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Thoughts from the Land of Frost:
A Discussion With Brian Michael Bendis By Alexander Ness
Our interview subject today is with one of the most mega-popular writers in all of comic-dom. Brian Michael Bendis has always been a talented writer and interesting artist, but it has been mostly in the last four years that his work has become widespread. Breaking into the mainstream with his title Powers, he soon went over to Marvel and never looked back. Over at The House, Bendis is currently writing Daredevil, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Alias, with more projects waiting in the wings.
I was drawn in with his work TORSO (which recounts a horrible string of murders in Cleveland, Ohio) and I have since completed my BMB trade paperback collection and I buy all of his projects. His writing is always interesting, often violent, and of a quality that spoils the reader.
I am very honored to present my interview with Brian Michael Bendis...
Hi Mr. Bendis, and welcome to my column. Where are you from, where do you live, are you married, kids, cats, dogs...?
BMB: From Cleveland, now I live in Portland with 85 percent of the comic book community, for all my Cleveland friends, listen to me, move out of Cleveland. Cleveland is bad. The people are good, the land is bad.
AN: Where did you receive your art training, what did you specialize in? And, what was your most important lesson learned there?
BMB: I went to Cleveland institute of art for five years. For all the good it did me. Best lesson is no matter what the deadline, If the piece isn't working, put it away and come back to it later.
AN: If I put away a column I am working on, I usually lose my train of thought. I think art is different than writing. What was your first comic that you read?
BMB: It was a Marvel. I had a stack of Marvels.
AN: And your favorite movie?
AN: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton Jack Nicholson... awesome choice. Who is/was your favorite director?
BMB: All-time probably Scorsese.
AN: And who is/was favorite screenwriter?
BMB: All-time probably Richard Price.
AN: What is it about Crime noir that inspires you?
BMB: It just does, it gives me chills.
AN: What crime fiction writers were your favorites?
BMB: Jim Thompson, Richard Price, David Mamet
AN: What comic writers would you cite as influences upon your works?
BMB: Chaykin first and foremost, Miller, Moore, Matt Wagner, Will Eisner.
AN: Howard Chaykin?! ... a fine talent but I do not see the connection. Similarly what comic artists would you cite as influences?
BMB: Jim Steranko, Mike Mignola, krigstein, Neal Adams, Bill Sienkewicz Will Eisner, John Totleben.
AN: Who would your best friends in the industry would be?
BMB: David Mack. Mike Oeming, Marc Andreyko, Greg Rucka, everyone at Oni.
AN: Is it easier to work with friends than unknowns?
AN: How did you break into comics?
BMB: Clawed my way in and stepped on the necks of those in my way.
AN: Do you still look back at your early work and admire how far you've come?
BMB: I am stunned by it but it doesn't feel real, it feels odd. The only thing that feels real is making the books so that is what I spend my effort on. You ever see a guy sitting around basking in his own sh*t? Its disgusting. Every douche bag who acts like a comic book rock star is a douche bag of the highest order, there is no such thing as a comic book rock star.
AN: I believe that comics are now being read by people who watch many more movies and videos than the previous readership generation.
BMB: I agree.
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AN: To what extent has your creative excellence remained some-what the same but the readership's tastes and reading style have fallen into the cinematic style that you write within?
BMB: Hmm, I don't know. I think that's part of my relationship with the people who read my stuff, we definitely like they same kind of things, some mainstream pop culture mixed with the eclectic. I love when I get recommended stuff, I usually go out and get it that day.
AN: You said in an other interview that your tpb Jinx made its way to a variety of folks, Joe Quesada, Todd McFarlane and others and led to your moving into the higher rent district of Marvel as well as having the higher profile that has allowed you to do work like Powers wherein you can virtually write your own ticket. To what extent does luck play a role in your current success and to what extent would you say that it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when?
BMB: It feels like luck played a big part, but it took ten years so how lucky am I?
AN: I think of the people who toil forever and never achieve fame, fortune, or even happiness and think yeah, you were lucky.
Torso was great, but I'd like to ask why you fictionalized some of it?
BMB: For the drama of it.
AN: The real story of the murders is powerful onto its own facts. What did you gain in changing names of various players?
BMB: It is a nine-year story with over a dozen cops involved. It would have been boring and all over the place, we definitely were true to the spirit of the case and the important facts, I eagerly invite people to read the true, true story, I did in every issue of the comic and in the back of the trade.
AN: I do not want to harp on you but I am a historian and have read many pages of reports and research of the killings so for me it was both a great work and one that left me with some troubles.
Sam & Twitch was a book that left hundreds of fans and reviewers both satisfied and confused. It was great on its own but where were the funky other realm Spawn beings?
BMB: They were safe in their own realm.
AN: Hellspawn: What the hell was going on with that? You writing with Wood illustrating it I cannot imagine not going wild in sales, yet you left/were fired on issue #6.
BMB: This one I left, I got fired off Sam & Twitch. I tried something different, there is some stuff in those issues I am truly proud of. There's a couple of monologues in there that if I knew I was going to get Daredevil I would have saved them.
AN: Powers isn't really a super hero tale, they are there but...it really works as noir. Where did the concept of Powers come from and how much of it is you and how much is Mike [Oeming]?
BMB: I wanted to do a homicide detective book and I wanted to do a super hero as the modern celebrity book and I mushed them together and was really happy with what came out of it. I did the concept, but mike made it come to life. It is fifty fifty all the way
AN: The use of adult language is in rare form on the book and I wonder if you might answer this, using the term muck rather than the F-bomb, how many grammar forms of the word can you use?
AN: What makes Ultimate Spider-Man work with so many readers? How is it that you were able to reinvent such a fan invested work?
BMB: I love the characters, Bagley loves the characters. we love them, like real people, and that is bound to get across on the page, it just has to on some level.
AN: You and Alex Maleev kick big butt on Daredevil. How were you able to re-imagine the character in such a way that I can't remember when the title was a super dude genre book?
BMB: Thanks. All I will say is wait till the end of fifty.
AN: Jinxworld.com is a fabulous resource for your fans. Please tell my readers about your goals for the site.
BMB: Self promotion of the highest level.
AN: Ultimate X-Men is now yours for a run. What is going on with that?
BMB: Mutant fun and Wolverine redemption, mutant hook ups. Birds of fire, angels and demons.
AN: Birds of Fire...PHOENIX?!!! Woo-hoo! Sorry, geek alert.
Marvel tied you up with a Exclusive contract regarding your work-for-hire projects. Why did you do it?
BMB: Insurance and where else am I going? I have fifty projects with them.
AN: Any future projects that you can share?
BMB: Ultimate six starting in september.
All comic publishers and creative talent are welcome to submit items to be reviewed. Send items, to be considered for review, to:
Alexander Ness Land of Frost Box 142 Rockford MN 55373-0142