Brian Michael Bendis Interview

Brian Michael Bendis is the popular writer of such books as Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil, and New Avengers, and Marvel/Icon's Powers. This month, he begins the House of M mini-series featuring the New Avengers and the Astonishing X-Men, and affecting all of the Marvel Universe. Westfield's Roger Ash recently spoke with Bendis to find out more about this book.

Westfield: What sort of reaction have you gotten to what happened to Wanda (Scarlet Witch) in Avengers Disassembled?

Brian Michael Bendis: Oh, I've gotten the whole damn spectrum of reaction. More of the heated reaction has been about Hawkeye than it has been about Wanda, which is interesting. No one seems upset about Vision or Ant-Man, but they're very upset about Hawkeye. Not that I am out to shock, but I do believe that any reaction's got to be a good reaction. There are so many comics you don't have a reaction to other than "huh," then you put it away. Here we are months later, and I go to my message board this morning and still there is someone yelling at me. It's hard to judge it. It's weird because there was a lot of "That's it. I'm never buying another comic book by you and let me tell you something mister. I'm not buying New Avengers."

I was actually like, "Uh oh." Then a lot of those people went and bought it anyhow, which I was obviously thrilled about. But it's hard to judge the reaction online when they say they're not going to buy it, then they buy it and go, "Yeah, I liked it. Thanks a lot." Now they're all happy. A lot of them were very, very angry at me to the point of hysterical and now they're not. It's difficult to decipher the reaction. So I just go about my day and try to make good comics I would buy and hopefully other people will buy them. I try to not worry about it too much. You can't let it get to you, either too positive or too negative. You've just got to do your thing.

It's funny though, because even those people who are yelling at me, I'm like "Wow. You spent $2.00 and look at all the fun you're having." [laughs] "You're having a good time. That's a good $2.00." But they don't want to hear that, so I just graciously take it on the chin.

Westfield: What can you tell us about House of M?

Bendis: After Disassembled was done, I started riffing about what had happened and what could happen next. It dawned on me that what we have here is the worst mutant threat ever. Wanda's not a villainess so much as a tragic figure. She's Xavier's worst nightmare. She's Magneto's worst nightmare. She's the Avengers worst nightmare. She represents everything that could go wrong, everything that they built their lives towards creating or protecting, it could all go away and it's not getting any better. Xavier is desperately trying to work with her, but it's not working. He doesn't have the power to stop her from doing stuff. When we open up on House of M, here's Wanda constantly playing with reality like a band-aid, just trying to make herself happy in her own little room and Xavier trying to stop her from doing it because the consequences of her actions are too much for the world to take. Every time he does, it just reminds her of what she's done to the Avengers. She has moments of clarity. It's just getting worse and worse. You can see that holding her down mentally is taking every bit of energy Xavier has. It's more than he can handle.

The Avengers and the X-Men are gathered, both old and new Avengers, to discuss what to do with her. All the heroes have different takes on what that would mean. Do they kill her? What do they do? At the same time, Magneto has watched his family destroyed because of what he believes in. Plus, he's lost the war against the humans. He's totally lost everything. He gambled his kid's safety and mental health and all of it on this thing he believes in, and that's gone too. From there we pick up the story where everyone makes a decision that will surprise some people. What happens next is the biggest story I've ever written. It's the biggest story I'll probably ever write. It's a genuine Marvel Universe event. Everything gets affected by it.

Westfield: Can you tell us about any of these effects? For example, there's a Spider-Man: House of M book this month, although it's not written by you.

Bendis: All the writers and editors worked together. Tom Breevoort created a template for them based on my assorted scripts, notes, and rambling explaining what the House of M is and from there, anyone who had a story to tell that they thought enhanced the experience, that was legitimately dramatic, was invited to be a part of it. We have some really interesting creative teams coming onboard with some good stories. You can read them separately, or you can read them together, of course you'll need to have read House of M but what will shock people is that it's not an alternative universe. This is actually really happening to the Marvel Universe.

See how cryptic yet interesting I'm being? [laughs] I want people to open it up. By the end of issue 2, people are going to be like "Oh my God." The end of issue 3, I guarantee you, is my best last page of a comic ever. I guarantee you. Everyone who's read it has called me up and said, "Get out of here!" I think by the end of issue 3, we'll crack the Internet right in half. I think that'll be it for the Internet.

