When Brian Michael Bendis announced last year that he was leaving Marvel Comics, where he had been one of their most notable writers since 2000, for DC Comics, there was a good deal of mystery over what titles Bendis would be writing when he started at DC in 2018. On Thursday, Bendis solved a little bit of that mystery by revealing that he will be taking over both Superman titles following Action Comics #1000 (Bendis will make his debut with a story in that comic), with his Superman run eventually following in Action Comics #1001 and a re-launched Superman ongoing with a brand-new #1.
After Bendis’ debut on the character in Action Comics #1000, the monthly Superman titles will take a brief hiatus while Bendis writes a six-issue miniseries called Man of Steel that will lead into his aforementioned Superman run (in Action Comics #1001 and Superman #1). If much of that sounds a bit familiar, you are not suffering from deja vu, as it very pointedly evokes what happened when another prominent Marvel creator by the name of John Byrne left Marvel Comics for DC Comics 32 years ago.
Like Bendis’ early days with Caliber Comics, John Byrne also began his comic book career working for a smaller comic book company, doing a number of stories for Charlton Comics in the mid-1970s. Marvel writer Chris Claremont had seen Byrne’s work at Charlton and kept hounding his editors to give Byrne a chance at drawing one of Claremont’s Marvel projects. Finally, Byrne was given a chance on Claremont’s Iron Fist series and it was soon readily apparent that Marvel had found a new star artist. After working with Claremont on a couple of other titles, Byrne then joined Claremont on X-Men, where the creators would turn the series (which was bi-monthly at the time) into a hit (although, as Byrne has always been quick to note – sales on the title kept going up after Byrne left, with the book not becoming Marvel’s number one seller until a few years after Byrne’s departure, during Paul Smith’s run on the title).
In 1980, Byrne left X-Men to take over writing and art duties on Fantastic Four for a long run that would also make Fantastic Four one of Marvel’s best-selling titles. During this period, he also launched an Alpha Flight ongoing series and then later had a brief stint on Incredible Hulk (where he switched places with the Hulk creative team, with Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola taking over Alpha Flight from Byrne).
During Byrne’s rise to fame, Marvel Comics briefly flirted with the idea of taking over DC Comics’ superhero line through a deal where Warner Bros. would license the DC characters to Marvel. When this was a possibility, Byrne submitted a proposal to take over Superman. That deal never progressed all that far, but obviously it showed that Byrne was very interested in taking on Superman.
In the early 1980s, Steve Gerber and Frank Miller pitched DC on a reboot of their three main characters, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. They would be all part of a shared line called Metropolis, with each line being symbolized by an iconic description. There would be Amazon (written by Gerber), Dark Knight (written by Miller) and Man of Steel (or maybe THE Man of Steel) (written by Gerber and Miller together).
However, DC soon decided that, as part of a celebration of their 50th anniversary in 1986, they would reboot the DC Universe. As part of the reboot, they decided that they would accept pitches (this would be roughly early 1985) from a number of different creators for ideas on rebooting their major characters. Gerber wanted no part of competing with other creators over the gig, so he backed out (he and Miller also were hoping to get some new creator-owned options involved in their deal that clearly wasn’t going to happen). Miller just adapted his Dark Knight pitch “Batman: Year One” when Denny O’Neil took over editing duties on the Batman titles. Greg Potter and George Perez’s Wonder Woman pitch was chosen for Wonder Woman.
For Superman, though, DC was having trouble picking out the right pitch.
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