Interview - THE one, the only Brian Michael Bendis

I'm not sure why, but I just keep getting interviews with some of the biggest names in comic books. Some say it's because of my devilishly good looks, to this my wife says 'nay! It's far more likely to be out of pity but either way, I'll take it.

Read on for our chat about digital comics, medical opinions on event fatigue and Crocodile Dundee.

So here today I present to you the current writer of Avengers, New Avengers, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and the massive smash hit Scarlet, Mr. Brian Michael Bendis. 

Ryan: Today I'm speaking with Mr. Brian Michael Bendis, current scribe of Avengers, Avengers Prime, New Avengers, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Doom and Mystery as well as the creator-owned Powers, the critically acclaimed Scarlet and about 8,000 tweets per day. Have I missed anything?



Brian Michael Bendis: Well I am an adjunct college professor and I did create Crocodile Dundee.  No? Too Australian?  Too 80's?

Since your relaunch, The Avengers have been hurtled into the future by Kang the Conquerer and the New Avengers have had their hands full with a crisis caused by The Eye of Agamotto. How long until we see a crossover between the titles?  

We have a couple of pretty cool storylines coming up that will crossover with both books hopefully in a way that won't be annoying. It's more important that the books get up on their own feet and identify themselves to the readers before you start throwing crossovers at them. In fact, there are two, yes two, very large storylines being drawn right now by artists that absolutely can't handle a monthly grind but are among the finest comic book artists in the world. Both of those projects have both Avengers teams teaming up to fight the fight no Avengers team could fight themselves.

I don't think I'd be wrong in describing your career as prolific and your work on Marvel "event" titles such as House of M, Secret War, Secret Invasion and, most recently, Siege have reshaped the Marvel Universe. How far in advance do you plant the seeds for future story lines?

The reason I tried and try to accomplish some longer form storytelling is that I've been allowed that luxury with a longer term contract than most freelance writers get in this business. I'd be a fool not to try to surprise people and maybe reward people with a storyline that is the opposite of a hit-and-run kind of story you often see. We have these creative retreats in New York City a few times a year where a handful of writers gather with the editors and pitch our ideas or take ideas around the room and see what kind of cool stuff will birth out of them. These retreats are great for me because I get to pitch long form ideas and all of the other writers either jump in with their own cool stuff or poke holes in the idea that I have to find creative solutions for. So by the time you guys see the idea it has been workshopped almost to death. 

So yes, to answer your question, I'm already seeding some new ideas

There has been a lot of talk recently about "event fatigue". Do you think consumers perceive any difference between major events like Siege and pseudo-events such as Curse of the Mutants and the upcoming Chaos War or is it all one in the same?

I think that a lot of people like a lot of different kinds of things. I think that people like to project what they want onto other people. Marvel took the summer off from events these quote unquote events and already people are complaining that there are no events. And the people complaining that there are no events are almost exactly the same people that were complaining about event fatigue.  I will tell you my philosophy on all of this and it is a philosophy that I have not wavered on one bit: every story is an event. Every one. Every story I write I feel has dramatic ramifications to the characters I'm writing for. I learned this the first year I was writing Ultimate Spiderman. Every book matters. Every single one. These events are so much fun to write and market and get people wound up about. it so much fun. But every single book I write to me feels that important or I wouldn't put it out. When people say they have event fatigue I say you have fatigue over awesome things happening in the books that you spend money on? I remind them that no one is actually making them physically fight alien invaders! There's really nothing that fatiguing going on. And if you are being fatigued by page turning please do consult a physician :-)

As much as I was enjoying Spider-Woman, I'm almost glad that it was cancelled so that Alex Maleev and yourself could work on the sensational Scarlet. Passion for a project obviously makes an incredible difference on the finished product. All of your work is of the highest calibre, and I wouldn't insinuate otherwise, but do you find yourself more passionate about your creator owned projects?

No. I am equally passionate about any book that has my name on it. I'm very sure at this point in my life that these books are what I am leaving behind in this world so it is insanely important to me that all of them have a quality and a passion to them. I know people that love creator owned books sometimes want to believe that we save the good stuff for the creator owned books and maybe there are some people that do do that. But I really really try to put the good stuff and all of the books.  How can I get someone to buy a creator owned book of mine if the work for hire work they read of mine wasn't appealing?

When Alex and I were working on Spider Woman we were also doing the motion comic and we worked on it day and night for months. We were planning on coming back to it after break but it looks like Marvel put something else in front of us that is even more challenging. More on that later :-)

What creator owned books allow is a freedom. A freedom of expression. A freedom to build a character that on paper, like Scarlet, might seem insanely unlikable. And it's wonderful at the end of the day... no matter what anyone thinks of it... it's yours. But truthfully I get equally emotional and invested in the characters that I own and the characters that I don't. When I'm writing them/ while I'm writing them they are real people to me.

