By Blake Garris
Max Bemis, front man of the popular pop-punk band Say Anything, knows Marvel Comics well. He has an impressive graphic novel collection that lines his house in Tyler, Texas and has been interviewed by and visited Marvel numerous times. So it should come as no surprise that Max has become a comic book writer in his own right and will be debuting his first story with Marvel in A+X #14, hitting this November.
We spoke with Max about the new comic, his process and much more!
Marvel.com: To begin, how did you get involved with writing for Marvel?
Max Bemis: Well I guess first, in a theoretical way, it’s always been a goal of mine, since I decided I wanted to take writing comics seriously. And even before that it was kind of like a pipe dream for me. I’m a big fan of all walks of comics culture and indie comics and everything. But what I’ve really seen when it comes to the last 10-15 years, I feel like some of my favorite stuff ever has been writers that come from an indie background and then come in and work for Marvel and work within the confines of continuity at Marvel. So that’s partially what drew me to it, just being such a fan of the books. I’m a long time Marvel fan but once you really become familiar with specific writers and you see how they flourish in certain editorial environments and at certain publishers, I’ve come to see a lot of the best stuff be put out by people at Marvel.
I was like, “Seems like someone who has sort of a left-of-center writing style like me would probably flourish somewhere where the editorial team understands that you have to push boundaries and let people explore cool ideas.” So that’s kind of what drew me to Marvel and then through friends of mine that work at Marvel or people who are fans of the first book I put out that work at Marvel, I was able to get a meeting with Jordan [White] who’s an amazing editor at the X-Office. And he was a wonderful guy and we had a great lunch together and I pitched him some stuff and he was kind enough to give it a look, and he dug what he saw and it moved very quickly. It’s been really amazing so far.
Marvel.com: How did you learn how to write a comic script?
Max Bemis: I had done some reading. To be honest, probably less than I should have. Being an ardent collector, since I was probably 7 years old, I would always stumble across in the back of collections where they would take a few pages of script. And I bought a few scripts, and I bought a power script book that Brian Bendis wrote and I saw some Alan Moore stuff, and I sort of saw the gamut of how you can handle it. And the truth is that as long as you’re familiar with the medium, there [are] a lot of loose guidelines when it comes to how to write because you can go from anywhere between super-detailed and all the way up to something where you just have a couple of lines describing a panel. You kind of just write the way a comic fan would want to read it if you’re familiar with the timing and the way it’s done.
In terms of the ideas and stuff, that’s all me. I sort of have verbal, artistic diarrhea and I just sort of force forward and as soon as I got the opportunity to do something at Marvel I know I wanted to do something that really spoke with my voice and wasn’t just me trying to just fit in or do something really accessible. I just wanted to do something that was noticeably written by me.
Marvel.com: How big of a Marvel fan are you?
|Punisher by Garth Ennis|
Max Bemis: It’s ridiculous to be honest. When I grew up, I did read all kinds of books. Thankfully my mom didn’t know much about the content of the comics so I was reading all this Vertigo stuff when it was coming out that I barely understood but enough so to make an impression. Mostly for me, I think I was way into X-Men when I was a little kid; I subscribed when they did the subscriptions and I was obsessed with it. I would get all the Marvel handbooks and read about all the characters and then I stopped reading comics for about three or four years because I became obsessed with music, and when I came back, it was Garth Ennis’s Punisher that brought me back in and that was a Marvel book and that’s what lead me to realize that Marvel had become almost like the Vertigo of mainstream books. And I didn’t know that having been away during the time that Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction and Brian Bendis started working at Marvel and I came to realize how awesome Marvel was at that. And DC is still a great company, but they kind of caught up to that a little bit later because there was more partition for Vertigo and the mainstream DC stuff, whereas Marvel, their main books were becoming edgy and they were becoming really artistic and that’s what drew me to Marvel. And so when I got way back into comics I just bought every Marvel graphic novel ever. And I continue to do so. I consider it my main squeeze when it comes to mainstream comics is definitely Marvel. I have everything. I hunt down copies of stuff that’s hard to find, and I just consider myself a devotee of the company.
