#16 cover.Brian Michael Bendis is a busy guy.
That's nothing new: he's still writing his customary minimum of a half-dozen comics a month (seven single-issues in Marvel's September solicitations, plus the Castle graphic novel that he's co-writing with Kelly Sue DeConnick). But now he's also an executive producer on the FX pilot for Powers, working on the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series and writing the upcoming Marvel massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Oh, and he's fielding a ton of mainstream press attention for the current "Death of Spider-Man" story in Ultimate Spider-Man, teaching class at Portland State University, and he and his wife recently adopted a daughter, their third child.
Yeah, that's a lot.
But don't forget that Bendis is also still the writer of both Avengers and New Avengers, directing the cornerstone Marvel Comics franchise since 2004. Newsarama had an in-depth discussion with Bendis about all that's new and noteworthy in the Avengers world, gaining all sorts of keen insight into things like Daredevil joining the cast of New Avengers, the return of Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R., Hawkeye and Spider-Woman's budding romance, when we'll see more of the Ultron story with Bryan Hitch, the return of Wonder Man and his team of "Revengers," and yes, lots more.Courtesy of Marvel, we also got an exclusive look at Mike Deodato's cover for New Avengers #17, which is just a bit below these words.
Newsarama: Brian, let's start with the news of Daredevil joining the cast of New Avengers. I'm sure it's organic story-wise, but was it at all motivated by wanting to write Matt Murdock regularly again?
Brian Michael Bendis: I do miss writing him. Obviously it was a very good experience for me for many years, and it ended just by the nature of that story, not because I didn't want to write it anymore. That was the first book I had ever left because I was done, but then you realize, "Oh, wait a minute, that was a big part of my life."
We had talked about him being part of the Avengers literally since I jumped on the Avengers. "Why hasn't he been an Avenger? What would you get out of that? What would be interesting for the character? What kind of stories would come out of that?" It didn't fit because of the story that me and Ed [Brubaker] were telling at the time, and it certainly didn't fit during Shadowland. But with the rejuvenated, restructured Daredevil that Mark Waid is planning, it became much more doable.
I don't want to step on anyone's toes, Mark's got a lot going on with the character, but I did put it out: "Boy, how interesting that would be for New Avengers." We do have a lot of stuff going on in both of the teams. This is just the first of a couple announcements that will be coming out of Fear Itself of who's going to be on both teams.Exclusive look at the
New Avengers #17 cover.I was able to get it in during theFear Itself tie-ins; introduce him to the world of New Avengers in a way that I was really happy with. What's funny is, the next day after we announced it, Mike Deodato handed in a cover for issue #17, where it's a group shot of the New Avengers as they are right now — with Daredevil in it — and it looks amazing. I emailed Deodato, "I would totally buy that book!" I know there are some people that are worried or hesitant about this announcement, but when you see this cover, it's everything that's right about Avengers.
Nrama: At C2E2, you said that both teams would be dramatically shifted post-Fear Itself, correct?Bendis: There's a lot coming. There are a lot of comings and goings on both Avengers teams.
And for those who think that we shake up the teams too often, I present to you the entirety of Roy Thomas' run on the Avengers, where they shook it up every issue.
It's funny, because people go, "Stop moving these characters around!" And I'm like, "Have you read the Avengers before?" Because I just re-read everything for the oral histories. Holy crap! Hawkeye came and left that team 70,000 teams in the year 1971.
Nrama: Well, it was by issue #16 that it was "Cap's Kooky Quartet."Bendis: Yeah, the big shake-up. But even after the shake-up, Thor and Iron Man are coming and going, they're in, they're out — it's what we like about it.
Nrama: And it's interesting to hear you mention that Daredevil was considered to be part of New Avengers since the beginning, because the popular fan speculation back when the identity of Ronin was still a mystery was that it was going to be Matt Murdock.Bendis: It was going to be Matt Murdock. I've been teasing people with this, and telling stories and meshugas, but it was supposed to be Daredevil, it just didn't work. We joked that it was because the Internet guessed it that we changed it, but I would never do that. If Daredevil's going to jail, then how can he be in Avengers? Not the time. But now is the time. He needs this more than he's ever needed it.
Nrama: A lot of the New Avengers characters are the ones he screwed over in Shadowland.Bendis: Yes. Exactly. New Avengers
#16.1 cover.Nrama: The other exciting piece of New Avengers news is that Neal Adams is illustrating the Point One issue in September. Bendis: It's huge, huge, huge. And let me tell you something else: I didn't realize that he was turning 70 [last] week. The dude rocked every single page, and he got it in early. I literally went, "There are so many f*cking prima donnas who can't get their books in on time." He's emailing me about the next thing already.
Nrama: Which is heartening to hear, because it seems that the comics industry can sometimes be a tough place for older creators.Bendis: I think it's true with any pop culture medium. Things come in waves. U2 — they're out, they're in. Springsteen's the same way — one year, no one likes him, the other year, he's the best thing ever.
