If you are living under a rock (or don’t care about comic books at all) you might not be aware that writer Brian Michael Bendis has left Marvel and signed an exclusive deal with DC. I’m here to explain a few things to you: who he is, why this is significant to the industry, and my personal feelings on the matter.
BMB has been with Marvel for over 17 years, which means he joined the company when it was still recovering from the comic industry crash of 1996. At the recommendation of Joe Quesada, Marvel hired Bendis for “Ultimate Spider-Man”, which debuted in 2000, becoming a best seller of the company. What followed was a long string of successful titles, diversifying Marvel’s content and leading into legendary events like “Secret Invasion” and “House of M”. During his tenure, Bendis would create characters that would rise through the ranks of the marvel universe, and solidify themselves as A-listers; characters like Jessica Jones and Miles Morales, and more recently Riri Williams. That, in a tiny nutshell, is Bendis’ Marvel career. Dozens of titles over the course of nearly 2 decades made him a driving force for Marvel’s rise back to the top of the pile, and through its growth into the TV/Film realm and acquisition by Disney.
So why is this important? Writers and artists move from company to company all the time. While this is true, Bendis has been a sort of spiritual rudder for Marvel comics for most his career, and to suddenly leave that for the company’s biggest competitor and sign an EXCLUSIVE contract with them is definitely a big move and will have long term effects on both companies over the next few years.
Which leads to my next point…my personal feelings on the matter.
There are *some* comic fans who are hardline on their comic choices. They support one company, or the other. Batman or Ironman. No in-between. For a long time you could count me in that camp, but no longer. But because these people exist, a lot of voices on the internet claimed that this move is a death sentence for Marvel, which I disagree with wholeheartedly. Bendis is an excellent writer, yes, and his loss will most certainly leave a void at Marvel that will be tough to fill. But the amount of young, talented writers they have is nothing to scoff at, and their veterans are hardly going to suddenly stop producing strong content because a peer has left.
And you can’t forget what this means for DC; a company with plenty of powerhouse writers has another legend in its pantheon, when DC is at the strongest its been in years. But Bendis isn’t just a good writer of existing characters, he is also brilliant at reimagining a character and adding a fresh take or voice to a mythos. He can shake up the status quo. Can you imagine a Bendis headed Martian Manhunter? Or Legion of Superheroes? I personally really want him to take on Superboy Prime myself. These are all things we can have now, and they are good things. When a comic company does well, we all benefit from the residual effects.
My only complaint with the move is the “exclusive” part of the contract. I understand the need for stability, from both an employee and employer stand-point, but one of my favorite things about comic creators is that they can work for whoever they like. An excellent Marvel writer can create and independent book with Image. A great DC artist can go to Boom! Studios. Dark Horse, IDW, Heavy Metal, everything in between. All options for writers and artists unless they are in an exclusive contract. While Bendis has been with Marvel for such a long time, great work came from him before that in the form of Sam and Twitch with Image Comics (detectives from the Spawn universe) and Powers (which would eventually be folded into a Marvel imprint) to name a few. Not that it really sours my opinion of the move but I always love seeing a creator do an independent book that they’ve always wanted to make. The passion projects can be some of their best works.
Some people have treated Bendis leaving a 17 year long career with Marvel like Brett Favre going to the Vikings, which strikes a chord with me as a Packers fan. But while football team rivalries are steeped in mutual hatred, comic book companies don't need that. If it’s good, it’s good, and we are all better for it.
For more on our thoughts and feels on the matter, check out our latest episode, The Bendis Exodus, available now on Youtube or iTunes.
- Dr. Barrie (not a real doctor)