Tuesday Q&A

Thursday Q&A: Brian Michael Bendis

The longtime Avengers writer takes one last look back at his decade with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!

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By Jim Beard

In part one of this Brian Michael Bendis Avengers exit interview, the writer told of how he first learned he’d be writing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in 2004 and what it feels like to say goodbye to his “babies” in the coming months of 2012.

He continues here with observations on what makes the team tick and his collaborators on AVENGERS, MIGHTY AVENGERS, and NEW AVENGERS, as well as a glimpse at “End Times,” his final Avengers arc, and writer Jonathan Hickman’s follow-up to Bendis’ long run.

Marvel.com: Brian, you’ve said yourself that over the past eight years the door has been opened for many different characters who were not been Avengers before—does the team still have it’s own flavor or is it that they now represent the Marvel Universe as a whole?

Brian Michael Bendis: Well, both of those things are very true, and it’s funny because I’m not exactly sure how that happened, other than osmosis. That wasn’t really my plan. When the book becomes the center of everything, there’s a lot of ways for that to go wrong. That wasn’t my goal to turn the AVENGERS into the center; my goal was to just make this the most awesome thing ever, filled with stuff I hadn’t seen in an Avengers book before. I knew that would be slightly controversial, but maybe not as controversial as I intended. The way the market responded to things, the book became a centerpiece for the Marvel Universe and the series of event [stories] that came about. If you remember, events were nothing. Disassembled was one of the first events. And then House of M came right after that. They literally came to me and said, “Listen, Joss [Whedon] isn’t writing ASTONISHING X-MEN this summer, he’s got to go do something else. If you want to do an Avengers/X-Men fun thing, that’d be great.”

People can look at the first cover and see New Avengers/Astonishing X-Men and that’s what the book initially was. I had a thing left over that I was talking with [Jeph] Loeb about from Disassembled: if Wanda goes nuts, what does Magneto do about that? That seemed like a great Avengers/X-Men summer thing, because what’s the biggest problem for the Avengers and the X-Men? It’s Wanda. House of M burst out of that, and all of a sudden the Avengers are the centerpiece of all these big events, because by nature, the roster is pulling characters from different parts of the Marvel Universe. Back when the Avengers were just Avengers, and you could only see these characters in the Avengers, they were the Avengers. But the way I set it up, with Spider-Man, and Wolverine from the X-Men, and [Thor’s] an Asgardian—now you’ve got an arm out from every corner of the Marvel Universe pulled into this one book. And that makes it, by its own nature, the centerpiece and with that comes a lot of scary stuff.

Marvel.com: What are your own favorite Avengers moments or story lines?

Brian Michael Bendis: The reveal of the Skrull stuff was a big one because I’d been planning that since the first issue. And when Elektra became a Skrull, if everyone went, “Who cares?” I’d be screwed. It was all I had. I was relieved that Leinil Yu had killed it, he did an amazing job, and we were able to go about with our Skrull storyline with such excitement from our readers for so long to the point that it became its own event, which wasn’t even the plan.

My favorite moments are usually the quieter ones, like CIVIL WAR: THE CONFESSION and some of the tie-ins during Civil War. Discovering the funny repartee between Spider-Man and Luke Cage, that wasn’t in my initial plan. That just kind of happened, the characters kinda took over. Things like that, which may not be exciting to some people, but as a writer, it always makes me happy to do something I haven’t seen before. When I can put something in the Avengers pot that wasn’t there before. And at the end of the day, the whole time I was on AVENGERS, people were yelling at me because Spider-Man wasn’t an Avenger. Well he’s been an Avenger for eight years, so guess what? Wolverine too. Also, discovering new things about the characters because of their placement in AVENGERS.

Overall, my top favorite thing is that I can’t think of a day where I haven’t been thrilled with my collaborations. Every single issue on all of the Avengers books has been quite outstanding, as far as high-water marks in super hero comic book art in the last eight years. Even the first two years of NEW AVENGERS with David Finch and Steve McNiven; I still think that was Steve’s best stuff. Me and Jimmy Cheung did an amazing amount of issues together and people don’t even realize. I would steal him in between issues of YOUNG AVENGERS and I ended up getting a lot of comic books out of him. Mike Deodato has done more issues of Avengers with me than anybody over the course of all the books. I got to work with almost all of my heroes. I got to work with Alan Davis, Howard Chaykin, Neal Adams, Walt Simonson, and John Romita, Jr., all on the same book. There is no way I’m not going to look back on this and go “What?!”

