Brian Michael Bendis interview

These books are just a few of the reasons why Brian Michael Bendis is one of the most popular writers working in comics today. This month, he and artist Trevor Hairsine join forces on Marvel’s Ultimate Six, a mini-series bringing together Ultimate Spider-Man and the Ultimates. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently spoke with Bendis about this as well as his other projects.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story of Ultimate Six?

Brian Michael Bendis: The story was initially going to be in Ultimate Spider-Man. I was building to it. Then, when I started working on it, I realized that the problem set by attempting this is much bigger than Spider-Man could handle. Spider-Man's only 15 years old. This is an insane amount of trouble. Half of them know who he is. Also, the whole feel of it wasn't a very high school kind of story, which is where we like to keep the Ultimate Spider-Man stories grounded. So, I came to Marvel and said, "I want to do this big story, I just don't think it fits in Ultimate Spider-Man." It needs to involve Nick Fury and the Ultimates in a huge way and I brought up how some of the subplots of the Ultimates and the Ultimate Universe connects to the Six and everyone involved got very excited. We went on an artist search and Trevor was my highest choice. Even though he was on Captain America, I thought he's up there with Hitch in my opinion. I think he's great. I thought a gig like this would really let him show off like he hasn't been able to show off before. I whined and cried and carried on and it is my fault he's not on Captain America finishing his art. But there you go. He's been killin'.

Westfield: How will this compare/contrast to the original Sinister Six story?

Bendis: We're not even calling it the Sinister Six. That's just for old school comic book fans like myself. It's hard to imagine that intelligent people would refer to themselves as sinister. "We're sinister! Ha ha!" It kinda defeats the purpose of having intelligent characters. "I'm sooo eeeeeeevil!" But it is the six of them and it is a group, so we're using the conceit of the Sinister Six and building from there. It's six villains teaming up for a cause. Over the course of Ultimate Spider-Man, almost every major villain, Nick Fury and S.H.E.I.L.D. have picked up at the end of it, even though it was Spider-Man who defeated them. We got a little hint of that at the end of the Doc Ock arc. We saw where he was placed. We know that Norman was picked up and taken away. But we don't know where, what happened to Electro at the end of the Kingpin story? And we don't know about a couple other villains, which I'm gonna keep a secret so people can open up the book and go, "hey cool! I didn't know that!" The sixth one is the big reveal. The sixth one is people going, "aahh! I didn't see that one comin'!" So what we ended up with is a major chapter in the Ultimate Universe story. We get to see how S.H.I.E.L.D. operates in regards to super villains. What laws does Nick Fury break to keep everything safe and healthy? A lot of these characters have a pretty harsh vendetta against Nick Fury. Norman, from day one, has had it on for Nick Fury. Now, he's got it on for Nick Fury even more so and he's got super powers and intelligence to back it up, Norman wasn't some shlub, he was a player in the field of genetic science. We get to see the next step in the Green Goblin's genetic evolution.

Westfield: Is this the first time you've written the Ultimates as a team?

Bendis: Yeah. I wrote most of their first appearances in Team-Up. People forget that. I wrote the first Ultimate Iron Man story. I wrote the first Ultimate Black Widow story and a few others. I have picked at them and laid some groundwork with them, but I'm definitely grateful to Mark for being well humored about this. God is he a generous universe sharer. And also I'm going to stay within his spirit of storytelling with the Ultimates because I think his spirit of Ultimates is superb. When the action gets big, it gets very big.

Westfield: What are you most looking forward to as far as writing the Ultimates as a team?

Bendis: Well, I've already written it, so I can tell you what I enjoyed. There's a couple things about Captain America that Mark hasn't addressed that bothered me more than maybe bothered Mark, and we've addressed them in the Six because I think they were of value. So there are some nice character moments for all the players. I think this is legitimately a challenge for them. Mark has shown if you're going to get a big team of these guys together, the challenge has to be huge, and this is a huge challenge. Y'know, you think about Electro versus Thor. Maybe Electo would be a challenge for Thor. That sounds very interesting. The superhero fight aspect of it is very interesting. And they're not stupid characters. Norman and Otto are smarter than Nick and the Ultimates. And they've got one up on Spider-Man on every level.

Also, Ultimate Spider-Man #46 is a double-size issue that is a prelude to the Ultimate Six mini-series. It introduces one of the Six and there's a big, giant fight sequence. If people are wondering about Giant Man's appearance on the cover of the Six, will Giant Man be in the book? Isn't Giant Man in the sh** house with the Ultimates? And I say, yes, yes and yes. So you'll find out what's going on there. I'm really excited about this because I don't really write big event team-up crossover events, but this one came up so organically and it isn't forced in any way. I've been building towards this. I've seen half of it drawn already and I'm like, "this is the way an event comic should be." They should be really fun comics. You know what I mean? Remember those old crossover where you're going, "this is so pulled out of thin air. This is not real." In this, every character gets affected by it. It's cool.

Westfield: Is there any character that you haven't brought into the Ultimate Universe yet that you'd really like to?

Bendis: Yeah, and I'm gonna. You don't want to Ultimatize people just to Ultimatize people, if that's the word. I thought that was the fun part of Ultimate Team-Up, but that seemed to be the thing that most annoyed people about Ultimate Team-Up. It was just funny, because I'm like, "well what do you think the series is gonna be? Every issue we get a new character." That said, there are a few coming up, and some villains as well, that I'm pretty excited about. Now I'm doing X-Men and Spider-Man on a regular basis so there's a lot more room to bring some new characters in. Also, with this team-up there's room for a couple other surprises.

