One of the biggest creator moves in modern comic history was when Brian Michael Bendis left Marvel Comics to work at DC. It was a shock to longtime readers and became one of the most talked about comic book industry stories in 2017. But why did Bendis make the leap and how did it happen?
During C2E2, Chicago's comic book convention, GameSpot spoke with Bendis about his departure from Marvel, while discussing his upcoming work on Action Comics #1000 (which releases on April 18). This will be his second published work from DC, with the first being a short story in The Batman Chronicles #21 back in 2000. In addition, he'll also be working on the upcoming miniseries Man of Steel, which will be a lead in to the newly launched Superman series in May. Then, in July, Bendis will also pen Action Comics as well as a part of his Jinxworld series (some of which were published under the Marvel imprint Icon).
Needless to say, Bendis continues to have a full plate now he's at DC. However, getting there was a matter of timing and making sure it was right for him. "A few years ago, we talked to [co-publishers] Jim [Lee] and Dan [Didio] about maybe coming over, and they had made a very lovely offer, but it wasn't an offer that was worth going to my friends [at Marvel]," explained Bendis. "I have very good friends at Marvel who would be happy for me in success, but at the same time, we're partners, and we're in the middle of something, so I felt if I was gonna come up to Joe [Quesada, Marvel's CCO] and say, 'Listen, I'm gonna go over there,' it had to be an offer that he would go, 'Oh yeah! You should go over.'
"And so we talked, and at the same time, I have to say they were really close; 'I don't think I'm done. I wanna do Defenders.' And so I said to [DC], 'Thanks, but I'm gonna stay [at Marvel].' ...We were struggling to find what I would do next, with this new contract. And again, Marvel had offered me a contract. They had offered me books. They were so nice. They never blinked and made it very clear that I am there as long as I wanna be there."
Bendis continued his conversations with DC, while still working at Marvel. This time, it was with Diane Nelson, the President of DC Entertainment, who reached out to him numerous times. "I answered her back and said, 'All right. What do you got? What are you thinking of? What is it?' So, they came, and they brought enough of a meaningful partnership, with the creator owned and imprint [Jinxworld] and other things that we have coming. And then, I could call up my friends and go, 'I am shocked this day is coming as well.' I am not mad at anyone. I am not leaving in a huff. Even that, you couldn't help but think of the history of comics, of both Marvel and DC. Most people leave in a huff. They don't leave in a huff after [one] year, they leave in a huff in 20 years, 30 years, 40 years. I don't wanna leave in a huff. Not everyone has, but a lot, more people have than haven't."
"It's just like any job. It's a job. You're going to lose your job eventually. It's a job that you have and that someone else will have. So, I'm like, can I do that? Can I leave without making anyone mad? ...Can we leave on a nice note and keep it that way and can I remind you that I've always said I don't think we're in competition, Marvel and DC? I think we're the glue that holds the industry together but the key person for the craft. It is the medium that needs us, right? So we're not in competition."
Bendis went on to discuss his early, lighthearted discussions with Didio. And the DC co-publisher recounted his meetings with Jim Lee about Bendis working on Daredevil in 2012 for the End of Days miniseries, the writer's second run with the character. The publisher wanted Bendis then to work at DC, but the timing wasn't right.
When the announcement was made in November 2017 that Bendis was headed to DC, he didn't think it would be a big deal. "When we made the announcement I was still thinking, 'This might be only interesting to me,'" explained Bendis. "People were like, 'Oh this is gonna be like John Byrne. It's gonna be crazy,' and I go, 'That was a long time ago and things are different.'
"We live in a different world, and the media is different, and we have a President that gets up every morning and says something s****y, and then there's no room for anyone else to promote anything because the President farted, and that's it, right? So I always kept warning people, 'Listen, I don't know how this is going to play outside of the comics world.'
"I know the comics world. Yeah, I get that totally, but I don't know if it's gonna go out like John Byrne did, so we announced, and then I went to bed. It was six in the morning, and I went, 'Let's just go to sleep,' and that whole craziness, the trending and everything like that. I slept through all of it, which was my most accidental badass thing I've ever done. I did it because I was mentally and physically exhausted, and I was so concerned about my friendships and who didn't I, who did I forget to tell before it was announced?
"I had a lot of anxiety and when I woke up in the morning, when I woke up in the afternoon to that great quote from Phil Hester. He goes, 'Brian, you are an author, in 2017, who's trending, and you didn't die or embarrass yourself or others.' I'm gonna own that one. I rarely take a compliment, but I'm gonna take that one."