleveland, you hear all the time about how Superman was created by a Jewish boy from Cleveland. So thinking about that, and thinking about how, people go, oh, you know the Superman story is the Moses story.
And I'm like, no, actually, him rocketing to Earth like the baby Moses went down the river is similar, but Superman escaped a destruction that's an accident. Moses escaped a plague that was being put on his people.
Nrama: OK, I think I see where you're going.
Bendis: Yeah, it's the survivor aspect of it. Surviving a natural disaster versus surviving a cleansing is a completely different situation, mentally.
And that's something where, actually, one of the other characters, Martian Manhunter relates to him early on. He's like, someone once said that we were connected by this tragedy, but our tragedies were different, but now they might be similar. It's a different kind of tragedy, and you might not be ready for it.
Nrama: So that idea, of the Moses story and the "survivor" aspect of Superman's story, drew you to the destruction itself?
Bendis: Yeah. It's challenging Clark's spirit, it's challenging his character.
That's where it came from. What would challenge him to the deepest part of his core.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about this copy that's floating out there in a solicitation that says something about the "fate of Lois and Jon." I think readers who love those characters were a little alarmed. You love those characters too, right?
Bendis: Oh, I love them! I absolutely love them! And I'm so excited about the tons of Twitter apologies I'm going to get in a few months when people see how much I love them and how I'm not going to kill Lois Lane in the most gruesome way possible just so Superman can laugh hysterically, which is what I'm accused of.
Nrama: Oh, the assumptions of some comic book fans...
Bendis: No, but it's so funny! Because if you follow my work, of course I love Lois Lane! I love Lois Lane!
So yeah, I'm excited to prove myself. But that is OK. That is what life is about. You must prove yourself over and over again. And I will do so again.
Nrama: OK, another question about this destruction of Krypton. The Syfy TV series Krypton is dealing with the impending destruction of Krypton. This isn't tied into that in any way?
Bendis: No, this is a different story completely.
I would never insult other talent. They're telling their story. We're telling ours.
I think, generally, what I'm getting a sense of, from people higher up, is that we are creating a very robust Superman experience for people who love the character. Like, we're complementing each other in a very unique way, which was nice, because that was a happy accident if anything.
Nrama: You're adding this new villain we met in Action Comics #1000.
Bendis: But more than just a villain. I'm adding all kinds of protagonists and antagonists in the Daily Planet, on the streets of Metropolis, in the government of Metropolis. There's going to be tons of new people for Superman to interact with.
And with that will come tons of new stories for him to be part of that he hasn't been part of before.
Nrama: OK, we've talked about the fears of long-time fans of Superman. But what about people who know your work. What can you tell them about Brian Bendis on Superman?
Bendis: Yeah, the reality is that Superman represents something that we don't get a lot of, which is just unfettered hope. That's just people going, you know what? We can do better. Let's do better. Let's just do better. Today is going to be the best day ever. Let's do better.
And that's what Superman does. He is that of us.
He was created at a time when the world couldn't have been more fractured and broken. And it was a time when we didn't have constant updates. You had to wait to find out what was happening in the war. Right?
So we're not in a war right now, but we are in a very fractured, uncomfortable time for a lot of people. And it doesn't really matter what you believe in. Things are weird. Things don't feel the same.
And I just genuinely feel better about the world when I'm writing Superman. And I hope that gets across to people when reading it, because it does feel to me like it's a very, soothing, helpful thing to read about someone who just believes in us and believes in our best efforts and our best nature.
And writing about it feels good. And I hope reading about it feels as empowering as well.
I had the same thing with Spider-Man, because there's something about that character and Superman that just makes you act like, in your day-to-day life, you can't be an idiot because you know with great power comes great responsibility and that truth, justice and the American way matter.
These things connect to me on a deep level. And I take them with me into my real life. So I hope people reading them can do it as well.