Westfield: How is this affecting your work on the New Avengers?

Bendis: It is kind of my work on New Avengers. The New Avengers to me, and people will see this as the story goes on, is the most Marvel Universe book I write. Daredevil's kinda stuck in his little Daredevil world and rarely does he break out of it. Same with Spider-Man. He's usually in his Spider-Man world. New Avengers deals with all of these worlds at once and, by the nature of it, spreads out across the entire Marvel Universe. The entire map of the Marvel Universe is the playground for the New Avengers. So House of M kind of spreads out with it and it stars almost all the New Avengers. It's technically a New Avengers/Astonishing X-Men crossover, but it ends up being much bigger than that.

Westfield: Are there any characters you've written in this book that you haven't before?

Bendis: Tons and tons. It spans across the entire mutant population.

Westfield: Any favorites?

Bendis: They kind of all are. Its fun to finally write Rogue and some of the others. I think what people are going to be the most happy with is the return of a lot of the old Avengers. I know a lot of people were like "Well, what are you going to do with those characters? Is this it for them?" I was like "No," because by the time Avengers Finale had arrived in stores, I had already written the first couple issues of House of M. I was very pleased that there's going to be a continuing story here. We're not just shoving things under a door and hoping the next generation of Marvel writer will pick them up. That wasn't the case at all. I think people will be very happy to see a lot of heroes return that they want to see after Avengers Finale.

Westfield: You're working with Olivier Coipel on House of M. What does he bring to the book?

Bendis: I think he's a fantastic penciller. He was my first choice. I fell in love with his work on Avengers when I was doing my research on Disassembled. I was thrilled that he was available. He's like channeling Michael Golden on this. People have seen a taste of this in Wizard, and it's beautiful, but you haven't even seen the great stuff yet. It's really awesome. It's one of those books I do kinda feel bad handing it in because it's a very visual book. I could write "a thousand people run through the streets" and I'm off to the next panel and he's stuck drawing a thousand people running through the streets. But he's handling it tremendously and I'm thrilled. We also have Frank D'Armata, who's the colorist on New Avengers, who I think is an important storyteller. He's becoming my "go to" guy. I think he's a tremendous colorist/storyteller. He's also involved in it as well. He makes bold color decisions that really enhance the experience.

Westfield: Would you like to mention any other projects you're working on?

Bendis: Sure! It's funny because when something like this comes out, there's always this slew of press and people seem to think that somehow I'm working less on the others books I'm writing, which isn't the case. Any issue I'm writing, I'm working very, very hard on. New Avengers continues. The second arc will be by Steve McNiven and it will deal with the mystery of the Sentry. Each issue will have an alternative cover by a great, classic Silver Age artist which I'm really excited about. We've got Dave Cockrum and John Romita Sr. and Marie Severin. The John Romita Sr. cover is a wedding cover and it's really awesome. Also, it's got flashback art by Sal Buscema. I'm really jazzed about that whole thing. In the next arc of New Avengers, we'll find out who the mystery ninja Avenger is. And nobody knows yet.

In Ultimate Spider-Man we've got the Ultimate Hobgoblin arc unrolling. It's going on right now. By the time people will be ordering House of M, we'll be in Ultimate Warriors which is the debut of Ultimate Moon Knight and a slew of other cool street-level Marvel heroes beating the crap out of Spider-Man.

The Pulse will wrap up its Secret War tie-in then we're going into a little House of M tie-in in issue 10, and then Jessica's baby is coming sooner than you'd expect.

Powers #12 is our big anniversary issue. It's actually our 50th issue. For an indy book, it's a miracle to get that far. We're doing a lot of special stuff. It's double sized. I did a cover and I'm drawing a segment of the book that Mike Oeming is going to write. We asked our message board what they wanted special from an anniversary issue, and that's what they asked for, so that's what they get. So it's back to the drawing board for me. Of course, when I was drawing, nobody cared so it's nice that years later somebody asked me to draw something.

And Daredevil's coming too.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Bendis: Things have happened this year that are more than I ever hoped I'd ever get out of comics. I can't thank people enough for hopping onto New Avengers even if they thought they didn't want to at the beginning and gave it a fair shake and read it. That meant the world to me. I know that's as much as you can ever ask anybody in comics to do is give something a shot. And you can get more of that in House of M. Bigger, bigger. More, more, more.