I have found that if a creator has something to say, and they're honest and true with their talent, that's all that people really want. They don't care how old anybody is, particularly with writers and artists. No one reading New Avengers knows how old Howard Chaykin is. Some of them aren't even aware that he's done anything before New Avengers, which is maddening, but still.Avengers Prime #2
cover by Alan Davis.Honestly, the fun part of getting to work with people like Alan Davis or Howard Chaykin, is that there is some part of the audience that this is their introduction to their work, and then I get to say, "Oh, you should see American Flagg." "Oh, you should see ClanDestine." The same thing with Neal Adams. There are some people that this is going to be the first time that they've ever seen Neal Adams. I swear to god I'm not being arrogant — I discovered this way back on Ultimate Team-Up, when I got to work with Bill Sienkiewicz. In my head, it was like, "I am not worthy to work with Bill Sienkiewicz." And then the response to it was, "Ooh, who's this Bill Sienkiewicz guy?" because there were some people picking it up who had never seen his work before.
Beyond trying to make the world my personal sketchbook, it is an honor for me to present his material, and then let people go back and discover stuff if they haven't already.
Nrama: Adams and Chaykin are two of your personal comics heroes, right?Bendis: Way up high. I had worked with Chaykin before. Chakin is my #1. Chaykin's the Jewish rock god of comics, the thing you aspire to. I'm sure he motivated me to lose my virginity. Howard Chaykin interior art
from New Avengers #12.I actually wrote an introduction to a book that's coming out about him; I basically said that I discovered the amazing world of science fiction in where a Jewish man can get a blow job through the work of Howard Chaykin. That world is more creative and full of fiction than anything in Lord of the Rings.
He was very, very important to me. And obviously Neal Adams bringing a level of realism into comics where there was not prior to him, is probably one of the most important things that's ever happened to comics.
Nrama: And you probably can't talk details yet, but that Point One issue is the return of Osborn…Bendis: I'll talk details. We have a tendency with the event material — and most of the time we're right to do that — once we went through Secret Invasion, "Eh, let's put the Skrulls away for a while, that's enough." But there was more to the Norman Osborn story that even "Dark Reign" allowed. Once he got put down, that doesn't mean that the people that were following him just go get jobs. There were a lot of people who completely believed in him.
Look at Fox vs. CNN — one of those channels would not be pro-Captain America on everything he does. They would be very, very critical of him, and one would look at someone like Norman Osborn, and say, "Well, his point of view is correct, and he's been locked away for his beliefs." There are a lot of people who would see the fall of Asgard as a good thing. We want to express that idea, have him come out, have him empowered, and have him build something out of H.A.M.M.E.R. that takes in the best parts of Hydra and AIM and actually brings them all together into this one, gigantic organism that the Avengers have to battle — and that includes bringing back the Dark Avengers very soon in New Avengers.
Nrama: That makes sense, especially since I think there might a reaction among some of, "Norman Osborn again?"Bendis: I got a good sense of, "OK, this is intriguing, they're going to do something new." Even though it's the Dark Avengers coming back, a lot of people know that the Dark Avengers are mostly dead. "What will the Dark Avengers be?" is a pretty interesting buy-in. I would certainly like to find that out.
Nrama: Obviously Bullseye is dead.Bendis: Or is he?
Bucky Zombie is definitely going to be part of the Dark Avengers. There's your headline!Nrama: Right now both Avengers and New Avengers are tying in to Fear Itself. Is it fun for you, as someone who has written so many of these big events, to approach this one from a different perspective? I guess Civil War was a similar situation. Bendis: I've done this. I've written tie-ins to both Civil War and Secret Invasion, and while I was doing the Secret Invasion ones, I certainly kind of looked at it like I was someone else, if that makes any sense.
The Civil War tie-ins were great because there was this world of material that Mark [Millar] was just not interesting in writing that had specifically to do with my characters. Even to the point where I got to write Civil War: The Confession and the prelude. He didn't want to write any of that, and I was like, "That's the best stuff, as far as I'm concerned."
I got to express myself wholeheartedly during Civil War, and with Secret Invasion, I used those tie-ins as my opportunity to flip over my cards, and show just how clever I thought I was being. That was a huge payoff. Both of those felt really good.New Avengers #15
cover.In this instance, with Fear Itself, me and Matt [Fraction] are very much of the same mindset of what's the cool stuff to write, and Matt is one of my dearest friends. We're like family at this point. My instinct was to completely back away from him, and not let me staring at him from across the dinner table at all affect how he was going to write his story. I let him completely get his story done, and then I found the nooks and crannies for myself. It's been a very good creative puzzle for me to solve. It kind of forced me to think of stories that I normally wouldn't have. I'm literally writing my last one now, and I'm going to miss it. Also, I like writing the oral history — like the Modern Family, talking to the camera — stuff . Even though I know some people are ready to strangle me for them, I enjoy writing them a great deal.
