Open Your Mouth: Issue #8

Thu, June 26th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
J. Torres, Columnist

This man needs no introduction here. What CBR reader doesn't know the name Brian Michael Bendis? You know, Bendis. Three time Eisner Award winner. The dude who writes the Marvel books Chuck Austen doesn't. Titles like "Ultimate Spider-Man," "Daredevil," "Alias" and now "Ultimate X-Men," too. Oh, and then there's his non-Marvel stuff like "Powers," "Fortune and Glory," "Torso"… Well, he was gracious enough to take time from his super busy schedule to respond to twenty questions composed by Open Your Mouth readers.

It all began on the OYM message boards. I asked who wanted to "Probe" Bendis. People posted their questions about DC and dandruff, Mamet and Mandrills, and all sorts of other topics both serious and silly. Here are his responses, both serious and silly.

So, you can't make it out to Wizard World Chicago or Comicon International San Diego. That's okay, you've got front seats to a virtual Q&A panel with Bendis right here. Who needs an autograph or a picture with him? He won't let you rub his head for luck anyway…

STARTING WITH THE ULTIMATE

"I know everyone wants me to make an Ultimate Speedball joke here…"
Justin Davis of Gulfport, Missouri must know: "Would you say there is a great reason for the Ultimate line of comics? Could Marvel had tried just making the regular books new-reader friendly instead of creating a separate universe or do you think there was no way to get through the mire of what was out there?"

BENDIS: "I don't really know how to answer this in that there really isn't any reason for anything :) That is more a question for Joe (Quesada, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics) and Bill (Jemas, Publisher of Marvel), but as for Mark (Bagley, "Ultimate Spider-Man" artist) and myself I think we think that we need "Ultimate Spider-Man" (USM) to tell stories we are very excited about with characters we feel very close to. I do believe that many, many Marvel comics have fallen in line with a lot of what worked with USM editorially. So I guess they did need it."

J. Hook who hails from Shawnee, Kansas asks Bendis: "If you could launch another Ultimate title, what would it be? In general, how would you make that title fresh and 'ultimate'?"

BENDIS: "I know everyone wants me to make an Ultimate Speedball joke here, but in a perfect world a younger Doctor Strange book would not only be published it would be a top three book. But it seems only comic writers want a Doctor Strange series…"

J.P. Dorigo of Orlando wants to know: "You've been writing USM for over 40 issues now. However, we've only seen you write the original Spider-Man a couple times. How is it different writing each one?"

BENDIS: "It is wildly different. Hard to describe, really. USM just feels more real to me because I am so invested in the character. Good question."

ON WRITING COMICS

Michael Proteau posts from Springfield, Ohio: "I have seen Brian Bendis recommend David Mamet's book 'On Directing Film' before and have read this short collection of essays/lectures. My question is: how difficult is it to effectively apply Mamet's ideas to comics? It seems that this technique would work well in film where motion helps smooth the transition between cuts, but in comics it can and has come across as very choppy and disjointed, hindering storytelling technique rather than enhancing it. What are the pitfalls of using these techniques and can you point out instances where you have used it and that it worked well and/or where you felt it just didn't come across as you envisioned it?"

"In that regard, the book changed my life."
BENDIS: "Well, I found that Mamet in particular is more interested in camera placement for optimum story impact than he is in moving the camera for emotional effect. In that regard, the book changed my life. Like many techniques, if not used for the right reason or done with care, it will suck. Yes, I do think some people try this and suck at it, but I think a lot of people try a lot of things and suck at almost all of them.

B. Findlay of Sydney, Australia asks: "How hard is it to focus on writing one particular book at a time, when you've got so many going on in the background?"

BENDIS: "Honestly, I am so ahead of my artists that I just write whatever is on my mind that day. Sometimes five months go by where I don't write or think about USM because I don't have to, then one day I wake up and all I do is USM for weeks because I can't stop. I haven't written "Daredevil" (DD) now for over six months because of the break we are taking for David Mack and I was so far ahead that I can feel it about to explode again."

Austin Adams of the Big Apple asks: "You're working on like a bajillion different books at the moment, so what's your secret, how do you handle it? Do you write one script at a time for one book, or do you switch from one book to another when you feel like it?"

BENDIS: "See above, my life is deadline pressure free. That's how I write best."

B. Curran hailing from Harlingen, Texas takes a turn: "Your Marvel work is defined by long story arcs that many people find better to read in trade paperback format. Is it your intention to 'write for the trades' or would you pace your stories the way you do even if they weren't bound for collections?"