Marvel.com: Why did you decide on a Magneto and Spider-Man story for A+X?
|A+X #14 cover by David Lafuente|
Max Bemis: I pitched three or four basic situations to Jordan and that was the one he gravitated toward. And I just thought, whatever I’m doing, it has to have a high concept to it. It can’t just be like, “Let’s just take the Hulk and Spider-Man and put them against this particular bad guy and they find some creative way of beating him.” I was thinking of, since the idea of A+X is team-ups essentially, “How do you take a team-up and make it more of a psychological study than an action piece?” All of the ideas I pitched had that sort of element to it. And I think the Superior Spider-Man/Magneto element was the most blatant. When you think about the idea of what they both represent and how they would interact with each other, which we can get into with the story, it probably was the most iconic, loud idea. And I think that’s maybe why Jordan liked it the most so I got way into it.
The bad guys are almost written to be unimportant, self-consciously. They’re kind of space-less and that ties in with the themes of the story.
Marvel.com: You really make Magneto look like a badass. He’s really a hero in this story.
Max Bemis: He is a badass! I think he’s amazing [and] I can relate to him just because he’s done horrible things in his lifetime but at the same time he’s such an example of nature vs. nurture. You know he’s got a dark side but it was also provoked by how much tragedy he’s been through in his life. And he wrestled with that and came out on arguably a better side, though he’s always sort of dubious; but that’s part of life.
Marvel.com: What made you want to start the book in an old west setting?
Max Bemis: I thought it would be kind of boring to have Spider-Man show up at an anonymous bunker, and I wanted to frame Spider-Man as the “hero.” He’s walking into this old western town, riding in and he’s going to take on the bad guys. Sort of like a classic the Lone Ranger rides into town moment.
Marvel.com: What do you want to say about the story without teasing anything?
Max Bemis: Without giving too much away, it’s about the Superior Spider-Man who is essentially a super villain trapped in a hero’s body, and Magneto who is a reformed super villain who doesn’t view himself as ever having been one. And it’s all about the nature of super villainy as much as it’s the action of Spider-Man and Magneto teaming up to fight the bad guy, who I won’t get too into or what their mission is; that’s basically the plot. It’s just the dynamic of Spider-Man having to hide who he is while Magneto shares his views on super-villainy and super villains in general. It’s a test of Doctor Octopus’s patience. It’s almost like a buddy comedy. I kind of viewed it as almost like a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode more than like an action book. The story is called “Baddies.” It’s just about the nature of being a stereotypical villain which Doctor Octopus and Magneto have been seen as but it’s sort of how do they each view themselves and view that calling.
Marvel.com: Who’s drawing the book?
Max Bemis: It’s David Lafuente. He’s one of my favorite Marvel artists actually. He did PATSY WALKER: HELLCAT, [and] that was like the first thing I saw by him. But he’s mostly known for doing ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. And he’s awesome, and he’s also very expressive, and there’s an element of humor to what he does. So I don’t think this story would work with anybody who’s super hyper-realistic because I was picturing “Kill Bill” the entire time I was writing it so it really jives with what he does.
|Ultimate Spider-Man by David Lafuente|
Marvel.com: What’s the relationship like working with him?
Max Bemis: It’s been so incredibly seamless; I think I’m just lucky. Every comic artist that I’ve worked with so far has just read my mind. I never had a bad interaction editorially or with an artist. Maybe it’s because I’m just such a dorky fan that I’m able to really appreciate when there’s something that shows up that isn’t exactly what I pictured, I kind of like it that way because I’m being surprised and I’m being entertained just during the creative process as a fan.
Marvel.com: Anything else you would like to say about the comic?
Max Bemis: I‘m hoping that it’s the first of many books that I write for Marvel. We’ll see. Either way, I’m honored to have just worked on this project and that I got to play with two of the most iconic characters around.