DC is on the verge of a major comic book milestone with April 18’s Action Comics #1000, which will feature an all-star lineup of creators, including superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis’ high-profile Superman debut (before taking over both Action Comics and Superman as the ongoing series writer).
Bendis, Tom King, Pat Gleason, Jill Thompson, Philip Tan and Clay Mann are talked Action Comic #1000, and the past, present and future of the Man of Steel, at C2E2 in Chicago midday Saturday, at the “DC Celebrates Action Comics #1000” panel.
Panel moderator Mike Avila stared the session by recapping the contents both Action Comics #1000 and the Action Comics #1000: 80 Years of Superman hardcover. Bendis pointed out that the contribution in Action Comics #1000 featuring art by the late, legendary artist Curt Swan came about from making a story from unpublished Swan art that Marv Wolfman had in his personal possession.
Bendis thanked the fans for the warm welcome he’s received with his arrival at DC and Superman. He also shared that the new villain that will be introduced at the start of his Superman run was inspired by one of the doctors that treated him while he was sick last fall.
“I’m going to name one of the Superman villains after you,” Bendis told her. “She went , ‘Uh-huh,’ and she walked out. She walked back in, clearly having Googled me, and said, ‘I’m really excited to be in Superman!’ She though I was nuts.” The doctor was disappointed by the design of the character, as she was hoping to be a Marc Silvestri-esque drawing in a metal bikini.
Jim Lee illustrated Bendis’ Action Comics #1000 story, and Bendis opened up to the crowd about collaborating with him. “I wrote as big as I could,” Bendis said. “It was very, very cool.” Bendis said that his script for Lee was filled with “Jim Lee tricks” he learned from reading the artist’s work over the years.
DC Nation #0 is out on May 2, with a 10-page Man of Steel preview story by Bendis and José Luis García-López. Bendis called García-López a “bucket list” artist, and never thought he’d get the chance since he was at Marvel for so many years. “He’s the nicest person in the world,” Bendis said. “It’s so nice when you love someone’s work so much and they end up being absolutely awesome. It was made very clear he’s coming out of retirement for this.” Bendis said García-López told him, “Nothing makes me happier than a writer who has a story to tell, and wants me to tell it.”
Speaking of the weekly schedule of the six-issue Man of Steel story, Bendis said his recent major health issues caused him to realize he should tell these stories sooner rather than later. “I’m 90 percent sure I’m still in the hospital, and I’m Jacob’s Ladder-ing all of this,” he said. “Oh yeah, I’m skinny now, and I’m writing Superman, and working with Jim Lee and José Luis García-López.”
Gleason talked working with Bendis on Action Comics when it picks up in July with issue #1001. “It is really exciting to be going from Superman to jumping over to Action Comics with Brian,” Gleason said. “It’s really a dream come true. And we’re just getting started. I’m really excited about what we’ve been talking about.”
Peter J. Tomasi and Gleason collaborated for an era-spanning story in Action Comics #1000. “This is Pete’s love story to Superman, for all the eras,” Gleason said. “It was really fun to dive into the history for this.”
King and Mann talked their Action Comics #1000 story, which was released online last month. “I am unfortunately on the record of saying Batman’s the best and Superman sucks,” King said. “I regret it, I apologize. I didn’t have any Superman stories, because I thought they had all been told, he’s just a generic guy. Then I started writing him, and he’s not — he’s much more interesting than I thought he would be.”
Thompson’s Action Comics #1000 story is mostly focused on Lex Luthor, with Superman roasting him at a dinner. Thompson said that professional wrestler Alex Chamberlain posed for her for her Superman model.
The panel gave their take for definitive Superman artist: Thompson: Steve Rude. Tan: Alex Ross. Mann: García-López, also naming Jim Lee and John Byrne. King: Curt Swan. Gleason said he grew up watching Superman cartoons more than reading Superman comics, and named Dan Jurgens. Bendis cited a specific Brian Bolland drawing of Superman from Superman #400. “I think about it all the time. I think, ‘That’s the Superman we’re doing.'” Bendis added, “I go back and look at it now through modern eyes and I think, ‘Oh, he’s so British.'”
Tan, who drew Superman for the C2E2 program cover, said he used to feel hesitation drawing the character. Avila said drawing the S must be the hardest part. “I hate that S, it’s so hard to draw,” Thompson said. “It never looks right. I like to draw the retro ones.”
Gleason addressed the end of his and Tomasi’s Superman run. “Honestly, I didn’t think we’d last more than a year,” Gleason said. “The book comes out two times a month. We basically did a condensed four-year run in two years.” Their Superman Special is out on May 9, and helps put a cap on their time on the series, along with Superman #45.
Bendis talked about the daunting prospect of taking on Superman after the current runs end, since it’s easier for a creator to take over a book when it’s in a rougher place. “I’m breaking my own rule — both Superman books are really good right now. Not only what I not reboot a damn thing, trying to build on that is the bigger challenge and the fun.”
Bendis told a story about meeting George Perez when he was young, and getting invaluable advice from the artist that helped him push past his focus issue: “‘Focus. This is what you’re here for. If you’re really supposed to do this, nothing should distract you.’ I think about it every day.”
Pushing back on the idea that Superman isn’t relatable, Bendis said the character is actually “insanely relatable.” “I look at it even as a father,” Bendis said. “I’m the father of four children, and they need me to be the best version of myself every day. That’s his job. I can relate to that on my level. Also, there’s a lot of adoption in my family. I see that struggle for identity that goes on every day, and how no matter how much Superman accomplishes it, it’ll still be there.”
“I also love that he comes from far away, but his moral values are from the heartland of this country,” Bendis continued. “It’s so instilled in him he doesn’t even know it. I’ll prove his relatability!”
Speaking of bringing the red trunks back to Superman’s costume, Bendis said, “My whole day as a 50-year-old man, now I go online, and adult people yell at me about underpants, all day long. Non-ironically. ‘Go to hell, you and your red trunks.'”
(CBR’s coverage of this panel via Syfy Wire‘s livestream.)
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