Bendis Looks Back on His Term as the "Avengers" Assemblyman

Thu, November 29th, 2012 at 1:58pm PST

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer
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Brian Michael Bendis looks back on his 8 years as steward of the Avengers franchise in part one of CBR's two-part retrospective.

Marvel Comics' Avengers are currently one the biggest teams in comics and pop culture. The "Avengers" family of titles feature some of Marvel's best-selling books and are always at the forefront of any of big events. The feature film adaptation of the characters' exploits is one of highest grossing films of all times. It's safe to say: The Avengers are more popular than they have ever been.

That wasn't always the case, however. Eight years ago, the Avengers franchise wasn't in nearly as good of shape as it is today. The books in the line weren't selling terribly well, and the X-Men titles were a much bigger franchise. Then, an up-and-coming writer with an intense love for Earth's Mightiest Heroes was given a chance to write the team's adventures. Over the course of 8 years and approximately 232 issues, Brian Michael Bendis revolutionized the Avengers, ushering in the era of their current popularity.

In part one, of our two-part interview, we begin our look back with Bendis from when and how he first landed his Avengers assignment in 2004, discussing his epic run through the 2010 "Siege" storyline.

In 2004, Bendis was an established indy comic creator who had been making a name for himself at Marvel on titles like "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Daredevil" when he was invited to one of the first Marvel publishing retreats of then Editor In Chief Joe Quesada. The purpose of the retreat was to analyze and examine the essential traits and conflicts of Marvel's various characters and see if those elements were currently part of a character's respective title.

"They were going through all of the books, and when we got to 'Avengers,' Mark Millar and I were doing a lot of talking. We were told to feel free to talk, but sometimes we were the only ones talking which can be embarrassing. Mark and I really got into a tizzy about Avengers," Bendis recalled. "It was just us bitching, saying things like, 'Why isn't it really Earth's Mightiest heroes? What the fuck is Jack of Hearts?' Then Mark, in his lilting Scottish brogue, said, 'You know, when I was a wee young lad in Scotland, I would only buy "Justice League" because I would get all of my DC heroes for just 10 cents. It was a bargain and featured some of their greatest characters.'

"I responded, 'Yeah, why isn't "Avengers" a book made up of the coolest guys? Why doesn't it have characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine?' Then a ruckus broke out in the room. People were screaming and yelling. It was really just madness," Bendis continued. "So it was me, Mr Schmucky, and Scottish Schmucky coming in and going, 'Your book sucks! This could be better.' That's not what we were doing, but there's no way that it didn't come off that way. Meanwhile, as soon as I said that Spider-Man should be an Avenger, people were pounding on the table going, 'SPIDER-MAN WOULD NEVER BE AN AVENGER!'"

Bendis' statement about Spider-Man and the Avengers did not go unnoticed. Joe Quesada and then-Executive Vice President of Marvel Bill Jemas were very pleased by the commotion.

"Chaos had erupted for a good 20 minutes, and I looked over to Joe and Jemas and I literally saw cartoon dollar signs in their eyes because they knew if something was causing this much chaos in the room, it was going to happen. This conversation would be happening all over the internet and in every comic book store in the country," Bendis said. "While this was going on, I had this vision of what the book could be, but I didn't want to do the book. I had my gigs and couldn't be happier with them. Plus, I was scared of the book."

Bendis knew, however, it would either be him or Mark Millar writing the overhauled series. "However, I had convinced myself that I really did want to do it and I was just being a scaredy pants. I loved 'The Avengers.' It was the first comic I ever bought. So while we were at the gathering I went up to Joe and said, 'If it's not too late, I want to write "Avengers."' And he goes, 'Oh, I know. You are writing "Avengers."' I said, 'I thought you wanted Mark to write it.' He said, 'He doesn't want to, and I don't care which of you write it. Either way, I win. So if you want to write it, you should write it. Plus, Mark is already doing his take on the Avengers with "Ultimates." So I said, 'Okay. I want to do it.' Then Mark and I shook hands over it." Bendis had his first meeting with "Avengers" editor Tom Brevoort shortly after that. "Tom was already working on his own plans to resuscitate the series around issue #500," Bendis explained. "We didn't really know each other, because we had been working on different books. Initially, Tom wasn't sure what to make of me. All he knew was that I was coming in like a bull in a china shop, which I absolutely was."

