Bendis: The "Ultimate Marvel" Writer, Bendis Goes to Hell(Spawn)

Mon, May 15th, 2000 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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It's official: Brian Michael Bendis has gone from an up-and-coming creator to one who has arrived. Marvel Comics last week announced that the writer of Image Comics' "Jinx," "Sam and Twitch" and "Powers" will be at the helm for their new-reader-friendly versions of Spider-Man and the X-Men, under their "Ultimate Marvel" banner.

With the cat out of the official bag, Bendis addressed his fans directly on Sunday on his message board.

"Firstly, I am still working on 'Sam and Twitch,' 'Hellspawn,' and 'Powers.' I am very grateful and proud of my work for Todd [McFarlane] and will stay with his company for as long as he will have me. Todd has given me the opportunity to let me 'do my thing' in the more mainstream full color market and a lot of what has happened to me over the last year is in direct result of that increased profile, including the amazing performance of 'Powers' debut. This isn't ass kissing, this is financial fact. So, yes, I am still writing those books and am very passionate about them. He will literally have to pry 'Sam and Twitch' from my cold, dead hands.

"Please, don't worry about my 'work load.'

"First of all, I am ahead on all my projects and have been for some time. If I totally flaked today, you wouldn't even notice till December. And I'm not going to.

"I have some kind of immigrant work ethic. I am always working my ass off, since high school. But its not like I am lugging boxes or flipping burgers. It's hardly 'hard work.' It's thinking and typing and research. But I do take the fact that my name is on the product, any product, very seriously and I have no intention of writing something I am unqualified to write or hand in anything sucky."

The Ultimate Marvel X-Men book is still in too early of a stage to discuss, but the stripped-down, 21st century version of Spider-Man is in a much more finalized state, and Bendis was willing to share some insights into the wall crawler and his secret identity of Peter Parker, digital photographer for the Daily Bugle Web site.

"First off, the … 'Ultimate' idea is a fantastic idea. You don't know the whole picture yet. Most of it is big business stuff and its all pretty exciting.

"And it ain't gonna look too shabby on the resume.

"Everyone is screaming: 'It's the death knell of comics and why isn't Marvel or DC doing something about it?' And now someone is. Will it work? Don't know. Doesn't matter. What matters is someone is trying. And not just talking about it, doing it. And I am thrilled to be part of that.

"And if it does work? FANTASTIC! All I want is for people to read comics and enjoy them and talk about them.

"A lot of people don't like to admit this, but there are just simply not enough people reading mainstream comics in North America to justify their existence financially. And it is a business, let's not kid. DC obviously has some cushion from Time-Warner and Marvel's losses are public record. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! NOW!

"A lot of people don't like to admit this, but there are just simply not enough people reading mainstream comics in North America to justify their existence financially."
- Brian Bendis

"X-Men, Spider-Man, they are very popular characters and icons. And not just in the world of comics. People know them. So, we need to make people want to read about them in the artform in which they were invented.

"It's such an amazing way to tell a story, comics. I love them so much. And look how many of you feel the same way. It will turn around. This many of us can't be wrong.

"Marvel had, to my understanding, been working on this idea in-house for quite some time before I had anything to do with it. What was missing basically was character and style. I was approached to do it based on Bill Jemas reading some of Joe Quesada's copies of my creator owned comics. Yes, Joe Quesada is the thread that holds everything in mainstream comics together. And thank god!"

Quesada is also one of the two men behind Marvel Comics' Marvel Knights line of comics, to which Bendis will be contributing a "Daredevil" story later this year.

"It is a relaunching of Spider-Man as Stan lee envisioned him but written, as dramatically and entertainingly as possible, as if the events that shaped the young Peter Parker started today.

"There is nothing we are doing to Spider-Man that isn't in the spirit of the theme and characters that were originally invented. The only thing we are doing is freeing the characters from 40 loooong years of four issue a month continuity.

"If you want to get new readers, and a new generation of readers, than continuity is an anchor and an obstacle. I am in no way saying that the material is bad or unappealing in any way. What I am saying is that from a commercial standpoint, for outside of the small comics community, there is no way to get someone to spend their money on something that you NEED 1000 issues of back story to fully appreciate.

"If you want to get new readers, and a new generation of readers, than continuity is an anchor and an obstacle."
- Brian Bendis

"Think of it from a non-fanboy or completist point of view. Forty years! Has a television show or book series or movie series lasted that long? Can't think of one. Nope. Closest thing I can think of is James Bond or Star Trek and we are on our forth or fifth versions. Most TV shows buckle under the weight of their own premise. Even the best and [longest] lasting ones.

"So, it is only natural that comics would need to do it as well," Bendis said. "And for those of you upset by this idea, don't worry about it. Your comics are continuing business as usual I hear. So I don't understand why someone would get irritated by the idea of this new book.

"I don't want to dip to much into what our take is or what the story is because I am looking forward to you guys reading it fresh with no expectations."

Bendis did give a few hints of what readers could expect:

"Peter working at the Daily Bugle Web site is just a logical and faithful way to keep him in that setting. Major newspapers do not hire 15 and 16 year old boys to be staff photographers. Just doesn't happen. But they do hire whiz kids and such to work on stuff. My brother was working for major companies as a freelance Web guy while still very young.

"Also, the first issue is a big 48 pager, I think you'd be glad to hear. You know what a page count whore I am. We get a lot of story and development in on the first issue. I am pretty excited about that.

"I have in my hands a chunk of the art for the first issue and it's a handsome mainstream book. A lot of my writing relies an the artist's ability to have the characters emote without voice-over or caption and [Mark] Bagley is very, very good at that."

Sticking closer to the territories that fans have already seen Bendis' work, he'll be writing the new Image Comics "Hellspawn" series this August.

"I think 'Hellspawn' is Ashley wood's crowning achievement and a really stunning book to take in," Bendis told the Comic Wire on Sunday. "Most of my fans, I feel, are pretty open-minded comic book lovers and just want passionately made comics. 'Hellspawn' is definitely that. I am very proud of the work on 'Hellspawn' so far. I am not a genre snob. I just want good stories."

As for the creator-owned character many of his oldest fans may be wondering about, "Jinx is popping up in 'Sam and Twitch' 15-19 and in her own animated Web film in the fall."

 
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