Nrama: I was wondering about the oral history — a recent Tom Brevoort interview stated that they were done, but I thought the original plan was to go all the way up to the present with them.Bendis: Well, I wanted to, but they were taking up an awful lot of time. We're going to do more of them later on. I'm not done with them, but I've done enough that certainly some of the most important aspects of The Avengers were analyzed from every conceivable level. Once you get up to the Swordsman, it's hard to muster enthusiasm. [Laughs.] There's a lot more to go. I got up to issue like #149 and #150, the first time I ever read The Avengers. I thought that was a good place personally to get up to. We're going to do more, we're certainly going to have it all come out as a big collection when The Avengers movie is out.
Nrama: It definitely seems like a lot of work for something that, unfortunately, some readers may have skipped over.Bendis: You know, a lot of people read it. I didn't mean it for this, but it certainly did seem to, for some people who think that I had never read the Avengers before I started writing it, it certainly stopped them from thinking that. [Laughs.] I've been trying to get that project going forever. I pitched that like in 2005, so I'm glad I finally found a way to weasel it in.
Nrama: I've always been a big fan of that format, in real interviews, with actual people.Bendis: I love it so much that I want to read that ESPN book, and I've never even seen ESPN. Nrama: Also on the Avengers horizon, it looks like we're headed towards a Hawkeye and Spider-Woman romantic dalliance of some sort. Is that Jim McCann-approved? Bendis: Jim is a dear friend of mine, and a really good person. Any time you write anything with Dazzler, Hawkeye, or Mockingbird, you really have to run it by him. For those who don't know, he used to be our marketing guy at Marvel. If you wanted any really good press, all you had to do was put Hawkeye, Mockingbird, or Dazzler in your book, and you were gold. He was pretty much going to get you on the cover of Rolling Stone. To this day, you don't want to do anything with those characters without running it by him. It's just bad karma.
And yet I do the opposite with Squirrel Girl and Dan Slott. [Laughs.] I just torture Dan. I just try to think, "What's the least thing Dan wants to see me do to Squirrel Girl?" and I'll do it, and let him read it in the comics.
This is approved. We worked on this a while ago. He told me he was going to split them up, and the one thing that's missing, I think, from the Avengers books is more romance, and more dalliances within the team, and not in a slutty way, not in a silly way, not for false reasons. But if characters are drawn to each other, realistically, than it would be nice to explore that in the book. Just because a lot of the characters are busy in relationships right now, there hasn't been a lot of call for it. But now with Hawkeye single, and Spider-Woman single, and there are a couple of others coming down the way, I certainly want to explore that inside the book. For some reason, Hawkeye and Spider-Woman, it's a lot of fun to write. There's a lot going on there. She needs a good relationship, she hasn't been in one for a while.
She's also the perfect rebound girl for Hawkeye. She looks completely different from Mockingbird in every conceivable way.Nrama: And it looks like the Wonder Man story that's been building since Avengers #1 is coming to a head in the September New Avengers Annual. Bendis: It's the first of two annuals that will cover this pretty gigantic story. This has been concocted for a while now. These are the annuals that me and Gabriele Dell'Otto have been working on. Gabriele and I worked on Secret War together, and we wanted to find a big story again to go into, and these annuals are a very yummy place to do that. This fulfills the promise that Simon Williams made about his issues with the Avengers as a concept, and what he's going to do about it. Nrama: Based on the solicitations, it sounds like he's putting together his own team. Bendis: Yes! The Revengers. He found a team of former Avengers that agree with him on different levels, and feel that the only way to fight fire is with fire.
Nrama: Will that involve some characters we haven't seen in a while?Bendis: Yes, absolutely. And worthy opponents to the Avengers. Nrama: The Point One issue of Avengers was out in late April, and set up the Ultron story you're doing with Bryan Hitch — when will we see that pick up again? Bendis: That'll be next year. We are going to make sure that it's all done.
Bryan's a very special talent, and we came up with a story that's very big — one of the biggest Avengers story that I'll ever tell — and it's got to be done right. It'll be next year sometime. We're a couple issues in already, and wouldn't it be nice for the whole thing to be done when we announce it?
Bryan never liked being this guy. "Oh, I wonder when we'll get another one?" That's not who he wants to be. We came up with this plan, and Marvel agreed to it. He's wonderful to write for.
Nrama: The Intelligencia showed up in Avengers #12.1, and seemed like natural opponents to the Avengers — a team of supervillains against a team of superheroes.Bendis: I think the Intelligencia's just a fantastic idea. It was absolutely something I wanted to touch. That's another one, where I made sure [Jeff] Parker was cool with it and all that, but they immediately seemed like a worthy opponent to the Avengers.
Keep reading Newsarama for even more with Brian Michael Bendis, touching on Ultimate Spider-Man, Moon Knight, and his upcoming creator-owned series with Mark Bagley, Brilliant!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!