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Friday, April 20, 2018 

No, Bendis cannot save Superman

The New York Times wrote about Brian Bendis' move to DC after working for over a decade at Marvel, and receiving the keys to the Man of Steel. Predictably, no challenging questions asked about his past resume, though the beginning tells what's wrong with DC's approach:
Last March, DC Entertainment, the arm of Warner Bros. that controls the commercial rights to the comic book icons Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, among other superheroes, decided it was time to brag about its newest hire.
Bragging is a pretty poor way to go about business. In Japan, it's frowned upon, along with excessive shows of confidence, which is just where DC and Bendis are erring.
On advertising posters placed in popular comic book stores around the country and on full-page ads within its books, like Wonder Woman and Justice League, a smiling, triumphant Superman, his hands at his hips, was standing alongside a chunk of large, bold type that announced: “BENDIS IS COMING!”

Besides promoting Mr. Bendis, the ad was a homage to perhaps the last hire from Marvel that was this significant: Jack Kirby, in the early 1970s. Mr. Kirby was one of the creators of, among other characters, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther, the Avengers, Hulk, Thor and the X-Men. Back then, in an attempt to lure Marvel’s loyal fan base to DC, the company blared, “KIRBY IS COMING.”
But results were mixed, and while Kirby's creations have their significance, the books launched in the early 70s did not all last long. New Gods ran a year or so at best, and while the casts were revived a few years later, they still didn't find the huge audience I'm sure DC was hoping for that could enable them to run longer, more sustained years in publication. As for Bendis, I honestly hope the wider audience will recognize he's not a messiah, but there's sadly so many gullible people out there who'll still buy his books no matter what. On which note:
Today, Mr. Bendis, 50, is one of a handful of writers and artists (including Jason Aaron, Gail Simone and Scott Snyder) whom readers will follow from title to title, and whose interpretations can completely help redefine a character and provide plotlines for television and film.
See, this too is a problem, and was when J. Michael Straczynski was writing Spider-Man. He had this loyalist fanbase who'd read almost anything he wrote, but didn't stick around once he'd left, so what was the point if they're not reading for story merit, but for the individual helming the series? As for Simone, she may still get a job or two at the majors, but she long ago ceased being relevant after she went along with some of the worst mandates they had to offer.

And if their "interpretations" are meant more for providing plotlines for other mediums like films and games, then it only makes their work laughable.
“Think about how much Bendis has shaped what is the current Marvel world,” said Sean Howe, author of “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.” “He is in the position to have a big effect on DC.”
Wow, I'm disappointed with Howe. He once made some good points about why buying a comic out of ideological reasons like LGBT beliefs is ludicrous. So why, when Bendis, who pulled those very stunts with Iceman, comes into the picture, Howe suddenly becomes all mealy-mouthed? This is not how to improve a collapsing medium at all.
There’s no denying the effect Mr. Bendis had on the Disney-owned Marvel, but also on popular culture. He reinvigorated Daredevil, restarted the Avengers in 2004 and introduced Jessica Jones, the dark, foul-mouthed superpowered private investigator who is now known by millions of binge watchers through her onscreen adaptation on Netflix. That same streaming service also features “Luke Cage,” who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Bendis’ interpretation of the street-level hero.

“There are very few creators who can be an impact player from the moment they walk in the door,” said Jim Lee, the DC co-publisher. “And Brian is one of those people. As soon as he walked in, you knew he was going to make a difference. Not only the attention he brings, but the quality of story he tells.”
Yeah, quality that dictated Scarlet Witch be regressed to a crazy harpy, Tigra get assaulted by The Hood for cheapskate reasons, Jean Grey made to look bad, Iceman changed to homosexual, and goodness knows what other horrible steps Bendis took at Marvel. It's honestly an embarrassment some of the stories he was involved in, like Civil War, were used as the basis for movies. Someday, people are going to put two and two together, and discover those Avengers movies relied on some awful comics-based scripts for crafting movies. Ah, and so the reason Luke Cage has been made to look bald with a beard is because that's Bendis' idea of how a black protagonist should be envisioned, no matter how stereotypical it is. But IMO, it's nothing more than an insult to Roy Thomas, John Romita Sr. and Archie Goodwin's vision for Luke when they first created him in the Bronze Age. After all the hard work they did, this is what some modern PC advocates bring it all down to.
There are those who have declared the fate of any superhero on the page irrelevant, given the financial success of movies and television and video games based on those same characters. But as John Jackson Miller, a comic book writer and former trade magazine editor who tracks industry circulation for comichron.com, points out, the death of the medium is a myth — for now. From 2011 to 2016, there was intense growth in sales across print and digital — largely because of individual comic books acting as a outlet for graphic novels. In 2016, sales in the industry hovered around $1.08 billion. And while numbers for last year are expected to show a decline in overall sales (most notably with Marvel), those numbers will still exceed $1 billion.

