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Sunday, December 06, 2020 

Screen Rant says Superman fans are desperate for a change in writers, but replacements aren't guaranteed to be better

Screen Rant's admitting at least partially that Brian Bendis was a negative influence on the Superman franchise, and that he'd be given almost complete control over it by DC editorial speaks volumes. Of course, you couldn't expect them to be completely honest, and the columnist certainly isn't trying:
In September, DC Comics announced that Brian Michael Bendis will be stepping down as head writer of Action Comics and Superman. The DC December solicitations revealed that the long-time Superman scribe will vacate his coveted position after the current story arcs wrap up at the end of the year.

Upon his arrival in 2017, Bendis set to work altering the mythos of arguably the greatest superhero of all-time with some changes celebrated and others condemned. Similarly, news of his imminent exit has elicited reactions ranging from excitement to chagrin. Looking back at Bendis’ bold moves, the question that requires asking is: Why are fans so desperate for a change?

Superman fans were initially optimistic about Bendis’ tenure. His first few issues revealed a strong grasp of Clark’s character and personality. Bendis’ Superman is decisive but wise, strong but humble, just but merciful—the ultimate contradiction. Carefully paced storylines blossomed into giant splash pages featuring epic battles. The stakes were high and the consequences real. Perhaps just as important as Bendis’ representation of Superman was his depiction of the supporting cast. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson became so compelling as to merit their own titles. Ironically, one of his most celebrated decisions, reviving the Legion of Super-heroes, precipitated several divisive ones.
They make it sound like not a single Super-fan - nor Legion fans - could be aware just how reviled Bendis was in the long run during his tenure at Marvel. But there are those who most certainly are, and with a record that includes some very insulting approaches to the ladies in the MCU, why, for example, should we expect him to do much better with any ladies of the DCU he was allowed to script? And taking Lois Lane as an example, for starters, he tried to break up the super-couple (and certainly got rid of the son for the sake of dumping him in LOSH), and amazingly enough, fandom was successful in protesting for Lois' sake to some extent. It didn't prevent the books from remaining terrible under Bendis' mandates, nor get him booted sooner, sadly.
Bendis’ time with DC has elicited as much criticism as it has acclaim. Revisionist turns such as abandoning Krypton's ecological destruction, or the public revelation of Superman’s secret identity have not sat well with long-time readers. Similarly, the introductions of forgettable villains such as Rogol Zaar or the Invisible Mafia have further alienated Bendis from a passionate fan base. But perhaps his most egregious error was aging the eleven-year-old Jon Kent roughly six years in six months so that the dysfunctional Legion of Super-Heroes could be reimagined. These and other uninspired developments have caused Superman acolytes to applaud the upcoming artistic change.
If these pseudo-developments were dreadful, how could he get so much acclaim? Answer: by ways of the same people who write these puff pieces. It's shameful how they fudge everything to create media-style dramatics. Why must consequences be "real" if they involve unpopular directions and poorly scripted villains? Why should we even believe the battles were "epic" by extension? If Screen Rant can't make up their minds, what's the whole point of telling us this?
Brian Michael Bendis established himself as a top-tier talent when he co-created and wrote the Eisner Award-winning police procedural Powers in 2000. Later the same year, Bendis was hired by Marvel to pen Ultimate Spider-Man, which was met with universal critical acclaim. By 2001, he had been assigned Daredevil and the Jessica Jones adaptation Alias. He won Eisner Awards for all four of the aforementioned titles. In November of 2017, Bendis announced he would be leaving Marvel to work exclusively for DC Comics as the new head writer of the Superman line of titles. By most accounts, his time with DC is viewed as less successful than his Marvel period.
If it were "successful", it'd only be in the sense he was allowed to get as far as he did by ways of nepotism, not by writing merit. I notice they failed to mention Avengers: Disassembled, where he did alienate some audience by resorting to the obnoxious cliche of making an established woman (Scarlet Witch) out to be one-dimensionally insane. It's almost hilarious the Eisner awards would grant him their recognition for his overrated tripe, but that's what the industry's cascaded down to for decades. Bendis' influence also enabled the ruin of Supergirl, and Greg Rucka's misuse of Lois Lane, but they don't see fit to mention that. And at the end, in a huge sign of where they really stand, SR says:
Superman is arguably the most difficult comic book hero to write. A fine line must be tread between reinvention and nostalgia. The character must live simultaneously in 1938 and the present, without ever feeling dated or unduly modern. Something as simple as revealing that Clark is Superman can blur the boundaries between the mortal and the deity, and diminish both personas. While Bendis’ slant on Superman may ripen with age, fans are looking to the New Year for a creative team that can bring the sentiment of the past to the Man of Tomorrow.
Wow, looks like SR sure capped this one very badly. How about avoiding partisan politics and keeping it all as subtle as possible, so that fewer will be offended by the sort of rabid leftism that's become a sad staple over the past decade? How about quitting with all the worries over whether Clark Kent's got a personality or not, and just worry about whether the story is entertaining without being too preachy with said modern leftism? How about allowing some right-leaning scribes a chance to script the Man of Steel without making a trivial fuss and gatekeeping, easily the worst thing to bring down mainstream comics? All these petty complaints about characters lacking personality are exactly what brought down a number of other notable DC series, including Green Lantern, far more so than the Flash. You could just as easily make the same arguments about Batman, but today the Masked Manhunter gets a pass from the politically correct because the darkness he's built on represents their twisted platforms, and makes a perfect weapon to market at the Man of Steel's expense. Another clue to what's dragging down mainstream comics.

Now, let's consider what SR speaks of - Super-fans who're looking forward to the next creatives on board, hoping they'll be an improvement. The unfortunate part is that it's not so simple, as DC editorial and management have proven since Dan DiDio got appointed via soulless nepotism. And if the changes Bendis forced upon Supes remain, let's just say the way he does things doesn't make for something great to build upon. I would recommend jettisoning his changes, something which, IIRC, actually happened with Daredevil nearly 15 years after he'd unmasked Matt Murdock. Yet even then, a talented, altruistic writer is needed to actually make things count. I would suggest maybe somebody like Louise Simonson, who did after all contribute to Superman during the 90s (although that Death & Return storyline from 1993 was something decidedly uncalled for, and she shouldn't have attached her name to that). On the other hand, I would not want somebody like Rucka on board, as he's increasingly been since the mid-2000s several times. The farther away he could be kept from the Man of Steel, the better. The problem is that today, when there's too many ideologues running amok in showbiz, it becomes very difficult to look forward to what's ahead for the Man of Steel when you realize the next scribe around the corner could be just as ideologically driven by leftism as the other, and the editors aren't going to rein them in, nor do they have the courage to.

That's why, depressing as it is to think about, if DC really is bound to close within another year, the sad reality is that the Man of Steel is unlikely to get the happy ending he deserves in comicdom, nor will other DCU casts. It's the same for Marvel's creations too. Mainly because the SJWs running the store have no intention of letting that happen, and definitely not from an artistic viewpoint. Real life, regrettably enough, does not guarantee a good ending is in the cards.

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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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