Brian Michael Bendis Interview ē March 27th 2002

(Interview & Forward by Alex Hamby)

It was the interview I thought would never happen. Brian Michael Bendis and Hero Realm had never found a mutual ground where we could meet and two attempts to request this interview were turned down. There was a philosophical difference between this site and the writer of such popular titles as Alias, Daredevil, Powers and Ultimate Spider-Man. Then something changed.

I asked again, privately this time, with a simple email. After a bit of consideration Mr. Bendis accepted the invitation. Of course this would be the most interesting interview I had done for this site since it wasnít simply a matter of asking questions and getting answers. There were questions that would be asked of me, a difference of opinion that would be discussed and Hero Realm would sit at the center of the entire exchange. It has proven to be one of the most interesting and exciting experiences I have had since this site began.

And now the interviewÖ

Alex Hamby - Brian Michael Bendis
'Never Say Never Again...'

March 27th 2002

Alex Hamby: Wow! At last we meet.

Brian Michael Bendis: How are you doing?

Alex: Not bad. How are you doing?

Brian: Alright. Are you ready to go?

Alex: I think so. Iíll tell you, to pump myself up for this I just finished reading Daredevil (issue #31).

Should I warn you in advance?

Brian: No. Bring it on.

Alex: These are standard Hero Realm Questions.

Brian: [Laughs] Bring emí on, man. Iím warning you too. Weíre going to have a talk.

Alex: Thatís fine. Did you want to start there or do it at the end?

Brian: No, you do whatever you do and weíll let it flow naturally.

Alex: The question that is going to be running through everyoneís mind is: Why did you finally accept this interview?

Brian: Because I do disagree with some of the things about your site but that doesnít give you the right not to do them. I thought that it would be an interesting dialogue. I was intrigued by it. I felt myself saying, ďnoĒ for the right reason but also for the wrong reason on half the stuff. Does that make any sense?

Alex: Yeah, I think I understand.

Brian: I was right not to do the interview but I was also wrong not to do the interview. So, I thought, ďLetís do it. Sounds like fun.Ē I never shy away from discussing such issues.

[We both laugh]

Alex: Iím a big fan of Powers. Where did that idea come from?

Brian: Itís hard to put a thing on itÖ

It was a mixture of Mike [Oeming] and me becoming better friends through the years. Heíd always show David Mack and I these drawings he was doing. He started doing drawings in the Powersí style of Kabuki, Jinx and Goldfish because thatís what we were working on at the time. They excite both of us but they excited me to such a degree that I couldnít even stand it. At the same time I started analyzing why it was that I never attempted to write a superhero comic but I loved them so much. I really loved the genre ≠ and I realized that a lot of my generation of comic writers, if you werenít assigned on of the heroes, Dark Knight and Watchmen kind of screwed it up for us.

We were raised on the ultimate [not to use Ultimate without giving royalty] superhero stories in Dark Knight and Watchmen. Itís sort of like everything had been said. So, I just moved onto another genre where I thought I had something to say. Then here we come, years later, and I analyze what I like about the genre and what I would have to say about it. I started thinking about the VH1: Behind the Music look at superheroes. Then I started mashing together my love of crime-fiction, love of the police procedural ≠ then I started thinking about what the police procedure would be for superheroes but really get into it.

I had just read Homicide, the book that the TV show is based on, which is an amazing procedural. Then Mike started doing drawings, then I told him the idea and then he started doing drawings based on the idea. Then BOOM you got the whole thing.

Then I read Janice Joplinís biography and for some reason that made it click. I canít tell you why.

Alex: Ah, youíre a Janice Joplin fan. Weíve got something in common.

Brian: There ya go! See!

Alex: How do your goals differ from Powers and all of your other work?

Brian: They donít. Anything with my name on it has the exact same goal, which is to craft a book that I would buy. Thatís the goal.

My personal goals are very very high. Higher than anyone has got for me, be it my employers or my readers. If my name is on it ≠ There are very few things in this world that you get to leave behind. I just read Gil Kaneís biography and Iím sitting there going, ďYou know what, man? There are very few things that will outlive you and comics will outlive me.Ē Clearly we see that they will.

So, kick *** on them. At least make them something you would buy. People will like them, not like them, at least make sure that you will buy them. So, every decision Iíve made, jobs I take, thatís the first test. Would I buy this book? Would I buy Daredevil with Alex Maleev drawing it? Hell yeah! Absolutely.

Thatís the goal.

As far as Powers is concerned, the only difference is that we get to kill everybody. We get to kill anyone we want whereas that is the one thing we wouldnít be able to do at Marvel. Marvelís not going to let me do a homicide book where I get to kill Captain America. So, we get to analyze the genre from that unique perspective.

Alex: You went through that whole starving artist thing.

Brian: Nine years of it thank you. [laughter]

Alex: You did a lot of stuff that people are retroactively talking about.

Brian: I donít care when they bought it as long as they bought it.

Alex: What do you think finally sparked the attention of Todd McFarlane and then Marvel?

Brian: Well, I actually know this. I was at Image and I had been there for many years before the founders even knew there was an Image central.

We all got comps. Todd was at Top Cow, saw the Goldfish trade and took it. He read it on the way home to Arizona. When he got back he said to Beau Smith, ďHey, find me this guy I think heís at Image.Ē [Laughs]

He just really liked Goldfish, he really liked that kind of storytelling and he offered me a couple of projects. He goes, ďI got two projects for you. One is a modern day FrankensteinÖĒ

And Iím like, ďIs this really Todd McFarlane on the phone?Ē It was really surreal, right?

ďÖitís about a giant monkey robotÖĒ I donít want to do a giant monkey robot book.

