MyCup o' Joe is usually
the weekly communiqué from Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Joe Quesada to the legion of Mighty Marvelites Assembled! As Joe is safely swaddled in a Marvel creative retreat, we instead slide the spotlight over to writer Brian Michael Bendis! Brian sits down with journalist Jim McLauchlin this week to answer questions on the pressing issues of the day at Marvel and throughout comics.
And you get to chip in as well! Post your questions at the bottom of this page, and answers may well be forthcoming in future MyCups!
JM: So Quesada sneaks out because of a creative summit, yet you're part of same summit, and you're here. How the hell does that work out?
I don't know! We were doing the exact same things all week, yet he gets to skip this. I gotta figure that one out.
JM: Is it just an indication of Marvel totem pole? Quesada is still at least half a notch above you?
Yes. It's my only explanation.
JM: Give us just a little background on these things from your point-of-view: How many people are involved in these meetings, and what gets discussed?
It was a pretty cool retreat. We're now done, but it was three solid days. It was the usual suspects: Me, Jeph Loeb, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Dan Slott, Greg Pak and all the editors. And [Publisher] Dan Buckley and Joe Quesada. And we just, you know, got into it. We had a really good, long talk about all that is the future of comics, and the economy, and the industry, and how they tie together and all that entails.
JM: So in a practical sense…what really gets discussed in a publishing and editorial sense? How are things decided on? Do you wind up with, essentially, opposing factions on different sides of a question?
Oh, yeah. A lot happens in the room. Quite literally, you'll sometimes wind up spending two days going through stuff, and on the third day, you'll throw everything out because you have a new idea.
But this one was kind of funny in that I was legitimately surprised in how much conversation revolved around Dark Reign and DARK AVENGERS. It was flattering. Everyone has high hopes for it. But I was kind of hoping that after Secret Invasion, I could kind of sit back and devote my time to torturing Loeb or something. But we had a really long, long conversation about the finer points of Dark Reign and DARK AVENGERS. I was really surprised about how much we talked about it and how much it really will spill out
JM: People can't "hear" it in reading this column, but…your voice is shot, man.
Yeah, I honestly don't have whatever muscles are necessary to project out my voice for long periods of time. Seriously. I spend such long periods of time alone, or with more quiet interactions, that this takes a lot out of me, and especially my voice. Plus, I have two little children at home, so I came in a little congested. My voice goes every time.
JM: Do you have time for any extracurriculars when you traverse to Manhattan for these? Do you gotta go visit the Statue of Liberty or anything?
There have been a couple times when we've done these meetings that I just got the hell out immediately after because, you know, I have a family to get back to and all. But my wife's been training me to live life to a fuller extent, and I've started to think that I haven't been getting all I could out of these. Now, Matt Fraction and I have such similar tastes in…practically everything…that we take some time. We go to The Angelika and see an art film. We go to the theater. This time, we saw "Speed-The-Plow" starring Jeremy Piven, which is a great David Mamet play. Tonight, we're gonna see "American Buffalo," which is another great Mamet play. They have a Mamet revival going on here. It's really exciting to see Mamet plays live. Then the whole Marvel gang is going to see "Quantum of Solace" at midnight. So yeah, I'm definitely enjoying New York more.
Even during the creative retreat, at lunch, me and Loeb and Fraction would run out to Papaya King, and enjoy those quintessential New York things. It's funny. Matt Fraction is addicted to street coffee. Just addicted. He's obsessed with every little street cart vendor.
JM: I'd wager one of the main things that gets done at these confabs are Marvel's major "tentpoles," and planning out the major crossover events, be it World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, or what-have you. You've written a few, including SI and House of M. How does this happen? Do you come in angling for them? Or does someone say, "Give it to that Bendis kid over there"?
It's a mixture of things. Everyone comes in with an agenda, and a few things they want. Ed Brubaker came in with a few projects that we can't announce yet, but they've been put on the schedule. Everyone has a few things they're looking to get on the schedule. The writers, the editors, everybody.
