While contemplating the next major move of his career, comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis found the answers and inspiration he was looking for at a public library in Ohio. The Cleveland-born Bendis was back in the state for his brother's wedding. During his visit, he was invited by an old friend to the downtown Cleveland library, the same one he had visited frequently as a child, to check out an exhibit.
The exhibit? "Superman: From Cleveland to Krypton." Bendis felt like it was a sign. At that moment, few people knew that Bendis was seriously contemplating a jump to DC Comics after almost two decades as one of the top writers at Marvel. But there he was, in his hometown — which also happens to be the birthplace of the "Superman" comic and its creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — surrounded by curvy S's and capes.
Bendis was so moved by the seemingly spontaneous superhero moment that he recorded it on video and later posted it to his YouTube channel. The comic book gods had spoken: Bendis knew it was time to take a leap, up, up and away to an uncertain but exciting future.
"I went through that exhibition and I said, 'Yeah, that's it, I'm doing it,' " Bendis said.
However, the transition from one comic behemoth to another wouldn't be smooth. Bendis became ill in December and says he nearly died of an MRSA infection. He took his time recovering before it was announced that he'd be working on Superman stories at DC.
"I'm happy to report a complete clean bill of health," Bendis said. "Truthfully, this transition, having these new stories to tell and characters to write, has been very therapeutic."
Although his first Superman story debuted in the 1,000th issue of "Action Comics," Bendis' full-time duties kicked off the release of "The Man of Steel," a six-issue miniseries (the first issue was illustrated by Ivan Reis) that is a continuation of the story Bendis began to tell in "Action" No. 1,000.
Bendis knew right away that he would be creating a villain for Superman: He thought the superhero needed a new rival, someone who could get under his impenetrable skin. That villain, Rogol Zaar, appears in the "Action" issue and "The Man of Steel" No. 1.
To research what kind of tricks a villain would have to have up his sleeve to make Superman uncharacteristically emotional, Bendis went to the best source. But while diving into decades of Superman comics, one question kept coming back to him: What's up with the destruction of Krypton? "As I was reading, I had this idea, 'Wow, that's weird that a planet just exploded,' " Bendis said. "Did anyone question that? Why did that happen? It doesn't seem like it was even investigated."
Bendis ran the idea by fan-favorite Superman writer/artist Dan Jurgens, of Minnesota, who just finished the writing run on "Action Comics."
"I called up Dan and I said, 'Should I ever do a story about what really happened on Krypton?' And Jurgens goes, 'Why, what really happened on Krypton?' I knew from [his] inquisitive tone that [I] was on to something," Bendis said.
Despite flirting with the idea of starting his DC career with other characters, Bendis says the connection between Superman, his hometown and the Jewish upbringing of his youth was too sentimental to pass up.
"If you grew up in Cleveland, especially if you're a little comic book Jewish person, all you hear from people is rock 'n' roll was born here and Superman was born here," Bendis said. "Finding out that someone like you can do that for a living is a big deal."