Reality in the Marvel Universe was washed away by a blinding white light. When the light had faded the world had changed. Mutants are now a majority; humans are headed the way of the dinosaurs and the X-Men's foe Magneto is now the most powerful political figure on the planet. Can the Marvel heroes remember how things were and set them right? This is the story presented in Marvel Comics' "House of M," an eight issue limited series by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Olivier Copiel. CBR News spoke with Bendis by phone about the series, which promises to alter the face of the Marvel Universe.
The history of the "House of M" world was identical to normal Marvel history, but the outcome of one specific event changed everything. "There's going to be a moment you see where clearly Magneto found a way to change the world's opinion," Bendis told CBR News. "We take an event that happened in Marvel history and it really isn't one of the biggest events of all time, but it's the point where Magneto was able to turn the tide on the anti-mutant government programs and turn the whole world around. What we lay on here is where the world is today based on that event. There was a hint in issue 2. The Sentinel monument is that moment."
Magneto may appear to be the absolute ruler of this new world, but he's not. Not yet at least. "The world governments are exactly where they were. We still have a president and all that. It's just the mutant population has a monarchy that is beginning to overlay it," Bendis explained. "As the world's mutant population overtakes the human population you can see that the system is set up where Magneto would then run it."
The Master of Magnetism did not use force to secure his position of power. "Right now there is still a UN, but they don't do anything without talking to Magneto," Bendis said. "No one feels that they have to, it's that they want to. He doesn't rule with tyranny. He doesn't have to. It's being handed to him. Everyone sees it coming. Of course there's resistance and there's people fighting it."
In issue two readers were given a glimpse of how the mutant dominated world has revolutionized the fields of science and technology. "As mutants were able to really use their brains and their mutant powers to the fullest extent, it would entirely change the technology of our society," Bendis stated. "You'd imagine that someone would invent a better TV just because they had the mutant power to see the world differently. Forge is a perfect example. There's a bunch of characters like that. If they were allowed to let loose without fear of any kind of squashing they would really be able to look at the world and change it."
However not all forms of scientific pursuit are encouraged, as is also shown in issue two. "Science that is anti-mutant is immediately squashed," Bendis said. "Other scientists who want to be working on other things like isolating the mutant gene just to analyze it are not allowed to."
In the old-world humans oppressed and discriminated against the minority mutant population. Now, humans face some of the same treatment in the new world where mutants are in charge. "There's a nature in human beings to oppress people other than themselves," Bendis stated. "Even people who say, 'I would never do that if I was in that situation.' Yet they don't realize they're doing it. Like Hank McCoy and Hank Pym have a conversation and it's a little cold, the conversation. But he doesn't even realize how cold it sounds."
Social commentary is part of the story of "House of M," but Bendis says it's not the focal point of the story. "Commentary is always a tough one with me because it's almost impossible not to make some kind of comment. But the point of this series isn't to make comments. It's more a comment about society, which racism is a part of, than it is about racism, or this or that or fame.
"It's fascinating even just writing mainstream Marvel Comics because Marvel is in the real world. You can really analyze what the real world would be like if Spider-Man flew by. That was my job on 'Ultimate Spider-Man' and 'New Avengers,' what would constitute the need for this kind of team and how would the world react to it? So, the same thing with 'House of M.' You turn it upside down and analyze how the world would react if this was going on. If you don't care about any of this stuff hopefully you'll still enjoy it. It's just impossible to write a story like this and really explore it without getting into some of these issues."
Some readers of "House of M" #1 might have been puzzled at the quiet reactions of characters like Wonder Man and the Beast when The Avengers and X-Men were discussing whether The Scarlet Witch should be killed or could be treated. "Basically, here's Simon, who if you really look at it, may be a total construction of Wanda's from a couple years ago," Bendis explained. "That was one of the deciding factors when we were putting together 'Disassembled.' She literally birthed an entire human being out of energy and everybody goes, 'Yay!' Well wait a second. Where did he come from? I'm not dissing Kurt or Perez because it's a great scene, but it did make me cement the idea of there's been a lot of iffy behavior on Wanda's part. So, there's Simon who was quiet because he's sitting there going, 'Oh man if any of this is true I'm fucked. Does anyone see me?' Also Simon did say, 'I'm absolutely no way giving into killing her.'
"Here's Hank pretty much I'd imagined waiting to see what the score is. He's a scientist. He's analyzing before he makes a grandiose statement either way," Bendis continued. "But I think we can all imagine that there was no way in hell Hank was going to go for killing her."
