Interview Conducted in 2001 by Christopher Allen
Brian Michael Bendis has built himself an increasingly admirable career off three qualities it's sometimes hard to find all at once in comics these days: talent; discipline; and not being a pain in the ass. He manages to write an average of four diverse, top-notch titles every month, and yet still find time nearly every day to be accessible to fans on his Jinxworld message board at http://www.wfcomics.com/boards/bendis. To do all this, a guy's gotta be pretty smart-or at least smart enough to get his wife, the indispensable Alisa, to run the business end of things.
Even with the obligations of writing beloved characters like Spider-Man, Daredevil and Elektra, or spinning magic from whole cloth in Powers, he also found way too much time for me to bend his ear for this interview. So sit back, relax, and read as Bendis talks comics, talks influences, and even talks a little trash.
Chris Allen: What was your first job in comics?
Brian Michael Bendis: First job? I created my first job in comics. I created my first ten jobs in comics, with Caliber --
Allen: But before that, you worked with Mike Gustovich?
Bendis: Oh, yeah, yeah! I was in college, and he had a studio in his house, and I received a message at the college that he was looking for an assistant. I was not ready yet, but he continued to work with me, and was kind to me, and helpful to me. And eventually, I started filling in blacks on his work. I'm very happy I got to work with him, because I actually learned more from him about working in every day life than anything I could pick up in class. I'd ask the teacher, "Are we supposed to be doing it this way?" and he'd go, "...Oh...yeah, I forgot to tell you." So I'm very, very, very grateful to Gustovich, who really taught me more about the craft of comics. A lot of people talk today about the art of comics.
Allen: The nuts and bolts...
Bendis: Because a lot of comics is craft, you know. You know-getting out the pages. That's very important to learn.
Allen: Was he one of your first mentors?
Bendis: Sure. he was a very good friend to me, and he was very, very nice to me, and you'd have to say he'd be up there, you know what I mean? I'm very glad I met him. My life might've taken a dramatic turn, if he hadn't met him.
Allen: Every week, it seems, there's a new book or two from you on the shelves. Where do you get your work ethic?
Bendis: First off, some of it is just weird scheduling. My last Sam and Twitch just came out and I wrote it eight months ago (Editor's note: the bulk of the interview was conducted five months ago and has been updated much more recently) Daredevil 16 is over a year and a half out and it's just coming out. But I went to a private Hebrew school, and I went through a half day of Hebrew stuff, and a half day of secular material. I would get there at 6:30 in the morning, and leave at 7:30 at night, so I was just trained to put in a lot of hours and get a lot of stuff done in a lot of different subjects. Plus I spent most of the Hebrew classes drawing Spider-man so...
I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist, so I just put in a lot of hours at it. It was just in me to do this work; I've been trained to focus for many hours at a time.
I tell you, there's a certain philosophy...if you're a writer or artist, and you're not writing or drawing-what are you?! You know what I mean? I got a lot of friends who talk a lot, and I'm like, "Do something! Get it done!" And I've got a lot of ideas, and I want to get 'em done. I mean, these guys who say they're artists and don't draw...I'm a storyteller, man, I wanna tell stories I've got all these ideas in my head, and I can't get them out fast enough.
Allen: The more you do, the more ideas you have, right?
Bendis: That's true, too. It's a muscle, you know? People stop drawing for a certain amount of time, and it takes a while to get back into it. It's a muscle, and you've gotta work out.
Allen: So no PlayStation for you?
Bendis: Yeah, I don't have a PlayStation, I don't. I could have probably squeezed one when I did that GamePro thing (laughs), but I didn't. (Editor's Note: Bendis scripted a comic book insert for the magazine in 2000.)
Allen: I would never get anything done.
Bendis: The Internet is bad enough. (laughter). The worst thing I do is I go online to get information, for something I'm writing. You know? And then I get online to get that information, and I get stuck answering email all day.
Allen: What's a typical day for you?
Bendis: Typical...There aren't many typical days, to be honest, which is good. Keeps my marriage fresh. But I go to sleep about 7:00 in the morning, get up about 1:00. My alarm's actually set for 1:30, but I get up on my own-I always get a lot of cool shit in the mail. Especially now that I'm doing all this Marvel shit, you know? But I wake up because I know it came. So I go downstairs and check it out, check my messages, and get all sucked into the fun of the working day. And before I know it it's 3:00. That's as much routine as I have. And that's how I know I love doing this for a living, because I get genuinely excited every morning about whatever's coming in the mail.
Allen: It's got to be even better now, because you're working with so many great artists.
Bendis: Yeah, that's the one thing I forgot to put on the (message) board that I really meant to, was when I came back from overseas recently, I had piles and piles of finished and penciled artwork. Matt Wagner, Mike Oeming, Mark Bagley, Michael Allred, David Mack's art on my Daredevil, you know? And it was so fun. I had the best couple days when I came back.
Allen: Like getting late birthday presents.
Bendis: Oh, particularly David's issue, because he and I have been friends so long. And he's just doing the best work of his life, or at least I think so. I don't care what anybody else thinks.
Allen: You guys go back to the Caliber days...
Bendis: The Caliber stuff was '91 to about...'94.
Allen: You did Parts of a Hole --
Bendis: Parts of a Hole, don't buy it. Quivers, don't buy it, Spunky Todd, don't buy it. Fire you can buy...The early stuff...You learn a lot, just by seeing yourself in print, you know what I mean? It's a big eye opener. You think you know what it's going to look like...
Allen: What did you learn?
Bendis: That I wasn't drawing very well, the lettering sucked. The overall presentation of the page. Even though you've seen your work Xeroxed, it's a totally different thing in print. That's one thing I pride myself on now is knowing how something's going to look IN PRINT.
Allen: It's different paper --
Bendis: EVERYTHING about it's different. It doesn't matter how good the original artwork is, it's how it's printed. That's something Pat Garrahy's very good at doing. He can calibrate a computer to the exact look of the paper, and I've never been surprised when I've seen how Powers comes out. That's important. And now the fact that I've put so many comics together is a big help to my editors at Marvel.
Allen: You said that on Fire, that was where you first found your voice.
Bendis: Well, I started to find it. Fire, that was where what was on the page STARTED to resemble what was in my head, you know?
Allen: Yeah, well you should never feel like you've got it down totally.
Bendis: A teacher I had in college once told us in class, "If you think the piece is great, or you think that piece of art is perfect? There's something wrong with you.
Allen: You're stagnant. You said in an interview that some of your non-comics influences were David Mamet, Jim Thompson, and Anthony Mann.
Bendis: And Woody Allen, a lot of people.
Allen: The Mamet thing is sort of obvious, with the rhythm of the dialogue.
Bendis: See, I don't even see the rhythm as similar. His is simpler, more masterful. More less is more. But the similarity is the idea of natural dialogue. People are talking to each other, not at each other.
Allen: I guess it's a surface similarity rather than --
Bendis: It's a surface thing. And I take it. I grant it fully. Because Mamet teaches the role of the dramatist, which I take very seriously and I agree with, and I know that he's right, because every play he's written, you can feel how much it works. And there's a lot of Judaism in his work.