"Avengers Disassembled" was Bendis' lead-in to the big shakeup of the Avengers' roster.

That bull was unleashed the Avengers franchise starting with "Avengers" #500. Along with artist David Finch, Bendis debuted with the first part of a four-part tale titled "Avengers Disassembled." "I had this great, kick-ass idea about creating the Avengers disaster movie, where we would blow up the mansion and rip up the Vision. It would also follow some of the thought in John Byrne's 'West Coast Avengers' stuff, where the Scarlet Witch had become unhinged by her powers," Bendis said. "As a fan, I would read those Scarlet Witch stories and her powers seemed crazy. It felt like she could easily get unhinged. Plus, she's Magneto's daughter. That certainly seems like a recipe for craziness.

"So, I pitched all of this. At the time, one of my biggest struggles with a group book was locking down whose point of view the story was being told from. When I was doing 'Ultimate Spider-Man' and 'Daredevil,' it's from their point of view. I believe I got this from a Scorsese movie, but I wanted to do a point of view where [the reader is] an Avenger. You're the one sitting at the table with them and in the huddle."

Immersing readers in the world of the Avengers and then destroying it did have a strong effect on readers, but it wasn't the one Bendis intended. "I was telling a story where you were in the Avengers and I'm blowing your world up. People had a real dislike for that as an initial feeling," Bendis said. "Basically, I had come onto a book that wasn't my book, and I blew it all up. It was nothing different than walking onto a playground, going over to some tinker toy set and kicking it. I thought I was being awesome. I thought, 'Here's some awesome book I'd like to read,' but if you were enjoying the book the way it was, it was upsetting."

Part of the reason fans had such a visceral reaction to "Avengers Disassembled" was due to several fan favorite characters being killed off in Bendis' debut story. Bendis wanted the story to have some casualties and asked Marvel for a list of characters that he could take off the boards.

"That list was so much more damning than I would have asked for. I remember Hawkeye being on that list -- I would have never asked for Hawkeye! I was legitimately shocked to see both him and the Vision," Bendis recalled. "I remember showing the list to my friends, and I think I remember Ed Brubaker saying, 'They'll kill you if you kill Hawkeye.' I kind of wanted to do it, though, because it was so scary. Sociologically, I wondered what would happen. Lo and behold, I killed Hawkeye -- and all hell broke loose.

"It wasn't like nowadays, where everything has a 24-hour life cycle," Bendis continued. "This went on for a while. I was still getting hate mail when were doing 'House of M.' There were a couple of death threats, too. Do not send a death threat to your favorite local comic book writer, because authorities get involved and, at the very least, you'll lose your internet privileges. I thought it was kind of funny, but the guy who did it got shut down. They'll call your internet provider and take care of it. So don't do that. It's not worth it."

The uproar Bendis created with "Avengers Disassembled" meant that he had dug a hole for himself, and the best way to dig himself out, of course, was to prove his love for Earth's Mightiest Heroes. He started to do that with "Avengers Finale," the one-shot that followed "Disassembled" and brought the original volume of the series to a close.

"Some readers were saying that I was on 'Avengers' even though I've never read the book before; like I had never even heard of it before I took the gig. I had been reading it since I could read! I know it by heart. Why would I waste my time writing 'Avengers' if I didn't like the book? I loved the Avengers, and 'Avengers Finale,' which had been written before I had gotten my ass kicked, kind of proved to people that I knew my stuff and that I gave a crap. I certainly want to thank George Perez for drawing the last pages of that story because it gave the book an air of classiness. It felt like the Avengers going off into the sunset."

Bendis' line-up of "New Avengers" included newcomers Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and the Sentry with more added along the way.

"Avengers Finale" proved to some readers that Bendis' love for the Avengers was genuine, and even the most jaded and angry Avengers fan was able to appreciate the fact that "Disassembled" had sold very well. "'Disassembled' did great, and I was having a very good time with it. I got to work with David Finch on the story. He was my first choice," Bendis stated. "We had just done a small run on 'Ultimate X-Men,' and I was happy to hear that the things that would be going on in 'Avengers' were things he wanted to draw. He was very specific about what he wanted to draw: Captain America and Iron Man."

