It’s not a bird. It’s not a plane. And what writer Brian Michael Bendis really wants you to know is, it’s not a trick.
Superman will reveal his secret identity to the world next month in the pages of his self-titled series from DC Comics. No more nonprescription glasses and combing back the s-curl to blend in with the society he protects. No more slouching. No more phone booths. (Well, it’s likely been a while since he’s used one of those.) But Superman is coming clean, and Bendis says the new story line he wrote will be a lasting change for the Man of Steel.
“There’s no Kryptonite. There’s no Mister Mxyzptlk (a magical, reality altering foe). There’s no magic amulet. No Bizarro,” Bendis said emphatically. “It’s a hero who gave a lot and needs a little something for himself.”
The biggest moment for Superman since he was killed in the early 1990s begins to take root in “Superman” No. 17 (illustrated by Kevin Maguire), on sale in print and digitally on Wednesday. Issues No. 18 (on sale Dec. 12) and No. 19 (January), both illustrated by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado) will deal with Superman’s opening up to the world and the aftermath. In February, DC will also publish two one-shot issues, “Superman: Heroes” in January, and “Superman: Villains,” that will show the impact of Superman’s decision from the perspective of DC’s biggest names both good and evil.
The decision was not an easy one to make — this is Bendis’ first potentially polarizing creative decision at DC since he made the move from Marvel Comics in 2017. He said DC’s top brass had to give approval after a whole lot of internal debating. Meetings were had with anyone who works on Superman characters in the DC universe, as the weight of this decision would be felt in their titles as well.
But don’t fall for the notion that this is the end of Clark Kent.
“I get why people would immediately think … that Clark Kent just goes away,” Bendis said, adding, “Clark Kent is a huge part of who (Superman) is. It’s who he grew up as. He’s not giving it up. He’s sharing it with people. He’s saying ‘This is who I truthfully am. This is how I’m good at both jobs, and I want you to know that so we have a more honest relationship.’ ”
The coming “The Truth” story line in “Superman” Nos. 18 and 19 will answer the inevitable questions about what it’s like to be both Superman and one of the Daily Planet’s top reporters.
“How it affects business. How it affects the Daily Planet. How it affects how he gets stories. How (will) people perceive his stories? Does he have to give his Pulitzer back? All of these things are going to be addressed very quickly,” Bendis assured.
This isn’t the first secret-identity revelation Bendis has been a part of. He unmasked Daredevil years ago at Marvel, a decision that stayed with the character for years — and Bendis points out that the world didn’t end. Some would say the storytelling in Daredevil after the moment was better for it.
“I can only speak to my own track record that things aren’t done for shock. They’re done for story,” Bendis said. “And the only way to do that is to tell the story.”
Bendis also notes that with today’s younger fans, secret identities just aren’t as big a deal as they were to previous generations of comic book fans, adding many associate hiding who you really are with online trolling.
“You have to remember most secreted identities today don’t exist in comics. The Avengers don’t have secret identities,” Bendis said. “People with secret identities (today) are people online who talk crap.”
Bendis isn’t just helping direct Superman’s future — he’s been given the keys to the future of the entire DC universe. He’s writing a “Legion of Superheroes” series, featuring a fan-favorite group of heroes from the future that includes Superman’s son Jon, aka Superboy (the first issue is available Wednesday).
When asked if he sees a future scenario where this monumental Superman moment is reversed and Clark Kent’s glasses are dusted off, he confidently says no.
“I have to be careful with my wording, but, you know, this is Warner Bros., and they don’t do things willy-nilly and this was approved,” Bendis said. “They said ‘Go for it. We see what you’re doing. We get it.’ It takes (Superman) into a place we would like to take him.”