Allen: Like Homicide.
Bendis: Like Homicide, and it's just interesting, you know? And there are other writers that are less known, like Aaron Sorkin, whose work I've known for years and years. And every time I said his name, no one knew who I was talking about. It's cool that he finally, was a huge success, you know? And his dialogue, Woody Allen does the same thing. His dialogue is immaculate. It's perfect. People don't realize, Woody Allen writes all the stutters and stammers. He gets the exact tonality, you know, to make the jokes work so well. It's so elaborate, the setup. People take him for granted because he's done it so long, so well. It's like De Niro, too. De Niro's been such a good actor for so long, in so many things. Me and my wife just watched him in This Boy's Life-he's amazing in that film. As good as an actor's been in anything. But you tell somebody, and they're like, "Yeah, he should be, he's an amazing actor."
Allen: It's sad in a way --
Bendis: It is. These are people that I'm constantly in awe of.
Allen: Or he does a comedy where he's able to draw from the serious stuff he's done and use it for comedy, and people just say it's self-parody. But self-parody isn't easy.
Bendis: Other people try it and fall on their ass.
The other thing besides the influences that people seem to misunderstand about me, is the vast lie about how much work I do. People always seem to be...dazzled...by my output. Whereas I'm not even frazzled even slightly, you know? And I don't think anything of it. Because I look at what other people are able to do. I mean, if Aaron Sorkin can write every West Wing and every Sports Night, every week, then it's no big deal that I'm able to write a bunch of comics, know what I mean? People go, "Well, how do you DO that?" Well I sit down and do it. and I don't drink. Drinking takes up a lot of time I think.
Allen: You just set the bar high.
Bendis: But other people...Alan Moore has been putting out a LOT of comics, and it just doesn't feel that way to a lot of people for whatever reason, I don't know why. I guess it's 'cause I have a diverse amount of things on my mind and a lot of things I want to do, and it's just a surprise to some people, I guess. But I know most people don't care, they just want to read comics.
Allen: And putting out a comic like Tomorrow Stories, where there's four different short stories, it's probably almost four times the work of a single 22 page story.
Bendis: Yeah, I would imagine that would be the case. Because you've gotta get into the mindset of each one of those. Like right now, I'm in the Spider-Man mode, and I'm writing a lot of Spider-Man. The only problem is that I have to break away from that and write my other stuff, too.
Allen: Jumping back a bit, how did you come around to the idea of using photographic reference in your artwork?
Bendis: Well, again, there's a lot of guys that do it, and when I see it done well, it affects me. And then there's the idea that I'm not really a natural artist. My abilities run more towards a cartoony style. So every tool that I can use...you know, there's things that you want to get done, and whether it's photography or whatever, you know, you use whatever it takes to get it done. It's just a tool like everything else.
Allen: It's almost a kind of humility on your part to recognize things that maybe you don't naturally do well, and find ways around them. Whereas, someone else might know they don't, say, draw buildings well, and just do it anyway, rather than admit their failings.
Bendis: I never saw it that way, but what it is, is it's a constant frustration to try to produce a piece that you think is perfect, You'd think after a few hundred pages, it'd get easier for me, but it doesn't.
Allen: Was Torso the hardest book you've done?
Bendis: It was pretty hard. You've got the co- writing with Marc (Andreyko) -the story is set in the 30s, so you had to make sure the dialogue wasn't modern, that it wasn't anachronistic. And you're drawing hats and cars that I've never ever drawn before.
Allen: Did you use the computer to draw some of the backgrounds? I remember some grayscaled brick walls...
Bendis: I was using whatever worked. I'm a big fan of people who use the computer and not have it look like everything else. Everything is colored the exact same way in so many comics. Everything's the same palette. That's all right, that's cool. But I've always been a big fan of people who can come up with something that people can't even tell how it's done. Like Ashley on Hellspawn did most of that on the computer, and Chuck (Austen) on Elektra, which you'll see, he's doing that on the computer. When I look at a book, I want to go, "Now how the fuck did you do that?" And Kyle Baker does it, too.
And what I wanted out of Torso was to do the same thing, but use the modern tool of the computer on a story set in the past.
Allen: Was Mark your first writing collaborator?
Bendis: Yeah, yeah. I have creative collaborators that I bounce ideas off, but we came up with the story together, Mark and I, and I guess that's the first full thing I wrote with somebody.
Allen: How did you share the duties?
Bendis: Well, he was pretty cool about it. We wrote the screenplay together, like both of us in a room together, writing it. But when it came to the comic, I didn't really know...how to share? I had all these visual ideas, and Mark was pretty cool in just letting me run with it. He knew I had all sorts of layouts I wanted to try, pretty funky layouts, and that's pretty personal stuff. I would show him what I was doing, just so he knew I wasn't fucking it up, but he really let me go and do it on my one.
Allen: You don't see the "executed by" credit in comics very often.
Bendis: Yeah, 'cause it was our story, but then I had to do execute it by myself, because I didn't know how else to do it. You know, I've learned the art of collaboration since then. You learn to trust, and I've gotten a lot better about that.
Allen: When you won your Eisner Award, did you feel like you'd arrived in some way?
Bendis: No. You know, you can't take that stuff very...I mean, I do love it, and I'm very proud of it, but you can't let it affect what you do from that point on. It's funny, all the nominees for that award were seated at the same table. Scott Morse is a friend, all these other people I didn't know. And they gave me the award pretty early in the program...and then I had to sit back down at the table with them! (laughs)
Allen: It was just there, on the table?
Bendis: For two hours! (both laugh). Yeah, they were all thrilled to bits (laughs)
Allen: Pretty bad planning!
Bendis: It was all right. Like I said, I'm very happy I got it, but it's not what you think about when you're doing the work, you know?
Allen: In a way, maybe it's sort of freeing for you now, because you don't have to worry about getting one anymore.
Bendis: Someone brought that up to me once, and I guess that's true.
Allen: You're like the Marisa Tomei of comics-they can't take that Eisner away from you (laughs)
Bendis: TRY! The other thought that went through my mind when I won it, just to show that it was not a big thing, not only did I not feel I'd arrived, I thought everyone would read the list of winners later, see my name and go, "Who the fuck is THAT?" (laughter) I was like, oh please, oh Lord in Heaven, let me not be THAT guy. So I guess I'm more happy I'm not that guy.
Allen: how do you meet grifters and bounty hunters?
Bendis: You know, it's extremely easy for me now. It's so easy now I don't know how I found them to start with. Now they come to me. And my father is a minister in the Jewish temple, and he meets all kinds of cops for some reason -- charity events and such, and I have a lot of contacts, and other cops come to us because they read Powers and want to share. Grifters, we all know where they are. You know where they are. You just don't want to go talk to them.
Allen: Ever have any over to the house?
Bendis: No, no. Never.
Allen: One part about Goldfish I thought made it a little more special, was the paternal instinct that shows up in David at the end.