Then he goes, ďMy other oneís about two detectives.Ē That sounds good! Then we started talking about Sam and Twitch and it was right up my alley. It wasnít a Spawn book and it was something I could do. That worked out real well.

Exactly at the same time, my friend David Mack started working at Marvel Knights with Joe Quesada. I was absolutely in love with Marvel Knights, what it meant, what they were trying to do and how they were treating David. I think David slipped them a couple, I think, Jinx ≠ and I think Joe just loved Jinx. Loved my writing, not my drawing, which he made very clear.

He called me ≠ you get the Marvel Knights call, which is, ďIf you came to Marvel what would you do?Ē And I laundry listed stories Iíve been writing in my head since I was eleven. We were going to do Nick Fury but that didnít work out. Then Daredevil became a scheduling mess and he asked if David and I would do Daredevil. I was like, ďEr, yeahÖok.Ē

That was a book I was actually scared of. It meant so much to me in my youth that I didnít know. But I had a story I had been working on for quite a while and to work with David also was very important to me. David and I have been best friends since we both got into comics and I wanted one time for us to do something worthy of that friendship. So, that was a very personal thing for me.

Then I literally handed in Daredevil scripts and that day Bill Jemas had plopped into Joeís office and said, ďGee, weíve been working on this Ultimate Spider-Man but itís not coming together. Who would you hire?Ē And shockingly Joe said me. We took it from there.

Joe calls me and says, ďYouíre going to get a call to start Spider-Man over again.

What!?

Alex: So, it happened all because you took on Daredevil?

Brian: If anything this says ≠ and weíre talking nine years into my comic book career this is happening ≠ Itís literally being in the right place at the right time. Finally one of my trades is on someoneís desk at the right moment and finally I handed in a script and I was on someoneís mind at the time when something I was qualified to do came around the pike.

I get this email everyday, every hour, thatís like, ďHelp me. I canít break in.Ē

Iím like, ďDude, Iím the last person to ask.Ē I mean I Forest Gumped my way through this like no oneís business. I am eager to be here and I am so happy but meanwhile I sent in 4,000 submissions between the age of 20 and 25 ≠ I just stopped. I thought no oneís interested. Itís a lottery anyhow. Finally someone who could do something put me on a book like that.

It was fun and I didnít get fired right away, which I assumed was going to happen. So that was fun too.

I handed in a script for Ultimate two days after I got the gig. There was no Spider-Man, thereís no costume. Either theyíre going to **** on this or theyíre going to love it. Thankfully they loved it or I would have been kill-feed me, you would have never heard my name again.

Alex: Hereís the ego question: Do you think your taking the Marvel gig led to the companyís regaining some of the momentum it had lost?

Brian: I think decisions like hiring people like myself, David, Paul Jenkins and Straczynski ≠ thereís a thought process there that I am very proud to be a part of. I am one of a few things that worked out pretty well. My goals are pure and so are those of my friends who I just mentioned. We all just want to make really good comics with a unique voice. People really wanted that.

David and I kinda joke that we had to wait till everyone else left comics before we got our shot. Everyone from the early nineties left. They made their money, or they didnít, and they left. We stayed because we were going to stay either way. I would have just made my black and white comics and I would have been fine. So, we finally got our shot because there was nobody else left to hire.

I donít think itís me but I think thereís a decision making process that is very forward thinking. I like working for forward thinking people. I like it in comics, when Iím working on stuff outside of comics ≠ I like it when people are thinking outside the box.

Alex: Hereís a long one: Now that you are with Marvel doing Alias, Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man and youíre producing a Spider-Man cartoon, are you an independent writer working for a mainstream company or a mainstream writer who happens to do an indy comic in the form or Powers?

Brian: I run a company and one of the services that I provide Marvel is a big client for. Jinxworld is a company and it produces Powers and out of there comes my work for Marvel.

Itís really weird because I donít put labels on any of this stuff. I treat it all the same. Just because it has my name on it, it has to be treated as if itís the last book I am going to get to write. As if it is the only shot I am going to get at this. I give it everything Iíve got.

I donít care about all of this other stuff. What I care about is the fact that one of these books will be the first book that someone picks up ≠ of mine or of comics.

Alex: Good answer.

Brian: I donít want it to suck. Even if you donít like it you can at least say itís an interesting decision process. Itís not my cup of tea but at least I can see the people behind it gave it shot.

Alex: Now, with working on so many books, how do you manage to give them each a unique voice?

Brian: A) I donít drink. [Laughs] There are traps of this business that Iíve learned wisely from the generation before me.

I have always admired and respected the work of people who produced a lot of work like Jack Kirby and John Romita. I think that them producing a lot of work made the work a lot better. I think that when they were using all of their steam, it wasnít the volume of the work that mattered it was the quality that mattered. I always aspired to be that kind of comic creator. On the same note, I donít want to be ďOh look he can write 50 titlesĒ. I have no interest in being that guy. Itís just I can.

So, I donít drink and I donít play video games, which is the more horrible thing to happen to mainstream comics ≠ the creation of Playstation. If they would take them away from comic creators you wouldnít even hear about a late book.

So, thereís that and I am way way ahead of schedule. I am six months ahead on all of my books. That means whatever mood Iím in when I wake up, thatís the book Iíll write. Thereís no deadline emergency. If I wake up and Iím in a Daredevil mood ≠ Usually when the book comes out and Alex [Maleev] and I are talking I am in a Daredevil mood, Iíll write Daredevil because Iím in a mood to write it. I can be in a Powers mood for two solid weeks and write tons of it.

Alex: So, how long does it take you to turn out a book?

Brian: I donít know. Sometimes it takes a long time and sometimes you have a creative orgasm and it comes out of you. Not to be gross but sometimes it comes out of you. Donít you ever get to typing and, you know, it just builds and comes right out of you. I donít know, itís just very organic. When the organic thingís happening itís a lot of fun.

