Brian Michael Bendis interview (April 2005)

April 28, 2005 | Interviews


Brian Bendis is very laid back for such a hard-working man.
Bendis, the writer of six monthly titles (Daredevil, The Pulse, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Fantastic Four, New Avengers, Powers) and two major miniseries (Secret War, House Of M) for Marvel Comics has somehow found time to attend this weekend’s Toronto Comicon at Exhibition Place (
He also managed to take some time to talk to JPK about how fame works in the comic book industry, what to do to get on fans’ bad sides and why he’s relieved to be finishing his landmark run on Daredevil.

JPK: So how great is it to get paid to write comic books?
Brian Bendis: It’s so much (better) than I ever expected. You don’t go into this thinking anything’s going to happen. It’s like any creative medium — you don’t become a musician to become a rock star, you don’t think anyone’s going to notice your work. You do it because you love it and if you make $2 — then that’s awesome.

JPK: How are things different for the early part of your career working for independent publishers compared to working for Marvel, the world’s biggest?
BB: With the independent publishers I own the material. It’s almost like a different business altogether when it’s something you own versus something you’re doing.
But I think a part of people’s warm response to my work overall is that I treat everything I’m working on as if it were mine. When I’m working on Spider-Man I don’t just think ‘Hey it’s just some work-for-hire gig.’ I think ‘Hey, my name’s on this and this is important and someone’s spending their money on this. I get very wound up about someone spending their own money on something that I wrote so I really get into it and try to make sure I deliver at least cover price.

JPK: On that topic, you put your money where your mouth is and offer refunds to fans who hate a comic you’ve written.
BB: I’ve done that since my creator-owned days. The way the distribution (of comics) is set up, there’s no return policy. So the best I can do is go on my website ( and say ‘Hey, if you’re pissed off send it back. I don’t want your money. I want you to enjoy your comics, that’s all I want.’

JPK: What was the response to your offer to make refunds on the controversial Avengers Disassembled storyline — in which you killed off some fan-favourite characters — last year?
BB: I got four and those were from the people who were angriest after I killed this character Hawkeye.
If you go online (to comic book message boards) you’d think everyone’s going to send their books back. They didn’t.

JPK: And after all that backlash, people are gushing over the series re-launch: New Avengers.
BB: I gotta tell you: I said ‘Gee whiz, I guess I’m going to have to take a year of bashing’ figuring it was just my turn. I’m show-business savvy enough to know it’s my turn to take it on the chin for a while so I was amazed by the turnaround. I’m thrilled to bits because we’re giving it everything we’ve got.

JPK: Knowing the nature of the comic book industry and how no character ever stays dead, do you ever wonder if they’ll just bring those characters you killed back someday?
BB: I don’t think that way, but I know that’s a possibility. If you start thinking that way you’ll start writing half dramatically because you’re not buying into the now.
You can’t be afraid to change. We can write Valentines to (comic book legends) Roy Thomas and Frank Miller all day long but who’s benefiting from that? — Certainly not the reader. I think it’s up to us to create the new Marvel legends. Let’s not just regurgitate the things we’ve liked. You don’t want to be a cover band.
I love that stuff so much that the best thing I can do is not rip it off.

JPK: Your Ultimate Spider-Man book is highly original and yet has that feeling of homage to it. Is that the balance between those two factors?
BB: That assignment, I decided early to take look at as if a director takes Shakespeare and puts it in a new situation. It’s like taking Hamlet and setting in an office building. I looked at what (co-creator) Stan (Lee) had done and the themes of it and I decided to take Spider-Man and have his story take place today (instead of the 1960s) and all the changes will be organic from the time and space, but it’ll still be Spider-Man.

JPK: You’re close to wrapping up your signature run on Daredevil. What are your reflections on departing this series?
BB: I’m really bummed about it.

JPK: As are the fans.
BB: I still can’t believe I didn’t get fired. I got fired from McDonald’s so (writing four years of Daredevil) is awesome.
There are lots of things I’m proud about it, but most of all I’m proud we didn’t rip off Frank Miller, whose run on Daredevil is the reason I’m making comics in the first place.
To be given this book was daunting because it’s one of those books with an immense creative legacy. Everyone on that book kicked ass!
I’m just glad it wasn’t us that fucked it up.

JPK: Of course now that you’re dropping a title that means in Brian Bendis world you’ll have to add two more!
BB: *Laughs*
No, no, no. I’m going to finish up House Of M and Daredevil and then I’m going to shake my sillies out for a few months and I have a movie to write. After that, me and (artist) Alex (Maleev) are going to start a new thing together. It won’t be an ongoing series, but we’re going to do large miniseries in Marvel Knights. We really want to do … an iconic, harsh impression on something.

JPK: Right now you’re at the top of your game. Where do you get your motivation?
BB: My motivations were never financial and the first 12 years of my career can attest to that. It’s all about my collaborations with the artists — that really does motivate me a great deal. I also have a message board where people can go and tell me what’s what and those guys motivate me to not suck.
I’ve also got a two year old now and there is this overwhelming desire for when she grows up and reads one of my books for her to go ‘Hey dad, you didn’t suck!’

JPK: House Of M, your big New Avengers/X-Men crossover miniseries, is highly anticipated by the fans. Any confessions? Are more characters going to bite it?
BB: I will confess it is a really well drawn comic book (by artist Olivier Coipel).
It’s one of the biggest projects I’ve ever put pen to paper for — it was an immense amount of work. I can’t even believe how big it got. This is probably the hugest story I’ll ever tell at Marvel. It’s one of those things where you think ‘If this were a movie it would cost $1 billion to make.’
Not everyone’s walking out of there in one piece and that doesn’t necessarily mean death. Things will be shaken up — hopefully for the better.

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