Bendis: Yeah, well that theme was always there. The theme is so much more important to me, you know. The dialogue and all that comes later, but I have to find the humanity of the story first. All the books I've done have deeper themes to me than just, you know, crime and action. I have a lot of things that are on my mind, and they usually find their way into the theme. They're things I really want to talk about.
Allen: So that part of the book was present very early?
Bendis: Yeah, there's got to be that spark that you know is going to be the core of the book, and you know by the time you get to the end, you'll have expressed this theme that's important to you. It won't be, "And in the end, they all learned to love each other," but it has to be something along the lines...the closest example is in Jinx, which people feel is about life going off track, your life being so off track, and Jinx finally comes out and says what's bothering her. And that's what the book's about and people like her so much because they relate to her. It's inspired in a way, actually, by a movie about a woman who thinks she's got this great life until she gets knocked on her ass and gets disgusted, and realizes her life is terrible.
Allen: What movie?
Bendis: Believe it or not, it's a Woody Allen movie called Another Woman starring Gena Rowlands. She's this intellectual woman, you know? And she has money and she has friends, and then drop by drop, she realizes all these relationships are false. These people did not like her, she didn't like her, her husband didn't like her. And that was the most horrifying thing I've ever seen in my life. Can you imagine thinking your life's OK, but it's not OK at all, you're just going along? And I had that happen to me early, where I thought, oh my God, I don't know how I got here. Sort of like a midlife crisis early on.
Allen: I think they're happening earlier on.
Bendis: I think so, too. I was just about to have one recently, but Joe Quesada told me it wasn't a good time.
Allen: For Torso, you went with a generally heroic take on Eliot Ness. Were there aspects that you decided to leave out?
Bendis: Before Marc and I even started writing it, we agreed we wanted to do a cross on the heroic character, and what was a very flawed but interesting human being. Because I think there's a lot of stories that focus on the flaws, but not much on the heroic side.
Allen: So you wanted to shift the balance.
Bendis: The reason he's so famous is he really was a great guy. He really did great things. So, you want to be realistic, but you don't want to go the other way just to go the other way. So you don't use some things because they're not sympathetic, but you use other things that show the flaws, like --
Allen: The shantytown burning.
Bendis: Well the shantytown thing, we thought to leave that in because, it's unsympathetic, but he really had a good reason for doing it. And that's interesting. And you know he destroyed a community, right? And he was the first person this famous, who wasn't a movie star, who had an action blow up in his face like this did. All my thoughts on the media were summed up right there. There were other things there, too, such as his failed marriage...We wanted to get across the whole guy, and I think we were pretty successful. But it's tough. That was the first person I wrote about, who was a real guy, and who people had preconceived notions about. You know, the Untouchables, was total fiction.
Allen: Frank Nitti wasn't killed --
Bendis: Frank Nitti wasn't killed, there was no Canadian border chase, you know, and these are big things that never happened. He never had a daughter. And these are big things.
Allen: Sure. And Myrlo and Simon-Ness' assistants on the Torso case-were they real?
Bendis: They were fictional. They were composites of real guys.
Allen: Where did the homosexuality subplot come from?
Bendis: It was a big part of the case, because for a long time, they thought the killer was sexually perverted, and homosexuality was considered a perversion then. And it wasn't a sexual motivation for the killer at all. And Marc is gay, and had a lot to say on the matter, and the opportunity was there to explore it. Plus, it was a good old red herring. Nothing wrong with a good red herring.
Allen: Of course.
Bendis: And in exploring this theme, we came across a lot of anti-homosexual comments in reports from cops of that time period. The thinking was that the killer was gay, and at that time, being gay was cause to be institutionalized.
Allen: And if you're a gay cop, who sees real crazy people --
Bendis: Yeah, and you know--you know you're not crazy. We definitely thought that was an interesting idea to explore, and it's a bigger part of the screenplay than the graphic novel.
Allen: What's the progress of the movie?
Bendis: Oh, who knows? (laughter) We wrote it, we didn't fuck it up. I don't know. Marc's the point man on that. We'll see what happens.
Allen: And Powers is moving along?
Bendis: Powers is moving along. They've just handed in the first draft. Fingers crossed. There's like a honeymoon period with these projects, which we're still in. It'd be very nice if it gets made, but at the same time, you're making money, you're paid for something you wrote -- it's fun. You know, we were talking about these things we've always wanted to do, right? And a movie is something that seemed so out of reach and now it doesn't seem so out of reach. It's like, can I get one of these things made, you think? But there's nothing I can do, to make that dream come true. There's nothing I can do, to get Powers made. Nothing. The stars gotta align. If I do everything right, it still won't happen! If some of the biggest stars in Hollywood-some of these guys have projects that they can't get made, you know?
Allen: Yeah, some for decades.
Bendis: Yeah, so what are the odds we'll get ours made? But I'm not-the difference between me and many of my comic book peers, is I don't delude myself into thinking that magically-if I say it enough-it'll happen. The only bummer about announcing it, is that most people don't know the difference between a legitimate announcement, and a phony announcement, you know? If you know-yeah, but most people can't tell the difference. I just have to know that, yeah, I know it's legitimate.
There's actually tons of guys who are constantly talking about movies they supposedly have in production, and you see it and go, do people not realize he's been saying this since 1999?
Allen: I remembered something funny from a couple years back, when Scott Lobdell got this deal with Miramax and he said he was hired to "create franchises," and it just struck me so funny, because you don't create franchises, you write good movies, and maybe then --
Bendis: Yeah, that's a perfect example. That deal...is offered to everybody. Anyone with any deal-that's in their contract. Ah, don't get me going. I don't even know him. I wish him well. The problem is that you say something like that, then in two years, people go, "well where's the fuckin' franchise?" That's why I'd never announce anything like that. People go, "Where is it?" You have to be savvy enough to know that at any point in the process, the movie might not happen. I had a friend, working on a Bruce Willis movie that was shooting! And four days in, Bruce Willis decides he's not going to make the movie anymore.
Allen: Was that the Broadway Brawler or whatever it was called?
Bendis: Yeah. Guy says, "Well I got a job, I'm working on a movie," right? I wouldn't say there was a movie I'd made, until it was in the theater...or on video, depending on the quality. (laughs) But yeah, that's how bad it is, man. They could film the whole thing and decide they don't want to release it, you know?
Allen: Roger Corman's Torso.
Bendis: Ha ha ha ha. It would have been done already!
Allen: Over a weekend (laughter). Listen, I want to ask something -- the Ultimate could hardly be doing better, so what does it feel like when other professionals -- well, John Byrne-are constantly negative about it online?
Bendis: It's weird. Obviously, he's reading Ultimate Spider-Man, or why talk about it everyday? He must fucking love it! (laughs) I mean, I never read Chapter One or that X-Men book he was doing, so I don't talk about them, you know?
Allen: What I don't get is, if you're Byrne, and you've stated a preference for doing work-for-hire over creator-owned stuff, why do you burn your bridge with Marvel?