Sometimes I type something that ends up looking like an Alan Moore script. Then I go back on a day when I am less of a fanatic and I format it so it looks normal. [Laughs]

Thatís the thing. If you stay ahead of schedule deadline is not an issue. Itís all pure. So, anytime I have to write something under a crunch, I always hate it. I just donít want that feeling. Thatís just spoiling myself but it works for me.

Alex: Letís switch gears. This will be where things turn a little bit. I read in the back of an issue of Powers where you spoke about continuity. It was a transcript from a convention where you spoke about continuity. Can you give me a couple highlights regarding your beliefs regarding continuity?

Brian: What did I say? [Laughs]

Alex: Alright, Iíll tell you. I canít quote it verbatim, Iíll just get the basic jistÖ

Brian: Yeah, fine.

Alex: Your idea regarding continuity was respect for creators who came before you; that you didnít want to contradict someone elseís work.

Brian: Yeah.

Alex: So, you hold true to that statement?

Brian: Yeah, pretty much. Thatís not the only thing but yeah.

Alex: Let me ask you this then, and I believe this is the only negative question I have in here. How does that philosophy hold with regards to Elektra and Frank Miller?

Brian: Thatís great! Your review ≠ did you write the review?

Alex: Yes, that would be me. Elektra number one was the book I reviewed and thatís where this all started.

Brian: Other people, I mean you werenít the only one guilty of this.

Alex: Yeah, but I was the worst. I was the one I think you remember.

Brian: You were the focal point of my anger. Other people didnít have professional sites or anything so I had to focus on you.

The problem is that someone like you will make an assumption about creators or companies. Your information is inaccurate. Then your assumption spirals into a world of total fiction.

I am not in a position to discuss Frank Millerís relationship with Marvel. Much like if he talked about my relationship with Marvel or my financial dealings with them. Iíd be pissed. I have to not say anything. If he doesnít want to say anything he doesnít have to. I think the fact that you havenít heard a peep out of him, and itís not like heís shy about things when they arenít to his liking, should say that heís either being taken care of or he doesnít care. Right?

A lot of the assumption was that Frank was being screwed by this -- It was all things you decided or based on information from 1986.

Alex: Actually, if you remember at the time, Wizard was doing a lot of coverage over the fact that you were taking over the book. They published that you were going to call Frank Miller.

Brian: Joe did. Joe took care of it. It was his relationship with Frank Miller.

Alex: The impression I had gotten from Wizard led me to an impression of information I used on my side.

Brian: Letís stick to the bigger question, the bigger idea, I want to pose to you guys. That comes to the fact that, on the Internet ≠ and I was as guilty of this as anyone ≠ thereís a tendency to treat comic creators almost like professional wrestling characters. You give them really two-dimensional personalities, pit them against each other, and pit them against the company or the nameless/faceless company against the creator. Have you found anything in this world to be that black and white?

Alex: Oh, no.

Brian: Of course not! So, itís just funny to me that this is done to comic creators.

The thing is that, in the early 90ís, I used to work at a comic store and this was when Image first started and whoís cartoonier than Rob Liefield and those guys when they were starting up. Because I was angry, poor and starving and woozy from Ramen noodle fumes, I would just laugh at them. Piss on them. Hahaha.

Iíve since apologized to the Image founders that I know for my behavior. Once you meet them ≠ you know Valentino who I have an excellent relationship with ≠ you realize that they are incredibly interesting people. The reason they became successful is because theyíre interesting people. Theyíve got a lot to say. Once you realize how youíre treating them like cartoon characters ≠ I felt an incredible amount of guilt for my behavior.

Then here I am, ten years later, and I am lucky enough to be in comics. I am lucky enough to be on some books that are doing well and I see some of that behavior, particularly on your site, being aimed towards friends of mine or myself about stuff you have absolutely no idea what youíre talking about.

Itís a weird part of comics that I canít wrap my head around.

Alex: I would think that this comes from the fact that the comic industry, as a standard rule, treats itself like a mini-Hollywood.

Brian: Not really. It may be perceived that way by you but a lot of the people I know in comics donít treat it like the be all end all of human existence. They are so happy to be doing comics.

Alex: ErrrrÖ

Brian: I know. There are people in this business but they come and go so quickly that they donít even count to me. They are making properties so they can sell them. That sort of stuff.

Alex: But there are people in the industry who still act like that. Weíve been in and around the industry since the 90ís. The same time you were working in a comic store, so was I. We did the convention thing, managed to get ourselves in a bit further with some other stuff that I donít want to go into. Even being as close as we got ≠ and itís not like we ever got to work for Marvel or be in the place where you are, so the perception is different ≠ Thereís still that fan perception of creators thinking they are above the fans.

Brian: Are you saying that there are comic creators who act above the fans?

Alex: Yes. Thereís a lot of them.

Brian: There are a few of them. I would call those people assholes. Letís refer to them as assholes and there are assholes everywhere. Thatís not just in comics. Thatís everywhere! You leave the house and youíre going to bump into an ******* .

There are people, say you walk around the small press alley, and you find people who are acting like they are royalty deserving some sort of entitlement and theyíre shocked that you donít see it. Theyíre just waiting for a break so they can be assholes to everyone. That guy is just waiting for a reason.

My thing is: I donít choose to view comics that way because there are so many people who donít act that way.

Alex: Can I ask you a question?

Brian: Yeah.

Alex: Based on the Internet, based on simply type written words on a screen, how is anyone supposed to make an accurate judgment call on anyone else?

Brian: Hereís an idea: Just read the books and enjoy them.

Alex: Right, but in a particular case like this ≠ the Hero Realm/Bendis relationship ≠

Brian: But you didnít review the bookÖ

Alex: No, I did review the book.