For most of the people who get invited to this, if your idea gets shot down, it's just because it didn't survive the logic of the room. There were a couple ideas and projects that people came in with that maybe sounded good at first, but got shot down by logic. It's usually Jeph Loeb who asks the logic/story questions, and pokes a hole in it so big that the story can't recover. But it's a good
question, an essential
hole. Because if there's a hole in the story that can't survive the logic of the room, it surely can't survive the logic of the Internet.
JM: Dear God! Jeph Loeb is the Internet incarnate in one man! Does Al Gore know?
I tell you, that man, he's an assassin.
He's a ninja assassin of story. He's excellent, very excellent, exceedingly
excellent in distilling story down to its iconic necessity and character necessity. I hear his voice in my head quite often when I'm back home writing stuff, reminding me of things.
JM: That's scary.
No, it's kind of nice. It's all Hulk dialogue—lots of exclamation points and double balloons.
A lot of people know that me and Loeb have had some pretty big throwdowns at these. But this time, it was quite lovely. We agreed on a lot of things. Come to think of it, that's
kind of scary. I was kinda tempted to start disagreeing with him just on principle. It could have been fun.
The other fun thing to do is watch [Editor] Tom Brevoort. He's like a mood ring. I always look at him out of the corner of my eye to see if he's changing colors when someone's talking about an idea. Red is good. Purple is really
good. Beyond that, it can get bad—you know something's about to blow.
JM: You've worked with a pretty broad range of artists in your career, different styles from Michael Gaydos to Mark Bagley to Leinil Yu to David Finch. Is there any one artist out there you're totally Jonesing to work with?
Oh, of course. But there isn't one. There are tons and tons and tons. And many guys I've worked with previous who I'd love to get back together with as soon as humanly possible. I miss Bagley terribly, to be honest with you. Not to take anything away from any of the artists I am working with now—I've been amazingly lucky in this business.
I'm also lucky in that I have a wide, wide breadth of stuff I really like as far as artists go. Most of the guys I'm dying—just dying!—to work with are…my heroes. All of which I'm thrilled to tell you I have a nice relationship with. It's one of the great joys of my life that Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson and Michael Golden all don't hate me.
JM: Well, it's good to start with "don't hate" and see where you can go from there.
Absolutely. But yeah, I just gotta tell you, the last con I went to was Baltimore con, and as I was walking out, there was Walt Simonson there. And I was able to walk up to him with a book I had won and Eisner Award for and say, "This is because of you. Whether you know it or not, this is because of you an the influence you've had on me." There's really no greater joy in my life than to be able to do that.
And Howard Chaykin, of course…his work is so, so important to comics. And it looks like me and Chaykin will be working on something together real soon. We got the green light this week.
JM: Cool, man. What is?
Well, we really can't talk about it yet, but it is a real "project" of a project.
Other guys like Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell are real longshots, but I'd love to work with them. And Michael Golden. I told him, "I will drop everything,
as soon as you're ready to so." So tell him! Tell Golden! See what it takes. I don't care. We'll do AVENGERS ANNUAL #10 again.
Word for word.
And there are tons of up-and-comers I keep an eye on and see if I can find the right project to work with them on. Like David Lafuente. I just did an ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL with him and he's amazing. I told him, as soon as you're ready, let's go. Because, you know, I find these guys, and then it's a countdown to when [writer] Mark Millar will steal them.
JM: So you just have to be faster than Mark.
Yeah, I'm in the same country, and that helps. Millar has to call from Scotland. Time zones work in my favor.
JM: Just in a straight reader enjoyment sense, what are you digging on in comics these days?
Well, I know they're my friends, but…I've been admiring the works of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction since before I knew them personally. I'm big into Jonathan Hickman's work now, which is why he's working with me on SECRET WARRIORS. That book is so
tailor-made for him.
JM: How about outside comics? What have you been reading?
Oh I'm a total magazine fiend. I read every British music magazine you can name. It's really disgusting. I'm like some 17-year-old British private school dingbat. I mean, I don't even like
Coldplay and I've read 18 articles on them!