Bendis: You know what, that...I would love to know what's going on someone's head with something like that. That, I don't understand. You know, people forward these comments of his to me, and I think, well this can't be real, someone's fucking with me. Because it's outlandish, right? Then you go, "Oh my-it is real!" I mean, that's always a shocker to me. But he is entertaining.
Allen: I go on his message board, and he's about as accessible as you. He'll answer any question --
Bendis: He just should be nicer about it.
Allen: "The new regime are idiots -- "
Bendis: Yeah, see, that's fine, that's what he thinks. But the thing is that there's only a couple companies doing the kind of comics he makes, so it just seems to me, there's a better way to handle it. But..see, there's two things at work in my brain here. A) He is literally one of the reasons I wanted to make comics. His stuff was knocking my socks off when I was a kid, and I wanted to do that, right? I bought tons and tons of John Byrne comics, and it really is bizarre in the sense that he would kinda even know who I am, right? But you meet other people of his generation, the one before me-I had the pleasure of having dinner one night with Walt Simonson. And he just couldn't be more charming, and interesting, and his work excites the crap outta me still. I told him the story that I'd written in Tripwire about how not only does his work inspire me, but the way he acts at cons to his fans inspires me to go, "Now that's the way I'm gonna treat people, when I'm at a Con!" So, can't he (Byrne) do that? Be nicer!
Allen: And Byrne and Simonson are friends.
Bendis: Yeah! I guess they are! So you've got one guy who, "Wow, I'd like to be that way," and the other guy, who's been online for years, I guess, ranting about whatever arouses his ire. And I don't think about that while I'm working. This guy made comics I really loved, and then for me to write something that I'm proud of, that gets him pissed off, it's just a weird kind of reaction. And then on some level, to be honest, when you have a guy like that, who's just consistently angry, you're just like, "Good. Be angry. Be pissed off. But use it creatively. Use it in your art." And on one level, he's exactly the guy who should hate it. That means we are right on the money. We have hit a home run on this book.
Allen: I'm still a Byrne fan, but you get tired of the negative comments not only from him, but from the hardcore fans who have bought everything he's said, and make every editor an enemy, and say he should be allowed to do whatever he wants on even work-for-hire.
Bendis: Well, my experience so far -- I've worked with Ralph Macchio the past year, and he's one of the best editors I've ever worked with. Every script, he gives you these incredible, insightful notes. And I think how lucky I am to have someone to talk to about these stories. And you hear about the veteran writer/artists who produce this incredible work-these are the guys who really love collaboration; who love talking about comics. And now I am lucky enough to have stuart moore in my life for Alias, DD, and Elektra, it's just a very pleasant experience for me.
I don't know anything about how John Byrne works or his experiences. But the Editor/Writer relationship is a very vibrant one for me so far.
Allen: I'm glad you said that about Ralph, because based on the past couple years of the Spider-Man books, I was definitely laying some blame for the poor direction of the books on him.
Bendis: I think Ralph had inherited those books or something. It's hard for me to comment on the books, because I haven't read any of them. Ralph's been around a long time, and he's a home run guy. When Joe came on board, he said, "Ralph, you're in charge of reading every script." Ralph is a story editor like you'd never believe.
Allen: Well, okay! You've turned me around.
Bendis: No, dude, I'm tellin' ya, I haven't gotten a note from him, in the year-and-a-half I've been working on USM, that wasn't a kick ass one, you know what I mean?
Allen: So he's very hands-on?
Bendis: Not 'hands-on'...he's there when you need him.' Just like Stuart. You know what else Ralph's good at? Ralph has an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel Comics. First great note Ralph made on a script was "With great power then must come great responsibility." No one remembers it quite right.
Allen: Let's talk about your abbreviated tenure with Todd McFarlane Productions. You were hired over the phone?
Bendis: Literally over the phone. He called me, said he liked Goldfish a lot, and made these elaborate promises to me. Literally the first conversation he offered me two projects. He said, "I've got this thing about a robot monkey, and this one about a couple of cops." I said well, the cop one sounds promising (laughter). And the cool thing about the gig was, he just called me out of the blue and said he wanted to be in business with me. And he wanted to make a big crime graphic novel like Goldfish out of the book right away, and I said, let me just go with this for a while, and if it sucks, we'll cancel it. And he never really asked what I was going to do. He said, "You know what you're doing," and let me run with it.
Allen: So he never gave you any direction for Sam and Twitch?
Bendis: The first couple scripts, he told me, ''Twitch wouldn't swear," and some other stuff, but I knew where to go with it. And it was very pleasant.
Allen: Did you have any choice in hiring Angel Medina?
Bendis: We were looking for an artist around the style of Alex Maleev. Alex was very high on my list since The Crow. But Angel came up and said, "You know what? You don't know this, but I've wanted to draw Sam and Twitch forever, and I think it'll really be huge, and since I was here first, I should get first crack at it." Todd asked what I thought of it, and Angel did a couple pages to show us he really wanted to do it, and they were great. And I said, yeah, let's do it. And it worked out real well, and Angel was really a perfect person for me. He's a person who just wants to draw, and if you tell him what to do, he'll do it happily. And that worked out great for me at the time, as I was not used to collaborating with other artists like I am now. And we became friends; he's a great person. And in retrospect, he was perfect, because the look of his work was so familiar to the Spawn audience that the jump-off was very smooth. And it made it easier to then move into the styles of Alberto Ponticelli and Alex Maleev. And it worked the same way with Mark Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man, I think. People were more able to take me in because they already knew his style on Spider-Man.
I don't mean to compare myself to a great director and I am not, but Steven Soderbergh, when he made Erin Brockovich, the fact that Julia Roberts was there made it a lot easier for people to accept the movie. The general audience, I mean. There's a lot of people seeing it because it's a Steven Soderbergh movie, but there's a big audience there who are seeing it because it's a Julia Roberts movie. And now Soderbergh has more people into him. Does that make sense?
Allen: It's funny to learn that about how Angel got the job, because it seemed like such an automatic, calculated move, and I don't mean that in a bad way. It's a natural move.
Bendis: Yeah, see, I don't calculate things like that. I Forrest Gump my way through life like no ones biz. And I'm glad I don't do that. You just know it instinctively, what feels right. That's why I'm so happy with Chuck (Austen) on Elektra, and Oeming on Powers. People look and say, "Why is it drawn like this?" and I say, it can only work if it's drawn like this. There's no other way to draw Powers. There's no one else, there's nothing you could do.
Allen: Whose idea was it for the superimposed lettering instead of word balloons in Sam and Twitch?
Bendis: That was Todd. Todd is very much into making comics palatable to an outside audience. And he sees things like sound effects and balloons as distracting clichÃ© to an outside audience. So it was his idea. It's not as if it's never been done before. Heavy Metal does it a lot. But never in a monthly comic. I think.
Allen: Did he also contribute the smoky, superimposed effects, like fingerprints and such?
Bendis: That was solely the contribution of Jay Fotos, the colorist, and...I'm blanking on his name, 'cause Jay is fresh in my mind...Todd Broeker.