Brian: No, you reviewed what your feeling was with regard to how Frank Miller was being treated, or how Elektra should be treatedÖand I believe you said, ďSheís dead, she should stay dead!Ē Was that one of your issues on that?

Alex: Oh yeah! Iíll admit to that.

Brian: Frank Miller brought her back to life and then left the company. He brought her back to life ≠ that was it! Thereís no argument to that. Thatís just the facts.

So, you got that thing. And now youíre not reviewing the book, youíre reviewing the history of comics and your perception of it and thatís not a fair assessment of that title. Using this Elektra as a good example, and there are other things that you obviously reviewed, and I saw that you were just reviewing the work, and thatís fine, but when you cross that line into what you think is the history of that comic then thatís not good journalism.

Alex: Whoa! Whoa. We donít consider ourselves journalists.

Brian: But you areÖ

Alex: No. No. No. No, weíre not.

Brian: You have a responsibility. You do.

Alex: We donít have that responsibility and Iím not going to have that thrust upon us.

Brian: Iím telling you that in the world that we live in, with great power comes great responsibility. Donít you read your comics?

Well, this seems as good a place as any to end part one. This conversation goes on for a bit and the interview continues with a deeper look at Hero Realmís journalistic responsibility, comics for adults and a lot more talk about Brian Michael Bendisís works including Alias, Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man and the upcoming MTV cartoon. I promise you that this is the finest of Hero Realm interviews to date. Join me back here next week as the debate/interview continues...

--Alex Hamby

 


Last week started the first legendary meeting between popular comics scribe Brian Michael Bendis and myself. The result has been interesting so far spawning conversations regarding the journalistic responsibility of Hero Realm. Yet that was only the beginning and there's so much more to cover. Let's get on with part two of this epic interviewÖ


Alex Hamby - Brian Michael Bendis

Alex: We donít accept that responsibility. We openly say that we are not journalists because there are other sites who insist they are journalistsÖ

Brian: If you work, you are a journalist. Iím telling you, Iíve worked at a newspaper. You have a responsibility.

Alex: We donít get a dime for what we do.

Brian: It doesnít matter.

Alex: I want to appreciate what youíre saying and I do appreciate the way that youíre saying it. You know, whenever a person picks up a comic book ≠ thatís a review. Everybody reviews a book in their head and everyone vocalizes something to somebody. Tonight I turned to my wife and I told her how you finished issue 31 [of Daredevil]. I reviewed the book for my wife. That doesnít make me a journalist; it makes me a fan of what I read.

Brian: No. You donít see the lines between you telling your wife about Daredevil andÖ?

Alex: Ögoing on an Internet siteÖ

Brian: By the way, itís nice that your wife will listen to stories about Daredevil. Thatís a healthy comic book marriage.Öbut you have a professional site, that you are trying to get hits for, making statements and you do report news ≠ I see that you have a little news section there ≠ I saw you falsely reporting news about the cancellation of [Ultimate] Marvel Team-Up.

[Laughs]

Alex: That was posted someplace elseÖ

BrianThat was George. Weíll talk about that in a bit.

You canít report news, write reviews and not say you have a responsibility.

Alex: You absolutely can. Itís an opinion site.

Brian: And your responsibility, if you state a fact, it is to make sure that fact is true. Even if you said, ďIn my opinion Elektra died in Daredevil #181.Ē Thatís fine but to say, ďElektraís dead and she should stay dead. ď Thatís not true.

Weíre not even going to get into the fact that sheís a fictitious characterÖ

Alex: No, because what would be the point of this conversation.

Brian: Yeah, exactly. Weíre not going to pull out that thread.

I think I felt, in that instance, it was a scenario where the fictitious drama of comic creators was being placed in front of actual consideration of the work that was being done.

Alex: But it is very easy to wind up in that situation. I have, being a comic book fan and running the site, projected a personality upon you.

Brian: OK.

Alex: And you projected one upon me.

Brian: I projected one more on George. [Laughs]

Alex: At the time I wrote the reviewÖ

Brian: Yeah, thatís true butÖ

Alex: At the time, letís just say you were mad at me.

Brian: Yeah, ok, I think thatís true. At the timeÖ

Alex: I think George has grown on since with the Ultimate Spider-Man thing butÖ

[Laughs]

But at the time ≠ Iím just speakingÖ

Brian: At the time I didnít know there were two of you.

Alex: I think a lot of people still think I dress up as George on the weekends, like some Batman thing. But thatís ok.

You gotta admit thatís something that goes on.

Brian: But why? Again, thereís something else and youíre not claiming responsibility for that either?

Now my sense is that the only thing you are basing this personality projection on is the fact that I lucked out and have a couple books that are doing well.

Alex: Oh, absolutely not.

Brian: Then where is the projection coming from? Iím on the Internet; you can ask me any question you want. Iíve shown no shyness in explaining to someone if Iíve been fired or not fired off a book. I think my honesty speaks for itself. I pride myself on it. Iíve written whole comic books about what a f-ck-up I am at screenwriting. At some point youíve gotta say to yourself, ďThis guy is someone you can trust. This guyís not going to bullshit me.Ē So, I ask, where would this other stuff come from?

Alex: Iím going to have to go ahead and give in on this one.

Brian: [Laughs] Are you running out of tape?

In a wird way I think itís because Ultimate Spider-Manís doing well. I donít know where else it could come from.

Alex: Iíve never had an issue with Spider-Man.

Brian: Is it because of Wizard? I donít know.

Alex: When it came to Elektra it was that fanboy thing. Itís years of reading that Frank Miller was mad because Elektra returned. She came back before you ≠ she had another series.

Brian: I had nothing to do with that.