I read British film magazines as well, because there really aren't any American film magazines left. I read Empire, Total Film…I also read American Cinematographer. It's where I get a lot of my visual ideas.
Right now, bookwise, I'm reading that trashy James Bond novel, "Devil May Care." I don't know if I recommend it or not. But I am enjoying it. It's a bad book, but if you know that going in, it's not so bad, right?
And I'm reading "The 10 Cent Plague," a book about the history of comics. Meaning when I'm done, I will have then read 85 books on that subject.
JM: Cool, man. We gotta get out. I'll read you some reader questions.
Thanks. And thanks for tracking me down. It's been a busy week. Who you got next week?
JM: Axel Alonso, the X-Men and lotsa-other-stuff editor.
Quesada gets out again?
JM: Some things never change.
Hello Mr. Bendis,
In just the first issue of ULTIMATUM, we've seen some big stuff happen. How much input did you have in the planning of the series with Jeph Loeb? Also, when you first introduced Kitty Pride into the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN cast of characters, I thought she'd be gone after Peter and Mary Jane got back together, but yet, she remains, and has really become a big part of his cast. What does the future hold for Kitty and Peter?
ULTIMATUM is Jeph's project through and through. But I was also there for the machinations of it, because the point of it was to re-invent the Ultimate Universe and incorporate all
the elements of the Ultimate Universe. Previously, because of scheduling, most Ultimate Universe events weren't referenced in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. I didn't know when things were shipping, and I was always terrified of spoiling an ULTIMATES run, so I just ignored it—I felt it was the best thing I could do.
But now, when the Ultimatum wave hits, that wave is hitting Spider-Man's world and Spider-Man's cast and Spider-Man's house. We worked very closely on following ULTIMATUM's lead, and then finding other cool stuff to do in ULTIMATUM. When ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #129 hits, you'll see the wave hit, and how it affects all the characters.
On Kitty Pryde, I can't say much without spoiling ULTIMATUM, but I will say that Kitty's role will change after ULTIMATUM. Almost everyone's role will change dramatically. There's gonna be a new supporting cast, there may even be a new Spider-Man.
JM: What? What? A new Spider-Man?
It's gonna be Luke Cage, of course.
Hey BMB, just wondering if we can expect any new Ultimate first appearances in upcoming months in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. Seems like there are fewer of them now than there were earlier in the book.
Yeah, there was a little bit of a concerted effort to tone that down. It felt kind of like it was "Ultimate Character of the Month" there every month for a couple of years to the point where it just wasn't special
any more. It runs the risk of becoming the same joke over and over again, unless you have a really spectacular revamp in the works.
So we've waited until we had something really special to do with Mysterio, who we just debuted in the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #3. And he'll be a major, major
part of the book come the relaunch.
Yeah. Next question, please.
Mr. Bendis, when we going to see the Void again? When will we have an explanation of what happened to the Void and Lindy?
It's a little complicated, but…The Void is the Skrulls.
And the Skrulls is the Void, who is the Sentry, who is Lindy. Who is the Darkness, who is Galactus, who is Darkseid, who is the Anti-Life Equation. It's all connected.
JM: Sounds complicated.
Well, we'll get Grant Morrison to figure it all out! Seriously, it's hard to talk about certain characters without spoiling the end of Secret Invasion, but that issue will be resolved momentarily. And rest assured, we're not just gonna drop it. We're trying to build something you just haven't seen before, a character with that level of power, with all these damaging psychoses and problems. It's daunting to write, but fun.
Since Dormammu and Nightmare have been popping up in recent books, do you think there's a possibility for a Dr. Strange series to come out?
You know what? There's gonna be a lot of Dr. Strange stuff coming right up. You know what? I'm gonna give you a little taste, a little Dr. Strange exclusive here: NEW AVENGERS #51 is "Who is the New Sorcerer Supreme?" Dr. Strange is clearly not the Sorcerer Supreme anymore, so that brings up the question of "who is?" Someone must be, right? I mean, just by definition.
