Brian Bendis - Wrapping it All Up & Starting Dark Reign
by Vaneta Rogers
Date: 05 December 2008 Time: 01:55 AM ET
Best Shots Extra: Secret Invasion #8
Almost five years in the making, the story of Secret Invasion has dominated the Marvel Universe since March, spanning an eight-issue miniseries by Brian Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu, as well as dozens of tie-in issues and spin-offs. As the story ended this week, Newsarama talked to Bendis to find out more about what's coming in Dark Reign, as well as looking back Secret Invasion's end. Newsarama: The Secret Invasion may be over, and the Skrulls didn't win, but Brian, it's not really a happy ending with who did win, is it? Brian Michael Bendis: You know what? It's just like any war we've ever seen in the real world. There are winners and losers – physically, politically, mentally – and that's how this shook out too. And it's not even what Norman was looking for necessarily, but it's how it shook out, and he grabs it. He goes for it. NRAMA: Is the dark turn at the end something that was always planned, or is it something that came to you as you were writing the story? BMB: No, it's part of the original pitch. What I pitched was that what happens at the end was there's a power shift in the Marvel Universe that creates a situation where most of the heroes get to feel what it feels like to be Peter Parker all the time, that even when you win you lose. And it was interesting to me to have Luke Cage or Clint Barton or even Captain America feel like they know what Peter Parker always feels like. And everyone got charmed by that idea at Marvel. While I was putting it together, Warren [Ellis]'s Thunderbolts run made it very clear that if one would choose to do so, Norman was on track to head toward this kind of storyline, very organically, very in-character, and very much within the realm of what was going on. When Warren left Thunderbolts, I kind of raised my hand and said, "Hey, you know that thing with the thing there? This is it." And everyone said yes, including Warren, thank God in heaven, and I got to go write my Warren Ellis fan fiction. So that's great. So yeah, that's where we ended up. NRAMA: And from that came Dr. Doom, Osborn, Emma Frost, Namor, The Hood and Loki uniting as the Dark Illuminati on the last two pages of Secret Invasion? BMB: The idea was, in the original pitch, that there was a secret group, a cabal, that got put together that was the mirror image of the Illuminati, with five or six characters who almost mirrored the other group. And we see them from their day one. I thought the most intriguing character would be Namor, who's on both secret little groups and is the only one that knows both exist. NRAMA: Namor kind of walks the line between both sides, doesn't he? BMB: Yeah, and he always has. He does whatever's best for him and his kingdom. I love the relationship between him and Doom. I always have. The only change that was made from the original pitch was that Magneto was not available. So we sat down and thought, who would replace Magneto? And the idea of Emma was brought up -- I think Fraction said Emma. And that's not something I would have suggested unless an X-writer suggested it. Emma now becomes the most interesting person in that room. Now, it's like, why is Emma in that room? And Matt and I have been working diligently to produce some really interesting stuff for her. So when you read Secret Invasion: Dark Reign, I actually rewrote it to be from her point of view, because I think her point of view is the most interesting. The initial meeting of the group will be seen through her eyes. I had the meeting set, but when Emma became part of it, it just became that much more interesting. So now Emma's the one who has to make some hard choices. NRAMA: So we'll get to hear what's going on inside her head? Dan Slott that we might see some classic Avengers uniting in Mighty Avengers? BMB: Dan's got a whole thing cooking that I think people are really going to dig. And the Avengers books are going to rub up against each other nicely. But they're each going to each have a very unique theme and feel to them, which I think is the most important thing if you're going to have three Avengers book. They each have a very specific agenda and a very specific tone and feel. And maybe they'll even have different audiences -- who knows? But I have a feeling most people will want to buy all of them at the same time, just to enjoy that juxtaposition and how close they are to each other, but how different they are. NRAMA: Thor made it pretty clear he didn't want to work with Iron Man, but will we see him show up anywhere near the Avengers? BMB: Thor? NRAMA: Yeah. He's got to be tough to write, and you haven't written him much before. You wrote him well, I thought. BMB: Did I? You know, I rarely walk around talking that way, so it's hard. He's the only character there's not someone I know that I can base it on. Like, I know a Tony Stark. I know a Luke Cage. It's hard to even get your friends to talk like Thor, even if you want them to. But I know Thor's got a cool issue #600. And Marvel's Free Comic Book Day will be a special issue written by me and drawn by Jimmy Cheung that stars Dark Avengers, New Avengers and Thor. What's really cool about that is I like when these Free Comic