Alex: If I remember correctly ≠ and this is going back and dredging up stuff that I donít remember clearly ≠ but Frank Miller was verbal against the character being around.

Brian: Do you know that was ten years ago?

Alex: Thatís fine. It goes into that whole respectÖ

Brian: Did Frank say a word about ours?

Alex: No, but you saidÖ

Brian: No. Iím asking. Did you hear him say a word? If Frank came out and was
sh!tting all over it, I could see your point but he didnít. and he was around. He was out ripping up Wizard at the Harvey Awards. Itís not like he lost his edge. Heís pissiní vinegar all over the place.

So, again all Iím saying is that Ďyouí projected this onto your review.

Alex: See, I think thatís fair to do when your writing an opinion site to have an opinion.

Brian: And you donít take the responsibilityÖ?

[b[Alex: [/b]How is there a lack of responsibility when I openly state that this is my opinion. I take no responsibility for how anyone reacts to my opinion. Itís just that; itís my opinion.

Brian: It is your opinion. I said, in my opinion, itís your responsibility as a reviewer to acknowledge the work, for better or worse. Not to review what you think of the history of the character or how the creator of the character, in his dealings with Marvel, which you have no insider information other than what Frank Miller saidÖten years ago.

Alex: Actually there was stuff coming out at the time.

Brian: And if asked, because I am a huge Frank Miller fan and a huge fan of the character ≠ I was scared to take on the book but like this interview it wasnít a reason not to do it.

Brian: With my inside information, Iím telling you. Youíre just making stuff up and wonít take responsibility for it. It bums me out. How would you feel if I was making up sh!t about you and posted it on the internet? Itíd bum you out. It would.

When people say your name and something thatís not true it bums you out.

Alex: I do understand. Itís not like Iíve been left alone since starting this. Itís not like Iím untouchable.

Brian: I also though that Chuck had done something interesting that we hadnít seen in comics before and instead of analyzing it, you were just going to sh!t on the book to sh!t on the book.

There you go. Thatís how I felt.

Alex: I donít feel that I crapped on the book to crap on the book.

Brian: Didnít you say something like, ďIt was the worst book ever made?Ē

Alex: I can go overÖ

Brian: Aw, donít worry about it. Honestly, I donít even want to spend this much time on the subject. Iím surprised how much we disagree on it still...

Alex: I can appreciate what youíre saying because, as a creator, this is your baby. The one thing that I appreciate about going back and forth with you is that itís satisfying to talk to a creator who views their work as something important.

Brian: Not important.

Alex: You take it personally.

Brian: I absolutely do take it personally. Important ≠ I donít know if I would use that word but I definitely ≠ I donít know.

Alex: Even when I read the Ultimate Wizard issue that came outÖ

Brian: Yeah. Yeah.

Alex: Öbeefing up for this interview.

Brian: [Laughs]

Alex: I found it very interesting that when you were talking about the discussions going on regarding Ultimate Spider-Man before its release. That only Mark Millar was speaking out in support of the book.

Brian: Thatís just another pure example. I think I said this in the interview: What surprised me was comic creators, people who actually create something for a living, shitting on something in theory. All of us want our work to be judged for what it is. Not for what it might be.

I was surprised to see comic creators do that.

Alex: But to me ≠ as somebody on the outside looking in ≠ itís very interestingÖ

Brian: [Laughs]

Brian: Iíve made a concerted effort in my years to surround myself with positive thinkers and forward thinkers. I do know the others are out there, I guess, I just donít focus on them. I think itís just a half empty/half full kind of thing. Where everyone you can point out who is like that I can point out someone who isnít. Why not just deal with those people.

Alex: Thatís good for you whoís social life is within comics.

Brian: Thankfully not but okÖ

Alex: In dealing with people on a day-to-day basis you can see who you want to deal with and such. For me, itís kind of refreshing to see somebody whoís actually defensive of their work.

Brian: I think your complimenting me and Iím not taking it well.

Alex: Thatís fine. You take it however you want to butÖ

Brian: I take those worse. Thatís how neurotic I am. Youíre talking to one of the most neurotic figures in comics. Youíre trying to say something nice and Iím arguing with you.

Alex: Thatís great. Argue with me if you want.

We can just move on with the interview and if you have anything else you want to discussÖ

Brian: I do appreciate you pointing out that Mark Millar thing. I think that is a case where it isnít just your responsibility.

Alex: Let me go onto Alias.

Brian: Do you like Alias?

Alex: Actually ≠ Daredevil and Alias ≠ I didnít pick them up. Alias I started two months ago and Daredevil I picked up last week to prepare for this interview.

Brian: Did you get them all orÖ

Alex: I didnít finish your Ben Urich story. I started with the current arc on Daredevil. Alias: Iíve got everything. Alias I got because it was being discussed on the boards and everyone was in a tizzy over it.

Brian: [Laughs] Still or just from the first issue?

Alex: Actually theyíre in a tizzy about Max.

Brian: AhÖalright go on. Now I know where youíre coming from.

Alex: Because there was all this discussion I had to figure out what was going on. I was very impressed with the first story arc.

Brian: I just wanted to know where you were coming from. I wanted to see if you were going to start yelling at me or not.

Alex: The one thing I liked about Alias was the way you handled Captain America.

Brian: Thanks.

Alex: It was frightening going in because of the Cage controversy, which Iím not going to ask you about because I didnít see anything that horrible.

Brian: Yeah, I didnít either. Honestly, swear to God, I didnít either. I donít know what the hell was going on.

And that was on my message board as well where people were statements about what they thought the sex scene was. All I would say was, ďDo you realize that we donít see Luke Cageís face? You are absolutely projecting this onto that scene.Ē

That whole thing became interesting to me. To see people do that because Iíve never written anything where people would project -- I guess themselves or their feelings about certain issues ≠ onto a panel. I talked to some other friends ≠ a friend told me that you canít write about sex or politics without offending someone, even something this innocuous. You canít tell a sex joke without pissing somebody off. Someone will get angry with you for doing so.