“Comics readers — the ones buying the monthly comics — are the focus group,” Mr. Miller said. “They are the ones with the early access fee to get into what’s going to be hot, what’s going to be in theaters, in video games, in Netflix shows.”
This glosses over the decline in sales experienced in the past 2 years or so, coupled with 50-plus specialty stores closing down for lack of sales. Besides, a lot of the comics generating sales now are actually coming from the smaller companies, as readers, amazingly enough, are starting to wake up and realize quality won't improve at the Big Two if they just keep buying out of habit and the quixotic notion the pamphlets will one day become valuable on the speculator market.
Mr. Bendis has not been shy about his desire to move beyond word balloons. He is currently writing an X-Men spinoff movie for Fox to be directed by the “Deadpool” director Tim Miller. His original character, Scarlet, which he created with the artist Alex Maleev, has been picked up by a television network that Mr. Bendis said he couldn’t yet name.

He’s fully aware, however, of the limitations of comics. After all, to date, “Black Panther” has made $667 million domestically, and become a pinpoint in popular culture — but that won’t mean $667 million in new comic book sales for the Black Panther character.

“That has never has happened,” Mr. Bendis said, referring to the bump effect of a popular film. “Since the Christopher Reeve Superman movie, there’s just people who will never read anything — comics, magazines, books; they love their television and film.

“And that’s the way they want to experience these characters,” Mr. Bendis added. “But inside that mix is a group of people, usually young people like myself when I was a kid, that finds a character that captivates you, and someone says you should read the comic, and all of a sudden you’re reading the comic and are a die-hard fan of comics. You become a die-hard fan of the medium.”
But not everyone's ever become a diehard fan of Bendis' work, and those who did read his work have evidently since been discouraged, as it's become clearer than ever he's a leftist who, while he may not resort to the same approach as Dan Slott on social media, he's still pushed an agenda in some way or other, and never apologized for any of the smuttier work he did at Marvel.

And did he ever ponder that the reason movies haven't translated into skyrocketing sales for comics is also because of the outmoded business models of pamphlets now reaching 4 dollars or more, and a failure to reformat directly for the trade collections? Why must the industry insist on sticking like glue to a format that's now proving discouraging for consumers who could be wary of the price, and the story's failure to justify it? Alterna Comics may sell for less on their single issues, but it's still ridiculous we continue to see the format - even miniseries - coming out like it just has to be done that way, and only that way, and company wide crossovers make the situation worse.
“Even if Superman is not our best seller,” Mr. DiDio said, “the success and the positioning of the company works because of Superman. If Superman is working well, the entire line seems to be working well. If it’s not working well, then it seems like something’s out of whack. It’s intensely important for us to make sure that the Superman franchise is in good hands.”
Not because of story merit, huh? I'm sorry, but not only do the majority of their titles not sell hot, Superman obviously isn't guaranteeing tremendous success either. And if they wanted to ensure the Man of Steel would be in good hands, they wouldn't have surrendered him to Bendis, what with his entitled belief in deconstructing once popular products.
When DC released the news on Twitter in November, outlets from industry websites to The Washington Post reacted and speculated on the move. After all, here was a man who had openly taken his shots at DC over the years, specifically questioning the company’s decision to entirely “reboot” the story lines in nearly all of its comics in 2011. And he was vociferous in his criticisms of the bleak and commercially disappointing films “Man of Steel” and “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

