Brian Michael Bendis interview (FEB 09)

 height=Brian Michael Bendis is the popular writer of such books as New Avengers, Dark Avengers, and Ultimate Spider-Man. This month, he brings us Marvel's Spider-Woman. Westfield's Roger Ash recently spoke with Bendis about this new book.

Westfield: For people who may not have been following what's going on with Spider-Woman, what's the set up for the book?

Brian Michael Bendis: It's pretty simple. If you don't know anything about Secret Invasion or Avengers, all you need to know is that Jessica Drew is re-entering society. She's re-entering life after a long stay away. In the interim, all of her relationships in her life have changed; all of her relationships with society have changed; and all of her professional relationships have altered. She's really been screwed over. Screwed over pretty bad. She's entering the world with a full awareness that she is alone in how badly she's been screwed over. Only maybe Wolverine could understand the level of screwed over-ness that she's been going through. Her character itself, which will be described in the opener, has quite a glorious history in the Marvel Universe. She was born an agent of Hydra. She was born damaged goods. Her father damaged her in the womb. She came out not knowing she was an agent of Hydra. She was brainwashed by Hydra, put back together by Nick Fury, and sent out into the world. So she's a trained agent of Hydra, she's a trained agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and now here she is at her lowest ebb, where she's offered the opportunity to become an agent of S.W.O.R.D. S.W.O.R.D. is an excellent creation by Joss Whedon which deals with interplanetary threats here on Earth and outside of Earth. Because of her unique situation and how out of sorts she is with the rest of the world, and because her situation was alien induced, they think she's perfect to be almost judge, jury, and executioner to those threats and mysteries that are around the world in the Marvel Universe. This deals with not only the Skrulls, but any alien threat in the Marvel Universe. This is not a tongue-in-cheek, Men in Black, bunch of silliness. This is serious conspiracies, serious threats, plus physical and mental threats to the state of the world. She will be given assignments and she will go and deal with them. Every one of them will either help heal her or uncover things about herself or the world that she, or maybe the readers, didn't know about the Marvel Universe. All of this will be dealt with on a monthly basis.

Westfield: Who are some of the other characters that will be sharing the book with her?

Bendis: Much like the work Alex and I did on Daredevil, and some work with Jessica Jones, it's going to be from her point of view. We're in her mind. It's a long character piece. Right away you'll be seeing the New Avengers, you'll be seeing Agent Brand, and you'll be seeing the Thunderbolts and Hydra. There's a lot of unfinished business with her and a lot of different situations. All of that will be dealt with. I know some people are wondering what happened to Maya Lopez, A.K.A. Echo, from New Avengers. She will be guest starring in the book as well.

Westfield: What can people look forward to story-wise?

Bendis: As I said before, it's a character piece. It's a first person point of view. It's a character who hasn't been in the spotlight for a long, long time. I think she's a fantastic character. It feels more like a crime book to me in the sense that with a film noir story, you always find the character at their lowest, looking for some kind of retribution. In the nature of the story that's being told about her, that's where she finds herself. Her eyes to the Marvel Universe will be very similar to the reader's where she's going to be discovering things for the first time, and a lot of readers may say, "I didn't know that. That's interesting." Her point of view is very wide-eyed and new.

 height=Westfield: You're working with Alex Maleev again on the book. Are you enjoying collaborating with him again?

Bendis: We've never taken a break. We went right from Daredevil to the Illuminati special and Halo and other things. We've literally been working together the entire time. We wanted very specifically to make sure that the next series we did together, which we hope will be a long endeavor, would be something that was different than Daredevil, but at the same time was appealing to those who enjoyed Daredevil. We definitely thought that Jessica was that character for both of us. Alex draws stunning women and does a great Jessica Drew. We've enjoyed this because I think he challenges me in all the right ways and I do the same for him. This opportunity seemed perfect.

Westfield: How do you two work together?

Bendis: We've developed a shorthand over time. What we do give each other is the right to be complete art snobs. We're very similar art and printing snobs, so we get on the phone and hash it out. Like Mike Oeming and a couple other people I grew up with, the years we've spent together accentuates the work. Sometimes a first issue can feel clunky because people are still finding each other. Even when we started on Daredevil years ago, we had done a small run on Sam and Twitch so we'd already worked out our kinks. As we dive in here, the same thing's happening. We communicate so beautifully that we know each others strengths and weaknesses and work towards them.

Westfield: You're working on a number of other projects for Marvel. Is there anything in particular that you'd like to highlight?

Bendis: The Avengers books are really big on the horizon right now. Dark Avengers will be shipping very soon. That book just looks gorgeous! I can't wait for that to come out. Soon after that, New Avengers #50 will be shipping, which is a double-sized issue. It has this awesome jam sequence. We're having a pretty big battle and every page will be drawn by an artist that's known for that character. There will be a spotlight page for every character in the Avengers. Spider-Woman's page is by Alex; David Aja's doing Iron Fist; and Steve McNiven's doing Spider-Man. It's a nice little nod to the characters themselves. I'm pretty psyched about that. In Ultimate Spider-Man, we're doggie paddling through Ultimatum. Spider-Man's learning to swim. There's a lot that's going to happen in Ultimate Spider-Man over the next couple of months. There's not much that I can talk about, but once people see it, I think they're going to be genuinely surprised because Ultimatum's given me the opportunity to do some things you've never seen in a Spider-Man book, including arresting Aunt May.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Bendis: I want to thank you guys at Westfield and your customers. We just received a USA Today article that had Secret Invasion being eight of the top ten books of the year. Today is filled with nothing but relief and gratitude to everybody for supporting the book, and having fun with it, and yelling at me; doing all the things that people do during a book like that. It was a lot of fun this year and I really want to say thanks to everybody. With things like Spider-Woman, we're going to show you something you've never seen before. That's all I can do in thanks is try not to suck this year. [laughter]

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