Westfield: Is there anything you'd like to say about what's on the way in Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man?

Bendis: Some people got very upset that Spider-Man was in X-Men this week, but have no fear, the X-Men are coming and they are coming in this story. But this is a Wolverine centered story, because I think of all the characters in X-Men, Wolverine's got some major redemption needed. He's been quite the jerk in UXM, if you call attempted murder jerky behavior. So in this arc we're going to set up some character development so he can get along with the other X-Men. As it stands right now. At the end of Mark's run, Cyclops picks him up and they go back, but Logan can smell that people hate him. It's not like he thinks people hate him or that he's neurotic about it, he can taste it in the air. He's got the senses. He needs to redeem himself. This arc all said is kind of what I imagine as a Akira Kurosawa movie for the Marvel Universe. You've got this Wolverine, as a masterless samurai, trekking through the Marvel Universe on a quest to heal himself spiritually. Hopefully people will get into that because people are already like, "What's with Spider-Man? I want mutants!" Afterwards, we're doing a story called New Mutants where we're going to introduce some Ultimate versions of some classic characters that haven't appeared yet, and also introduce a couple new characters and new challenges for mutant kind that I haven't seen touched before in an X book. And we're going to have some romance. Romance is nice.

On a total different note, Ultimate X-Men women are also guest starring in the storyline going on in Ultimate Spider-Man right now. After that we're going to do a pretty cool Kingpin comeback story. It's an homage to the Sam Bullet story in the Romita years. After that, in issue #50 - Black Cat. It's her introduction and I'm leaning on trying to make her a semi-regular, so we spend some time with her. It's a double-size issue.

Westfield: Switching for a moment to Powers, is the "monkey issue" your take on the origin of super powers in general, or is it specific to Powers?

Bendis: I am going to say, without being a tool, that all questions will be answered by the end of the arc. The new issue's out today and it's got dialog in it and everything. A lot of work went into this arc and all will be answered. But I do appreciate people who bought the monkey issue and were open to it. That was very cool. Y'know, I don't have a monkey/comic book fetish like some people do, and a lot of people do, and I tapped into that without even realizing it. That was kinda funny. I couldn't believe the reaction to it. People were like, "Yay! Monkeys!" And I was like, "Really? Wow. Ok. If I had known that, I would have done it in Goldfish." For readers, I really went all out on the next letter column, which I think is issue #34, is just wall to wall of the best comments. I got some really, really funny mail.

Westfield: Have you ever considered collecting the Powers letter columns?

Bendis: There's been some talk about doing that for charity. My feeling is a little goes a long way and if you put them all together, or made just a big, giant special issue of just letter columns, I would only do that for charity. That is insane to try to sell to someone. A collection like that may be used in court to put me away. A little bit of that column, it's like, he's being a funny little jerk; a lot of it is disturbing. And the letter columns are 3 to 4 pages and that's about as much jerk as I have in me. I use it, I get it out of my system, I move on to my day and hug my daughter and be nice to my wife. There are people in my life who read the letter column and can't believe that I wrote it. Or they meet me and expect me to be that letter column person. Like that person could exist in real life. That guy couldn't function in society.

Westfield: Is there anything you'd like to say about the other titles you're working on?

Bendis: Daredevil #50 is going to be so awesome. I know you hear this hypey-stuff all the time, but it really is a series-changing ending. Something really happens. We also have guest art bits by everyone who's ever touched Daredevil in a really unique sequence. We just got Gene Colan's art in today. What a thrill that was.

I'm also excited about issue #51, David Mack's first issue. Gorgeous. Wow. Fully painted. It's just stunning. I'm excited about almost everything that's going on in the books. In Alias we're doing something very unique as well. I'm hoping people check it out.

Westfield: Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to mention?

Bendis: There are some, but they aren't ready to hatch yet. I'm a big believer in doing the work and then talking about it, as opposed to talking about it and then maybe doing it which happens a lot in our business. Ultimate Six is written so I can talk about it almost removed from it. I'm just getting in the art and getting all excited about it. I don't know if people know this, but Joe Quesada has drawn the first chapter of Ultimate Six which is a prelude story. Part of it will be in Wizard Zero and the rest of it will be in the first issue. Joe hasn't drawn in a long time and it's very awesome. And I'm not kissing the boss' butt because I already have the job. I'm a huge fan of his artwork, and it's very cool to get to see him draw the Ultimates if only for a few pages.

Westfield: You've got five ongoing series coming out plus mini-series and other projects, plus a family. How the heck do you find the time?

Bendis: I love, love, love the job. Love it. It's addictive. Getting in artwork from people like Trevor and Bagley and Gaydos and Maleev is such an addictive thrill I can't even tell you. It's so exciting. Every day art comes in, so creating scripts worthy of them to draw is an honor and a challenge. And then you get the art in. I just got the art for Ultimate X-Men #35, and it's gorgeous. So gorgeous. That's it. It really comes down to it's totally addictive.

Also, for people who worry about hackery, I haven't written Daredevil in about a year because I was way, way, way ahead and get six months off with Mack's run. So even though you're still seeing Daredevil, I've been working on the Six and X-Men. By the time I'm ready to go back to Daredevil, the Six will be done and X-Men will be mostly done, so it's not too much going on.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Bendis: I just want to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to do these. It's a lot of fun to do. I appreciate people buying the books. It's awesome.