DC’s Bombshells: United flew onto the scene in 2017 as part of DC’s digital first series. United took a different approach to the Bombshells canon. These heroines, while flawed are not above redemption, change and growth. They are happy to partner with, or even play second string to, the human heroes fighting for their rights and liberty. DC announced the end of the series earlier in 2018 and for writer Marguerite Bennett saying good-bye has been bittersweet. The Beat spoke with Bennett about the final issue of United and whether or not this is truly the end for our heroes.
What Happens Now?
The conception for the series began back in 2014, so these characters have been pat of her life for a significant period of time. It’s something, Bennett says will be incredibly difficult to part with. “It’s indescribable to see it conclude. It won’t hit me just yet that it’s over – a few months from now, I’ll be working in my garden with the cat, and I’m sure I’ll just burst into tears.”
I don’t know if it is possible for someone to exude gratitude but Bennett just might. She seems truly surprised at the success of the series, but for those of us familiar with her work, the rise of United is no surprise at all. Speaking about the hit series Bennett says,”Bombshells was never meant to be what it became. We were expected to be cancelled after 5 or 6 issues – instead, we went on for four years, two series, action figures and Funko Pops, Tonner dolls and fashion lines, dozens of artists and the most dedicated editors in the industry, 65 issues worth of script, and 1,300 pages of story – and we never once shipped late. We existed because of the readers, the retailers, the cosplayers, the fans. We existed because of you. I will never be able to thank you enough.”
When it came to writing the final issue of Bombshells: United, released June 6, 2018, Bennett says she wanted to offer impressions instead of conclusions. She expressed a strong desire to wrap up the story in a way that enabled readers to imagine their own stories. She wanted there to be enough for the readers to imagine their own adventures of for years to come. “I stood on the shoulders of giants with Jim Fletcher and Ant Lucia’s designs. The best legacy I can think of would be that Bombshells gave others any small thing that might encourage or enable them to tell stories of their own.”
In a previous interview with my colleague Alex Lu, Bennett had mentioned a desire to create heroes who were flawed, yet capable of redemption. I asked Bennett if she felt she had accomplished this goal and if there was anything else she wished the series had done more of? She responded, “Oh, always. There is always more to be done. There is always work to be done better. It is impossible not to regret the choices one could have made to be better, stronger, more thoughtful, more kind, in a work. I am the most flawed heroine in my work. Ideally, in the next volume of my life, I will have a chance to do more, do better. ”
Is it really over?
In the final issue of the series there is a tease for who may take on the mantle of the Bombshells. Readers are shown a Space Age Bruce Wayne, it’s a Batman with a very different about his backstory. This Bruce Wayne has never suffered the loss of his parents. I wanted desperately to know more about where this idea came from and what Bennett wants from any possible future series.
“I wanted to have a moment to underscore that a happy ending is not an ending, but a revelation. You have been through your storm – what happens now? Now, you help others. Now, you use your strength, your knowledge, the make the way better and brighter and easier for those who come after.”
She added, “Batman’s rise is not meant to be superheroic – it is meant to be supportive. The greatest and noblest act he can undertake, raised as he has been with love and kindness, is to become a teacher, protector, and guide to others. The true heirs of the Bombshells are these girls – the Bombshells who do not yet know who and what they are – and our Batman’s greatest adventures will be in helping them learn, in using his strength, his skills, the gift of his life for their good. There should be no shame for men in approaching a crisis with love, understanding, compassion, and support. In this small way, I hope readers – and future writers, for I have never before given a future writer any piece of advice about a story I have written – is that this Batman uses his power and privilege to help, train, and shelter the Bombshells still to come. It was never about him, and it doesn’t have to be. He grew up with such love, such stories of heroism, that he does not need to be the star to help others shine.”
Bennett’s optimism and hope in people, in their goodness and strength is palpable. Bennett is able to do this while never shying away from the demons of America’s past. Finding a balance between giving people hope while shining a light on the real and lasting harm caused by government mandated practices, like the Internment of Japanese Americans, had to be a unique challenge. That’s why I asked Bennett to expand on that challenge a bit more.
