As anyone with an eye towards the comic book world has seen by now, Brian Michael Bendis, the creator of characters like Miles Morales, Jessica Jones, and Riri Williams, is leaving Marvel after seventeen years to join DC Comics under an exclusive deal. It’s one of the biggest pieces of comics news of the year, and the implications are astonishing given the breadth and impact of Bendis’ work at Marvel. To say that his disappearance will be felt is an understatement. But the thing that interests me today is what is it that Bendis brings to the table at DC, and what he can do there that he can’t at Marvel.
Currently DC has been undergoing a creative resurgence with DC Rebirth that’s seen an attempt to restore a lot of what the New 52 broke, as well as a great deal of experimentation with its output. This has included books such as New Super-Man, Deathstroke, and Detective Comics, which, among other books have included diverse cast members. Given what Bendis brought to the table at Marvel with repeated successes at injecting diverse characters into the framework of the Marvel Universe, ones that have managed to make the jump into mediums apart from comics, it’s easy to see why Bendis’ notoriety for newer characters like Miles Morales, Riri Williams, or Jessica Jones would prove to be a boon for DC. It also allows Bendis to breathe life into older characters like he did for Luke Cage and Spider-Woman, as well as maybe even create new characters. Given that DC has been taking a great deal of care in boosting and creating newer characters like Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz, Kenan Kong, New 52 Wally West, and Tanya Spears it’s a safe bet that there wouldn’t be much pushback for Bendis to do what he did at Marvel there. Given that the deal also includes working with DC’s cross-media properties (i.e. movies and television), there’ll be a great deal of opportunity for his work to carry over beyond comics.
Now as far as what Bendis could do with pre-existing characters at DC? The mind opens up with possibilities. As far as untapped properties, the one that springs the mind is Young Justice. Given the teasing for the characters associated with that team, as well as the cross-media possibilities offered by the TV show, and Bendis’ own experience with the “Amazing Friends” era of Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s a safe bet.
There’s also, of course, the easy answer of giving him a Batman book. However, given the current strength of the line, one wouldn’t want to see anyone displaced in the process. The solution being to give Bendis the soon-to-conclude All-Star Batman book. It gives Bendis a great deal of leverage in both not being beholden to events, as well as to act as a personal tastemaker for the type of story he wants to tell as opposed to following a lead. There are other possibilities like Justice Society of America, Blue Beetle, and Cameron Chase, but the beauty of Bendis moving to the DC Universe is that all of this will be a first for him (editor’s note: excepting an “Elseworlds” short story Bendis did two decades ago). What you can’t argue about as far as Bendis’ contributions to the Marvel Universe is that he’s consistently worked to upend the game board. Like it or not, there’s usually been some form of lasting change, and that’s something that DC really needs again.
Now, there’s nothing to suggest any of this is concrete. After all, there’s been nothing revealed about what he’ll be working on, when he’ll even start, or what shape it will take. But there’s a wealth of possibilities, as well as what type of distribution, or even what medium he can work on at DC. At this point all that can be said is that there’s a sea change at hand for both Marvel and for DC. There’s a great deal of opportunity and a paradigm shift offered by bringing Bendis into the fold, and one hopes that it won’t be wasted.