Now that Brian Michael Bendis has established his approach to Superman in both his Man of Steel limited series and the ongoing Superman title, he's tackling the character's family and work life in Metropolis with Action Comics.
With this week's Action Comics #1001, Bendis is kicking off his run with artist Patrick Gleason on the series, which he said focuses on relationships and street-level stories.
Following up on our recent discussion with Bendis about the Superman series, we talked to the writer about the sort of street-level, relationship-focused approach to Action Comics.
Newsarama: Brian, readers have probably gotten used to the way you've been writing Superman in all the comic books that have come out so far, but how does Action Comics present a different tone, particularly working with Pat Gleason on art?
Brian Michael Bendis: I have to say, Pat was one of the big joys of my life when I first got to DC. I was like, "Wow, this guy's amazing!"
They offered a bunch of names, but Pat really stood out to me as someone who, he just feels like Michael Golden to me, in the best possible way. There's just something very unique about the way he designs the page.
I think why a lot of people have gravitated to his work on Superman so much is that he just fills the page with him. It just looks like Superman has to be on that page. It's quite beautiful.
But yeah, what he's also done is created a Metropolis that I just absolutely adore.
We talked about this at great length, that compared to Gotham City, Metropolis has more room to develop. You know what I mean? More places that could be turned into things.
So what we're doing in Action Comics is telling a story about this invisible mafia that's been running right under Superman's nose without him ever knowing it.
And how they did that, and why they did it, and why they did it in Metroplis with Superman here - all of that is a story that's going to unfold right away, including brand new characters and some classic characters.
We're going to let you know what's been going on in the streets while Superman's been busy in Justice League.
Nrama: Would you say it's more street-level than Superman?
Bendis: Yeah, yeah.
Nrama: But it's Superman, so…
Bendis: But Superman was a street-level comic in its earliest days. When Clark was out there fighting the fights, he was punching gangsters in the face.
So that is in its DNA.
So yeah, it's going to have some pretty cool crime stuff.
But it's also, who could do this behind Superman's back?
Nrama: And think they could actually get away with it.
Bendis: Yeah, what kind of mentality is that?
Nrama: So is Action Comics the place where we might see more of the familiar supporting characters from Metropolis?
Bendis: Absolutely. The characters we introduced in Man of Steel will be part of the series, and The Daily Planet will be front-and-center in Action Comics, and we'll see a lot of new villains. There are a lot of new toys we're putting in the toy box to mix up with the old ones.
Also, there will be a lot of guest stars, including the Question.
Nrama: I heard that! It was something fans wanted, right?
Bendis: The Question is the most requested character since I got to DC. So the Question shows up very early on in our Action Comics run.
Nrama: I can just imagine your dialogue for that character.
Bendis: Yeah, yeah, it was so much fun! It was great.
Nrama: So if you're focusing on Metropolis and The Daily Planet in this book, is Action Comics going to be where we see a focus on the "Clark Kent" part of Superman's life?
Bendis: Absolutely. One of my favorite things I've discovered about Clark Kent is that he's one of these characters where a lot of greatness was thrust upon him. He was sent here to have superpowers and to do this thing. Be Superman. Do this. Right?
So he's risen to that challenge.
But the things he's chosen to add to it, the things he's chosen to do with his life, when he actually doesn't have to do anything with his life, but he chose to do something, he chose to be a reporter.
He chose to find a way to reveal truth. And my feeling is that he did this because this is a way he can get to truth that Superman can't get to.
You can't always punch your way into the truth or X-ray vision yourself to truth.
Just because you know something's true, it doesn't mean you can convince other people that it's true, right? So even if Superman finds out that a guy murdered someone, he still has to prove it. He still has to prove it to others.
So we're looking at Clark being there to do the great work that Superman can't always do, and also finding that balance, that mixture with him and Lois.
Nrama: We talked last time about how DC wanted a new perspective when you came onto the Superman books. Are there some things in Action Comics that arose from kind of looking at things that way?
Bendis: Yeah, there's a couple things that Dan DiDio has pointed at and said, hey, what do you think of that? And one of those ideas is actually going to be my second arc of Action Comics. It's something we were cooking with Checkmate, Spyral and Leviathan. So we'll be dealing with that going into the first year as well.
Nrama: You mentioned Lois in our last interview, about how there’s some conflict after she returns. But we've talked before about how you have some ideas about their married life that you want to explore. Is this where we'll see their relationship, in Action Comics?
Bendis: Yeah, we'll have some very fun Mr. and Mrs. Smith type adventures with the two of them that I'm very excited about. And you know, they were living a normal family life, but they're not a normal family. There's nothing normal about them. They have a child with special needs. They have a family with special needs.
Everything about them is unique.
So why are you doing what everyone else does?
With that question, we're going to kind of re-establish their relationship and kind of be, like, the modern family of the DC Universe.
Nrama: Wait, are they going to be like The Jetsons or something?
Bendis: You’ll see. It's a work in progress, and one of my favorite things. And you as family person know this - it's constantly being built. It's constantly being worked on. It's constantly evolving. So that's what they are going to do.
I really want to explore the family dynamic, and you know, how much they love each other. It's like, OK, we love each other. That's a given. So let's figure this out. And that's a lot of fun to write.