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An Interview with Brian Michael Bendis
by
Andrew Goletz

After gaining critical fame and a cult following on books like Fire, AKA:Goldfish and Jinx, Brian took his talent to Image Comics where he continued to publish Jinx and later began writing Sam and Twitch, a Spawn spin-off and Torso, a mini-series about the infamous torso killer. In the meantime he won an Eisner Award and an even more prestigious Grayhaven Griffin Award. Then, Fortune and Glory, a 3 issue auto-biographical series about his mis-adventures in Hollywood became a surprise hit, earning more mainstream praise.

Does the man take a break and a well deserved vacation after this? No. He takes on two more month writing assignments: Hellspawn (another on-going Spawn title) and Powers, his first creator owned full color book. Add a Batman story, a 3 issue Daredevil arc, a top secret Spider-Man project and some more secrets that should be blown by the time you read this and you have Brian Michael Bendis, the hardest working man in comics.

 

Brian would also like to make it known that Fire, AKA: Goldfish, Jinx, Torso, Fortune and Glory, Powers, Sam and Twitch, Hellspawn, original art and t-shirts are all available through him at Jinxworld. Check it out and stay for the message boards; youíll be hooked like a heroin addict.

 

AG: So Brian, when we first did an interview years ago in Gray Haven, you had just taken Jinx to Image and I had gotten the best sales ever on Gray Haven Magazine. Several years later, youíre writing 4 monthly books, youíre an Eisner winner, a screen writer and youíre writing some of the biggest icons in comics while I am just starting over from scratch. What the hell did I do wrong?

 

BMB: What? I guess you didnít sell your soul to the devil. Seriously, though.Its very cool that youíve decided to give this another shot. I think its a great idea and you need to go with your passions on this and give it a try.

 

 

AG: How does it feel to have such a huge following now? You had the cult fan base with Jinx and Goldfish, then a more aggressive core group with Sam and Twitch and Powers and now youíll be getting serious fan boy glory with Batman and Daredevil.

 

BMB: Id love to tell you that this was part of some grand master plan of

mine, but it wasnít. To an outsider, it may seem like this all happened rather quickly, but it didnít. This was a slow and steady process that has gone on for 8 or 9 years. There were never any guarantees that any of this would work. I think its just that the industry was in such bad shape that if anyone stayed with it long enough, it would be their turn to shine. Its like, great, now its our turn to be popular.

 

AG: So a fair share of luck was involved?

 

BMB: Luck and hard work. And a passion to do what I wanted to do. Honestly, Fortune and Glory was done just for me. I never expected anyone to like it. If anything, I thought my agent would drop me and Iíd be blacklisted from Hollywood after it came out. I never thought that it would get the critical and fan reaction that it did. It was a tremendous surprise.  Itís the same thing with Powers. Mike and I took a huge gamble with this. We never did anything on this level and we wanted to give it a try.

 

 

AG: The love of the work had a lot to do with it, too. 

 

BMB: I think you need to pick projects that mean something to you. My goal is always to make a story as good as I can make it without second guessing what an audiences reaction will be. I cant please everyone, but I need to at least be proud of the work that I do and do it to the best of my ability. And I think thatís where some of the success came from. People start to seek you out and ask you to work with them instead of the other way around.

 

 

AG: Whatís the difference for you in writing a character like Batman or

Daredevil, with such a rich history and writing Powers or even Sam and

Twitch?

 

BMB: I think its great to work on something you own yourself because

you get to make up all your own rules. With other peoples characters, its

different. People do have some expectations, but you need to not only give

them what they want, but give them something more. Sam and Twitch more flexible than I thought, though.

 

 

AG: How so?

 

BMB: With Sam and Twitch, no one expected anything from me. No one really thought it would work, and no one thought anyone would like it. It was an underdog situation from the beginning and I loved it. There really was no editorial imput. Todd didnít come and say to me, You should do this and you cant do that. My first feedback from him was after the book came out. Todd was like, Iím glad you didnít make them like Abbott and Costello. But the thing is, I knew that was the key to the books success. not to. Iím just glad it worked and that people have been so receptive to it.

 

 

AG: So the pressure was off?

 

BMB: Exactly. And that was the fun part. It was like the situation Frank

Miller had on Daredevil or Alan Moore on Swamp Thing. Those books were shit before they took over and no one expected them to do well, but they turned it around. I mean, I still get some people who were flipping out over small stuff, like Twitchís goatee.

