***Spoilers for the entirety of Age of Ultron follow.***
While readers first got a glimpse of the bleak Age of Ultron world back in 2011 with Avengers #12.1, it's been in the works at Marvel for even longer.
And as of this month, the 10-part event series written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated primarily by Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco, has now been fully released into the world. And it hasn't been without consequences; namely the much-hyped debut of Spawn supporting character Angela in the Marvel Universe, and the much less expected arrival of classic Marvel Galactus in the Ultimate Universe.
To wrap our comprehensive Age of Ultron coverage, we talked with Bendis about fan reception to the story, the curious expectations that come with a Marvel event series, and what's up next — including X-Men crossover "Battle of the Atom," and Galactus-centric miniseries Hunger, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Leonard Kirk.
Newsarama: Brian, let's talk about the reception to Age of Ultron as a whole, especially as viewed from your standpoint, as someone who has written a lot of these event stories. It feels like it was polarizing, and that a lot of people didn't maybe "get" the first few issues, but is that pretty common for this type of story?
Brian Michael Bendis: When you go into one of these kind of stories, this is the ticket I buy. I buy the ticket to get my sh*t kicked out of me for a few months. I've known this since House of M, and this is literally, exactly what happened in House of M: While it's going on, so much is happening, and so much of it is dangerous-feeling, people who are scared that their book's going to get cancelled, everyday — "You better not Flashpoint us!" "You better not revamp the Marvel Universe!"
And then as soon as you don't, because you never were going to, they start screaming, "Why didn't you do that?" And it's the same people. It's a roller coaster of emotions from readers who don't know what's going to happen. Especially the way we structured Age of Ultron — you literally don't know what's going to happen. In issue #8, people are like, 'How are you going to wrap this up?"
That's what I was going for, and I know that's a confusing feeling, so you kind of yell at me, but I knew that, and I knew that when it was all done, you could take a breath, and see what we did — honestly, hopefully go back and re-read the whole thing. I think if you spend a weekend and read it from beginning to end, without worrying about the world coming to an end, that you can have a lot of fun with it.
While people were screaming at me about Age of Ultron [last] Monday, I got four letters — "Hey, just read House of M. I never read it before. Boy, I loved that." Sometimes you need a breather to appreciate it, or not worry that your book's getting cancelled because of something I'm doing.
I get all of it. When you have a book that's selling a lot, there's always a portion of people who just don't care for it. That goes for every book. But having been through this before, having watched my friends go through it before, I tend to just enjoy even the tantrums, because it's kind of part of the game.
Nrama: Events definitely seem to bring out a sense of jadedness that feels pretty vocal from a sect of comic fans.
Bendis: There's a jadedness from people who are actually not even reading, they're just hearing about it. I don't give a sh*t about any of that. That is not real. You can say the plot of any story, and make it sound sh*tty.
If I came up to you and said, "You know Fight Club? Brad Pitt's not even there." Then you sound stupid, right? Then you see it, and it's f*cking amazing. "You know King Kong dies at the end, what the f*ck?" You can do that to any story. I'm just going to appreciate what people who actually read it feel, and not people who heard about it.
Anyone who buys my books gets to say whatever they want. I've said this a million times. I am down with it. You paid money, you can speak. When I hear, "I heard," or "someone told me," I'm not listening.
Nrama: It also seems that event books tend to invite complaints by their nature.
Bendis: And they say, "Stop making them!" And you stop making them for a week, and they start screaming, "Where are they? Why did you stop making them?" It is the funniest thing in the world. I've been watching this for years. People scream, "event overload" or "event fatigue," and literally one month Marvel won't have one out, and by week three people are screaming for them. The same people.
I like comics where sh*t happens. The event comics tend to have a lot of stuff happening in them, and that's exciting. If you're in the mood for that, it's cool that they're making them. And if not, just read whatever you want. There are so many books.
Nrama: So do you have any final thoughts on Age of Ultron as a whole? It's obviously something you were living with for a very long time.
Bendis: It's funny, because of the shipping schedule — which was an experiment onto itself — I get comments from people at all stages of the story, all at once. There are people reading it as it comes out, and then I'll get, "I just read the first six issues of Age of Ultron!" I get all these different perceptions of response from people, and I really appreciate it. It was really cool.
Tom [Brevoort] and I talked at great length about creating an event that had a different language to it, a different feel to it; that shipped differently. All these things were different, and when things are different, it can be confusing to people that we didn't do the set-up issues. We didn't do the big first issue where Ultron attacks. We skipped all that. So already you're thrown. And to watch some people just dig into that and love it, and other people go, "I don't know what's happening! How does this fit into my continuity?" and then it all comes together here, as promised — it's been quite a ride. It's been very different for me on my end, as it has been for some readers.
I'm very, very happy with the artists I got to work with, all of which I'm working with on other stuff, except for Bryan [Hitch]. Brandon [Peterson]'s going to come with me to do some X-Men, obviously David [Marquez] I get to do Ultimate Spider-Man with. And what's going to happen to the Ultimate Universe is a big question mark. There are a lot of rumors online. A lot of things are wrong. I've said it about 50 times, I'll say it again, but what this new twist to the Ultimate Universe shows is that the Ultimate Universe continues, on its best day, to be the place where you go, "I have no idea what's going to happen." "Spider-Man's African-American, Galactus is getting ready to eat [Ultimate Earth], I don't know what's going on over there!" I encourage anyone to come over and see what's going to happen next, because it's going to be nuts. We got a ton of stuff approved, and it's all crazy.
Nrama: But given the concept of Hunger, it's not going to make those rumors that the Ultimate line is ending go away.
Bendis: It just depends. Does Galactus slowly eat his food, and watch some TV while he's eating? Or is he one of those binge eaters; he just eats really fast, standing over the sink? Just depends on him, really.
What we've done from this is created a Galactus story that harkens back to the very first one, but at the same time is completely brand new. It's completely different players involved. And we'll see who gets away and who doesn't, because it's going to be pretty gigantic.
My final notes are this: From the very first issue, two things people screamed at me for: Don't bring Miracleman back this way; don't revamp the Marvel Universe. And I said then, and I say now: That was never the plan. I was never going to do it. Those rumors were completely made up in your head. I never said them, no one hinted at them, and I held to my promise. You cannot now yell at me because Miracleman didn't show up, and the Marvel Universe didn't get revamped. That's where I'm going to draw the line.
I really am excited for people to sit down and read the whole thing from Avengers #12.1 up, and see how all the pieces fell together, now that you get to read it all at once. I think it's going to be a lot of fun to read altogether. I bet it has a completely different feeling than it did coming at you every five seconds. And let me know what you thought.
Nrama: And then the next big thing for you coming up, and the other X-book teams, is "Battle of the Atom" starting in September.
Bendis: That's going to be a lot of fun. I'm already very deep into that, and it's coming together beautifully. I'm doing it again! Going to take my beating again. I don't care, I'll take another one.
As much as we're talking about Age of Ultron, my Tumblr feed is nothing but people yelling at me about Pixie and Sage. So that's the world I live in. There's your final thought.