Is DC in panic mode over Bendis’ take on the Man of Steel?
DC clearly had big hopes when they poached long-time Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis to helm their Superman books starting with the six-issue Man of Steel mini-series in May.
However, sources at DC Comics indicate that the orders from comic book stores for Bendis’ Man of Steel series have been far lower than they expected. DC went as far to announce that comic shops could return unsold issues of Man of Steel if the stores would increase their orders, but apparently that has not yielded the expected sales bump, either. It’s indeed a sad turn of affairs coming so soon after the landmark Action Comics #1000 event just weeks prior.
Why the disinterest? To put it quite plainly, Brian Michael Bendis isn’t the hot commodity he once was. While he achieved fame and favor for his take on Spider-Man years ago, Bendis’ career at Marvel Comics has made him more polarizing with almost every new assignment he received. His most recent run on Marvel’s Iron Man books has garnered fan reactions ranging from tepid acceptance to “When will this nightmare end?”
The situation may not be entirely of Bendis’ making, however. Following the DC Rebirth event, the Superman line of comics has been helmed by long-time Superman scribe and artist, Dan Jurgens, and to many it seemed as though Superman was finally on a solid footing. DC even celebrated the longstanding legacy of the character by giving Supes his red trunks back. Comic consumers were enjoying the product they were purchasing and there simply wasn’t much demand for a shake-up.
When DC announced the coming era of Bendis, it seemed like big change was precisely what Bendis was bringing to the fore. DC gave Bendis the reins on all of the Super-Family books, and as a result, Supergirl was put on temporary hold while the fan-favorite series Super Sons was outright cancelled. This has fueled speculation that Bendis intends to go overboard by killing off long-running characters and redefining those unfortunate enough to survive, a fear fueled by a reputation of which Bendis is well-deserving, given his track record at Marvel. A passing glance at the new Supergirl should be enough to add weight to these worries.
As someone who did read Brian Michael Bendis’ take on Superman in both Action Comics #1000 and DC Nation #0, I personally wasn’t impressed with the result. While neither tale was particularly flawed, Bendis’ story in DC Nation #0 was plainly dull, and the cliffhanger in Action Comics #1000 was just too familiar. This doesn’t mean that “big change” isn’t still coming, but it was an indication, at least so far, that either this new interpretation of Superman is perhaps less inspired than the DC hype machine has led us to believe or that Bendis is still getting his feet wet. It’s an underwhelming start, and the less than enthusiastic response from fans is possibly indicative of that. DC has set up Bendis’ arrival for months with double-page ads indicating that “Bendis is coming!”, and to be honest, my heart sinks slightly when I see them rather than feeling any kind of a flutter.
There’s admittedly a lot of rumor and editorializing here, so take that as you will. The report of low order numbers for Man of Steel is indeed still a rumor, and none of this means that Bendis’ run on Superman is doomed or can’t still be celebrated in the long-run. Superman simply wasn’t broke, so why DC put in an order to fix him is anyone’s guess.