With the announcement that writer Brian Michael Bendis will end his run on both “Action Comics” and “Superman” comic book titles with their December 2020 issues (“Action Comics #1028” and “Superman #28” respectively), the team at Superman Homepage decided to put our heads together to look at where DC might take Superman moving forward.
When DC Comics announced back in late 2017 that Brian Michael Bendis was defecting from Marvel to write both “Action Comics” and “Superman,” it was big news, with many fans excited to see how the prolific writer would handle the Man of Steel. While Bendis’ run has received mixed reviews, the writer’s biggest change to Superman saw the Man of Steel reveal his Clark Kent secret identity to the world.
In recent months DC Comics restructured their comic book publishing department, with many people losing their jobs. Chief amongst these was co-publisher Dan Didio, who was the driving force behind what was an event called “5G”. This five generation event was supposed to be a sweeping overhaul pf DC’s continuity (similar in many ways to the New 52 relaunch in 2011). This won’t be happening now, with Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee confirming during a recent “DC FanDome” panel that “There won’t be a project called ‘5G’, or a big reboot, or whatever,” Lee said. “We really want to focus on individual titles, and organically build up individual characters over the course of the next year.”
So where to for Superman comic books now? With Bendis leaving the Man of Steel’s main two titles, and with DC not planning a major reboot, what can we expect for Superman?
Superman Homepage contributor Michael Bailey suggests, “Superman, and by extension the comics industry, is at a serious crossroads. With seismic changes happening both to DC Entertainment and to the world, the old way of doing business may not be the right way to go anymore. The idea of a single continuity or a new origin or even serialized storytelling may or may not exist anymore. The audience has changed. The way they consume the material has changed. At the same time, you will have some stalwarts from the previous generations hanging on. So, the question becomes how do you serve both audiences? How do you attract new readers, who may not want to stick around for very long while at the same time giving older readers (or new ones) that like an ongoing continuity what they want?”
“Simple. Publish two titles.”
“Title #1: Action Comics. This title would be the home of stories that have no fixed continuity. It will be a place for a creative team to come on and tell a story (some stand alone, some in multiple parts) and then get out of Dodge. These stories would be epic in scope and a whole lot of fun, but not concerned with what came before or with what will come afterwards. The trick is keeping interest with multiple creative teams, but if you wanted to have a Silver Age sort of story full of awe and wonder or a more down to earth Golden Age story you could have those here.”
“Title #2: Superman. This would be the ongoing book. The creative team would be locked in and they would have a universe to either tell stories about or build or both. This is for the person that likes continuing stories that build on each other. Here you can explore the supporting cast and reintroduce old villains to a new audience, while at the same time creating new villains and supporting characters as well. This would be an established Superman, whose history can be fleshed out in flashbacks. This wouldn’t be about a Superman that is learning on the job. It would be about a Superman that has been around a while and has a history to him.”
“Two titles. Two approaches. The cake and the ability to eat it. All there for the taking. The broadest appeal in two comics.”
“That’s how I would do it.”
Superman Homepage contributor Tony Parker writes, “Seeing that 5G is not guaranteed anymore, and seeing that DC is trying harder than ever to win over fans, I feel like we might actually see a return to a truer to text Superman.”
“Not exactly the way we imagine him, but still something a little closer to the big blue boy scout than Bendis ever gave us. The identity reveal will surely be retconned, and we might even see Jon again.”
“It’s really hard to predict where it’s gonna go thanks to Didio leaving.”
Superman Homepage contributor James Heath Lantz says, “I’m not sure what the future holds for Superman comics or anything else for that matter. However, one thing is certain. Superman, like many of his heroic counterparts from DC and other publishers, will continue being a symbol of hope for us all. The Man of Steel’s stories will entertain us and provide us all with an escape from the madness of the real world and the events shaping it.”
“The future creative teams involved with Superman’s comic books will be forging a path for the Man of Steel, his supporting cast and perhaps even the entire DC Universe. Wherever they choose to take Big Blue, it’ll be fascinating to see where his journey takes us as readers and fans and say, as Jean-Luc Picard said, ‘Let’s see what’s out there.'”
Superman Homepage writer Craig Boehmer adds, “Full disclosure, I have not read all of Bendis’ run on Superman. I think I have read The Man of Steel story and the first volume or two of both Superman and Action Comics. I did not hate his writing, he had a lot of really cool ideas, in my opinion the execution suffered because of mischaracterization and poor narrative decisions. Obviously there is also the aging up of Jon Kent that I vehemently disagreed with then and still disagree with. Going forward I have some story ideas that I would love to see play out in Superman now that a new direction is coming. This is not meant to act as a giant retcon for the Bendis’ stories, so if you are expecting Superman to wake up from a bad dream, sorry.”
