Dark Reign

Dark Reign-Makers: Brian Michael Bendis

The writer responsible for SECRET INVASION reveals why you might trust Norman Osborn and much, much more

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By Kiel Phegley When we last spoke to Brian Michael Bendis, he promised to return upon the release of SECRET INVASION #8 to spill the secrets of where the Marvel Universe would be headed next. Now, with the final shots of the war with the Skrulls fired and the previously hidden secrets behind Marvel's Dark Reign brought into the light, the writer makes good on his word to kick off our two week-long look into the darker, more dangerous Marvel U. Coming on the heels of his five years of Skrully activity, Bendis shows no signs of slowing down. Aside from completely flipping the lineup of NEW AVENGERS to include former Initiative members such as Ms. Marvel not to mention the new Captain America, the writer launches the new DARK AVENGERS focusing on Norman Osborn's hand picked team of so-called super heroes, not to mention his upcoming work on the teen spy drama SECRET WARRIORS with co-writer Jonathan Hickman. Bendis dove into all this and more, starting with the fallout from the Secret Invasion shot heard 'round the world.

SECRET
INVASION:
DARK REIGN #1
cover by
Alex Maleev

Marvel.com: When you originally pitched the ending of Secret invasion, was rolling out with this whole "Dark Reign" branding a part of your idea? Brian Michael Bendis I'm not really good with names. The concept, the characters in play, the feelings that the heroes [would] have post-Secret Invasion—that was my pitch. I believe, and I don't want to stiff anybody if I'm mistaken, but I believe [Editor-In-Chief] Joe [Quesada] decided [to call it] "Dark Reign." It's a good marketing term for sure. But I don't come in with the name. I didn't name Secret Invasion either. [Laughs] There were like 50,000 names for it at one point. It was called "Skrulls!" and there was "Hidden Invasion" and all kinds of names. Marvel.com: What was the draw to shifting the balance of power in the Marvel Universe and the Initiative from the completely altruistic methods of Tony Stark to the totally suspect methods from Norman Osborn? Brian Michael Bendis Well, suspect methods [might] get better results...that might be what we're headed towards, which I think is a fascinating story. Just because we don't like how it's happening or who's doing it, that doesn't mean the world won't be a better place. Maybe he's exactly the kind of a--hole to be in charge, and if that's the case, how are the "heroes" going to deal with that? Maybe he's better at the job than Tony ever was. Marvel.com: One of the interesting moments in SECRET INVASION #8 is when Norman actually lands the kill shot on the Skrull Queen, and in that moment it doesn't seem like he's scheming at all. Brian Michael Bendis Anyone who's had any success in their life in any way, shape or form will know that you can train yourself all your life, but when the moment happens that changes your life, it's not a moment you predicted or architected, but you were ready for it. The best example that I can think of in comics is that most of my friends who have succeeded financially or creatively or found that perfect project for themselves that really established them, they were working just as hard on 80,000 other things that no one cared about. And then all the sudden, there's that one thing where everyone goes, "Huzah!" and now you're valid. And as far as Norman goes, Norman has been working very hard

DARK AVENGERS
#1 cover by
Mike Deodato

establishing the Thunderbolts, and all the sudden, here he is. The moment happened. And when the moment happened, he stepped up. Was he aiming to be Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Absolutely not. But when it happens, you grab it. And I think anyone in life can relate to that. Marvel.com: Within the Marvel Universe, you've got all sorts of people who know that Norman was the Green Goblin, that he's got all sorts of skeletons in his closet. What is it that made people trust him with such a big job? Brian Michael Bendis I always looked at it in the same way as everyone always talks about their lawyer. "I know he's an a--hole, but he's my kind of a--hole!" We certainly have certain political figures in this world that we felt that way about at certain times—Joe McCarthy, Dick Cheney—these are all people that we eventually say, "Ew! Go Away!" But at one point, the way they were put into such a place of power was because of that feeling. Read any Bob Woodward book. These are very captivating people whose agenda may or may not be yours. I know people who love certain politicians that make my skin crawl, but they really love them. That's what we get in Norman Osborn. It's funny. As [president elect Barack] Obama's reign begins earlier than we even expected, and he goes guns a'blazing into the White House like we all hoped he would, you already hear people going, "What if he's really evil? What if he's not a beacon of hope? What if he's a terrorist?" And I kind of look at Norman like an anti-Obama where they say, "We know he's the Green Goblin, but maybe he's kind of great?" The invasion was a time of doubt and terror, and after that happens in any country in the world, what the leaders are able to sell is the idea of "I'm going to protect you! I'm going to be even crazier evil than they are. I'm going to protect you with my craziness because that's what you need." Marvel.com: That seems like the mission statement behind DARK AVENGERS. We've been seeing how guys like Bullseye and Venom have interacted as a team in THUNDERBOLTS, but now is it a matter of going, "The public has to trust these monsters to protect and defend them on the biggest scale"? Can we trust that their motivations as a team will be for the good of people? Brian Michael Bendis Each character has his own motivations, and each character will be very well within character as they pursue this new life. Some will succeed and some will not. Some will screw it up as they are wont to do, but others will even surprise themselves in their ability to buy into the hype. Some people, they exceed the hype and expectations—I mean in pop culture and that. They're sold heavily, and they do even better than they were sold as.