In issue 3 of "House of M," Wolverine is the character that propels the story forward. "The quest starts with Wolverine and builds to other players, but we really get to see the world though his eyes for that whole issue," Bendis explained. "We open to show you that something very specific happened to him that hasn't happened to anybody else. Not only that, but being an X-Man and an Avenger he kind of ties both groups together in a way that maybe the House of M wouldn't even have put together."
Readers of issue 3 will get a glimpse of Layla Miller, a character that they will meet in issue 4. "She shares a secret with Wolverine that is helpful to unlocking some of the mysteries of the 'House of M.' She's very important to the plot of the story," Bendis said. "On top of that she will be coming out of 'House of M' with purpose and hopefully it will be a nice introduction to people for a new character in the Marvel Universe. She is appearing in a book after 'House of M' and I'm very happy with the writer that's dealing with her and what he has planned for her. Copiel just nails her design and she really looks great."
The plot and action of "House of M" really kick into high gear with issue 3. "The engine start to roll and doesn't stop till we get to issues 7 and 8, which is the big finale," Bendis stated. "Heroes do gather and make a decision. What happens in the end will be shocking to people because we do not put the world back the way we found it and that's a promise. This thing is written and locked. I'll be fascinated to see what the reaction is. It legitimately has not been done before in Marvel Comics."
Some heroes will be reluctant to alter the reality of "House of M." "The thought will be brought up that maybe this was suppose to happen," Bendis explained. "Maybe this is what it's like when the next generation, when the world, evolves. We talked a little in issue 2 that the dinosaurs didnt know it was happening and a meteor hits. Maybe that's what this is. Should it be stopped? Ideas like this are brought up and who they are brought up by may be interesting to some readers."
Readers will learn whether the "House of M" reality was created deliberately or just a product of the Scarlet Witch's mind in issue 7. "Issue 7 is a doozy," Bendis said. "Issue 7 the shit his the fan. It is the biggest fight scene I've ever written, including 'Secret War' and other things. That's when all the zowies come."
The final battle will push heroes to their limits and beyond. "What you are going to get is heroes who in the past may have held back a bit; Cyclops or Rogue are both characters that by just the nature of their powers have to show restraint. Because they're in a fight now that restraint serves no purpose. So you're going to see some of the heroes open up," Bendis explained. " If they don't do something it's over. It's done."
There is a definite mysterious figure or figures operating in opposition to the heroes in "House of M." "I'm a big fan of the antagonist," Bendis said. "Instead of using evil let's say antagonist, the guy who is pushing the story in his own direction. I like when they have a point of view that is arguable. That even though you don't agree with what he does, when he tells you why he's doing it you go, 'I see your point but you're wrong.'"
Bendis was able to reveal the identity of a well-known Marvel villain that plays a significant role in "House of M." In addition to starring in the 3 issue limited series "Fantastic Four: House of M," Dr. Doom will be appearing in "House of M" and will be involved in the book's big finale.
Issue 8 of "House of M" is an aftermath issue that will have a lasting effect on the Marvel Universe. "The aftermath of 'House of M' is pristinely planned," Bendis said. "What we've learned from the history of comics is that they do these events and the aftermath is a disaster. Either there's nothing planned or there's not enough planned or there were some plans but the creators rebelled against them. So when we really sat down with this I said, 'Let's really think about what kinds of stories we get to tell if we do this.' The whole purpose of it is to tell new kinds of stories."
Bendis is excited about the new story telling opportunities that "House of M" will bring to Marvel. "The things that stuck were really just fantastic story ideas by some of my favorite comic book people," he stated. "So not only do we get cool stuff to do in 'New Avengers' but we get to do great stuff in the 'X-Men' books. There are some little special surprises coming down later in the year. They're not spin-offs in the harshest sense of the word. They're totally unique ideas that spawn out of a great idea. Just like when someone takes over 'Spider-Man' and they come up with an idea like Venom. It's a good idea that organically came out of writing Spider-Man. These are the kind of things you'll be getting off of 'House of M'"
When the story is over Bendis hopes readers of "House of M" will have been entertained. "The point of all this is to have some good old fashion Marvel fun," he said. "What I hope they get out of it is at the end of it they go, 'That was a big meal. I'm full. You ever see the movie 'Traffic?' Soderbergh on the commentary talks about giving the audience a meal, a full meal, not just a taste. If you make them sit through something for three hours they should feel totally full at the end."
Writing "House of M" was a difficult and pressure filled task, but Bendis is happy that people are enjoying it. "It's a little daunting, a little nerve wracking. I felt literally like I was going on stage or something," he explained. "I was relieved that people bought it and retailers backed it. So I just want to say thank you to people and I promise you an ending."