Marvel.com: Who’s left that you haven’t worked with?

Brian Michael Bendis: There are a ton of people I haven’t worked with, but some of them I’m going to be working with on ALL-NEW X-MEN. The goal has been, and I will be keeping this going in ALL NEW X-MEN, to keep the centerpiece label by being not only a centerpiece of what’s going on in the story, but by at least attempting to be as good a comic book as Marvel can put out. Here are the best colorists, the best letterers, and the best artists doing the best characters. [That’s] Joe Quesada at his finest. It was AVENGERS, and [Grant] Morrison on NEW X-MEN, Joss [Whedon] on ASTONISHING X-MEN, Warren [Ellis] on IRON MAN. That’s what came out of that meeting [in 2004]. All the books with the best characters with the best creators who had something to say. That was all brand-new with those things. Which is very much what’s going on with Marvel NOW!

This is what we do best, putting the right talent on the right books. We kept it going for a long, long time. It’s easy to do it for a year; it’s very hard to do it for eight years. Sometimes I would have two or three series going at once, which is crazy. It was almost like a smorgasbord of artwork coming into my computer all day every day. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Frank Cho and his amazing work on MIGHTY AVENGERS and Alex Maleev did amazing work here and there on some special stuff. We debuted SECRET WARRIORS, we debuted NEW AVENGERS: THE ILLUMINATI. These are things that I thought were a little additive and I was very proud of.

Marvel.com: Anything you feel has been left unsaid on the Avengers titles? Anything you wished you had a little more time with?

Brian Michael Bendis: Well I’m sure there is. That one we’ll have to wait like a year before I go “Oh, I forgot!” But the good news is that I’m not leaving Marvel, so one way or another I will shove something into something [Laughs].

New Avengers #31 cover by Mike Deodato

Marvel.com: One of the upcoming questions in “End Times” is “Does the Marvel Universe still need the Avengers?” How do you address that?

Brian Michael Bendis: My favorite thing about all these events and AVENGERS being the centerpiece of all these events is that there’s fallout. And because they’re always on to the next thing, they don’t even have time to deal with the fallout. Fear Itself happened and all these Nazi robots attacked the world, and nobody in the Avengers feels like doing a press conference and saying, “All right everyone, we’ve saved you all from the Nazis.” Nobody wants to do that. Captain America doesn’t want to do press. He just wants to do what he’s good at. And with that comes conspiracy, hysteria and blame. Nobody knows where [Sin] is, [so] we can’t blame her, but we know where Cap is so let’s go yell at him.

Now, there are some interesting things going on with the Avengers and Captain America in particular in my last issues. When Captain America took this job to lead the Avengers, he took the job of the guy he was always yelling at. It’s like he was the President. Like the minute President Obama got elected, everything was immediately his fault. That’s not a political statement; it’s with any president. “We love you, we love you—now what?”

That’s what’s happening with Captain America. Now that he’s taken the role of leader and with that comes the heavy burden of responsibility for things that he couldn't possibly be responsible for, but someone’s gotta be responsible for them. That’s gonna be resolved and take its toll with the question of “Does the world need the Avengers?” But I think they do because I believe the book will be continuing without me [Laughs].

Marvel.com: Are you looking forward to reading Jonathan Hickman’s first issue of AVENGERS later this year?

New Avengers #32 cover by Mike Deodato

Brian Michael Bendis: Absolutely. I’m a big fan of Jonathan. I’ve been cheerleading him since very early on in his career. I handed him the idea for SECRET WARRIORS to show off and show everyone what he can do because it was obvious to me or anyone who read Nightly News, or any of his [independent] books, what he was capable of. What he accomplished on FANTASTIC FOUR shows why he’s perfect for [AVENGERS]. He knows everything there is to know. He knows the warmth of the family, and that’s what the Avengers is. It’s a family. I’m excited about it.

I’m also excited about someone else being yelled at about the Avengers! I’m heading into the X-Office which is the deepest, darkest abyss [Laughs]. When my idea for ALL-NEW X-MEN got approved, people were worried about me. People were worried I’d be blowing up the school in the first issue. With the idea of the original X-Men returning, it’s not only the present, it’s the past and the future in a big ol’ Marvel taco that I’ve created.

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