Alright, I didnít know that. Now I do.

Alex: What I was wondering; youíre throwing mainstream characters into this book. Captain America, Rick Jones, Carol Danvers and Matt Murdock have all appeared so far. How do you approach what is acceptable for the mainstream characters within a Max book?

Brian: I respect those characters ≠ they mean the world to me ≠ and I have no interest and wouldnít attempt to do something disrespectful because a) I donít think Marvel would have any interest in letting me sh!t all over icons. B) I think that theyíre trusting me because they can clearly see that my love of the icons that I grew up with. Itís not going to turn into me going, ďI know what Iíll do. Iíll have Daredevil do heroin.Ē

Thereís no interest in me doing anything like that. Thatís not what the bookís about. The book [Alias] is about a b-level character coping with being a b-level character and her view of the icons. The icons donít change really theyíre just come down to a human level and are analyzed. Since Iíve got total love and respect for them, itís not that hard to weave a tale. Thereís not a big decision making process going on. Thatís the way the bookís being approached.

Alex: The thing that got me, maybe you can add a little to this, was you treatment of Captain America. Here was an easy opportunity, on top of all the controversy, to make Captain America adult. Make him R-Rated.

Brian: Adult and R-Rated arenít the same things. My idea with Captain America ≠ especially at the scenes in the end ≠ was to have a moment with the man with the mask off. Even in his own book, when his mask is off, heís being Captain America. Here comes the pun but I donít see him with his shield down that often. I just like examining a more human side of that character. And human doesnít mean that he has to be engaging in anything untowardly.

Iím an adult and my untowardly moments are few and far between. [Laughs]

The book was never about that. That entire arc was written well before issue one came out and that was always what the story was about. It wasnít about who she was going to have anal with this week. [Laughs]

Alex: See, I felt that you did keep him the noble hero above it all.

Brian: Yeah, but thatís the thing. Heís having an adult conversation that he doesnít usually have in his own book. Thatís what I mean; it was an adult conversation about things you donít hear him discuss. There was a little chink in the armor for a second.

My feeling was that the conversation with Jessica was probably the most open conversation that heís had in four years. His friends are all old or dead ≠ I always find yourself having surprising conversations with total strangers; people you barely know. I just wanted to write one of those with the two of them.

I appreciate your compliment. Itís an ongoing process for that book to analyze stuff like that. So, I am always thinking about it.

I think itís funny that people are coming to this book and expecting some wacky sh!t like Iím Garth Ennis. Itís not really where my interests lie. I do like when adults talk like adults and they do swear. They do have a potty mouth and they do go to the bathroom.

Alex: WritingÖ

Brian: My favorite moment in that whole series was Carol not going with the Avengers because she had her period. That, I think, was the greatest thing Iíve written. Iím going to get crap on your board for saying this. There are woman I know can get a little laid out for the day with their period. That happens and I thought it would be funny. Carolís got to have super-cramps.

Sheíd be in her bathrobe watching soaps. She ainít going out to fight the Kree/Skrull war. Sheís done. Thatís it for her day.

I thought that was an interesting angle. I know that pissed someone off on my board. It was pretty funny that it would really anger somebody. Iím like, ďWhy are they angry?Ē

Alex: Well, you never know how anybodyís going to react, which is evident by our site.

Writing a Max title, Alias, what kinds of opportunities are you getting that you arenít with your other titles?

Brian: Itís an examination of a certain type of story. Itís on a different planet than whatís being examined in Spider-Man. Ultimate Spider-Manís a teenage drama. Itís almost a wide-eyed innocence. Whereas in Alias itís somebodyís been through the mill kind of thing. Weíre examining whatís under the rocks of Marvel.

I think itís an almost totally unique experience to read a comic book like that. Some of it is a shared history that we all have with Marvel, the characters and some of it is brand new. Thereís that added little bonus. So, every story will deal with that aspect.

One coming up is her sitting in a room with J. Jonah Jameson that I think people will really like. Itís going to answer a lot of questions about Jessica and what the bookís going to be about.

Alex: Iíve been enjoying it so farÖ

Brian: At least youíre giving it a shot. Why did you not give it a shot the first time?

Alex: Youíre going to jump all over this one.

Brian: No. Go ahead.

Alex: Iím a father of three. I see no reason, at this point in my life, why comics, with mainstream characters ≠ Marvel iconic characters ≠ need to have an adult spin.

Brian: OK.

Alex: No response?

Brian: Do you, as an adult, appreciate a book being written for you with those characters?

Alex: There needs to be a balance.

Iíve discovered that balance, for myself, in the fact that I can read a book like Alias and enjoy it as a fan. I can read books like Alias and be a fan. I can see, in my interpretation, the fan aspect of Alias. Itís like being the real person living in the Marvel Universe. It gives me a way to identify with the universe as a whole. From that aspect I appreciate it as an adult.

Hereís the other side: My daughter knows who Wolverine is. Hugh Jackman pops up on TV and sheís screaming, ďWolverine! Wolverine!Ē I canít ever show my kids those books.

Brian: Which books?

Alex: X-Men.

Brian: Why?

Alex : Because theyíve been made to adult.

Brian: Alright.

Alex: I know that has nothing to do with youÖ

Brian: But thatís your decision as a parent.

Alex: Right. I just donít think thereís anything in those books for a kid. I think thatís sad because I discovered and fell in love with comics because of X-Men. As a little kid.

Brian: You donít think thereís an X-Men comic for your kids?

Alex: X-Men Evolution but thatís hardly X-Men. Itís not the X-Men that I grew up with.