Captain America and Iron Man were on the roster when Finch reunited with Bendis for 2005's "New Avengers" #1, and he also got to draw other characters including Spider-Man, Luke Cage and Spider-Woman. "We had a lot of time to think about the coolest team that we could feature in the book. By this time, Dan Buckley had been made Publisher at Marvel, so when we were planning things out, I asked him, 'Can I have Luke Cage and Spider-Woman on the team?' He replied, 'You said Wolverine and Spider-Man!' I went, 'Yeah, them too.' He then said, 'As long as Wolverine and Spider-Man are on the team, you can have whoever you want.'

"I have gone on record to an embarrassing degree that I think Spider-Woman is one of the top three great characters at Marvel Comics for numerous reasons, so I was happy to put her on the team -- even though it really wasn't her. That gave me the opportunity to raise her profile to a place where I was able to do 'Spider-Woman: Origin' and eventually the motion comics and comic series. That was great, and we have a couple diehard Spider-Woman fans that we hear from every day now on Twitter. I just introduced them to Kelly Sue DeConnick because she's picking up the Spider-Woman mantle in 'Avengers Assemble.'"

Like Spider-Woman, Luke Cage was another '70s Marvel creation Bendis wanted to thrust into the spotlight. "I thought Luke Cage could be cool if he was allowed to mature into a modern day character," Bendis remarked. "I didn't want to write the sort of anachronistic '70s style Blacksploitation version of the character."

The initial "New Avengers" line-up also featured a new Marvel hero who made his debut in 2000, the title character of writer Paul Jenkins' "Sentry" miniseries. Bendis would go on to use subsequent issues to introduce other newer characters to the larger Marvel audience, well like Echo (AKA Maya Lopez) who had been created by writer David Mack and artist Joe Quesada in a 1999 issue of "Daredevil," and the villainous Hood, created by writer Brian K Vaughan and artist Kyle Hotz in his own self-titled 2002 miniseries.

"I'm a big fan of some of these newer creations that somehow just go back on the shelf the minute their creators are done with them," Bendis explained. "It's funny how any of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko's creations, people were like, 'Yeah. No problem let's go crazy.' Newer characters like the Hood, Echo and the Sentry are all what I would consider to be A+ characters, and they just don't get the shelf life that these other characters do because no one else picks them up.

"I remember calling Paul Jenkins up and asking him if I can put the Sentry on the Avengers, and he was like, 'Would you, please? I've wanted people to use the character for years.' I asked Brian K Vaughan if I could use the Hood, and he said, 'Yes, please!' David Mack was like, 'Please put Echo in! That would be awesome.' They were flattered and kind of bummed out that no one had done that before."

Sometimes the injection of new characters into established teams creates new and interesting dynamics that surprise a writer, a turn of events that happened early on in "New Avengers' when Bendis discovered how much fun it was to write scenes where Spider-Man interacted with Luke Cage.

"That's stuff you can't plan or force. It just happens while you're writing," Bendis said. "At one point, I was offered a Spider-Man/Luke Cage series where they would team up every month and riff off of each other, but I thought it might be pulling something small that people like out of the book and making too much of it. 'New Avengers' had done even better than they hoped, so there was a lot of 'let's try this or that' going on.

Readers didn't know it at the time, but in "New Avengers" #1, Bendis began laying the groundwork for his ambitious 2008 event featuring the shapeshifting alien Skrulls, "Secret Invasion." "The only person I told was Tom Brevoort. I said, 'Here's what's going on in the shadows. Here's what I want to build to, but real slow. It's kind of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."' He thought it was great. They had always toyed with doing a Kree-Skrull War II, but it never stuck. So Tom thought this was the way to go," Bendis said. "My idea was that we were just seeding towards this and then we'd release it around issue #25. There would be a big reveal, and I would turn over all my cards. At the time, I was thinking I'd be lucky to get six issues on the book.