“I think the challenge was exactly what you stated. How can one look at the headlines, at the world, and still strive and work in optimism? To say “Oh, but the world will get better, it will all turn out all right, it will improve on its own” is naïve, unless accompanied by work, always, always by work. Bombshells, in its own small way, was part of that work. It was a story written in defiance and reclamation of the rights of women, people of color, queer folk, marginalized folk, to see themselves in their own media and history.”
Love. Full stop.
If there is one lasting lesson from Bombshells: United, it is that small acts of kindness and compassion matter. As a reader of the series, something that resonated with me was how these characters showed compassion and care to one another and strangers. Through out the series we see self-sacrifice, care and kindness, even when they may be experiencing pain themselves. It’s a lesson, I told Bennett, that feels very right for the political climate we now find ourselves in.
In response to this, Bennett said, “I hope it means something to readers – to fight, to work, in whatever way you have, for the compassion and protection of those in your world. I hope readers will tell the stories of their own lives, retaking the narrative of our communal and cultural future. I hope that they grow with grace and kindness, proud of their work, proud of themselves. I hope that those who can give do give, and those who can work do work, and live in defiance of cruelty and dehumanization. Your life is a gift.”
United is deeply unafraid of demonstrating the power of love in its many shapes and forms. The way the series handled love always felt so natural, sensitive, and seamless. There’s a casualness that comes from being around someone for a long period of time, there a little mannerisms you pick up from loved ones, and giving a nod to those is something United does incredibly well.
Asking Bennett to reflect on her depiction of love she said, “So often, I have seen mainstream media reduce queer love to paragons of virtue and tragedy, or moralize over them as vice and tragedy. Instead, I wanted to write love sincerely – that queer relationships be true, be honest, be sincere, be real. Tenderness, loss, joy, motherhood, partnership – I wanted every little thing to feel so real, you could hold it in your hand.”
Closing out our interview, I wanted to know if there was anything Bennett had wanted to do but couldn’t because of time constraints.”I’ll always want more time. We could have gone on ten years and I’d want more time. I am greedy for time. I am greedy for this universe and the heroines with whom I fell so much in love, greedy for the hours spent with readers, talking, listening, storytelling.”
She added, “There was a magnificent Katana and Cassandra story I hope might one day be told. There are seeds of ideas sprinkled throughout. But you know, when I was little, I cut my teeth on seeds like that – cut my teeth on fanfiction, message boards, sleepovers and theories. I do not need to be the one who coaxes the seed into a flower. The readers—the future writers—have a whole world to cultivate. I believe in their garden, at this point, far more than I believe in my own.”
Bennett is filled with a graciousness and gratitude for those who read her work that feels rare in a time of such incredible cynicism. She seems truly and utterly thrilled at her chance to tell stories, share worlds with readers. I asked her if there was anything about reader’s reactions which came as a surprise.
“I suppose the honor and the endurance of their love, their patience for my failures, and their understanding when I was an imperfect storyteller. The thought, time, intelligence, analysis, and dedication of Bombshells is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. They brought so much to the book, beyond whatever we did – I will miss them.”
In closing, Bennett wanted to thank the following people: “Writers Jon Tsuei and Mey Rude were especially generous with their time, as were the volunteers at the Manzanar Historical Site and the Japanese American National Museum. Marguerite Sauvage, Sandy Jarrell, Mirka Andolfo, Siya Oum, Stephen Byrne, J. Nanjan, Wes Abbott, Kristy Quinn, everyone – they built a whole world. Even though the series has ended, I hope that world endures.”
We hope so too.
You can pick up the final issue here.
DC Comics: BOMBSHELLS: UNITED
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Cover: Marguerite Sauvage
Art: Aneke, Marguerite Sauvage
Sale Date: June 6, 2018
Andrea Ayres writes about comics and representation in pop-culture.