Book Day things are something A-list. It's a brand new story, and it kind of lays out the tone of the Marvel Universe pretty good, as far as the Avengers go. NRAMA: Sue and Hank and everyone who was on the ship -- will we find out more about what was going on with these characters while they were gone? BMB: Yeah, and see, I love this. These characters, for better or for worse, they wake up and all their relationships are different. Everything's been changed. NRAMA: Particularly Spider-Woman! Are you dealing with that in the Spider-Woman comic you've got coming up? BMB: Absolutely. I mean, she's Osama bin Laden. She's the face of terrorism, publicly and privately. Every relationship she's ever had in the world has been dramatically altered. There are people she's slept with, and she had no idea! There are friends she had that are better friends, and friends she had that are not friends at all, and enemies and whatnot. And even her relationship with Hydra has changed. And she's unaware how. So walking into a world like that, I think that's just juicy writer stuff. That's a lot of fun stuff to write. NRAMA: You're writing a lot of comics going forward, Brian. Are you also coordinating what other writers can do with this "cabal" and the various characters who are behind Dark Reign? BMB: I try not to be. Tom and the editors do that. I honestly don’t want to. I don't want to be told what to write and what not to write, so why would I want to do that to other people? But the only word we put out there, as we set up our main manifesto and where this is all headed -- there's a place it's headed that was important -- and we don't anyone to do anything to contradict that. NRAMA: Uh oh... when you say it's all headed somewhere, does that mean there's another event coming? BMB: What? Event? No! [laughs] No, there's no event, but there's a storyline. There's a larger storyline. Within that storyline, there's plenty of fun to be had, much like Secret Invasion and Civil War. For those who are creative and have the ingenuity, like Paul Cornell or Jonathan Hickman, guys who come up with takes that other people would not have come up with, there are a lot of places to shine. The only note I put out there was I had this creepy feeling we were going to see Norman in every single book, like we saw Tony in every single book a year and a half ago. Remember how every character got to yell at Tony in their book? I just said, look, the good news here is that there are many members of the cabal, there are many underlings of the members of the cabal, there are many team-ups inside the cabal, so it doesn't always have to be Norman. Already, you can feel, there's a mystery that readers want to get into, but let's not make everyone get sick of him by April. So that's the only thing I said, and from there, [editor] Tom [Brevoort] takes over. And Tom is a story ninja. NRAMA: I talked to Tom in Chicago about the coordination of Secret Invasion. Looking back, do you feel good about how it all came together? BMB: Coordination-wise, I had little to do with it other than having witnessed what happened with Disassembled and House of M and Civil War and the things that worked and didn't work. I witnessed all of it, so I could help Tom with what he was already doing amazingly. And I do think this was the best coordinated event, the best tie-ins, as far as quality goes. The best tie-ins are the ones that you didn't even need to read Secret Invasion to enjoy them. Like you didn't need to read Secret Invasion to enjoy Hercules or Captain Britain. They were just good Skrull stories on their own. And Civil War had those too, where you could just read the tie-in and get it. That's good. And I felt like Secret Invasion had a lot of those. And yeah, we got out on time. I know we had a blip at the end here, but that just had to do with having four extra pages, and it's a lot of drawing. And I was very, very proud of this. I'm walking out of here relieved, honestly. It didn't tank. I have no control over that, but it's a relief. NRAMA: Is this "manifesto" of the storyline that's coming up next also your brainchild? BMB: Huh? There's no next event! NRAMA: I didn't say event! I mean the "ongoing storyline" of Dark Reign and where it's eventually heading. Is that your baby too? You pitched it, right? BMB: Well, the Avengers stories, just because of the characters and who's involved, do seem to be the center of what's going on. And because I'm writing two of them and I did pitch them out, it is something I put out there. So... yes is the answer. But that discussion of the ideas behind where this is going is for another time. Right now, it's just Dark Reign. Nobody needs to worry about something else down the line yet. Just enjoy Dark Reign for what it is. NRAMA: You'd think after this, Brian, you'd be taking a vacation or something. But you're writing Dark Avengers, New Avengers, Spider-Woman, the Specials, and co-writing Secret Warriors -- not to mention your other stuff in Icon and the Ultimate universe. BMB: No, honestly, Jonathan is writing Secret Warriors. But no, this is a miracle job. You know. You feel the same way about yours. It's like, oh, cool, I get to do this? Eventually they'll boot me, but as long as I'm here and I have the ideas and the stories and the inclination, I might as well do it.