Bendis' "House of M" event was originally conceived and promoted as a crossover between "New Avengers" and Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men."

"Long terms plans are always good, though. It creates a subconscious desire in the editor's heart to keep you there," Bendis said with a laugh. "It's like, 'He's got a plan!' Jonathan Hickman is the master of this. As soon as Jon gets on any book, he's like, 'Here's my 50-issue plan.' And they go, 'Wow! 50 issues! Oh my goodness!' Meanwhile, you as a freelancer are going, 'I got 50 issues!'"

Bendis wasn't sure if "New Avengers" would sell as well as "Avengers Disassembled," but much to his surprise, both fans and detractors flocked to the series and sales took off like a rocket. Marvel noticed as well, and as Bendis was planning out issues #6 and #7 of the series, they offered the writer a chance for his book to be part of high profile summer crossover with another top selling series, "Astonishing X-Men," which at the time was being written by Joss Whedon.

"They came to me and said Joss was going to need the summer off of 'Astonishing X-Men' for a project. I could be wrong, but I believe it was 'Serenity.' They didn't want to be without 'Astonishing X-Men' stories, so they asked me if I'd be interested in writing a 'New Avengers'/'Astonishing X-Men' crossover," Bendis said. "Around the same time, I was in L.A. at dinner with Joe Quesada and Jeph Loeb and I was telling them the story of 'Avengers Disassembled.' Jeph just listened like a fan and then at the end said, 'Oh, man -- what does Magneto do?' And I go, 'What do you mean?' Jeph replied, 'His daughter just got unhinged! So what is he going to do?'"

Bendis didn't originally have any plans to tell a story about Magneto's response to the events of "Disassembled," but Loeb's question inspired him, and Marvel's 2005 "House of M" event began to take shape. "I started thinking about how, if the Scarlet Witch went nuts, she's the biggest problem for the Avengers and the X-Men. So then came 'House of M,' which was really just supposed to be a summer story but then became an 'event,'" Bendis recalled. "It was the first one of those that we had done in a long time. We had done crossovers, but nothing like this.

"So we discussed tie-ins, and I was introduced to Olivier Copiel, whose work I adored, and we had a really great summer. People don't remember that if you read the title, it says, 'A "New Avengers"/"Astonishing X-Men" crossover' in the first couple of issues, and then it just became it's own thing. Working on an event with tie-ins was surreal. I had never done that before. I had never outlined this whole, big story. The bigger shock, though, was the miniseries we did kept going years after 'House of M' had wrapped up! They did several more series set in the world of 'House of M' because it kept selling! They were very cool series, too."

The success of "House of M" ushered in the age of summer events at Marvel, and Bendis' Avengers tied into every subsequent one. While he didn't mind, the writer was concerned about the impact epics like 2006's "Civil War" and 2007's "World War Hulk" would have on his still-gestating Skrull invasion story. "I originally would have released the Skrulls right around 'Civil War,' but since I was there for the planning of 'Civil War' and helped create the initial conflict of it, all I kept thinking about was, 'Boy, does this help my Skrull thing,'" the writer stated. "If I reveal that the Skrulls were there the whole time and they let, if not nudged, the heroes into beating the shit out of each other, I've got myself a book.

The aftermath of "Civil War" saw a second Avengers book by Bendis, "Mighty Avengers," hit stands.

"While I was writing 'House of M,' I would look at things from the point of view of the Skrull Queen. It really helped her. The Mutant Decimation was a gigantic piece of the puzzle for the Skrull invasion. If the Skrulls attack and the X-Men got their shit together and put together an army of mutants to battle them, this is not a battle the Skrulls could win. If the humans and mutants are taking care of themselves in stories like 'House of M' and 'Civil War,' that's gold! It's the best shadow operation in the galaxy."