So a lot of other magical characters will assume that they must
be. That will be a fun story to tell. Dr. Strange will
return to the book, but there may very well be a passing of the torch.
Dreams of a fallen hero…. asks:
1) Clint Barton has used two different bows in Secret Invasion and has taken a proactive stance as an archer. Will we be seeing him keep his bow? Or is Ronin going to be sticking with his sword? Please tell me he's keeping the bow!
2) The Hood's power source has finally been revealed as Dormammu, and he seems accepting of it. Are we going to see this continue on as a plot point in NEW AVENGERS or elsewhere? Possibly connected to Dark Reign?
As to Clint, how about "both"? We'll see him a master of many weapons, and many fighting styles.
We actually have not see the Hood accepting of it at all—it's more like he was pissing his pants over it when it was revealed. But that's a big plot point coming up. Absolutely.
The Mighty Mutt asks:
How do you do it, man? Seriously, half of the comics I pick up nowadays have your name on them. How do you write all those comics every month and still keep going?
Well, I've had real jobs in the past that were hard and involved hard labor and getting up in the morning, so this is easy, comparatively. In fact, this week, having to get up in the morning and be somewhere at a certain hour has me saying, "oy, vey!" This seems much harder than what I normally do for a living now.
But the truth of the matter is that I was writing and drawing this much and this long when I was a child. So it's almost like I was training myself for this right now. Now that I'm here, and have this great opportunity for however long the showbiz gods will let me have it, I'd be a fool not to run at full steam.
I mean, I'm baffled to the point of annoyed at people who are such great artists and fantastic writers who don't produce anything. I mean, there are great guys out there who literally haven't had a book out in years.
It just baffles
me. It borderline sickens me. If you're an artist who doesn't draw…then what are you, you know?
You need not define your life by a job, and I have a very full family life and friends. But what makes me me
is that I need to express myself in an outlet like this. I'm lucky I got the gig, and if I can write a book a week without being a sickening hack, it makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something. So I do it.
If I didn't get paid to do it, I'd do it anyhow. I know, 'cause I did that for 10 years, too.
So I say to anybody who wants to do something in life…just do it.
I don't know if that's the exact answer you're looking for, but I'm Brian Bendis and I approve this message.
Do you have any intentions of moving on to film and writing movies?
Well, through this last decade—not to be braggy, but you asked—I've had a smattering of opportunities to write film projects or television projects, and I do them if there's something of interest to me. I've also been offered staff jobs on TV shows that I've declined, because there was nothing of interest to me there. Bottom line, I'm a comic book author, and this is want I want to do. Now when something comes up that I want to do, particularly if it's adapted from my own work, well, yeah. I might jump on that. Right now, I'm working on the pilot for the "Powers" TV show, which has a network and a director and a studio and we're rolling forward pretty quickly.
HBO hired me to write a pilot for a show a couple months ago, but I don't think it's gonna happen. But I gave it my all. And right now, I'm writing a movie for something from New Regency. So when someone comes and it's of interest…absolutely. But the rule I go by is the same I have when I'm writing comics. I ask myself, "Would I buy that?" That's the question that's always in my head. I try to stay as pure as I can. 90% of the time, I hope I'm right.
Tony Smith asks:
How do you proper utilize the Spider-Man and Wolverine characters in New Avengers without messing up what's going on in their own books?
The characters themselves are very iconic and established, so their voices are very comfortable to capture for me. Beyond that, I'm very aware and am kept in the loop on what's happening in those books. Tom Brevoort is the editor on one of the Spider-Man books, and also edits NEW AVENGERS as well, so it's very easy to follow the lead of the other books. I'm a big believer that Spider-Man happens in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and it's up for me to follow that lead, and not put obstacles in the way.
Any chance we will ever see you write a Marvel Universe X-book?
I could see it. But not soon. I know in detail [writer Matt] Fraction's plans, and it's very exciting. I think it's gonna be a legendary run on the book. And I'm very Avengers-centric for the next few years. Team books take a lot of work. I don't know that I could do more of them right now.
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