BENDIS: "No, in fact sales on the singles are all doing really well, so I have to think that the pacing is working for someone. But yeah, I do like to tease and I do like to cliffhanger because I love to be teased and I love a good cliffhanger. I also like a scene to stop for the 'moment' during the important stuff, when characters get to breathe so when the bad shit happens… we all are there for them. Something happens in ever panel of the books, it may not be a fight scene or in costume, but shit is happening."

Josh Rathbun writes from Salt Lake City: "[Have you] done what [you] consider a 'dream' project? You know how a lot of writers always talk about that one book they'd love a crack at and I just wonder if [you've] had [your] shot at it."

BENDIS: "Spider-Man and Daredevil are dreams come true but almost everything I have going on right now is something I have been dying to do from age three and up. Not to be braggy, but I am very lucky."

ON WRITING COMICS FOR DC

Justin Davis delves deeper: "You've written for a few of the bigger and smaller companies now, but I don't know of any DC books by you. Why is that? Lack of interest or just lack of being approached?"

BENDIS: "I am a big believer in sticking to the guys that believed in you. Joe really believed in me in a big way. When I got hired for DD there was no way of knowing it was going to work out so well, and he treated me with a lot of respect. I will work for DC one day and they have approached. But I am a Marvel kid and they really know how to push my geek buttons."

Gordon Smith from Edmonton, Alberta asks: "Is there any prospect of Mr. Bendis doing work on a Batman title for DC? Would he like to undertake such a project?"

"Superman seems to really need something. I don't know what it is and I don't think I'm the guy to do it, but it's out there…"
BENDIS: "I would, but it isn't in the cards right now, I am signed with Marvel for another year…at least…"

M. Gillis of Kent, Washington wants to know: "If DC were to offer to let you write any one character with near complete creative control during your run, who would you like to write?"

BENDIS: "Superman seems to really need something. I don't know what it is and I don't think I'm the guy to do it, but it's out there… and if by magic I was only working at DC, I would devote myself to figuring it out. But I'm not, so I can talk like a big shit."

ON DRAWING COMICS

D. Sousa downloading from Lisbon, Portugal probes: "How did you come up with that graphic style in your early work (i.e. using photocopies/photographs for backgrounds)?"

BENDIS: "Necessity and frustration. I am not a natural artist. It's hard for me."

B. Lipman, another Aussie from Sydney, asks: "[I]f there are plans for any projects in the vein of your early work ("Fire", "Torso", etc. - minis, both written and drawn by you)…"

BENDIS: "Absolutely."

B. Curran comes up with a couple more questions: "You've stated that you wanted to go back to drawing in previous interviews. Is there any chance you'll do it in a project for Marvel?"

BENDIS: "Yes."

FORTUNE & GLORY: THE SEQUEL?

B. Curran concludes his questioning: "What has your experience working on the Spider-Man cartoon series been like?"

BENDIS: "I haven't worked on it in over a year. It was an eye opener and I am very glad I did what I did. It was an interesting experience. And not interesting. Plus, it was a nightmare. It was actually interesting."

Dan Condon-Jones of Exeter, England inquires: "Um, (hrm) is the, y'know, 'Torso' film… ah…any closer to... like… being made?"

BENDIS: "A smidge. I am surprised I can say without being full of shit."

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT…

"Which one has the red ass?"
Travis W. Howard from Concord, North Carolina questions: "Who would win in a fight between Michael Avon Oeming and David Mack?"

BENDIS: "Mack. I have seen it happen. Oeming is training though… for all the good it will do :)"

K. Singles of Beloit, Wisconsin wants to know: "Could you take Grant Morrison in a fight?"

BENDIS: "No, he will conjure the floating head of John Lennon to bite me or something."

S. Van also downloading from Down Under in Sydney submits: "Do you think totally bald men are immune to dandruff?"

BENDIS: "No. I am, but many of my peers, sadly are not."

Craig Stewart from Scotland shuts down the show: "You've recently shown a liking for monkey sex. Hey, that's cool with me, but what monkey is hotter Mandrills or Baboons?"

BENDIS: "Which one has the red ass?"

And on that note, we end this virtual panel with Brian Michael Bendis and thank him for his time. Also, thanks to our "Probe" participants for their questions. We have to clear the room now and let them set up for the anime cosplay. Careful not to trip over any Pokemon on your way out and please don't molest the Card Captors…

Next week: "Green Lantern" and "Outsiders" scribe Judd Winick gets probed.

Meanwhile, drop by the Open Your Mouth message boards and meet some of the people who provided the questions for this week's column.

Thank you for your attention.

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