"Civil War" didn't just help Bendis' Skrull story, it also gave him the opportunity to tell some new and interesting tales in "New Avengers." "What Mark Millar ended up writing and what I thought was interesting about 'Civil War' were two different things. I asked if he was going to do a story at the end where Iron Man and Cap have it out over Cap's dead body. He had no interest in that, but I thought it was the best part of the whole thing," Bendis explained. "I got to do everything I ever wanted to do with 'Civil War' in my book. It was fantastic. I had books that I own, like 'Powers,' and books like 'Ultimate Spider-Man' and 'Daredevil' where I didn't bother anybody. I was just telling my story straight, and it was cool. It didn't feel like people were interrupting me when we tied into events. It felt like I was writing the Avengers on a day-to-day basis, and every day some crazy shit would happen and they would have to deal with it. If you were an Avenger, that's what life would be like."

"Civil War" also gave Bendis the first opportunity to change the line-up of "New Avengers," which is something he would do quite frequently throughout his run on the book. "It's funny, because people would yell at me, and I mean yell, 'STOP CHANGING THE ROSTER! The Avengers don't change their roster every five minutes,'" the writer remarked. "I would then say, 'Can I show you 'Avengers' #13-250? Because it felt like they were changing rosters almost every other issue. Roy Thomas changed stuff almost every three issues."

In the aftermath of "Civil War," the heroes of the Marvel Universe were split into two factions; those that were in favor of the government's super hero registration act, and the heroes that opposed it and went underground to practice their particular brand of justice. That dynamic afforded Bendis the opportunity to expand his Avengers franchise into two books. In "New Avengers," he continued to build towards his Skrull story as his protagonists went underground. Then, in "Mighty Avengers," which launched in the aftermath of "Civil War," he would be able to tell different kinds of Avengers stories as he followed the exploits of a pro-registration Avengers team, which operated in public view.

"'New Avengers' had solidified itself as a certain kind of team book and I couldn't even put my finger on exactly why it was so different from 'Avengers' other than it was just coming from a different point of view. One of the criticisms I would hear is, 'He's doing that because he couldn't write a traditional Avengers story. He doesn't know how to write the Avengers! He's writing this other thing with 'New Avengers.'' That got me wondering if there was something to that. 'Can I not write it? Do I just see the world a little differently and I can't get there?' I wanted to write a 'traditional' story, and I also had this idea about thought balloons that I wanted to try out and absolutely could not do in 'New Avengers' because we were knee deep in the Skrull storyline. If we were doing thought balloons and one of them has got a big secret, then the thought balloon experiment would not work.

"Secret Invasion" was the mega-event Bendis had planned for since his start on "New Avengers."

"Around this time, I was starting to experiment with artists I like. You never know how you're going to work together, unless it's someone I knew or was very close friends with. Frank Cho, Leinil Yu and Olivier Copiel all killed on their issues," Bendis continued. "I got to work with a bunch of guys just really doing amazing work, and I wanted to do more. Working with Frank Cho on 'Mighty Avengers' was very, very appealing to me."

With the release of issue #12 of "Mighty Avengers" and issue #38 of "New Avengers," Bendis unleashed his epic Skrull story, which had become much bigger than he'd originally envisioned. "I was happy as a clam for this story to run its course inside my Avengers books. Events were big things now, though. Stories like 'World War Hulk' and 'Civil War' were coming at a pretty regular pace," Bendis explained. "I had the opportunity and the torture to pitch this story in the room at the Marvel retreat every year that I was developing it. So for three or four retreats, the other writers and editors would hear the updates on how the story that would become 'Secret Invasion' was coming along."

After Bendis pitched "Secret Invasion" for a fourth time, Dan Buckley informed him that the story would be Marvel's next big summer event. "He said, 'It's got to be its own miniseries and a whole big thing, because it's not just the Avengers: You're talking about the whole Marvel Universe. The whole world has been taken over, so we have to do this big, and it's perfect. It's got all this stuff that will reward both long time fans and long time followers and short term fans and followers. So why not hit it all on those levels?'" Bendis recalled. "I said, 'I'm doing another event?' And he said, 'Yes.' They also began developing the 'Who Do you trust?' angle and the marketing. It sounded better than just doing it in the book itself."

Writing "Secret Invasion" as an event instead of a straightforward Avengers story presented Bendis with a unique challenge. "The inciting incident of 'House of M' and 'Civil War' happens in those books, whereas there are a couple inciting incidents for 'Secret Invasion' that had already happened in 'New Avengers,'" the writer explained. "How do you create a self-contained miniseries that will stand up a couple years later when the story is already under way? It was a big challenge and I worked really hard on it."

