In September, Bleeding Cool reported that DC Comics was putting an end to the big-name-writer exclusive contract deals that had defined the publisher in recent years. One of those names was Brian Bendis, who came to DC from Marvel in the same fashion as Jack Kirby. An exclusive deal arranged by former DC President, Diane Nelson, almost on her way out of the publisher.
I understand that this is no longer the case that Brian Bendis is no longer exclusive at DC Comics. He can write work-for-hire for any publisher, but no longer receives the prodigious page rate or benefits that were part of the generous deal that saw him move from Marvel Comics to DC back in 2018.
At the time of the big deal, Bleeding Cool queried the decision, given that Brian Bendis' fanbase wasn't exactly flocking to his Iron Man comic at Marvel. I understand that DC not only met Marvel's contract deal but far exceeding it – and this was at a time when Marvel themselves were querying whether Bendis was worth what they were paying him anymore. Civil War II had been a relative dud, he wouldn't play along with Secret Empire, and he was at odds with Marvel Comics executives over this and that. He had quite the disagreement with David Gabriel, whose interview with Miles Griepp for ICV2 regarding diversity at the publisher which needed repeated clarifications. Then there was a decision made to give the title called simply Spider-Man to the Peter Parker iteration of the character in 2018, rather than Miles Morales, which would become Miles Morales: Spider-Man again — a battle Bendis thought he had previously won for Marvel Legacy. Gabriel told Bendis that diversity just wasn't sell. The counter to that being, what did at Marvel back then, aside from Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man and Star Wars? Now, to be clear, the fight isn't why he left — but was just part of his overall discontent.
Because be in no doubt, he used to sell lots. Ultimate Spider-Man was a monster. His Avengers and X-Men runs did very well, but much of his later work, the creation of Miles Morales: Spider-Man and Riri Williams: Ironheart would only be fully appreciated after he left Marvel, courtesy of their appearance in movies and TV shows. And appear to have proved Brian Bendis right on this matter.
But the Marvel Comics Creative Committee of which he played a strong part no longer influenced the films. Brian Bendis, who wrote the first Marvel post-credit scenes with Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury in Iron Man, was no longer a part of that mix. And, aside from the then-off-limits Fantastic Four, he had written for every Marvel creation that had interested him.
Where DC Comics has offered Brian Bendis a spot at their films/multi-media table, working alongside Geoff Johns, something denied him by Kevin Feige at Marvel. Although, then Geoff Johns dropped out too and Bendis was no longer in the mix either.
But Brian Bendis wanted Superman. So much so that the critically acclaimed creative team of Gleason and Tomasi were jettisoned to make way for him. Bendis was however able to bring along a number of other talents with him, including Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Alex Maleev, David Mack, David F Walker and more, as well as his creator-owned line and the Wonder Comics line. Those have dropped away, sadly. And while his work on Superman line was solid, it had no discernible sales increase in what had come before. It couldn't beat the Batbooks and didn't justify the pay packet that had previously been negotiated. Especially at a time when DC Comics was cutting staff and costs significantly. Bendis ended his Superman titles far earlier than planned, took on the better-selling Justice League instead, and finally got Checkmate happening again.
Might we keep an eye on Boom Studios, who have had a pattern of working with such creators of late? Will Image Comics have forgiven Brian Bendis from pulling Powers to Marvel Comics – and then DC? Or maybe Axel Alonso and Bill Jemas will put the gang back together again at AWA?