 

 

AG: His goatee? 

 

BMB: Yeah. Twitch always had this little Hitler mustache and the artists

hated drawing that thing, and now he is a leading character and not a secondary, so I made him have a goatee. Then there was this goatee vs Hitler mustache faction. Its just amazing and its genuinely cool that everything is coming together like it has.

 

 

AG: Any plans to draw again?

 

BMB: Not this year. Oni and I have a handshake on another series but itís too early to talk about. And I promised Matt Wagner that Id do something for Grendel: Black and White, because well, its Matt Wagner and Grendel.

 

 

AG: But nothing as involved as Jinx or Torso? 

 

BMB: No. With Fire, Goldfish, Jinx and Torso, I was drawing like, thousands of pages for a stretch. Honestly, I think Iím a better writer than artist. Iím not exactly working with chimps for artists. I think Iím fortunate to have people like Mike and Angel and David and Ashley drawing my stories. I think theyíre the best in the business and its great to work with them. But I still have a hand in the art.

 

 

AG: What do you mean?

 

BMB: I get very visually involved with my scripts. I donít do it to the

extent where I donít give them enough room to be creative, but I have very loose story boards that I create for the scripts. Plus, now that Iím not

writing, its fun to tell them to do huge crowd scenes or wide shots and city

streets.

 

 

AG: And youíre content not to draw for now?

 

BMB: Yeah, and I donít think I was that great at it to begin with. Thatís something I really respect about Todd. People are always asking when heís going to draw Spawn or anything else again and he just tells them he doesnít think he wants to compete with the fondness people had for his art six years ago. He could do it if he wanted to and itíd sell a million copies, but he doesnít feel like heís right for it. Heís concentrating on running his business properly instead of doing all these little things half-assed.

 

 

AG: Youíll be at a lot of conventions this year, with some reluctance?

 

BMB: I made a commitment to be at them and people were nice enough to invite me, but after this year, I think Iím going to take it easy on the convention scene for awhile.

 

 

AG: Theyíre known for their horror stories. Any favorites youíd like to share?

 

BMB: I donít think I could say anything that would visualize it better than Trekkies. I do have some good memories, though. I mean, its great to meet the fans and be there to meet new readers and people who love what Iím doing. Its an honor and I love to have a chance to talk to them face to face. And Iíve met a lot of good friends and people that I now work with at conventions. I mean part of the problem is the fact that I donít feel like theyíre really trying to market the comics. People like Roger Price do an excellent job of trying to bring some class and dignity to these shows, but in most other cases.

 

 

AG: I love the wall of faux celebrities.

BMB: I mean, really. And the convention whores. There was a god damn Hooters booth at one of them. Iíve got nothing against seeing beautiful, half naked women, but what business does Hooters or any of these other things have being at a comic show. Youíre not going to bring your kids to these things (alienating the target audience) and youíre not going to bring your girlfriend to them (alienating a new audience). Itís ridiculous. I do have a couple favorite memories, though, now that I think about it.

 

 

AG: What are they? 

BMB: One of my favorites was at a Detroit show a few years back. There was a costume contest, which I usually assume are for kids, but this guy showed up on Friday in a Solar: Man of the Atom costume. Only, he didnít have the body for Solar. He looked more like Danny DeVito. The costume contest was over on Friday, but he was dressed again on Saturday, looking worse for the wear. On the third day, he was an absolute mess; big belly sticking out, black from leaning against comic boxes all day.

 

 

AG: Oh my god.

AG: Sigh.

 

BMB: And there was the argument some guy had with John Byrne.

 

AG: Really? Thatís a shock.

 

BMB: Yeah, right. I didnít hear the whole thing, but it must have been pretty heated, because as this guy walks away, he turns around and screams to John, and another thing, you donít know Galactus for shit!.

 

 

AG: John tends to get that sort of reaction. Heís a pretty outspoken guy. 

 

BMB: Oh man. I think some people really go insane from this business,

especially if they only concentrate on work for hire stuff.

 

 

AG: Do you think the industry is getting better, in general?

 

BMB: Yes. I think people are starting to take risks and do something to

correct the problems. Basically, its because the industry was downhill in the first place. No one cared about comics or gave them any respect, so people said screw it and started to do more daring stuff. Image is doing it. Marvel is starting to do it more. I think itís important to do books that are accessible to new readers, where you donít have to have read 100 issues of something to follow along. Sci-fi shows donít explain what a space ship is 20 times. They know that people know what it is.  With Powers, we tried to do that. We know people know what super-heroes are. We didnít need to set that up.