Marvel assisted Bendis by allowing him to keep the heroes that had been replaced by Skrull infiltrators to a definite number that had been locked down early on. "One of the things I'm really proud of Marvel for, and I'm not sure another publisher would do, was that me and Tom Brevoort had already locked down who the heroes that had been replaced by Skrulls were. The worst thing that you could do with a bunch of tie-ins was, in everybody's book someone pulls off their face and goes, 'Ha ha! I'm a Skrull!' If the book started in May, you would be sick of that by June," Bendis said. "The Skrull reveal had to be kept to a minimum, and I was very happy that we kept it tight. It was exactly what the story needed to be."

But not everyone was excited about the event. Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada was initially skeptical about Bendis' plans for "Secret Invasion." What sold him on the series was the aftermath, which changed the Marvel Universe into a very dark and different place. In the final issue of "Secret Invasion," Norman Osborn ends the Skrull's plans by fatally shooting their queen. That shot was the beginning of the longtime Spider-Man villain's "Dark Reign" over the Marvel Universe.

Norman Osborn's Dark Reign over the Marvel Universe spawned a third Avengers book for Bendis, "Dark Avengers."

"The history books are written by the people who win the war, and here, Norman Osborn would get the lucky shot. It would organically come out of the things Warren Ellis did in his 'Thunderbolts' run. How amazing would it be if Norman was given the keys to the castle? Not to get too political, but when you look at society and history, there are always instances that leave you wondering, 'How did that monster get the keys to the castle?' No matter how much shit you prove that he did or didn't do, there's always a guy dancing between rain drops.

"I thought it would be interesting to do this storyline, and I believe the pitch that got Joe was I said everyone in the Marvel Universe gets to feel what it's like to be Peter Parker: Even when you win, you lose. Peter Parker is a very specific kind of cat who can handle that, but guys like Luke Cage and Hawkeye, not so much. I bet it would really test who they are as heroes. That got Joe and some others very excited. They were more excited for 'Dark Reign' than they were for 'Secret Invasion.' They couldn't wait to get to it."

Osborn's elevation to the status of the U.S. government's top superhuman law enforcement agent put him in control of all the nation's official superhuman teams, including the Avengers. Thus, in the aftermath of "Secret Invasion," Bendis ended his run on "Mighty Avengers" and launched a new title with artist Mike Deodato. "Dark Avengers" chronicled the exploits of Osborn's Avengers team, a group of super-powered individuals who were actually villains disguised as classic and new members of the Avengers.

"Warren Ellis is my favorite comic book writer. I've made no bones about that. I was loving what he was doing in 'Thunderbolts' and sad to hear he was only going to do a year. Plus, I was loving the new look of Mike Deodato's work on that book. With Norman getting the alien shot heard around the world and having been publicly successful with the Thunderbolts, he could really rise to a position of power and take over the Avengers franchise if Tony Stark put it up for grabs like that," Bendis explained. "Having just written the 'classic' Avengers series, writing the 'nightmare' Avengers series, with psychopaths and sociopaths dressing up as the Avengers and standing on a stage and waving, seemed too good. It felt like 'Dark Avengers' would make the 'New Avengers' look classic in comparison. I couldn't wait to write it."

Fans couldn't wait to read the series, either. For most of its 16 issue run, "Dark Avengers" was Marvel's top-selling Avengers book.

"That was very surprising. The whole time, I didn't think they would cancel it and would try to keep it going somehow," Bendis recalled. "I was happy they let it go, because Norman couldn't be in charge of the Marvel Universe forever. We have to build towards something and we had a place to build towards with 'Siege.' With that, though, comes the end of the 'Dark Avengers.' I was happy that also went the natural course."

While Bendis was writing "Mighty Avengers" and "Dark Avengers," he was putting the cast of "New Avengers" through hell. In the aftermath of "Civil War," the team was forced underground where they remained isolated and on the run for the remainder of the initial volume of the series.

