Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Brian Michael Bendis

In the first of a two-part interview, the Avengers writer talks about his start and finish with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!

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Avengers #31 preview inks by Mike Mayhew

By Jim Beard

Through over eight years of adventures, from 2004’s “Avengers Dissembled” to this November’s “End Times,” Brian Michael Bendis’ unique and personal take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes ranks as one of the most popular runs in the Avengers’ almost five decade-long history. The writer now brings his tenure to a close not with sadness, but with evident pride as he looks back on his Avengers tales as a roller coaster ride of exciting characters, concepts and collaborations.

In this special two-part Avengers exit interview, Bendis reveals not only some of his most-cherished moments on the titles, but also the very great depth of feeling he carries—and will continue to carry—for the Mighty Avengers.

Marvel.com: Brian, in just about two months, we’ll be able to read your final issues of AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS; how does that feel to you at this moment?

Brian Michael Bendis: I am literally writing those very last issues, which I have held off on until the very last moment for, I’m sure, subconscious reasons. But also to make sure that I’ve hit every beat that I’ve wanted to hit. Most of this is for other people to say, so I’m not going to try to break my arm patting myself on the back, [but] I feel very good about a lot of the accomplishments, and I’m also feeling very good because all of the last issues are drawn by some of my favorite people in the world.

Avengers #31 preview inks by Brandon Peterson

I’m going out on a very pleasant note personally. I just finished an AVENGERS run with Walt Simonson. I’m working on NEW AVENGERS with Michael Gaydos, Michael Avon Oeming, Carlos Pacheco and Mike Deodato. The very last issue we’re doing this big jam sequence. I like to do these jam sequences every once in a while which are very difficult on editorial. I find them to be a lot of fun if you can find the right reason to do them. We found one, and me and Tom [Brevoort] are gathering together a group of very unique, very out-there artists, people who I feel have been exciting to me that are outside of the Marvel mainstream. We’re pulling them in to let them show off a little bit to the larger audiences, people whose books I’ve been buying that are very exciting. We’ll be debuting those names very soon. I feel like we’re leaving on a high note. On [the last issues of] AVENGERS, we’ve got Brandon Peterson, Terry Dodson [and] Mike Mayhew, and it’s gorgeous. It’s absolutely stunning.

Marvel.com: That really is a jam.

Brian Michael Bendis: It’s a jam; it’s a jam of all A-list talented guys that I work really well with. And on a personal note, on NEW AVENGERS I’ve worked with David Mack and Alex Maleev, and these are all my best friends. The only one I haven’t done an issue with is [Mike] Oeming, and we finally got one together to do that was perfect for him.

Marvel.com: With the history of the Avengers before you, what did you—

Brian Michael Bendis: Wait, was there history? I’ve never read any of it [Laughs]. It was funny, I tweeted the other day, that I’ve been reading X-Men for 30 years of my life but doing research on the X-Men is like the DaVinci Code. You have to do a lot of deep research. And someone goes, “I never once saw you tweet anything about the Avengers about that. Did you read anything about Avengers before you started writing it?”

Avengers #31 preview inks by Brandon Peterson

My point is that AVENGERS was one book in a straight line—it was much easier to read it all the way through. X-Men is more of a labyrinth.

Marvel.com: But the day you got the job, back in 2004, what was your personal mission statement for the book?

Brian Michael Bendis: It was funny. I was pitching for the gig without realizing that I was doing it. I had gone to a publishing retreat, which were not as frequent as they are now. We were all gathered together in a room, like 50 or 60 of us. A lot of us didn’t really know each other, and even though I’d been at Marvel for a couple years, we were all half a world away and not seeing each other all the time. I had no interaction with Tom Brevoort before this day. The point of the meeting was that our publisher at the time, Bill Jemas, wanted to go around to each title and distill it down to its basic essence and decide whether or not the book was achieving its goal. “Let’s find out what that book is about, distill it to its nature, and discover if we’re hitting the mark. If not, then let’s change course.” I thought that this was fascinating.

My books at the time were DAREDEVIL and ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN was fine, and DAREDEVIL had a pretty strong statement at the time because he was [being] outed. I remember I was sitting next to Mark Millar and we were just yapping it up like we knew everything. It was our own personal message board. We were just blah blah blah blah. We got to AVENGERS, which was starring She-Hulk and Jack of Hearts at the time, and we got to the idea of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” I said, “Why isn’t it, like, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America?” and then bedlam broke out in the room. People were screaming at each other, “Spider-Man’s not an Avenger!”

And Tom [Brevoort] looked like Bluto from Popeye—he was purple and had steam coming out of his ears. He didn’t know me from [Adam], he was just looking at me like he wanted to kill me. It got rousing. I wasn’t pitching to write the book and neither was Mark. Mark had ULTIMATES. We were talking about how we’d like to read an Avengers book that just had every kick-ass person you could think of. Then something happened where Joe [Quesada] or somebody turned to us and said, “Well, one of you is writing this. Which one is it?”

Avengers #31 cover by Brandon Peterson

I was scared of team books and I said that I wasn’t there to pitch on books. Then Mark said that maybe he would do it and then thought about it and realized that he was already doing the Avengers in ULTIMATES. Then I realized that I literally said I was scared of something, and that’s a [bad] thing for a writer to say. Immediately, you have to say that you’re going to write this if you’re scared of it. So I came up to Joe later in the night at some Millarworld drink-up, something where Mark has all his fans buy him drinks. I came up and I said that I wanted to write it if it wasn’t too late. He told me that I was doing it and it was done. Mark and I shook hands on it and off I was doing AVENGERS. And then I came up with, hey, I like Spider-Woman. Now I was digging into the same pond as before [me]. Then Dan Buckley came up to me and said, “You can do whatever you want as long as Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, and Iron Man are in that book that you pitched. You can fill the other slots with Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, whoever you want.” So I said, yeah, I think I got it.

And then I said, you know what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna blow up Avengers Mansion. I thought I was being cool, when all I was doing was going up to the playground and smashing other kids’ toys. I didn’t see it at the time, I thought I’ll blow up the mansion and everyone will go “Whoa, he blew up the mansion on the third page!”

“Disassembled” was this disaster movie starring the Avengers, which I thought was awesome. Other people thought it was awesome too, and other people were very, very angry at me. They’re still angry at me as if it happened yesterday.

Marvel.com: You’re talking about changing the status quo. We’ve heard your last issue of AVENGERS also changes the status quo; you’ve done it once, how do you do it again?

Avengers #32 cover by Brandon Peterson

Brian Michael Bendis: Well, many years have gone by. This status quo has been around for eight years. It’s quite a lengthy amount of time for any status quo in any comic of any company. So it’s certainly a good time for me to wrap up certain story-lines, to make my final statement on some of these characters. Some characters will be moving on to a new chapter in their life, and other characters will be deciding what it means to be an Avenger. Not all the characters will survive this last story.

I’m losing some babies. I’m losing some characters that mean the world to me. So when you add up all the elements that I just described, that is the status quo change. A lot is going to happen in the next four issues. Some great celebratory things, some tragic things, all setting the stage for my friend Jonathan Hickman, who has his own status quo to try to achieve. I’m going to do the best I can to make that happen.

Come back Thursday for part two of this interview!

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