Column by: Max Mallet
For many of us here at TC, the past year has felt like Bizarro-world in many respects. Here’s proof positive that someone has altered our timeline:
The announcement has had a week to breathe, and still Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil) hasn’t divulged any details about what book titles he’ll be writing. With that in mind, let’s examine five possible character runs he could author at the start of his DC tenure:
1. Green Arrow
The current Green Arrow run by Benjamin Percy (Green Arrow, Teen Titans) is one of the most well-received in the DC Rebirth era. It’s very much in-step with DC’s brighter, friendlier take on most of its characters. However, the Emerald Archer is a character that’s ripe for a darker revamp, one that will set it apart from the pack among DC titles. That’s because Green Arrow has lots in common with a famous alley-lurking Marvel super-hero whose early 2000s run won Bendis rich acclaim.
Like Daredevil, Green Arrow is somewhat akin to a poor man’s Batman: a street-level character with amazing abilities (but not super-powers) who thrives as a shadow-stalker. Additionally, both characters, with their penchant for working low to the ground, often serve as anti-greed symbology. Hell, Green Arrow is a blatant modern-day take on Robin Hood, and the Emerald Archer’s inspiration is as relevant today as it has ever been. Lastly, both characters underwent something of a gritty golden age during the 1980s, and both occasionally flirt with brutality. If Bendis can reproduce the pulpy noir that made Hell’s Kitchen such a treat to read about in the early 2000s, then DC aficionados could reap similar rewards with Green Arrow’s Seattle adventures
Truthfully, Batgirl has been something of an artistic yoyo since the beginning of the decade. Gail Simone’s (Batgirl, Secret Six) run was a beautiful and unapologetically dark take on Barbara Gordon’s return to the cape and cowl. After five trade paperbacks, Brenden Fletcher (Gotham Academy, Black Canary), Cameron Stewart (Catwoman, Motor Crush) and Babs Tarr (Black Canary, Motor Crush) took over Batgirl, opting for a story that was clearly aimed at a younger audience. While both runs have been well-received, the latter feels disjointed from the brilliant foundation Simone had built. The most recent take on Batgirl favors the Fletcher/Stewart/Tarr track, but without much of the critical acclaim. Bendis is just the writer to take over Barbara’s story, as the man’s no stranger to writing female characters that have overcome great personal trauma.
Jessica Jones: Alias is arguably Bendis’ crowning achievement. The series put the private-eye-super-hero in the comic book spotlight over a decade before the general public knew her name (thank you, Netflix). Her story is powerful, deep with emotional scars and character development in that way shares similarities with Simone’s Batgirl run. If Bendis could write a masterful story with Jessica Jones and the Purple Man, imagine the interplay he could produce between Batgirl and the Joker.
3. Swamp Thing
Alan Moore’s (V for Vendetta, Watchmen) take on this reclusive character is one of the most celebrated character runs in comic book history. Swamp Thing is one of the characters that defined a rich 1980s decade for DC characters. There’s no parallel between him and anything Bendis did at Marvel, but this match is intriguing nonetheless. It’s a less obvious choice because the character doesn’t easily lend itself to conventional storytelling and team-ups with A-list super-heroes. But, he’s easily one of DC’s most underutilized and underrated characters. That’s why writing Swamp Thing story could be a bold, eye-catching move for Bendis as he settles in at DC.
Like other characters on this list, John Constantine rose to glory in the 1980s through rich and often bloody storytelling. Furthermore, the current Hellblazer run is somewhat alienating to fans of the beloved and brooding Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys) series. Much like Bendis did with Daredevil, he could reel in DC’s mystic anti-hero to his hayday. The Hellblazer is a character that’s just itching for a new character-defining run.
5. Damian Wayne
To answer your objection at the outset: yes, Damian Wayne already co-stars in one book, and it’s a doozy. Peter J. Tomasi’s (Superman, Batman and Robin) run on Super Sons earns abundant praise. Rightfully so, as it follows Batman’s and Superman’s sons as they attempt to fill their fathers’ crime-fighting boots with heart and humor.
However, Damian Wayne has never lead his own character run. He leads the Teen Titans, has co-starred alongside Batman and makes appearances in Nightwing, but he deserves to have a book where he alone wears the spotlight. Fortunately, Bendis has had ample practice writing about angsty teens.
No — Damian Wayne will never be to DC what Peter Parker is to Marvel. This is inevitable when you’re a Wayne but not a ‘Bruce.’ However, writing Ultimate Spider-Man for ten years — not to mention writing Spider-Man in other Marvel stories — makes Bendis more than capable of writing a definitive take on Damian Wayne. Damian lacks Peter’s friendly neighborhood mannerisms. However, he glows with a cockiness one could only learn as a former child assassin whose dad is Batman. There’s a fair amount of storytelling flexibility that comes with Damian Wayne, as he’s far from your typical adolescent (even among his super-peers). This sort of series could be just the challenge that Bendis is up for at his new creative home.
It’ll be interesting to see how Bendis writes about godlike characters who try to be human. He wrote human characters who try to fill the shoes of gods for nearly two decades at Marvel. Honestly, there’s little debate that Bendis is Marvel’s defining 21st century writer. Simply put, no other writer in the past 20 years has the fingerprint and longevity to match at the House of Ideas. We’ll keep a close eye on post-Bendis Marvel, but perhaps an even a closer eye on a plus-Bendis DC.