Allen: You've blanked out the Todds in your life (laughter). Now, Alisa had a dream that helped you come up with the story for Udaku (Sam and Twitch #1-8)?
Bendis: Alisa gave me two things I've used. She gave me the idea of the four identical fingerprints. The other idea she had was in Hellspawn, where the couple are watching the girl on the news and the girlfriend says they should kidnap this girl and torture her, and I added that the boyfriend takes it literally.
Allen: And that was the most difficult book for you to write?
Bendis: It was. It was a very dark place. And it wasn't as satisfying a place as I thought it would be. But I did have a couple moments on Hellspawn, besides the art that blows your mind, but I was very proud of the part in issue two, where the girl talks about religion and what it really is. But I didn't want to just take Todd's money. I had to do something I was satisfied with, and it was very hard. And I don't want people spending two-fifty on something I don't think is my best. And I was coming up to that place, and I didn't want to do it to Todd, I didn't want to do it to me, I didn't want to do it to you guys who're buying it.
Allen: It wasn't that it was unclear, as far as the story. My question when reading it, was if you were pulling the reader into this dark place with you, where was the redemptive quality to that? Were you going to pull the reader back out?
Bendis: Well, yeah. That was something I struggled with, and I don't have an easy answer for you. I was much more interested in what was going on around Spawn than spawn. That was very clear if you read it, but I don't know if that was necessarily my job on the book. You have to understand that getting the job offer was so incredibly flattering, and I was getting to work with my buddy Ash(ley Wood) and you don't want to go, no thanks, I'll just stay and write my little crime books, you know? It's a challenge, right? And I did have some ideas I wanted to get across, a lot of things about celebrity and the media. You know, if there was a Hellspawn on earth, there would be a website devoted to it, right? We would've gone further with it; it just didn't work out. I have no problem talking about this stuff now, because it's been so long.
Allen: Well, how were you relieved of your duties on the books?
Bendis: Well...now we're getting into that are...I don't want to be like that guy who writes Cable [Robert Weinberg] that got all pissed off online about it. I just want my career to be about work that I've done. I don't want to be a guy who starts whining. I hate reading that stuff from people in comics who complain, "Oh, it's so hard" Oh, shut up! What are you whining about? People in this world have such horrible, horrible jobs, and have to take such amazing amounts of shit to support their families. Comic book creators shouldn't whine. When I see that online? I'm just, shut up! No one wants to hear you bitch!
Allen: I understand. When you agreed to the interview, you said nothing was off limits, so I gave it a shot.
Bendis: And it isn't off limits. But if I went ahead and I became what I can't stand and I already whined about it online, it will never die. And it'll be the Neil Gaiman/Todd thing all over, whatever the fuck happened there, I don't know. And I don't want to hear about it. but I felt like my name on the book that I didn't write was wrong of him and I felt I needed to state it.
Allen: Cool. Now, in "Bounty Hunter Wars," you paid tribute to Enki Bilal and some other European artists --
Bendis: -- Huge, huge fan of Enki Bilal and those guys. Just love their stuff.
Allen: The story itself didn't seem to be influenced directly by their work. Was it just a convenient place to honor them?
Bendis: You know, I'd been feeling a lot of love for them lately, and just wanted to give them a little shout-out. Because I feel, a lot of the time, Americans are very America-centric, and wouldn't even know that Sam and Twitch has visual similarities to more European comics. I would kill to get Bilal or Manara on (Ultimate) Marvel Team-Up, you know? I do have permission to go after them...I can't get a hold of Manara, though. Manara, I love you. Come draw a Black Widow/Spidey team up.
Allen: Do you have any interest in science fiction?
Bendis: My wife's a huge sci-fi geek. It's on here all the time. My tastes just run a little more...realistic, you know? But I love good sci-fi, I'll watch it. But I hate a bad sci-fi. But it's funny, I finished the Iron Man story (for UMTU #4-5), which is the most "sci-fi-ish" thing I've done. I enjoyed it a great deal. So it's weird what works for me and what doesn't.
Allen: So you're not writing any Infinity Gauntlet II type --
Bendis: Well, I wrote the Fantastic Four for Team-Up-I love them-and that's as sci-fi as you can get. Some things click for you and some things don't. Like Star Trek? You couldn't pay me enough to write one of those. It's just not something I can do.
Allen: Now, Fortune and Glory-the title comes from a line in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?
Bendis: "What does it mean, Indy?!"
Allen: Now he's been a big influence on you, too --
Bendis: Huge influence on me.
Allen: I recently re-read Black Kiss, and noticed the similarities, such as the use of repeated images.
Bendis: Repeated images I get more from Bill Sienkiewicz on Daredevil: Love and War. But yeah, I guess Chaykin used quite a few on American Flagg!, too. But yeah, Chaykin's my biggest comics influence. I always say he paved the way for horny little Jews like myself. (laughter)
Allen: And with Alias, you'll be in Chaykin territory, at least as far as graphic content...
Bendis: It's safe to say that there will be a sex scene coming up that will be quite the eye opener.
Allen: Speaking of hot sex, let's talk about your wife, Alisa. Seriously, I felt some of the best parts of Fortune and Glory are the scenes between you and her, which are very sweet and warm. Did she have any problem with appearing in the book?
Bendis: No, she's a way cool chick.
Allen: I read in Tripwire that your next creator-owned project is called Virgin?
Bendis: Yeah, that's already half-written. It's been postponed a bit because of the other stuff that I'm doing. (At this point, Alisa Bendis enters the room)
Bendis (to Alisa): He asked if you liked how you were represented in Fortune and Glory. (She laughs). The only thing she got mad about was that line I gave her where I sell the movie, and she says she's horny? I got about 80 emails from that one, and then all the message board stuff: "Bendis has a horny wife" (Everyone laughs).
Allen: Someone even wrote a song to her.
Bendis: Yeah, there was a song!
Allen: "I Want to Sleep with Bendis' Wife" or something?
Alisa Bendis: Oh, yeah! That's right (laughs).
Bendis: She blocked that out. Oh, another thing about her that's great is she pays all the bills. I hatedoing that stuff. She loves it. I hate it.
Allen: I have the same thing-my wife's a CPA.
Bendis: Oh, you lucky bastard (laughs). I believe my wife could be a lawyer now from reading all my contracts for me and working with the lawyers. All I want to know is that I have some money to buy dvds and stuff. That's all I want to know.
Allen: All right, enough about those women. (laughter). Let me ask you about Powers. Oeming was interviewed and said he was the one to call you up to work together?
Bendis: He's a big fat liar! (laughs) No, he didn't call me up to work, but he was always sending me art, and refining different styles, and finally we had something to do together. He loves to work. he sent me this sketch in this noirish, Alex Toth style, and I was like, man! I love this! And things started to click very quickly from then on. We were knee deep in it when he suggested Pat Garrahy to color. Pat was actually the first person to hire Mike in the business. And we all just clicked so well. It's great. I never have to worry about the book getting done.
