While past reboots of Superman have put a greater focus on the Man of Steel’s life as reporter Clark Kent, newly hired DC Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis’ take on the character will be closely tied to the ideals of good journalism, the scribe explained during a panel at this year’s SXSW.
“I actually spent the day shadowing an Oregonian [journalist], just to show you how important the daily planet is to the stories we’ll be telling,” Bendis told Geeks Of Doom in response to a question about how the current climate of “fake news” and misinformation currently plaguing society might impact the storytelling. “On top of that, Journalism [is] under siege in my lifetime like it’s never been before.”
Bendis went on to explain that he’s also really fascinated by that aspect of the character’s life, largely because so much of what’s happened to Clark Kent wasn’t really something he chose — e.g., being sent to Earth in a spaceship as a child, having super powers that set him apart from others, etc.
“He was sent here, choices were made for him. The biggest choice he made for himself was to be a reporter. He doesn’t have to do anything, so of all the jobs he could have he thinks he needs this one. Why? Because truth. There are parts of truth and justice that Superman can’t punch his way through, but Clark can reveal through journalism and storytelling. As a writer, and I have a lot of friends that are journalists, I deeply understand that connection of having that perfect day of telling the truth today — or telling a story that people needed to hear, and being the only one who could have done it. Training yourself to do that on top of everything else… [we] will be diving into that head-first.”
Long-time Bendis fans may recall that the writer is no stranger to providing commentary about the importance of good journalism via his run on Ultimate Spider-Man. But in my mind, Peter Parker doesn’t embody the ideals of journalism in quite the same way Clark Kent does. Thus, I’m pretty excited to see how the story unfolds.
The writer also said those in the DC Comics office were surprised to hear that the character he most wanted to tackle wasn’t Batman, a natural fit given Bendis’ epic work doing pulp crime stories with a naturally gritty vibe that seems to work perfectly for heroes like Daredevil.
“I’m a little Jewish boy from Cleveland, and all you’re told is Superman and rock and roll came from here,” Bendis told the panel. Soon after that initial conversation with DC, he found out that he’d be the one to reconnect Superman with his iconic red trunks, which disappeared in the last two reboots of the character in an effort to line up with Superman’s costume in the recent big budget films. “All over the world I had people tweeting me about other people’s underwear,” he joked.
But even more than fulfilling a childhood dream, Bendis cited the need for what Superman stands for in today’s society as another big motivation: “It’s time for Superman, and writing a character that exudes hope to everyone around him, and the burden that it carries. We’ve seen it with public figures before that represent an idea that’s larger than themselves, it’s difficult. We’re going to experience what that feels like, and what it’s like for him personally.”
Bendis will make his debut in Action Comics #1000 with a beautiful 12-page story illustrated by DC co-publisher Jim Lee. The story will serve as a jumping-off point for the forthcoming Man of Steel 6-issue miniseries that will feature art from an iconic DC artist for each issue.
“It teases everything you’re going to need to know ahead of Man of Steel,” Bendis said. “We drop a bomb on the very last page about the Superman mythology that will have people talking, hopefully, more about that than his underpants.”