For the non-comic book fan, Brian Michael Bendis might not be all that recognizable a name. If it rings a bell at all, maybe it is because you saw it in a “Thank You” at the end of a Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie or a “Created by” credit at the beginning of the Powers and Jessica Jones TV series.
But inside the world of comics, Bendis is know as one of the defining voices of Marvel Comics for almost 20 years. Since 2000, he was one of the architects of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe with his work on Ultimate Spider-Man. He co-created Miles Morales in those pages. He co-created Jessica Jones in the pages of Alias. He wrote defining arcs of Daredevil, Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy and was trusted with blockbuster crossovers such as Secret Invasion, Avengers vs. X-Men, Age of Ultron, House of M and Civil War II. His name was synonymous with Marvel.
Which is why yesterday’s announcement that Bendis had signed an exclusive contract with Marvel’s competitor, DC Comics was such a big deal. Perhaps not as big as Jack Kirby’s defection back in the 1970s, but probably as close as we will ever come to it.
So what does this have to do with movies? Well, Bleeding Cool is saying that part of the agreement will have Bendis working with Geoff Johns on DC Films and TV shows.
This is not a new position for Bendis. While at Marvel, he was on the Marvel Creative Committee, a brain trust featuring him, Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, and Marvel Entertainment President Alan Fine. The committee would advise Kevin Feige on Marvel films during the early years of Marvel Studios, offering him suggestion on how to make the films mimic the tone and spirit of the characters better. Bendis described the committee’s duties as such in a 2012 interview: ““They have us go through every outline of every draft of the script as they come in, and we give notes, and then meet on the phone or in person for hours at a time, sometimes just by ourselves, and sometimes with the filmmaker.” Bendis even wrote the first end credits scene–the tag at the end of Iron Man between Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury that kicked off the shared universe idea.
The influence of the committee was felt most in the beginning years of the MCU with input on big starts or crossovers later on–Bleeding Cool claims sources claim the group most heavily influenced Iron Man, Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Captain America: Civil War. While the idea was that the committee was designed to help the films feel like Marvel films, Hollywood creatives became increasingly annoyed with the group. Corrections would often be slow in coming due to the pull of the members’ day jobs, and when they did arrive, they would amount minor changes or unnecessary character scenes that the committee demanded they include.
The committee’s nit-picking was believed to have led to Edgar Wright’s leaving Ant-Man and Joss Whedon’s stepping away from Marvel after Avengers; Age of Ultron. James Gunn has also publicly stated that he was disappointed in how the committee forced him to present Ronan in Guardians Of The Galaxy
The committee’s influence in Marvel’s film slate ended in late August, 2015 when Disney moved Marvel Studios out from under the direct control of Marvel Entertainment and Ike Perlmutter to directly under the Disney corporate umbrella. Mainly done so Kevin Feige could be free from the frugal Perlmutter’s heavy-handed budget constraints, it also reduced the committee’s influence on Marvel film to a nominal one–and reportedly reorganized the now TV-centric committee without Bendis on it.
That all acts as prologue as we try to figure out how–or if–Bendis will fit in with the burgeoning DCEU brain trust. One assumes that DC Comics will want him to write a number of comic books for their organization. Since one of the established problems with the committee was the members other obligations getting in the way of giving timely input, one has to imagine that the number of books Bendis wrote for Marvel was part of that delay. Will he get better at time management at DC? Or will these same problems reoccur?
Now, let’s talk about Joss Whedon. Imagine that you were Whedon. Working with Marvel and fighting for your own creativity was so strenuous that you quit Marvel outright and almost immediately started helping the other guys. Now, just months after taking on the same role with the DCEU that you had with MCU, one of the thorns in your side jumps ship as well and now you are going to have to work with him…again. Okay, okay. We don’t know if Whedon’s problems were exactly with Bendis or, at least, with Bendis alone. And I might be playing up animosity that really isn’t there. But, regardless, part of the problem that forced Whedon away has followed him into his new home. That might be a cause for concern.
And then there is the issue of qualifications. The reason why Bendis made sense as part of the Marvel Creative Committee was that he was immersed in Marvel Comics being their number one writer. He wrote almost every character at one point or another and his writing was part of the foundation the films were built on. Bendis has written one page of a Batman story for DC prior to this. Now, as he is a comic book fan as well as a writer, he surely knows the characters from that side of the comic book shop. But he doesn’t have the writing experience with the characters as he did with the Marvel ones. His perspective on them is not the same. With the MCU, he was a caretaker of what he helped build. With the DCEU, he’s essentially a fanboy with his own ideas on what the characters should be. There’s a difference there.
I believe that Brian Michael Bendis is one of the best writers in comic book history. I know for a fact that a lot of DC books will be replacing a number of Marvel books in coming months when the Bendis era begins at the former. But I am skeptical of what his influence on the DCEU will be. And I believe that skepticism is justified.