While we've been talking, I'm compiling my photo reference for my Transmetropolitan art for the [Transmetropolitan: Filth of the City] one-shot.
Allen: You're doing how many -- a couple of pages?
Bendis: Couple of pages. I'm like, where am I going to get reference for a bald guy? (laughter)
Allen: Gotta keep those art muscles in shape. Now, Top Ten, from Alan Moore and Gene Ha, is of course a totally different take on the superhero/cop thing you're doing in Powers. But what was your reaction when you heard it was coming out?
Bendis: That's actually kind of funny, because Powers was on the schedule. And we read that Alan Moore is doing this book, and we're like, "Oh...FUCK!" We are fuck-fuck-fucked, because...I had already been down this road with Sin City. Goldfish actually debuted before Sin City came out. But tell anybody now, right? You don't wanna run around going, "I WAS FIRST!" It's stupid, right? So I just kept my mouth shut and did my book. First of all, it doesn't matter to anybody. Second of all, if you like Sin City and it makes you buy Jinx, good, you know? It actually made it easier that these were all good books.
Allen: It doesn't hurt --
Bendis: It doesn't hurt, but at the same time, people see these books, and imagine we're all in a room, talking to each other. And I didn't know any of this stuff was happening. And there were some crime comics around that time that were ripoffs of Sin City. Acclaim had one, and it was such an obvious money grab. But with the Top Ten thing, I really didn't want to go through that again. Tell you the truth, ten really good, different creative teams could do a homicide detective comic, and they'd all be totally different. Just because it's a detective book wouldn't make them rip-off artists or anything. But when we heard about Top Ten...no matter what you think you've got goin'-it's Alan Moore. And I was so happy that Top Ten came out and it couldn't be more different. So no one could possibly compare the two.
Allen: Well, anything of substance will set itself apart.
Bendis: But that first year with Sin City and Goldfish was really hard.
Allen: "We thought of doing a volcano movie first" (laughter).
Bendis: Yeah, the difference in Hollywood is these people really are ripping each other off. But I've had friends who've developed just these phenomenal ideas, and the next week you hear, "Columbia has announced they're producing..." and it's the same idea.
Allen: And I think some ideas just travel around, the zeitgeist.
Bendis: The rule we had from the beginning of Powers was we never leave the ground. We never go up in the sky. And if we just stay on the ground, we'll always be different. Because no matter how innovative these other comics are, they always go for the flying-through-the-air shot. With Powers, if anyone flies off camera, you see their feet dangle, and gone.
Allen: I know that Oeming has said that in his Dr. Cyborg strip, he can break the rules set down for Powers.
Bendis: I've laid down the law on a couple of things. Certain things we had to be consistent on to keep us separate from the pack.
Allen: When did you know that you'd be collecting the "Who Killed Retro Girl?" story into a trade paperback? Did you know from the start?
Bendis: Trades are great, you know? That is always the goal. They're more impressive to some people because you can slap it down on a desk and it looks good on a shelf. Um, the initial numbers for Powers were not that exciting, but good enough to print. But a lot of people were feeling good about me, and thinking I might finally catch on, and Jim Valentino and Anthony Bozzi were very supportive of the book. and the amazing thing is that the numbers just kept getting better. I know eventually, they'll plummet (laughs) but for now it's great.13 issues in a row with incresed sales. So, a trade's good, because it means people can find the book. But at the time, me and Mike had secretly made a pact that even if things didn't work out saleswise, we would continue the book in black and white. But it has worked out, and that's great. That's just a really good feeling.
Allen: The trade is one of the nicest I've ever seen, as far as all the stuff you get in there, the design...
Bendis: Let me tell ya, that trade is the closest I've come to being the way I saw it in my head. As far as all the extra stuff -- when I see that a dvd comes out and it doesn't have extras -- I'm bummed out.
Allen: Of course.
Bendis: Now I need these extras, or I feel ripped off. And that's how I felt about the trade. There are a lot of people who buy both the trade and the comics. Now if you don't have it -- if the extra stuff is garbage -- then leave it out. But I thought Mike's sketch -- I love his sketches. They excite the crap out of me. I got his sketches for Bluntman and Chronic the other day, and they got me going! And I didn't have anything to do with that book.
Allen: If I buy the individual issues, I generally don't buy the trade, too, unless there's extra stuff.
Bendis: And some people don't. One of the factors here, though, was that people couldn't even find all the issues. Someone has #3 and #5, but they don't have #4. Well, we can't go back and reprint #4, but we'll make a trade and put in all this cool stuff, so we're meeting you halfway.
Allen: In the book, there's your script for issue #1. Something funny I noticed was that Det. Christian Walker's name was originally Powers.
Bendis: Was that in the script?
Allen: A couple times. The name wavered between Walker and Powers.
Bendis: It wavered? That's funny. I made a concerted effort not to look at the script when we published it. Whatever idiot thing I wrote in there, that's the way we publish it, because that's the way Mike first saw it. The Powers thing? I realized that was about the worst idea I've had, ever? It'saboutpowers, and his nameis Powers! (laughs) Yeah, it's bad. I should be working for CBS.
Allen: It seems that Marvel Comics have been a much bigger influence on you, as a kid, than DC?
Bendis: Yeah, I was a Marvel kid. I didn't have anything against DC, but as an adolescent, I gravitated to Marvel's characters because they had more problems.
Allen: Feet of clay. You did one DC story, a Batman story for Batman Chronicles.
Bendis: Let me tell you, it wasn't even a story. It was a six page Orson Welles rip-off (laughs).
Allen: Would you ever want to do more with Batman?
Bendis: It's in very good hands right now. I don't have any Batman stories rolling around in my head right now. I've been offered an Elseworlds thing here and there. A lot of times, people will call you and ask if you're interested, and you say you'll think about, and then you forget about it. Whereas another person, you offer them this character, and they jump out of their skin. Maybe Joe and Bill just know the right things to say to interest me, I don't know.
Allen: Back to Powers, it seems like, though they're partners, this has been much more Walker's book. Are you going to do more with Deena Pilgrim?
Bendis: Ohhhh yeah. Well if you notice the Previews solicitation copy has been purposely, annoyingly vague. And the reason is, if you knew what was happening, you'd be on your fucking ass, going, "Oh. My. God."
Allen: A Special Belly Shirt Issue? (laughter)
Bendis: No, I'll give you something, though. One thing I didn't put in the trade is, Mike Oeming did a lot of nude drawings of Deena. Not a lot, a few. 'A lot' sounds wrong (laughs). And I really wanted to put them in. But it looked so much worse than it was. I actually thought of putting them in with a black bar over them, and that made it three times worse! So they didn't make it in.
Allen: If you put it in, the book would be at Barnes and Noble with those pages all torn out by some horny kid.
Bendis: Yeah. And you know, Mike's done a porno comic before.
Bendis: Oh yeah. He drew the Edward Penishands comic.
Allen: Do you guys have any sort of finale planned for Powers?
Bendis: I do have an ending, yes. I know what happens with all my characters. I know all kinds of stuff (laughs).
