WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Action Comics #1005, on sale now from DC.
Brian Michael Bendis enjoys everything about writing DC's flagship title, Action Comics. It's not just the adventures of Superman or the string of guest stars. It's even the little details, like the numbers.
"It's fun to write the number down," the writer told CBR with a laugh. "I'm doing Issue 1010 right now, and it's still fun to write a number that long on your script."
But with this week's Issue 1005, Action opens up its story with a string of big reveals crafted by Bendis and artist Ryan Sook. The issue unmasked the new villain Red Cloud while also tossing into the mix vigilante-journalist The Question and the H-E-R-O Dial (the latter before it spins off into its own Wonder Comics series in March).
And to hear Bendis tell it, that escalating series of reveals and visitations is only the beginning for the book he feels should be the linchpin not just of his Superman run or his DC work, but of the entire DC Universe. In a new interview, the writer tells CBR how he crafted Red Cloud's identity based on old-school mafia history, why The Question is the perfect counterpoint for the world of the Daily Planet, and where all the little details are heading toward his first big DC event.
CBR: Brian, we're talking about the fallout of a specific issue of Action Comics today, but let's start big-picture. Often when writers come onto work with the Man of Steel, you hear about how they work to keep the Action Comics title one that's ... well, full of action. But in your run, this has become the more mystery-focused comic. Why is that?
Brian Michael Bendis: Obviously I've given this a great deal of thought, and I decided that Superman was going to be the book about Superman as a character and stories that literally only Superman could do or star in. And you'll notice that in Superman, we get his perspective and his narration. We're actually in his head. But in Action Comics, we're not. We never get Superman's narration. It's more the Clark Kent story.
I look at Action Comics, and I know that action means action, but I also view Action Comics as a flagship DC title about the DC Universe, and it stars Clark Kent. I always thought that. Even as a kid, that's what I saw as the difference between the two books, and so I'm reflecting that. One is Superman and one is the DC Universe starring Clark Kent. And so Action features the stories that he can't just punch his way out of. He tries, but the real answer is what I first said when it was announced that I'd be on this book. So much of Clark's life has been thrust upon him. He was sent here. He was told he was going to be a protector. But he chose to be a reporter. He wanted to grow up and be Lois Lane. And having a book that reflects that is something I was desperate to do.
Your "Invisible Mafia" arc sets up a very specific dynamic too for the series, and that is the idea that even in his own city of Metropolis, there are a lot of people working against Superman. It's the mafia and now the mayor too. Did you want to pit Metropolis against Clark and give the city a different vibe than we've seen before?
Yeah. First of all, I wanted to open it up more. It'd been a while since we really were at a party in Metropolis and could say "What's going on here? What does the infrastructure of the city think of Superman this week?" Superman is like a political football, and people all feel differently about him depending on where they are and what their goals are. And if they're not a fan of Superman, it doesn't necessarily mean they're bad people. They may just want law and order in a different way. Having all of these different power brokers and political voices in the city debating Superman's actions was something I thought we needed at DC.
We live in a world where even high school kids see much more about how the world works and how big cities run. We see so much about how things get done because there is so much craziness in the world right now. I thought it would be fun to reflect that.
People ask, "Who would ever try anything in Metropolis with Superman there?" and that idea was always so funny to me. Even with all the police in New York City, people still try to do crime! People act like fools all the time. They don't care where they are.