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An Interview with Brian Michael Bendis
by
Andrew Goletz

1997

Brian Michael Bendis is living the fan-boy dream. He started drawing ever since he learned how to pick up a pencil, and after years of hard work, his critically acclaimed Jinx (a follow-up to the critically acclaimed mini-series AKA: Goldfish) is making the move to Image and Goldfish is in the process of becoming a major motion picture.

AG: So what made you want to get into this industry?

BMB: I had childlike ambitions. I went to art school and the people there didnít go for that super hero look, so I found myself turning to a style that they would appreciate more. At the same time, I was learning about film and I took what I had learned for both areas and merged them. My graduation thesis was a book I put together called Parts of a Hole. Itís a collection of short stories presented in different styles, and it was my first published work. I had a variety of publishing options, but I chose Caliber and it was the best decision I had ever made. At first I was uncomfortable with black and white, but I grew to love it. AG: Would you ever do color?

BMB: Sure. Iím not one of those genre snobs who refuses to respect or do different things. The generation before me has this thing up their asses about what respectable work is. Everyone is bitching about other peopleís career choices instead of concentrating on their own. AG: You have to see your potential in everything and not shut yourself out of opportunities.

BMB: Yeah. Iím aware of the fact that Iím at a point in my career where many people would kill to be at. You can go to a convention and see hundreds of people who would kill to be in your shoes. Iím fortunate to be in this position and to like what Iím doing. Nothing is going to take me away from my own books, but I do like to do other things as well. AG: How do you define yourself in comics?

BMB: Everyone says, Ďhere are the rulesí, Ďthis is what you should doí. I didnít want to mimic someone elseís style. I canít see a reason for doing that. The thing I love about comic books is that it is such a bastardized art form, like Rock and Roll. Itís not just one thing, but an amalgam of different forms. Taken by itself, it could be pretty dull after awhile, but mixed with all these different styles you have something pretty interesting. Itís the same way with comics. It takes a longer time to find your voice, but this way I was more satisfied when I did it. It may have taken longer, but in my opinion the reward was better. AG: How would you define Jinx?

BMB: Well, itís my first adult book. What I mean is that I created all of the characters of Goldfish, etc while I was in high school. The first two issues of AKA: Goldfish are like 90 pages. I basically wrote out that same story in high school and it was told in 8 pages. Thatís why I chose to include my original short story in the trade paperback. I think itís funny to look back on. This is the first work that Iíve created as an adult. AG: Strong characterization is one of the many strong points in your work.

BMB: The characters are important to me, and I want them to be important to the readers. Itís like the story of how you tell people about your relationship with your girlfriend. They can be happy for you, but they never really understand it. I want readers to be able to care about these characters and the situations that theyíre faced with was if itís them in the situation and theyíre not just observing it. AG: Why did you decide to go with a new character for the on-going book, rather than using Goldfish?

BMB: I went back and forth with the idea of killing Goldfish off in the mini-series, but decided that it was the easy way out. Besides, I had already killed off a bunch of other characters and I didnít want to kill off everyone that I had liked; you know, pull a Tarantino. Goldfish was the grifter character and heís very interesting to me. Jinx is a bounty hunter and that is also an interesting profession to me. They are intelligent people and could one day look back on this point in their lives and think, Ďwhy was I doing this?í AG: So the bounty hunter aspect appealed to you?

BMB: Definitely. The world of the bounty hunter fascinates me. I think that there have only been a few decent films made about real bounty hunters: Midnight Run and Hunter. Bounty hunters are treasures of information and story potential. They are very interesting characters and it was something that I felt would be fun to write about and entertaining for someone to read. To me, Jinx is an urban modern retelling of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which I think is the best crime movie ever made, even though itís a Western. This story is that movie with a different dynamic for the characters. Hopefully, though, people will be able to see where the inspiration for this first story came from. AG: Is Jinx, the character, inspired by anyone in particular?

BMB: I knew that I wanted her to be a bounty hunter, but I couldnít find any reason why she would want to be one. I remember meeting a woman that I was doing a caricature for, and noticed that she was packing heat. I found out that she was a bounty hunter and thought that this was the luckiest thing to ever happen to me. I did a series of interviews with her to find out about her experiences and why she does what she does. Several of the cons that Jinx pulls to collect her bounty are inspired by what this woman did. AG: So there are things in the book taken from real life experiences?

BMB: There has to be some degree of personal truth in fictitious tales. The phone booth incident in issue #2 is something that I really did once. I want to make each issue have something different, but I still want to keep a measure of truth to it. One thing that is important to me is the relationship between Goldfish and Jinx. Until now, all of the relationships Iíve written have been deranged in some way. I was starting to wonder if I could ever do a healthy relationship between a man and a woman. I thought, ďHey, Iím married. I have to be able to do this!Ē AG: What do you think about the influx of so called Ďbad girlí comics?

BMB: Itís annoying to me. No one is a bigger fan of pornography than me, but I donít understand where the titillation factor is in these comics. If you want to whack off, just buy a porno magazine. I have no interest in these types of comics. Iíve heard people group my work into this category because it has a strong female lead character. This only strengthens my resolve to make Jinx more real. AG: What do you think your responsibility is as a storyteller?

BMB: The first and most important is to be entertaining. I want to do a realistic story that has substance and that people can enjoy. I enjoy realistic characters for a variety of reasons. I think that real people are contradictory. A person doesnít act in front of his mother the same way they would act in front of their friends. Over time, Iíll be able to get into the different sides of these characterís personalities. AG: How do you feel about the state of the industry right now?

BMB: I have no opinion on it. Everyone just bitches about one another and they all have different opinions on what should be done, but they donít actually do anything about it. A good point was made when someone said, Ďif college is high school with ashtrays, then the comic industry is high school with pensí. AG: Who are your influences?

BMB: There are a lot of screenwriters that I admire: David Mamet, Woody Allen, Richard Price. I like naturalistic dialogue where people are talking to each other, and not at each other. I think that studies in cinematography have been most influential to my drawing style. I usually admire anyone who is doing something that I canít: Dave Stevens and Mike Mignola are a few of my comic influences. AG: Dave Stevens, another creator who ended up taking his creation to the big screen.

BMB: I admire Dave for different reasons that everyone else does. I know that heís a terrific artist, but what I admire most is that he took his comic book and turned it into the film that he wanted it to be. One of my greatest experiences was when I did Fire. He sat down with me and went over every panel and gave me amazing advice.   

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