DARK AVENGERS
#2 cover by
Mike Deodato

Some people completely crash and burn under the pressure of it or the expectation of it. DARK AVENGERS will be a lot on that as well as being about Norman Osborn and the world looking to Norman. Marvel.com: And aside from the straight villains who are coming along, you're getting guys like Ares and the Sentry who've already been in the big leagues, but amongst the other heroes are going to be getting looked at as kind of traitors… Brian Michael Bendis And definitely the New Avengers' point of view of that is going to be quite startled—that anybody could join up with [the Dark Avengers]. But let me make it very clear that all of this is subtext and character stuff, and deep down there is going to be a lot of fun and interesting super hero [stuff]. This is going to be a lot of interesting people doing very interesting things and having all new kinds of conflicts and fights. That's the primary goal. The stuff we're talking about will be in every issue of the book, but it's there only if you want it to be. That kind of a thing. Marvel.com: What is the super hero hook for DARK AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS moving forward? Brian Michael Bendis Both titles have a sensational hook, which will be revealed in their first issues, and we've got a storyline locked down between the two titles which are very related in the way that MIGHTY and NEW were, although it's a different relationship. If you're reading both, you'll be completely thrilled by how much meat there is on the bone, but you can read one or the other and be fine. My favorite part of writing both Avengers books was the juxtaposition between MIGHTY and NEW dealing with similar subjects or events from different angles. Like how Tony's point of view on the Skrulls and the New Avengers' point of view on the Skrulls was fantastically different, and I loved that. Now here we are with DARK AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS, and the same thing will be happening. There's a conflict between the two teams and a total ideological difference, but they exist in the same city, they're very close to each other, and the clock is ticking before they smash faces. Marvel.com: To pick up on some of the Secret Invasion fallout that will be playing out in these books, I was wondering what the next step is for Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and the search for their missing baby? Will you be picking up on that right away?

NEW AVENGERS
#48 cover by
Billy Tan

Brian Michael Bendis
No. That's the last we've heard of the baby. They get over it. [Laughs] I thought Secret Invasion was so much onset by NEW AVENGERS particularly that some personal story needed to continue on into the book. It would be difficult and a falsehood to go into the next issue of NEW AVENGERS and have them go, "Shoo! That happened!" There needed to be some emotional fallout and some personal loss or gain, and since the baby was such a big part of the book just before the invasion, that's how people who want to keep reading about it can dive into NEW AVENGERS #48 and see Luke Cage making some very tough decisions as they search for that baby. Marvel.com: You've given up a lot of the characters that you've had your hands on for awhile for other writers to play with in terms of Ronin, Hank Pym and Tony Stark, but at the same time you're picking up plenty of new players onto the Avengers teams. You're finally writing the actual Spider-Woman after years of planning on it. Brian Michael Bendis I got her into a place that I love. Not to ruin the first page or the first issue, but she says, "Congratulations, Wolverine! You're no longer the most screwed up person in the universe. I've been screwed over more than anybody ever in the history of anything." That's a great place to start a book. She's mad! Marvel.com: And you're bringing in Bucky as Captain America into the Avengers. How's that been? Brian Michael Bendis This I've got to thank Ed Brubaker so much for. I was a little behind on my [CAPTAIN AMERICA], and I was catching up, and Bucky/Cap for lack of a better term—I know Ed kind of hates that phrase—is so great because you get all the symbolism of Captain America but every relationship and interaction he has with the Marvel Universe is a fresh one. It's different. Characters relate to the costume before they relate to the human being. There was one issue where Clint Barton and Falcon were up in his business, and I loved it. I said, "That's great!" Ed and I then got into this conversation about "When will he be an Avenger?" or "Will he ever be an Avenger?" And I said, "Based on the philosophy you've established in the book, if he's honoring Cap, and these are the Avengers that Cap picked...then shouldn't he offer himself to it?" Then Ed said, "You're absolutely right."

SECRET
WARRIORS #1
cover by
Jim Cheung

Later, we were deciding where the Avengers were going to live. They were like the hostel Avengers or the Y.M.C.A. Avengers—they don't really have a home. We were playing with a few places and then realized that Cap's house is kind of the perfect place. It's got a gym. It's nice, you know? And Ed said, "It would be hilarious because he's such a military mind that baby crap and Wolverine eating his food and everything would be great." So now Cap's place is the Avengers hideout. Marvel.com: The third element to your post-Secret Invasion game is Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors who are playing an underground role as opposed to the very public Avengers teams. How does that book fit into the larger story you've got cooking? Brian Michael Bendis I am completely in love with what Jonathan [Hickman's] doing in SECRET WARRIORS. I think it's the book that people are going to be the most completely surprised by and shocked by in the first issue if you pick it up. If you buy that first issue of SECRET WARRIORS, you're in. There's no way you don't put it on your pull list. It's a very interesting mix of a S.H.I.E.L.D. book, a Nick Fury book and a Young Avengers/Young X-Men type of book. It's got a lot of juicy stuff. The cliffhanger at the end of issue #1, which was one of my only contributions to it, is a doozy that I've been dying to fit in for a couple of years. What you're talking about here is that all these books are really landscape books. This is the landscape of the Marvel Universe. These are characters you're very familiar with but stories you've never seen them a part of before and very organic to where they were and how they got here. That's why I made the decision to tell issue #8 of SECRET INVASION in a first person point of view narrative rather than an omniscient one like the other issues were because it was just as important to see whose point of view this is now from as it was what happened. Tomorrow, writer Jeff Parker joins us to talk AGENTS OF ATLAS in our next installment of Dark Reign-Makers! Also, check out Brian Michael Bendis and editor Tom Brevoort on the Dark Reign podcast! Check out the official Marvel Shop for the best mighty Marvel merchandise!

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