Returning to the Elektra thing: This is part of what you have to deal with as a fan. Things change and people adapt but I get to complain to a wider audience.

Brian: They get replaced by good things. They get built upon or dismantled depending on how you look at it.

I wonder if, when Miller was doing Daredevil, if websites were around if you guys would have been saying, ďWhoa! This is not Gene Colan you son-of-a-b!tch ! No one ever mentioned ninjas before! Where did these ninjas come from?Ē

Imagine if there were Internet sites when the Watchmen came out. You guys would have gone nuts.

Alex: Iíve said the same exact thing. There are things that happened in the past -- Dark Knight, Watchmen, the Death of Elektra or when Alicia Masters walks down wearing Johnny Stormís shirt after a wild night ≠ if Iíd been reading comics through the 40ís, 50ís and 60ís, sure I would have been upset with those moments.

Brian: Well, youíre talking to a guy who learned what a blow-job was from Howard Chaykin soÖ

It didnít bother me. Iím fine. Now Iím making comics about anal.(laughs)

You have a decision to make as a parent and I certainly respect that. My curiosity was more about you finding a level of enjoyment in comics being created by adults for adults. I see you wrestling with it a little bit but the question is yes or no. Do you appreciate things being written for you instead of at a high school level?

Alex: Yes.

Brian: See. There you go.

Alex: Can I throw something back at you?

Brian: Sure, go ahead.

Alex: Letís go about twenty years back, to when we both started reading comics. Comics werenít written for adults then.

Brian: The ones I liked were. You think donít think Frank Miller was writing Daredevil for himself?

Alex: I didnít perceive Daredevil as that edgy. That far over the top. I thought that writers and artists, at the time, were a lot subtler.

Brian: Think about it. You had Bullseye drunk out of his mind right before he kills Elektra. Heís got a big bottle of booze there empty on the floor. Daredevil #181 ≠ Itís right there.

I can remember clearly, the Teen Titans, Robin sleeping with the ≠ what was her name? ≠ the orange girl [Starfire?]. I remember them sleeping in the bed together. I mean, thereís clearly adult scenarios beingÖ

Alex: Yeah, there were adult scenarios. I remember clearly the John Byrne scene with Alicia coming downstairs in Johnnyís shirt and nothing elseÖ

Brian: Whatever John Byrne did was great. Heís great. John byrne is a wonderful innovator. Thatís me trying to get him to shut up about me for two seconds.

Alex: It wasnít said. It was implied.

Brian: Hey, on the D!ck Van Dyke show they slept in separate beds and they had a kid so.

I donít know what to say. Our times are reflected in our medium.

Alex: I agree. I just see that with Marvel and characters like X-Men, characters I loved as a kid, I just see them being distanced away from my kids so I canít share that with them.

Brian: Maybe but thatís your decision so I would never argue with that.

[We lose a few seconds while the tape is turned ≠ We return to the interview, already in progress.]

Alex: I've read the five issues and was impressed by the style your using in this
story. The use of non-linear storytelling really enhances it.

Brian: Thanks to Matt Hollingsworth most of all. It is a very delicate balance when you try that kind of stuff, particularly in comics, which I have wrestled with for a while. Non-linear storytelling is very hard to do. You couldnít do Memento in comics.

Matt created a color palette for each time period. Either subtly or very clearly, you knew where you were. I really appreciated that.

Alex: How do you plan out a story like this one?

Brian: I am absolutely, totally, 100% in love with non-linear story-telling in film and television. I tried it a little bit in Sam and Twitch and some other places. I get chills when I watch it and I wanted to try it in comics. This was a particular story that lent itself to it because there are so many different points of view. Daredevil has no idea whatís going on. We have Silkís and Kingpinís points of view but itís not a Roshamon.

I open it with the fact that someone tried to kill the Kingpin and Matt and then break it down from there. Then you go back and forth. I think that if you read it in a row it would be interesting but if you line the scenes up in a certain order a certain kind of mystery and tension approaches that make it better than the sum of its parts. That was the attempt, at least.

Again itís just coming back to trying new things. Ever since I got into comics I have been trying to lay out the page differently. Iím very unnerved by the two-page spread. Itís too small for me. Iím trying to do new stuff with it all the time.

Alex: When you go into write a story like this, you know what you want to do, do you write it in linear order and then pull it apart?

Brian: I wrote the first issue and a half and I knew what the ending was, I knew where we were going with it and I knew what all the scenes were. I wrote out all the scenes on little cards ≠ every issue I typed in what the scenes were for that issue ≠ then I wrote them all organically. I knew what the beat of the scene was. I knew what the point of the scene was ≠ ideally the idea is to get to the point of your scene and then end the scene. You go on and do a new scene.

I rearranged a couple scenes just to see if they played a little better. I think in the third of fourth issue I turned some scenes around. What was funny was it didnít occur to me to do the scene where we flashback 30 years to the Kingpin until I wrote it that day. So, even though I have it all planned out, some little surprises happen.

Itís funny because Iím talking to David about it and he said in his storyline that the Kingpin killed Echoís father. So, weíre watching Echoís father being murdered in that panel. I didnít tell anybody but if you ask me Iíll tell you. Itís not really important to the story and thereís no reason to announce it but thatís Echoís father being killed.

Again this is another example. Some people didnít even notice those scenes were out of order. They didnít even realize the structure of it until we were three or four issues in.

This is me challenging myself as a storyteller. There are certain things you get faced with in comics. Time being one of them and music ≠ sound ≠ being another where there are limitations. Those limitations can be really frustrating. You try to get to them head-on. You say, ďI want this person to sing.Ē But every time you see someone sing in a comic itís like thereís nothing there. So how do you make this feel like itís singing?