“I told Marvel that I don’t see this as going over to the competition,” Mr. Bendis said. “I told them I was going to the other side of the place that’s in charge of curating this beautiful medium I love so much and keeping these characters alive and vital and relevant.”
Now isn't that rich coming from a man who foisted crossovers like Avengers: Disassembled and House of M upon the Marvel casts, along with incredibly dumb declarations forced into the mouth of Scarlet Witch like "no more mutants". If they really had such a problem with having thousands upon thousands of mutant humans in X-Men and the rest of the MCU, all they had to do was quietly drop them and just pare it all down to several dozen. I'm betting he never dared criticize Joe Quesada for throwing out the Spider-Marriage and making Gwen Stacy look bad either (the whole notion of Gwen sleeping with Norman Osborn practically reeks of shock value). Let's also consider he's apparently retconning Krypton's history just to suit the modern belief only darkness taken to extremes makes for suitable storytelling.
Mr. Bendis knows how other people have struggled with the character. Over the years, Superman has been stripped of his powers, split in half into red and blue versions, even killed. In the 1990s, he was “reborn” with what can best be described as a mullet. Now, Mr. Bendis — beginning with a 12-page story in Action Comics No. 1000 — will take on the task that many have tried and failed at: Invigorating a character that many see as, frankly, boring, without betraying the core of who Superman is.

“When you strip everything away on Superman you’re basically stripping away all the ridiculous stuff and getting to the real truths,” Mr. Bendis said. “It’s about making your own family versus the family you’re born with, about finding out who you are versus where you were put.
So, does that mean he believes Krypton's destruction via earthquakes caused by radiation is ridiculous? Well, if he wants to retcon the premise so an alien monster named Rogel did it, I can only assume he does. Predictably, they make it sound like Superman's the problem, and less so the assigned writers. Why don't the company wide crossovers like Armageddon, Underworld Unleashed, Bloodlines, The Final Night and Our Worlds at War count as a fault? Some of them were plain trash, and in recent times, Marvel's certainly caught up in terms of poor quality, with atrocities like Civil War and the repellent Secret Empire foisted on the MCU. Speaking of which, did Bendis ever protest turning Steve Rogers into a nazi collaborator? Probably not. The only reason he supposedly criticized DC's directions is because he wasn't working for them at the time. But if he was, the chances he'd complain are far less.

And then, at the end, lo and behold, Bendis repeats one of his most troubling statements of recent:
“These are big, big issues that we deal with,” he continued. “Truth, justice and the American way. These things are under siege. This is the world we live in. These are not absolute things anymore. These are things worth fighting for.”
As noted before, it's apparent he sees them as "under siege" by the Trump crowd, and only worth fighting for when it's coming from a liberal perspective. Well, if that's how he wants it, then I see no reason to waste money on his Superman run. He may not be one of those creators who's antagonized the audience directly, but trolling the audience in the comics proper and the press is still reprehensible, and if that's how he's going to go about his business, he's not worthy of writing/editing the Man of Steel.

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This post begins by saying that bragging and excessive shows of confidence are bad business practices and criticizes DC for them.

It ends by saying that we should not read Bendis because he implicitly criticized Donald Trump.

Trump's outstanding personality trait is bragging! You have to admire the guy because he has the self-confidence to go about it on such an excessive, over-the-top scale. I guess bragging is okay when it is done by people you like about things you support, but it still seems weirdly inconsistent.

So in the narrow mind of the above SJW, all Trump does is brag, and no left-wing politician could possibly do this, not even Jimmy Carter, especially after the disaster he let happen in Iran. Yep, tell us about it, please. But kindly create your very own blog and don't exploit other people's sites to do it if that's how you feel. I honestly don't see why that's so hard.

New Gods ran about two years, not one, the related title Mr Miracle a few months longer. A small point, but it diminishes the importance of one of the best and most sophisticated comics of the early 70s to describe it the way it is described in this post, and shows disrespect for the hard work that Kirby put into creating it.

One of America's big problems is that left and right live in hermetically sealed worlds, each getting their own version of the news from their own sources. It is important for the two families to read each other's blogs and share comments with each other.

"One of America's big problems is that left and right live in hermetically sealed worlds, each getting their own version of the news from their own sources. It is important for the two families to read each other's blogs and share comments with each other."

Which is why you come here and attack Avi for expressing his opinion.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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