The Last (and Only) Time Brian Michael Bendis Wrote for DC Comics

The comic book world saw a seismic shift today when superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis, who has been working regularly for Marvel Comics since 2000, announced that he has signed an exclusive deal with DC Comics. This obviously has major repercussions for both comic book companies (especially since Bendis was currently writing four monthly comics for Marvel – Invincible Iron Man, Jessica Jones, Defenders and Spider-Man), but it opens up a whole new avenue of stories for Bendis to tell at DC.

With that in mind, though, we thought it would be interesting to spotlight the last (and only) time that Brian Michael Bendis wrote for DC Comics, a short story that had a lot of historic implications to it (it was the first comic book story by Bendis that was drawn by his future Alias co-creator, Michael Gaydos, and it was included in a Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told collection)

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2000 was a time of upheaval in a few different areas in the comic book industry. Over at Marvel Comics, Joe Quesada was named the Editor-in-Chief, taking over from Bob Harras. This followed Quesada’s Event Comics getting their own line of Marvel Comics called Marvel Knights in 1998. Bill Jemas, the executive in charge of Marvel, liked Quesada’s Marvel Knights work so much that he put Quesada in charge of the entire company. Jemas and Quesada were proactive in adding new voices to Marvel’s creative side.

Meanwhile, over at DC Comics, the publisher’s most successful comic book group, the Batman titles, was seeing a transition at the top from Denny O’Neil to Bob Schreck. O’Neil had been editing the Batman titles since 1986, right after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it was during O’Neil’s leadership that some of the most famous and most successful Batman stories of all-time had occurred, including Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, A Death in the Family, A Lonely Place of Dying and Knightfall (although, to be fair, Dark Knight Returns and Killing Joke both originated with other editors), plus the launch of Legends of the Dark Knight and Shadow of the Bat.

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Brian Michael Bendis had spent most of the 1990s working for Caliber Comics, which is where he met many of the creators that he would work with in the future, including David Mack, Mike Avon Oeming, Marc Andreyko and, presumably, Michael Gaydos, who drew a few comics for Caliber Comics during that time (Ed Brubaker also worked for Caliber Comics in that same era). However, by the end of the decade, Bendis had transitioned to Image Comics, bringing over his original series, Jinx, and producing the original series Torso (with co-writer Marc Andreyko) and Powers (with artist Mike Avon Oeming, which launched in early 2000). He also wrote Sam and Twitch and Hellspawn for Todd McFarlane. However, when David Mack took over Daredevil for Quesada’s Marvel Knights, that brought Bendis to Quesada’s attention. Bendis wrote a Daredevil story with Mack and was soon hired to write Ultimate Spider-Man. A regular gig on Daredevil soon followed, and Bendis was well on his way to a long and rewarding stint at Marvel Comics.

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However, before he locked in to his Marvel gigs, he also got the chance to do one story for DC Comics. In 1995, DC Comics launched Batman Chronicles and Superman: The Man of Tomorrow. These books were quarterly comic books designed to take care of a little problem that comes up in comic book publishing. There were four monthly Batman titles and four monthly Superman titles, so that meant that there would be a Batman or Superman comic book every week. However, four times a year, there will be a month that has five Wednesdays in it instead of four. So those “fifth weeks” would mess with the shipping schedules, so DC decided to launch two quarterly titles that would plug into those “fifth weeks.” Superman: The Man of Tomorrow was a regular Superman series, but The Batman Chronicles was designed as an anthology.

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The problem with Batman Chronicles is that during 1999, every Batman title became part of a massive weekly storyline called “No Man’s Land,” so titles that normally did their own thing, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and Batman Chronicles, were now just part of a shared storyline (“No Man’s Land” saw the DC Comics debut of the brilliant Alex Maleev, who would soon become Brian Michael Bendis’ collaborator on Daredevil. The featured image for this piece is by Maleev). When “No Man’s Land” ended and the editorial shift occurred, Batman Chronicles was almost sort of off in its own no man’s land, especially as the editor on the book was changing from issue to issue. Ultimately, it was just canceled with Batman Chronicles #23.

Before that point, though, Joe Illidge was in charge of the book for one issue in early 2000, and he decided to follow up on an acclaimed earlier issue of Batman Chronicles from 1998 where Paul Pope did an alternate reality Batman story, with Batman in 1930s Berlin. So Batman Chronicles #21 opened with a story by the Pander Brothers about a woman from an alternate reality causing havoc on our Earth. The second story in the issue was called “Citizen Wayne,” and it was written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Michael Gaydos.

The story was a re-imagination of Orson Welles’ classic noir film, Citizen Kane, with Bruce Wayne in place of Charles Foster Kane…

Clark Kent takes on the role of Joseph Cotten’s Jed Leland, the reporter trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious final words of the dead recluse, “Rosebud”.

Kent visits those closest to Wayne, from Selina Kyle to Dick Grayson to Jim Gordon…

to finally even Jack Napier/The Joker…

In the original film, “Rosebud” turns out to be a sled. In this story, it turns out to be something else very important to the childhood of Bruce Wayne.

It’s a strong story and DC included it in 2007’s Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, Volume 2.

We would imagine that while this was the first Brian Michael Bendis Batman story, it will certainly not be the last (and we’re not even talking about the Batman/Daredevil crossover that he once tried to get DC and Marvel to publish!).