Bendis on DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN and More

On Monday, Newsarama brought you a lengthy chat with writer Brian Michael Bendis on all things Avengers and New Avengers.

That's only part of his Marvel work, though, and today we're catching up with Bendis on the implications of the current "Death of Spider-Man" storyline in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, working with Mark Bagley on his first-ever creator-owned title Brilliant, and channeling his experience working on the FX pilot for Powers into writing Moon Knight.

[Newsarama note: This interview was conducted before Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160 details broke this morning, and is in fact spoiler-free for those looking to avoid such things.]

Best Shots Extra: ULTIMATE SPIDEY #160
Best Shots Extra: ULTIMATE SPIDEY #160

Newsarama: Brian, let's switch gears to Ultimate Spider-Man, where "Death of Spider-Man" has certainly gotten a lot of attention over the past few months.

Brian Michael Bendis: This was a shocker. I think right now Ultimate Spider-Man #160 is like the No. 1 book of the year so far, sales-wise. That was amazing; a huge relief.

I think what people don't realize is that the saga continues with the first issue of Ultimate Fallout — so two weeks after that there's going to be yet another issue by me and Bagley, and we also wrap up that storyline with the sixth issue, as well.


Nrama: What's the format on that book?

Bendis: It's all the characters in the Marvel Universe dealing with the events that happen in Ultimate Spider-Man #160. We immediately go to the cast of Ultimate Spider-Man, which Bagley agreed to draw. Then we have a special surprise in the fourth issue, and the sixth issue will wrap it up.

Meanwhile, within the confines of these issues, there are stories by Jonathan [Hickman] and Nick Spencer. Really beautiful pages all around, which both close and open some chapters as far as where we're going with the relaunch.

Nrama: And it does seem that, even though there's a new Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 in September, this is to at least some degree an ending to what you've been writing for 11 years. Is that accurate?

Bendis: This is it, man. If I cured cancer and AIDS, the first line to my obituary would be "Ultimate Spider-Man writer." [Laughs.] This is the biggest thing in my life.

Nrama: It's extremely rare to stay on one book for so long, and obviously a lot has changed for you since 2000.


Bendis: An immense amount of things have changed in my life. I literally could not be in a more different place than I was. Yet the wounds of high school are still pretty fresh for which to delve into for a monthly comic book about what it would be like to be a teenage superhero. It's amazing how those wounds don't heal! No matter what happens! [Laughs.] Helping on the big movies, working on the TV shows, we've got a cartoon show with this thing, I got three kids now — still, yet, I can't get over what the girls did to me in high school. It is amazing how easy it is to pick the scab off that wound.

Nrama: In 11 years, it doesn't really seem like there's been a period where your enthusiasm for the book has dampened.

Bendis: I know for some creators it is hip to launch a book and dive off of it. There is such an amazing experience that happens with long-form storytelling. I can't even express how much more it means.

Yes, there is a lot of cool stuff you can do with a hit-and-run. You blow sh*t up and run away. It's cool, I get it. But for me, what's important to me as a writer, and to really explore a character, long-form storytelling is just the way to go. Any area you want to explore with a character can be explored, and that is the value in writing it for me. That's why, not only for Ultimate Spider-Man, but for Avengers, exploration is infinite, and I don't feel like I'm done yet.

And listen, every once in a while, I do sit there, going, "Should I go? Am I the guy at the party that doesn't know the party's over?" But Marvel made it really clear, they would like me to stay if I want to stay, and every time I sit down and think about it, I look at my notebook,  and I go, "Well, I haven't done any of these things yet. I should stay and do them."

Nrama: It's not just long-form storytelling, it's long-form storytelling to an extent that isn't really seen in comics.

Bendis: Well, a lot of people in comics have a lot of A.D.D. There's a lot of that going on.


Nrama: With the new book coming in September, it's confirmed that it is going to be a different character as Spider-Man, right?

Bendis: Yes.

Nrama: That's kind of uncharted territory, given that Spider-Man has never really been a "legacy" character.