But I am so thrilled about the reaction to Scarlet. It was my first creator owned series since Powers and Alex's first one ever. And Alex was taking a big leap of faith with me and I was praying to baby Jesus that it paid off. Not in a financial way. But in a spiritual way. And it did. Alex has become almost a different type of creator. It's amazing to be part of.


There was some unfortunate news this week that DC Comics will be shutting up shop on the Wildstorm imprint as well as making some changes to their digital division. Do you see these changes causing repercussions elsewhere in the industry?

I'm sure there are. I'm hardly a business person. My wife is. She runs her business. But it would seem kind of silly to think that this wouldn't have some sort of repercussion. I really hope that everyone lands on their feet and gets what they want out of this world. But if you study the history of comics: this has happened many times before-at both companies. Sometimes a move like this is followed by a Renaissance not unlike what happened to marvel after the bankruptcy. Sometimes it's followed by years of people not being able to find footing. I vote for Renaissance. I hope DC goes crazy this year and  blows the roof off the place. Because every time they do anything right my bosses at Marvel get crazy competitive and start doing crazy things too. And that's when it's the most fun to work for them. I like when everybody's crazy.

Marvel Comics has invested a massive amount of time and money in their digital division, how do you envision comic books as a medium in the future?

I think you'll be able to just put them on your tongue and let them dissolve like a cough strip :-)

Do you see a time when funny books end up being funny files or funny .jpgs?

I believe that was last Monday. Yes the digital revolution happened and is continuing to happen and it's happening quite quickly. I hope and pray that our retail partners find a strong footing when the dust settles. There are a lot of amazing retailers and a lot of people who really love collecting books, like me, so we'll see where it all ends up. But every day I ride my bike by a large piece of retail storefront that used to hold a Blockbuster video. Things are changing quickly. As far as people who love comics and people who make comics I don't know if there's going to be much change. People who tell stories always have a job in our culture. It really doesn't matter in what form that story takes.

You're quite vocal and take a "tough love" stance with your advice towards amateur writers. What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received in relation to writing?

Focus.

And I'm not sure I would say its tough love. But I do see a lot of people looking for reasons to fail. Looking for excuses  to not even try to be awesome. I would like everyone to at least try to be awesome. So I just try to remind people that a lot of the time these things they think that are obstacles in front of them are really excuses for creativity.

If you had to pick the definitive Bendis title, the one book that you would recommend to a person who had never even heard of you, what would it be and why?

That's one of those questions I can't possibly answer. I always go: well, what do you like? Do you like some teenage superhero? I have some teenage superhero for you. You like crazy epic superhero events??! I've got some of those. You like a crazed punk chick talking right to you as she calls for revolution?  Hey, I have one of those too.

There's Jeff Parker, Chris Samnee, Colleen Coover, Paul Tobin, Rick Remender, Matt Fraction and yourself all living in Oregon. What is it about Oregon that has drawn some of the best talent in comic books and are the spiders really as savage as Chris and Laura Samnee say?

That's not even the tip of the Portland iceberg. The Ruckas, the Wagner's, the Bowens, the Allreds, the guy who did Blankets, the guy who did Too Much Coffee Man, Dark Horse Comics, Oni Comics, Top Shelf Comics... this place is literally lousy with comic book professionals. It's almost annoying :-)

And I don't know where Chris and Laura live. I actually hear they live pretty close to me and I don't know what spiders they're talking about. They really may need to clean the bathroom better. :-)

Coral Fang, cool name for a Chinese female assassin or just a great album? 

You get extra blogger brownie points for hitting me with a Distillers reference. I miss that band but am happy  the Spinnerretes are there in their place!

I aim to please.

May I recommend the Black Keys new album? I loved it.

You mean Brothers? Got it and love it.

Thanks to Mr. Bendis for his time and also for helping to forge  the Marvel Universe into the crazy place that it is today. 

Before I leave you I have to recommend that everyone goes out there to get a copy of Scarlet. Not only is the writing fantastic but Alex Maleev's art is up there with the best I've seen this year.

Visit Brian Michael Bendis at Jinxworld and follow him on Twitter.

3 comments :

cool interview. wonder what him an alex are going to do after scarlet if it's not spiderwomen?

joff
28 September 2010 at 14:01 comment-delete

Cool interview excellent first up interview Ryan, it is very easy to read with straight forward informative answers well done Brian.
Keep it coming "Stan " would be a good follow up interview,hint,hint.

chris
2 October 2010 at 15:55 comment-delete

Thanks "Chris" if that is your real name! Who knows? Maybe if I take a number I could interview THE Stan Lee.

Thanks for the kind comments, both from yourself and joff.

2 October 2010 at 20:55 comment-delete

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