Early Tuesday morning, DC Comics tweeted that writer Brian Michael Bendis had signed an exclusive “multiyear, multi-faceted deal” with the publisher, meaning that he will soon depart his long-time home at Marvel Comics. Bendis swiftly retweeted his new employer, writing, “This is real. I love you all. Change is good. Change is healthy. I am bursting with ideas and inspirations. Details to come! Stay tuned!”
Right now, the specific details about Bendis’ transition from Marvel to DC are unknown. Acquiring Bendis gives DC access to the writer’s specific set of skills and may indicate the company’s plans with regards to representation going forward, though at this point it’s unknown what properties he’ll work on. However, the move will have some pretty major, near-immediate repercussions for Marvel, as the writer has been a key player in the company for almost 18 years, helming major events and creating a number of popular characters.
There’s no clear timeline at this point for when Bendis will make his move. Marvel’s January solicitations bill him as writing Invincible Iron Man #596, Spider-Man #236, Jessica Jones #16 and Defenders #9, and none of the descriptions for these issues seems particularly terminal. It’s possible that Bendis will leave before finishing those arcs, receiving credits as a co-writer or for story, but it’s not yet clear if that will happen or even if the series themselves will continue on with different writers after his departure. In an interview with the New York Times, Bendis indicated that there’s no ill-will in his move from Marvel to DC, so it’s unlikely he’s going to abandon the publisher with several half-completed arcs.
Additionally, January solicitations for DC don’t indicate that Bendis will start on any particular book then, though there could be a surprise announcement. As comics typically need to be pre-ordered several weeks in advance, it’s possible that the company wants to do more publicity for the superstar writer’s first project, so there’s little reason to believe that Bendis won’t get the opportunity to finish up his current Marvel books.
Bendis’ history with Marvel stretches back to 2000, when he and artist Mark Bagley launched Ultimate Spider-Man, which itself launched Earth-1610, aka the Ultimate Universe. Since then, he’s written many comics for the publisher and played a key role in several of its most important events, including 2005’s House of M, 2008’s Secret Invasion and 2016’s Civil War II. For better or worse, Bendis has undoubtedly helped shape the Marvel Universe into its current form.
Outside of line-wide events, Bendis has co-created some of the company’s most popular and representationally progressive characters, but diversity has become something of a hot button issue for Marvel lately. In April, David Gabriel — Marvel’s senior vice president of sales and marketing — place the blame for flagging sales on diversity, and a retailer-only panel at New York Comic Con 2017 saw one direct market retailer expressing frustration with the company for changing existing characters so as to incorporate people of color and women. While there are certainly other creators and editors working hard to make Marvel more diverse, Bendis’ departure may signal a return to classic versions of characters and decreased representation of people of color and women. However, Bendis has been the only writer to helm a solo book starring many of these diverse characters, so him leaving may also provide someone from a demographic the opportunity to bring a dimension to these characters that he couldn’t bring.
A number of the characters Bendis has co-created are quite likely to continue being important past his departure. Jessica Jones, who debuted in 2001’s Alias #1, has gone on to star in two Netflix series (with a third on the way) and has become one of the Marvel Universe’s most popular characters. Bendis also created Miles Morales, who first took over the mantle of Spider-Man from the deceased Ultimate Peter Parker before making his way to the Marvel Prime Universe. The character will also appear in Insomniac Games’ upcoming Spider-Man video game, with some hoping he’ll be a playable character. Morales is also confirmed to exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to the appearance of his uncle Aaron Davis (Donald Glover) in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, so he may someday make a live-action film appearance in addition to starring in his own animated feature. As they’re now important parts of Marvel’s offerings across different mediums, it’s unlikely that these characters will disappear when Bendis leaves for DC, though they might undergo some changes.
Of course, some of Bendis’ creations might not survive his departure. Riri Williams, a young woman who first appeared in 2016’s Invincible Iron Man #7, has taken Tony Stark’s place for the duration of his comatose state following Civil War II. The current arc of Invincible Iron Man teases the return of Tony Stark. Bendis tried establishing Riri’s continuing importance to the Marvel Universe in Generations: Iron Heart & Iron Man, so there’s a very good chance that she will continue her superheroics despite Tony’s return. However, she could also gradually disappear going forward, as she’s not yet as culturally entrenched as Morales or Jones.
It may not just be comics that are affected by Bendis’ departure; Bendis was part of the now disbanded Marvel Creative Committee, which oversaw the adaptation of Marvel properties from script to screen. He’s consistently worked as a producer on the company’s shows, and he was involved in the pre-production process for a currently untitled animated movie starring Miles Morales. Although Bendis will still get credit for his work, he may not have anything to do with these projects going forward.
Bendis’ first book with DC is likely to draw big numbers, but it’s not yet clear where DC will apply that selling power. Bendis has only written one comic for the company in the past, contributing a story to Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, Volume 2. Although he released a Superman-heavy image on his Instagram, the photo includes among others, Justice Society of America, Justice League International, several Batman titles, Teen Titans and Legion of Superhero comics. He may take over one of the company’s flagship series that isn’t doing well, helm either a revival of an old series, or even launch a brand-new comic.
It’s also possible that DC will employ his talents for further expanding the role of people of color and female heroes in the DC Universe. There are a few existing comics for which his particular style might be well-suited. His work on the hard-boiled Jessica Jones would make him an ideal fit for a comic like Batwoman, or even a new series following Renee Montoya as the Question. Many of Bendis comics focus on teens, so he may work on a series like Teen Titans or their older counterparts in Titans, with the potential for getting a spin-off book starring a member of one of those teams. Regardless of what book he gets, it’s likely that Bendis will bring with him his penchant for representing minority groups, so DC Comics will very likely find itself quickly becoming even more diverse.
DC may also want Bendis to work on a line-wide event going forward, though with Rebirth currently entering its endgame, this would happen a bit further down the line. Still, Bendis’ skill at creating universes and coordinating the moving parts of an event mean that it’s likely DC will have him helm some sort of massive storyline at some point.
However, Bendis’ contributions to DC may not come just in the form of comics. DC’s tweet refers to the deal as being “multi-faceted,” potentially hinting at the writer’s involvement in DC’s upcoming television and film projects. As Bendis has extensive experience with adapting characters for the screen, he may be involved with Titans and Young Justice as they’re set to premiere on DC’s currently untitled digital service in 2018. It’s unlikely that DC will stop with those two series, so Bendis may play a part in helping to expand the focus and scope of the company’s television projects or even on the company’s animated films.
While almost all the details about Bendis’ move from Marvel to DC are currently unknown, it’s certain that DC has big plans for the writer while Marvel will have to work to make up for the loss of one of its most prolific and important writers.