It’s Batman’s turn for an anniversary celebration.
Last year, DC Comics celebrated a big landmark for their original superhero, Superman, with Action Comics #1000. The super-sized issue hailed the Man of Steel’s eight decades in print with a collection of short stories by different superstar writers and artists. Now it’s the Dark Knight’s turn, since Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 arrived only a year after Superman’s debut in Action Comics #1. One of the superstar pairings for the Detective Comics anniversary is the reunion of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev. EW can exclusively debut their nine-page Batman story in full here.
Bendis and Maleev have been collaborating for decades now, but are perhaps best known for their run on Daredevil in the early 2000s. Bendis, after all, was a popular and prolific Marvel writer until very recently. Now that Bendis has made the move to DC, he and Maleev can finally tackle the superhero they (and their fans) have wanted for years.
“When we first teamed for Daredevil, DC called us. This was years ago,” Bendis tells EW. “They offered me and Alex to leave Marvel and come do Batman. We looked at each other and were like, ‘ahh they finally called and we can’t come!’ Anyone can relate to this, once in a while you get a call and later you think, ‘I wonder what would have happened if I had done this?’ There was no sliding door, we weren’t going to leave Marvel at the time. But we’ve always thought about it. So when I came to DC, I had to call Alex. He said, ‘I want Batman! I’ve waited so many god damn years!’ If you put a piece of paper in front of Alex, he’ll draw Batman. That’s his go-to. So there was a lot of context when DC offered us to do a story in Detective Comics #1000. I was like oh yeah, this will scratch that itch beautifully for me and Alex.”
This is not Maleev’s first Batman comics work. He previously illustrated some of the comics from the seminal “No Man’s Land” arc in the late ’90s, but this time he’s handling all the art duties himself.
“I did some Batman before. I did some ‘No Man’s Land’ but I didn’t ink myself on that one,” Maleev says. “I always wanted to just take over the art from beginning to end, even the coloring, just to express that 20-year wait and put it on the page. I’m very happy.”
Though many fans have long seen Batman as the natural successor to Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil run, the writer doesn’t actually see much similarity between the Dark Knight and the Man Without Fear. In his view, “there’s a lot more connection between Daredevil and Superman, with their extra-sensory perception of the world and how it affects their decision-making. Batman is reliant on clues and detection and his own point of view. I see Daredevil and Superman looking outside themselves, while Batman is very internalized in his justice.”
In this story, Batman isn’t the only person looking for clues. Set towards the end of Bruce Wayne’s life, Bendis and Maleev’s Detective Comics story is told from the perspective of the Penguin. The old villain explains how he was able to finally piece together Batman’s secret identity over the years.
“It was hard to draw Penguin old. Not Batman, Batman was easy,” Maleev says. “But with Penguin, you have to imagine what he would look like in his 80s and 90s. Without the makeup, as a frail old man, how would he have aged from what he used to look like? That was a challenge. I had some different sketches, and I was trying to play with his makeup. The colors make him look very old, not just the line art.”
“People’s looks evolve over time,” Bendis adds. “Sometimes with older people you see they’re still doing their look, but it’s not as stylish as it used to be. They go through the motions but they don’t have the same oomph, or it changed into something old over time. We talked about that. What would he be walking around in now?”
Maleev summarizes: “He didn’t age like a cathedral, he aged like a shed.”
Action Comics #1000 represented Bendis’ first published work at DC after making the move from Marvel. One year later, he’s firmly enmeshed in the world of Batman and Superman et al, writing several titles and handling his own imprints. This isn’t even the last word Bendis and Maleev have to say about Batman, either. Though they’re vague with details at the moment, the writer and artist say they have plans for a Batman-related project this summer.
“This is just the beginning for us,” Bendis says. “Even though we’re not coming on to a Batman book that exists, me and Alex are working on a huge Batman-infused storyline coming to DC Comics this summer. This is kind of a palate cleanser. This is what’s gonna look and feel like. This is an artistic prelude.”
Detective Comics #1000 hits stores March 27, and features other stories by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez, Kevin Smith and Jim Lee, and many others. For now, read Bendis and Maleev’s full story below.