"Siege" ushered in the end of Dark Reign and the beginning of a new chapter for Bendis' Avengers.

"I wanted to test their resolve. It's very easy to be an Avenger and smile and wave and ride in a Quinjet, but it's very hard to be Spider-Man. I thought that I would like to see Luke Cage and Hawkeye particularly be faced with this," Bendis explained. "Also it put the New Avengers in an underdog position, which is a very good place for your characters to be. The aftermath of 'Civil War' where you have a bunch of super heroes lording over everybody else can come off very unappealing if not done well. However, heroes on the run though and still being heroes and sticking together as a family even though all that's holding them together is sheer force of will is very appealing."

In "Siege" Bendis got to close out both the story of Norman Osborn's "Dark Reign" and the initial volumes of "New Avengers" and "Dark Avengers" with a story that saw Earth's Mightiest Heroes joining forces with the divine citizens of Asgard to protect their city from Norman Osborn and all the forces under his control. It was a historic tale in that it was the first time the Avengers "trinity" of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor fought side by side in almost a decade.

"It's like after the fourth commercial in VH1's 'Behind the Music' when everyone puts their personal feelings aside and they get the band back together. Working on 'Siege' was fantastic," Bendis remarked. "Also, when you've got Norman Osborn in charge of the world, it's literally a ticking clock. It's not a question of whether or not he's going to freak out and become the Green Goblin: It's when and how.

"It's funny; when I first took over the Avengers franchise, I didn't know how the game was played, but by the time we hit 'Siege' I was fully engaged in this dance between audience expectations and delivery. Really, from the minute he took that shot at the end of 'Secret Invasion,' we had people writing us letters saying, 'Oh my God! When's he going to show up as the Green Goblin!' So it was a blast. Plus, I got to work with the great Olivier Copiel again."

"Siege" Was a distinctly different event story than the previous Bendis-Copiel collaboration, "House of M," chiefly because it was half as long. "I was very proud that we were in and out in four issues. It's funny, because the events kept getting bigger and bigger. That's partly because you're playing with a cast of thousands, but then when I reread 'X-Men/Teen Titans,' I was shocked and surprised to remember that it was a one-shot! In my head, it was like a thousand pages long. Writer Chris Claremont was in and out of that story in 42 pages! I thought, 'All right, let's strip things down,'" Bendis recalled. "You had that going on, which was very different than 'Civil War' and 'Secret Invasion,' which took like four to six months to come out, versus 'Siege,' where we got in and out in three months. There was a true sense of, 'I don't know what's going to happen!' It was a crazy story. We knocked Asgard out of the sky!"

In "Siege" #2, readers saw just how unpredictable the series was going to be in a scene where the immensely powerful Sentry graphically murdered Ares, the God of War, by literally pulling him apart. "One of my fondest memories of 'Siege' is watching that scene develop, from script to the printed page. I believe the script says that he pulls apart Ares in shadow or however we can get away with it. Olivier then decides he wants to pull Ares' guts out. The pencils came in, and they were gorgeous, but holy shit, was that violent. I don't write violence like that often, so even I was like, 'Holy shit! Look at that!' I thought that they were very clearly going to edit it. Plus, I believe it was the same month that Disney bought Marvel," Bendis recalled with a laugh. "It was like, 'Here's a little test for you.' Then the Disney guys were like, 'We're not going to touch Marvel. No one is going to do anything. 'Hmm--Let's see what happens.' Then the inks came in, and they were even more violent. Then the colors came in, and they were even more disgusting. Then it printed!

"That kind of violence wasn't really my cup of tea, but I was so fascinated to watch it print that I didn't say anything," Bendis continued. "So there you go. It's gross and disgusting, but it certainly let you know that Ares was dead and wouldn't be coming back later in the story. There's his intestines!"

Check back with CBR soon for the second half of our look at Bendis' tenure on the Avengers book where we'll discuss the new volumes of "Avengers" and "New Avengers," the "Avengers Assemble" series, and the upcoming "Age of Ultron" storyline.

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TAGS:  marvel comics, brian michael bendis, avengers, new avengers, mighty avengers, dark avengers, house of m, civil war, avengers disassembled, secret invasion, siege

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