 

 

AG: How was your experience working with Marvel?

BMB: Marvel Knights is a blast. I tell you, Joe Quesada has a great head on his shoulders. Heís a very smart guy and heís the reason those books donít suck. I mean, take Kevin Smith and Daredevil. You know Kevin is a huge comic fan, so Joe asks if he wants to write a comic.

 

 

AG: What are your favorite reads now?

 

BMB: Hellblazer is great. I really get into Heavy Liquid and Transmetropolitan. Kabuki, of course. Scott Morse kicks me in the nuts. And I love the Oni books. I think theyíre doing a great job both with the books and the way they market them.

 

 

AG: What do you mean?

 

BMB: Well instead of pushing all their books at once, they spread them out This gives each book a chance to get featured and some attention on its own, without competing against another Oni book. I think its a great idea.

 

 

AG: Besides Powers, Sam and Twitch, and Hellspawn, what else are you working on?

 

BMB: I have the Batman story in Batman Chronicles #21 that comes out this month. Its a six page short story called Citizen Wayne. Can you guess what its about?

 

 

AG: Is too subtle. I donít get it.

 

BMB: We have the Daredevil arc that Iím writing and David Mack is painting, which is Daredevil 16, 17, and 18. That comes out in a couple of months. Ill also be doing a top secret Marvel Knights project with Rob Haynes at the end of this year.

 

 

AG: How about the movie projects? Youíre doing an animated Jinx movie, right?

 

BMB: Yeah. Iím going to be writing it and directing it on some level. I doubt Ill direct the animation, since I have never done it before, but Iím jazzed about the idea. Basically there are all these creators taking their own stuff and putting it on the web. Itís full animation, too, not just flash. And then well probably put it on DVD, but youíll be able to download it for free.

 

 

AG: And Torso?

 

BMB: We handed in the script. Well see what happens. We had a great time writing it, but thereís no sure fire way in getting it done. Todd is handling most of it now, so well see. Id love to have it happen.

 

 

AG: Could be another Fortune and Glory story?

 

BMB: The funny thing is we were talking about that. I mean, everyone has had these crazy stories, but a lot of people never talked about them. After

Fortune and Glory people were coming up to me and saying, I went through the same thing and didnít realize how funny it was till I read about it happening to you.

 

 

AG: Everyone can relate to it.

 

BMB: Wed like to do an anthology version somewhere down the line, with different creators telling their horror stories. I would be like the Crypt-Keeper, introducing the stories at the beginning of the comic.

 

AG: By tomorrow, that rumor will be all over and most people will be

reporting it as fact.

 

BMB: God, these rumors.

 

AG: Youíre apparently replacing Howard Mackie on the Spider-Man books with Paul Jenkins and youíve become group editor as well.

 

BMB: Thatís a new one.

 

AG: Do the rumors annoy you?

 

BMB: I am curious about them. Sometimes theyíre so dead on right, I'm thinking, were you in the fucking meeting with us. I mean there was one story posted about how I was originally going to do Nick Fury for Marvel Knights and I donít know how anyone found out about it. I eventually moved to Daredevil. But then there was this Ghost Rider rumor. I mean this guy must have pulled this thing right out of his ass. There was never any Ghost Rider book. I don't even like Ghost Rider. And of course the message boards were lit up the next day with questions about me doing Ghost Rider. So it does get a little crazy sometimes, but it fills my huge fucking ego with glee glee glee.

 

AG: And its starting again with Spider-Man.

 

BMB: I cant even say anything about that. But its like, a rumor gets started or leaked and all of a sudden you have people bitching about it before they even know any facts.

 

AG: Would you like to plug Sam and Twitch, Hellspawn, Powers, Daredevil or Jinxworld.com one more time?

 

BMB: Sure. Go to Jinxworld. Its the best message board on the web. The fans are great and its a lot of fun. And we've added a lot of new stuff. There's new Powers art, and some merchandise.

 

AG: What's your favorite shirt?

 

BMB: I like the Jinx shirt. My wife designed it, and I think its the coolest looking shirt. Were actually thinking of doing a full color shirt soon, too. It doesnít even look comic-booky. You could wear it in public.

Well there you have it.   

Copyright©2000 GrayHaven Magazine and contributors