Writer Brian Michael Bendis has been behind many of the most popular comics of the last twenty years, ranging from teenage romps to massive super hero crossovers. But while he's adept at writing more lighthearted fare, he's always had a connection to darker characters and moodier settings, as evidenced by his independent comics work as well as his time on titles such as Daredevil and Alias.
After decades at Marvel, Bendis is now at DC, and while most of his time is spent charting Superman's future, he's also writing multiple stories featuring perhaps the darkest and moodiest superhero of all: Batman. And though that may seem perfectly logical to fans, during a roundtable discussion with the media, including CBR, Bendis revealed that when he first came to DC, he was flat-out afraid to write the Dark Knight.
"I was reading all these Batman comics, and I was terrified to write Batman," Bendis admitted. "I saw it in my first meeting with Dan [DiDio]. He pitched me the Walmart books, and I was very excited because they're for new readers, and things like that get me very excited. And he was like, 'I want you to be a part of that initiative, maybe you could do Batman while Tom [King] does Superman.' Which is a great editorial idea, but then I realized, I'm scared of Batman. All that talk of how [Alex Maleev] wants [to draw Batman], and now, oh no, I'm creatively scared of Batman. That's not good.
"What it is, is that all my heroes made their art with Batman. Not just made a good Batman story, made a true work of art out of it. So I went home and was reading the Batman Encyclopedia like you do when you first join DC, and there's a quote from Frank Miller in the introduction. And the quote was, 'The thing I like about Batman is that he's the only character in pop culture where you can literally do anything to, and people just go, "Yeah, that's Batman."' You can do Batman LEGO and you can do Batman: Arkham Asylum, and... both are Batman. You can't do that to Spider-Man. So that empowered me. It's always Batman. Your Batman is Batman."
Of course, Bendis eventually overcame his Dark Knight anxiety, though he won't come right out and tell anyone (other than his closest friends) how he managed to do so. "I can't say it out loud, I can't do it. I have an answer, but I can't say it... I know what my Batman is, and I told [Matt Fraction], and he said, 'Don't say that out loud.' It's not dirty or weird or anything, it's just so out there. I'm almost done with my Batman run with Nick Derington, and I have not varied from my source material. And I'm so deeply and uncharacteristically delighted with our Batman run. I'm not wired for delight, so when I'm happy, it alarms me. But I am so delighted with our Batman run. This is my Batman. I can't deny who I am. And I am surprised how light-hearted my Batman is. It's genuinely shocking to me."
Bendis also revealed a real world element of the world that impacted his take on Batman, and how people in the DC Universe respond to him. In Leviathan Rising #1, Steve Trevor reveals that ARGUS was always developing counter-measures to combat Batman, a development Bendis says wa influenced by something he learned during a trip to Washington D.C. "That mindset is definitely happening. That came from my visit to the CIA headquarters in Langley. I got to speak there a couple of years ago about a world that's different now. They were worried about the diversity issues they were having, and Marvel was thriving with that, so we asked what we could do. They had me... come and talk about different perspectives. And yes, they had the white guy come down to talk about diversity, but I am Jewish. But while we were there we got the whole tour and they take you into the place where they make the things that counter the things. And they have the guy who has to figure out how to counter the thing with the thing. And it's like, there'd be a Batman version of this! So that's where that comes from. That mindset will continue."
Check back later for more from Brian Michael Bendis' discussion about Leviathan Rising, Batman, Superboys (both of them) and much more.