“First of all, I would like to see more stories that emphasise the Superman family. I want Superman to interact with Steel, Lana, Connor, Ma and Pa, Lex, Jon, Lois and Kara, in addition to the Daily Planet staff. Bring these characters back into his orbit and let strong storytelling lead to strong character interactions. Superman doesn’t need a reinvented supporting cast, he needs stories that build on what he has. I have always found his relationship with Connor to be odd and uncharacteristic. Why would he ever turn away from a teenage boy, or young man WITH NO FAMILY who was in need of help. Have Superman lead the “Superfamily” and evolve past his lone wolf persona. Why go to the Justice League when he could form one of the most powerful teams on the planet just from his family? This would also give him the chance to train Kara, Connor, and Jon in the use of their powers to become an even stronger force for good. I loved the issues of Tomasi/Gleason’s run where it showed him training Jon in the use of his powers, and I find it hard to believe that Superman would not have put the same effort into training Kara and Connor. Not that I want an “X-Men” book for Kryptonians… though the idea could be pretty cool… but I do want Superman to acknowledge Kara and Connor as parts of his family. On that note I would definitely de-age Jon, no question about it. There are enough angsty teenage heroes, bring me the youthful and optimistic Jon. I also think a Lex Luthor redemption story needs to happen to bring him back to Rebirth era Luthor. Don’t ignore Apex Lex, but Geoff Johns provided a blue print for Luthor’s redemption through his redemption of Hal Jordan. Luthor works best for me when he is a villain at times, but also aspires to be a hero. Keeping Lex in that murky grey area builds on the complexity of the character.”
“My primary goal would be to tell cool stories that analyze Superman and the Superfamily. I would have two titles Superman, and Action Comics. To that end I have a few story arc ideas that I wanted to share to give a better idea as to how I would like these themes to play out, hope you enjoy them.”
“The first three arcs would be spread across Action Comics and Superman.”
“In the first arc Superman would have a dream showing Christopher Kent (Last Son) suffering in the Phantom Zone. He (Superman) would then travel to Zod’s planet and discover that Zod’s son, Lor-Zod, is not the same boy Superman saw in his dream. He learns that Zod had two sons, the younger son, Lor-Zod, and a older son, whom Superman had met in the ‘Last Son’ storyline and named Christopher. Superman returns to earth and calls on Kara and John Irons. He outlines his plan to enter the Phantom Zone to find Chris and rescue him and asks Kara and John to watch over Metropolis for him.”
“The second arc would split into two stories, one story of Superman rescuing Christopher, and the other story chronicling Kara reconnecting with Connor. The two of them would then meet teenage Jon who is suffering from PTSD and survivors guilt from his time being tortured on Earth-3. The three decide to travel back in time to stop Jor-El from taking Jon. This would lead to the reveal that if Jon isn’t taken by Jor-El the millions of people that he had rescued would die, including a young girl that was actually in the volcano with him on Earth-3. The three would then find a way to Earth-3 to rescue Jon before Ultraman could kidnap him.”
“The third arc would be Superman’s return with Christopher and his discovery of Kara, Connor, and Jon’s plans. He would then enlist Steel and Lana to help him get to Earth-3. Once there he would rescue both Jons, Kara, Connor, and the girl and bring them all to the present day.”
“After this Action Comics and Superman would split into two separate story arcs. In Superman he would take Jon, Lois, and Christopher on a multi arc space adventure, traveling around helping distant worlds. Action Comics would focus on Kara, Connor, Steel, Lana, and the girl from Earth-3 (who would later be revealed as one of Ultraman’s children) as they protect the world in Superman’s absence. Then when Superman returned, he could begin training the unit to better defend the world and help people. I know sending Superman to the Phantom Zone and to space seems to fly in the face of wanting more interactions between Superman and the others, but it would be important to emphasize Superman’s desire to reconnect with his wife, son, and newly returned adopted son. After rebuilding those relationships it would make sense to extend to the rest of his family.”
“Preferably I would like Tomasi and Gleason to write both Superman and Action Comics, though Venditti’s recent work definitely inspires confidence in his skills too. There are quite a few artists that would be great on these series, I would try to keep Ivan Reis on one and Gleason on the other. I would also love a couple of holiday issues where it would show Clark and his family, maybe a Christmas in Smallville with Ma and Pa, Lois and Clark, plus Jon, and Chris. Seeing Superman balance his time with two children would lend itself to a great dynamic and could be the focus of a separate all ages series titled The Super Family. An all ages comic writer like Sholly Fisch would rock a series like that.”
“There are so many more story arcs and ideas floating around in my head, including a flashback arc returning to T-shirt/blue jeans Superman, but I think these arcs would make a good starting point and would go a long way towards reconnecting with a lot of fans that have dropped off.”
It will be interesting to see how DC handle Superman moving forward. Will they indeed retcon the secret identity reveal? It would need Mxyzptlk level ‘magic’ or another ‘Crisis’ to wipe that slate clean. Will Jon Kent come back from the 31st Century? Unlikely, especially considering Bendis is continuing as writer on “Legion of Super-Heroes.”
Where DC intends on taking Superman’s story will depend heavily on who is chosen to take on the writing duties after Bendis. Will Mark Waid return to the Man of Steel now that he’s been welcomed back to DC Comics? Will Dan Jurgens return? Is the reason we haven’t seen any new digital first “Superman: Man of Tomorrow” comic book issues because DC has decided to give Robert Venditti a crack at the character? No doubt DC will make an announcement before too long. We’ll know for sure which directions things are headed when DC releases the January 2021 solicitations in mid-October.