Allen: But that's a long ways away?
Bendis: The pinkie-pact we made was that when we run out of ideas, we're done. If we're doing "Retro Girl LIVES!" then we'll bag it. But I have a handful of what I think are really original ideas that I haven't gotten to yet. But I think we'll know when we've peaked and it's time to get out. A lot of TV shows are like that, where you watch them and know their best days are behind them.
Allen: They've jumped the shark.
Bendis: "Jump the shark", that's right. You remembered that. Yeah, for example, Jinx was doing ok for me. I could've kept going but -- I was done!
Allen: It seems like some of the more substantial comic books of the last ten years, such as Sandman or Preacher, are ones where the writer has a specific ending in mind.
Bendis: I think as long as the reader can tell that this guy knows where he's going, it makes the journey so much more pleasant. Even if you don't know, you know he knows. It is weird to know what you're going to be doing a year from now. For instance, issue #13 of Ultimate Spider-Man is going to blow people's minds. I absolutely know this. But I have to wait.
Allen: He's going to have six arms? (Laughter).
Bendis: Yeah, you wish. A Spider-Mobile. (laughter)
Allen: Your long-in-the-works Daredevil arc just finished, and you should be very proud of it.
Bendis: I'm very, very proud of this. It's the first thing I wrote for Marvel. I have a lot of warmth for the project, because I got to work with my friend David, and it's the project that opened a lot of doors for me at Marvel, so it's weird that it took so long to come out.
Allen: And, as promised, it was quite different in tone from Daredevil: Ninja?
Bendis: Oh, so much so. I didn't even know what the reaction was going to be. Ninja was kind of like a joke, know what I mean? It's a Jackie Chan movie. Now with David, you want to write something that's worth his time. He doesn't need to be painting Daredevil. It's got to be something that only he could have done.
Allen: Daredevil: Ninja was obviously going for that Jackie Chan feel-or maybe more of a '70s kung fu movie feel --
Bendis: All brought together, by the way, by Richard Starkings, who did that amazing credits sequence.
Allen: The only thing that occurred to me about one part maybe being out of place is the coloring, which is rather muted and soft, in contrast to the garish colors of a 70s kung fu film, with bright reds and golds and such.
Bendis: You're absolutely right there. With most books, I plan out everything the way I see it. With Ninja, it really is sort of Rob (Haynes, artist) and Dave's (Self, colorist) book. I told them where I wanted to go and they went off by themselves and came up with this look. Certain books, I'm all over it. This one, they wanted to come up with more of it themselves. With Ash (on Hellspawn), I gave him the freedom to do a lot of stuff, because I knew what he could do. Rob, I would show him some fight scenes, but he wanted to do his thing.
Allen: You probably want a little room in there, as well, so that when the art comes back, you're still entertained by it.
Bendis: Yeah, I want to be excited.
Allen: You'd initially turned down Elektra. What turned it around for you?
Bendis: Yeah, I didn't want to touch it. You don't want to go where one of the giants in comics has gone. But it was brought to my attention that I'd already done this with Spider-Man, who's much bigger than Elektra. And I realized that I should be able to express what I wanted to say about Elektra, because Frank Miller had no problem expressing himself on Daredevil, and it was very different than what Stan Lee had done with the character. So, yeah, I said no, but then I started thinking about it, and the next day I knew what the story should be and what my take on the character was. And once you have a story, it's all over. You gotta do it. And the thing about her being dead or not didn't matter, you know? Frank Miller had brought her back more than once, and with Elektra: Assassin, she was a very different character in that, and it was a very different story, with what Bill Sienkiewicz was doing. And I knew that if I was going to do this, we needed to do something different again. So now I'm seeing Chuck (Austen)'s art and it's incredible. People are going to be blown away. I am platonically in love with this man.
Allen: So are the six issues you're scheduled for it? Would you ever come back for another arc?
Bendis: Never! (Laughs). No, I have no plans.
Allen: Can you tell us the name of the arc, or would it spoil it?
Bendis: It would spoil it, pretty much. I will tell you that my feeling about Elektra is that she did die. And now she lives, and she kills people. And that is absolutely fascinating to me. I would like to know this person. I would like to date her. Not like Bill Jemas would like to date her (laughs), but I would like to hang out with her.
Allen: All people want is a good comic, and they'll --
Bendis: Listen, dude dude dude. Here's my life: I say I'm taking my Caliber comics and I'm going to Image. I hear BASTARD! I want to do a crime book for Todd McFarlane. FUCK YOU! I'm going to do Ultimate Spider-Man. GOD DAMN IT! ASSHOLE! And then the books come out, No one ever apologizes. No one goes, "Oh by the way, I was the guy who called you a big fucking asshole."
Allen: Then let me be the first... (laughter)
Bendis: What did you call me? (laughs) No, but to say I didn't know what the reaction would be (to Elektra) would be a lie. I knew what was going to happen. But I've come to see that there are a great many people on the Web who are not the majority of comic book readers, they're just very loud. And they say they love comics, but they don't. They just love to hear their big voice speak in caps. And that's fine. They're reading them and they're discussing them. As long as they don't get personal, I don't care. There are a couple of guys online who are railing against Ultimate Spider-Man like some horrible injustice has occurred. And that's okay. But there was one guy I did call out because he was getting kind of personal. I love discussing comics with people who don't necessarily agree with what I'm doing. Let's talk, you know what I mean? I love that stuff. But, don't come after me or my buds. I even see that stuff on the board with people I like, they get ugly pretty fast on the Internet. It's funny when people a comic month after month and then go off about it each time. On Warren Ellis's board, people are just railing against Marvel Comics, and I posted that, you know what, guys? You love Marvel Comics. I hate to break it to you. It's like Howard Stern's thing with Kathie Lee, eventually you have to admit that you're absolutely fascinated and in love with this thing. Bill Jemas can't make an announcement without 6,000 people posting about it-you love it!
Allen: And you love Bill Jemas, too!
Bendis: You love him! You absolutely cannot live without him! (laughter)
Allen: Isn't it better to have some personality representing the company than how quiet it was before?
Bendis: Yeah, I've had lengthy discussions with Bill, and it's funny that people aren't getting that he's saying stuff to fuck with people.
Allen: You don't say "Bad Girls For Fan Boys" to Sequential Tart without knowing what reaction --
Bendis: Yeah, Sequential Tart! People didn't even realize where they were getting the quote from.
Allen: Well, at least with Elektra, we've now seen a preview of Chuck Austen's art, and everybody's going nuts for it. That's got to feel good.
Bendis: That makes me really happy, because what Chuck did is not just a tip of the hat to Miller and Sienkiewicz, but it's its own thing; it stands on its own. The legacy of Elektra means people expect a high level of art for the character; if you go below that level, I don't think people will accept it.
Allen: I really appreciated him going on your message board and explaining how he goes about creating his art.
Bendis: Yeah, I told him when the preview art was shown that people were going crazy and he really should stop by, but I had no idea he'd go into that explanation, which is great. This is a weird business in that so many writers and artists, especially those of a generation before mine, hate to talk about how they do it. Like they're going to be found out or something, when I think it's fascinating stuff.