Same thing with a non-linear time story.

By the way, this last issue that came out is the last of the non-linear time story. Iím so excited because the next four or five issues are ≠ah, theyíre so exciting.

Alex: Thereís four or five issues left in this arc?

Brian: No. Weíll actually make this the end of an arc because now whatís happened ≠ something horrible has happened and weíve seen what the elements are that make up that THING. The next issue starts the horrible thing that happens.

It took months to get approval on it. It took Joe forever to say yes to it because it really tips the book over. And I have to stay on the book forever because ≠ well, there you go ≠ because I made a mess of it.

And there are things about the book that no one wanted to address because they are too terrified of Frank and decisions he made 20 years ago that will hold the book back. So, weíre addressing them head-on.

Alex: Frank Miller established something with Kingpin learning Daredevilís identity. How many times does that have to be revisited?

Brian: This will be the absolute last time! How about that? That was the point of me coming back onto Daredevil or the challenge of coming back.

Alex: Then I look forward to it.

Brian: There you go.

And when you start reading it ≠ and donít tell anybody this ≠ the good news is: Weíre not chickening out. It is a full examination of something thatís not been done in a Marvel comic before and this is the way itís going to be.

How about that for vague? All Iím saying is, when you read it, know that weíre not going to go, ďOh, it was Dr. Doom the whole time!Ē

Alex: So many places I want to go with that but Iíll respect you and move on.

Brian: [Laughs] I appreciate you letting it go.

Alex: Though that is a major market tease. Thanks.

With this story, how did you select the characters you were going to deal with?

Brian: Again, I loved the story I did with David. When the opportunity to come back with Alex ≠ and Alex was an important part of it. When we were doing Sam and Twitch, we just felt like we had just got going when I got canned. So, there was a real frustration there because something creatively really good was happening ≠ it was very important to me ≠ and it was taken away. Itís like your girlfriend breaking up with you or something. A relationship ends abruptly when thereís no reason for it to.

Alex: Thereís no artistic satisfaction.

Brian: Yeah, it was kind of a bummer, right? There was that but having this opportunity I really had to examine the book and what was going on with it and the problems going on with it and what my frustrations with the character were. All the decisions came out of that examination.

Hereís the thing: We were talking about Frank a few times during the interview. As a fan of Frank, your first instinct is to write a love letter to him, which is what I did the first time. Thereís a big Valentine to Frank with Ben Urich and all the stuff in there. But once youíve done that you go, ďOK, what I really should do to honor him and what this book is and what this book was with Gene Colan, Wally Wood and these amazing artists that worked on this book ≠ what I really should do is give it everything I have.Ē Instead if kissing someone elseís a$$ , I should examine what the book is and tip it over. Everyone else whoís been on this book has done great work ≠ tip the book over! Tip the book over and do something new.

This is what people expect out of Daredevil. Thereís an unwritten thing between the creators who are on Daredevil and the people who read it. This is the book you want to come to if you want to read some whacked out sh!t that you donít see in another comic.

I looked at the characters and which ones needed freshening up or some kind of a wrap-up. Thatís the story that was told. And David made it very easy for me by blinding the Kingpin. I donít think itís hard to imagine that I spent a great deal of my adult life examining organized crime in the research Iíve done for the Torso murder all the way up.

Everytime, as I said ≠ or Ben Urich says it ≠ Everytime a high-level goombah gets sick or jailed, someone always gives him the shiv. They always take him out the second he shows some weakness. And here they hand me Daredevil and Kingpinís blind. OH HEíS GONE!

Are you kidding me? Itís wonderful. What a great set-up.

Alex: OK, theyíre doing a Daredevil movie.

Brian: Yes they are. Iíve read the script.

Alex: Does that cause you any problems with any plans that you have? Donít they tell you, ďYou canít do this. You canít do this.Ē

Brian: No.

Alex: You can move against the flow of things that might be in the movie?

Brian: Not against the flow.

Alex: OK, a more direct question: You canít kill off the Kingpin anytime soon?

Brian: No. But do you know why I didnít kill the Kingpin? Iíll tell you why. This is where youíre going to be bugged out because I know you like to crap on Marvel.

Alex: I donít like to crap on Marvel.

Brian: Someone does.

Alex: Weíre mean to Marvel ≠ but we love Marvel.

Brian: My instinct was to kill the Kingpin. I did want to kill the Kingpin. I told Joe why and the history of organized crime Öblah blah blah. He was like, ďYou really shouldnít. It gets in that weird area and you shouldnít do it.Ē He couldnít put it into words.

I was talking to Ralph Macchio, who was not the editor of Daredevil but is the story editor at Marvel and my editor on Ultimate Spider-Man. I end up talking to him about such things ≠ heís also been at Marvel about 25-30 years and has probably the greatest historical view of the company and often times the opposite opinion of mine on a lot of stuff. Itís great to talk to him about stuff.

He said, ďYou donít kill characters like the Kingpin because the second you leave the book theyíll bring him back. Theyíll create a mess by bringing him back. Theyíll have to create some kind of nonsense. But when you kill him it removes from the book ≠ even if youíre not using him ≠ an element that is so essential to the success of the book or its tension.Ē

I was like, ďGoddamn it if he isnít right!Ē He brought up certain examples in Marvel history where they killed the character and it was the hugest mistake theyíve made. And this is a perfect example of learning from a past regimeís mistakes and I was grateful for the historical perspective of it. It would have been a big mistake.

Now I can tell my story and not be a d!ck .


Weíre almost there, folks. Next time around we discuss more of Alias, Ultimate Spider-Man, the MTV cartoon and another go-round about Hero Realm and journalism as we conclude the Brian Michael Bendis Interview.

And just three partsÖyouíve got to at least appreciate the length of not wait.

--Alex