Bendis: All I can say for now is that I think one of the biggest things people should tune in to see is how long Sara Pichelli can handle drawing the negative webbing that Joe Quesada is making her draw on the mask. I told Joe, "That's fun to draw once buddy, come on. Seven-hundred times a book is kind of annoying." [Laughs.] I try to give Sara as much mask-less action as possible. Like the Spider-Man movies where they always had Tobey Maguire's face sticking out.

Nrama: Which seems to be one of her strengths, the "real life" stuff.

Bendis: She's amazing. She's the find of the century. She's knee-deep into the new book. She's just really something special. Every page that comes in, you go, "Holy crap, look at that!"

I'm really, really blessed in this area of my life. To find someone this amazing, that stacks up against the people I've been blessed to work with, is a real thing.

We'll talk about this new character and the new plans very, very soon. We kind of want people to enjoy what's happening right this second, instead of distracting you with what's coming up in September. It's tough, because I'm completely into the fifth and sixth issue of the new book, and everyone's experiencing something that I was very emotional about last year. I'm dying to tell you about this new stuff, but I'd much rather have everyone have a clean experience with what's the now.


Nrama: Looking a bit as some of the other stuff you've got going on — Brilliant debuts in July as part of Marvel's Icon line. That's on a bimonthly schedule, right?

Bendis: It's going to be bimonthly. It seems that bimonthly is good for people with the creator-owned stuff; people on a budget, it seems to be something they can handle. People have been very respectful of Scarlet and Powers in this area, so we thought we would do that.

This is a whole new world for Mark, even though he is the crazy savant penciler who can pencil an issue in a day if he needed to. We're coloring off of pencils, and doing a lot of cool stuff.

It'll come out in July, the first issue is done. We're going to show you a color preview very soon. Nick Filardi, who colors Powers, is coloring it. It's a whole new Bagley, man.


Nrama: What's it like working with him on his first creator-owned book, given how closely he's associated with mainstream, company-owned superheroes?

Bendis: It's exciting to give him a new experience in comics. He has not had this experience, and it's new, and I just had this experience with Alex. It was a completely different experience for him. It's like a two or three month cycle of realizing just exactly what it means to be creator-owned, something that guys like me, or David Mack, or Mike Oeming take for granted. You go, "Wow, I own this. Man, I can do whatever the hell I want!" "I can write whatever I want in the letter column?" "It's your letter column, buddy!" It's a really great experience to give to a friend.


Nrama: Speaking of Alex Maleev, there's also Moon Knight, and though the central concepts of Moon Knight talking to his Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America split personalities was revealed before the series started, it seems a lot of people were still surprised by the ending of #1.

Bendis: Thanks. And I like the new Alex, I like the new art style he's using.

And like the Avengers, it is very fun to be as accepted as we have been by new readers, and older readers of Moon Knight are ready to kill me. I am not trying to piss off old readers of Moon Knight, that is absolutely not the case, but it is fun to watch them lose their mind.

Nrama: I can only imagine. Was there a deliberate choice, after your Daredevil run, for the two of you to do something that's maybe a little more "fun" in tone?

Bendis: We didn't want the craziness that's going on with him to be a negative. We see it as a positive. He lives in a world of his own making. The drama is very high, the stakes are very, very high, as people can tell with the Ultron connection — a huge payoff for people who have been following the Avengers books and want a book that "matters." We definitely have that.


But at the same time, there's no reason it shouldn't be fun, or romantic. There's a lot of stuff going on with him and Echo coming up in the next few issues that I think people are going to enjoy. There's a lot of back-and-forth with the two of them. We're pulling out some great old villains like the Nightshift and Snapdragon, reinventing them. Of course, we're going to hear from the biggest Nightshift fan in the world who's furious at us.

Every once in a while you get one of those. "I'm the biggest fan of Nightshift!" Really?

Nrama: You'd think they'd just be happy that the character was in a comic at all.

Bendis: Exactly!

Nrama: Has your recent frequent trips to LA shaped the way you've approached the book's setting?

Bendis: I'm blowing off a lot of LA steam with this stuff. It's hilarious, because when I came up with it, Powers wasn't greenlit, and I wasn't knee-deep in television production. Between this and the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, I certainly am now. It's like the world is giving me free research as I live my life. 

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