Allen: And it could be really helpful to an aspiring artist. If you look at Chuck's art, a kid might be too awestruck, and think they can never do something like that, but by him explaining the process, they might be inspired to start working at it.
Bendis: Right, when I was a kid, I was always bugging the shit out of everyone to tell me how they did what they did. I would suck the brains out of their heads, I need to KNOW!
Allen: What parts of Peter Parker resonate with you the most?
Bendis: All of it. I love all of it. He is by far the easiest character to write. I take him to places I haven't let go of, which is the constant self-loathing, you know? And the feeling that it's never going to go the way you'd hoped-that's all very personal stuff.
Allen: And he's been popular for so long because every reader is like that.
Bendis: That's why I loved him as a kid. I totally, totally identified with him.
Allen: Issue #8 represented a type of departure from what we'd seen before.
Bendis: Well, the departure really happened after the spider bite, but we were still telling that story. So, yeah, now that we're flying solo, I think it will be different in that, for the purposes of the story so far, it's been a lot of Peter, and now that he's Spider-Man and learning to use his powers, it'll be a lot more of both he and Spider-Man. But on the other hand, we'll take what we've developed of Peter Parker, and jump off from this point. I think people will be surprised how badly Peter gets his ass kicked. Our philosophy is, he's fifteen, and when I was fifteen, I had an incredible amount of ambition, and very little to back it up. And just because he wants to be superhero, doesn't mean it's going to come easy.
Allen: That wouldn't be much of a hero.
Bendis: I told Ralph, when I was fifteen, I literally sat around the house and said, why the fuck is Marvel not calling me? Don't they know I'm amazing? (laughter) I can do anything! And that's what I want Peter to be like. "Don't you know I'm a superhero?!"
Allen: You've got what must be a dream come true with Ultimate Marvel Team-Up. Is it intimidating, writing for these legends?
Bendis: That's a good question. I wouldn't say intimidating, because I don't want to imply I could choke on this thing. If anything, I'm just so excited about it. I mean, I wrote a comic for Bill Sienkiewicz. Who would have thought that would ever happen? But what I've been telling the artists is that I'm going to write something that they will really want to draw, you know? And so far, all the artists have been very excited when they got their scripts. They're going to have a lot of fun.
Allen: It seems that with the first few issues, you're writing pretty much within the format of the old Marvel Team-Up.
Bendis: Well, the object is to try to avoid some of the clichÃ©s, while still playing within the standard setup. And readers will think that we're going to keep doing stories in this way from Iron Man on, up until issue #6, where we really will shock some people. You know, even Picasso had to start by drawing normal, before he got wacky, not that I'm comparing myself to Picasso! With the first issue, I'm playing to Matt Wagner's strengths, and the same with Phil Hester on the Hulk issues, because I thought both their styles lent themselves to fun stories. Because of my crime stories, people expected the book to be dark and demented. But that wasn't appropriate for those stories. And to be honest, there's nothing wrong with a fun Hulk story just to have a fun Hulk story. But for those who fear -- I will break format and experiment very shortly.
Allen: And that will be with #6, where Bill Sienkiewicz begins a three-part Punisher story.
Bendis: I told Bill to just have a party, and I would sew it all together later when I got his pages back. And I think he's really having fun with it. You know, one of the goals of this book is to present these Marvel characters in a new light, to a new audience, and it's funny to see how some kids react to different things.
Allen: I wanted to say how exciting it is for you and the wonderful Alex Maleev to be named the new regular creative team on Daredevil, and ask how will the first arc, "The Assassination of Matt Murdock", be different?
Bendis: Obviously, I can't say too much, but I think with the story I did with David, and in DD: Ninja, I've done my tipping of the hat to Frank Miller, and now it's time to really do some different things in the book. We're going to open up with a shocker, and I get to destroy some Marvel icons. It's going to be very hardboiled. And we will answer the question, 'Is it cheating if you're wearing a costume?'
Allen: Ha ha! Will there be a new supporting cast?
Bendis: Some new supporting cast, and a new villain.
Allen: Any more appearances of Ben Urich?
Bendis: Not right away. With the story I did with David, and writing the "Ultimate" Ben Urich in the Ultimates, I think that's enough Ben.
Allen: ALIAS is Marvel's flagship book in the new MAX Mature Readers line. How did this line come about? Did Quesada come to you and say, "We've got this new line, do you have any ideas for a book you'd like to do?" or did you pitch the book first and say, "You know, you guys should do a Mature line"?
Bendis: What happened with me is--after I got canned from Sam and Twitch, the mighty [Editor-in-Chief] Joe Quesada made it very clear that he wanted to do a crime comic with me. I told him my idea a couple of weeks later. Something totally new--something I hadn't tackled before. I had been developing it for a while. Instead of a proposal, I wrote what was essentially the first half of the first issue in screenplay form. I wrote it without editing myself for content or language. Just to show them what was on my mind. I wanted to give them something adult and clearly over the line. I also wanted to know where the line was and if it was moveable. I was surprised to get a call from [Marvel President Bill] Jemas, who read it, asking me why Marvel couldn't publish material like this--his analogy being Disney makes adult product as well. I crossed my fingers at the hope of what this would mean and said, 'Well, that's between you and Joe.' Literally a day later, I was told the mature line was falling into place and 'ALIAS was in it. So yet again, I have Forrest Gumped my way into something immensely cool.
Allen: I learned from your wife, Alisa, that ALIAS is her name jumbled a bit. How did she feel about this tribute, since the main character, Jessica Jones, seems to be an alcoholic who sleeps around a lot?
Bendis: She thought I captured her college years perfectly. Oh, of course I am joking. It's just a coincidences as is the fact that I moved to a street named Alameda a year after I finished Jinx.
Allen: You've said Jessica is one of the most enjoyable characters you've written. What is it about her you like so much?
Bendis: This is a question best left unanswered till people see it. But she is in the grand tradition of flawed Marvel characters. I just like her. I would hang out with her.
Allen: What new challenge is there in writing her as opposed to other female characters you've written?
Bendis: All characters are a treat to write, not a challenge. She surprises me. Just like Jinx or Walker or Deena or Peter Parker.
Allen: What do you see in Michael Gaydos's work that told you he'd be perfect for ALIAS?
Bendis: He is a classically trained artist with a painter's brush stroke. He also can draw his ass off and he gets Noir. He just gets it.
Allen: Much has been made of the sexual content of this book, based solely on your brief comments in the press release. What rules do you set for yourself, or the artist, in depicting this content without making it gratuitous?
Bendis: The character dictates the story. I have done sex scenes before, in both Jinx and Fire, and other places. I love how comic fans don't blink at any kind of violence but just the idea of sex causes this much craziness. I have seen the finished product of the entire issue. I know the scene works. And I know what happens in the upcoming issues because of it works. I am very curious to see the reaction to it initially and the reaction to it when a handful of issues have come out.
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