"State of the Initiative Podcast" with Brian Michael Bendis

Thu, November 29th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Shaun Manning, Staff Writer

"Mighty Avengers" #6 on sale in December
Marvel recorded the second in its series of three "State of the Initiative" podcasts Tuesday afternoon, this time featuring Skrull invasion mastermind Brian Michael Bendis. Over the course of the discussion hosted by Marvel Senior Art Director Jeff Suter, Bendis revealed the forthcoming "Secret Invasion" storyline will in the first issue settle the question of who is a Skrull and when the "switch" took place, and what clues readers should be looking for in order to discover the shapeshifters hiding in the Marvel Universe.

Asked if it was good to be back working with "Ultimate Spider-Man" collaborator Mark Bagley following artist Frank Cho's departure from "Mighty Avengers," Bendis explained there was no actual break in their working relationship. "Actually, me and Mark went straight from 'Ultimate Spider-Man' to the 'Spider-Man 3' comic we did for Wal-Mart," Bendis said, referring to the exclusive comic packaged with the DVD. "Then it was on to 'Mighty Avengers,' which he's already finished, and an 'Ultimate Spider-Man' project we have coming up next year."

Bendis described the upcoming "Secret Invasion" as a story that will affect the future of all of his ongoing books. He described the premise once again as "the aliens may have already invaded, and they may have already won." The role of the Initiative is such that Tony Stark's heroes "will need to succeed on every available level if we want to keep the Earth. If they can't do it, if the Initiative is too young, we won't."

Pages from "Mighty Avengers" #6
Suter then went on to ask the writer about his perceptions of several leading characters. Bendis described Luke Cage as the de facto leader of the New Avengers, who are now "criminals as much as heroes" following "Civil War." He said that in "New Avengers" #38, Cage's marriage to Jessica Jones "begins to fall apart" because of the Skrull invasion.

Bendis said both "House of M" and "Civil War" had been very good for Ms. Marvel. "She came out looking to make herself one of the best heroes the world has ever seen," Bendis said. "But she's also one of the most doubtful about hunting friends, and the split between the heroes."

The writer continued to say that his exclusive contract with Marvel has given him the footing to "do some long term character development," and that "the pay off on some of it is really, really special." Bendis also praised Brian Reed's work on the "Ms. Marvel" ongoing series. Reed, who was interviewed for the first "State of the Iniative" podcast, had also expressed a particular enthusiasm for the Ms. Marvel character.

"Mighty Avengers" #8 on sale in January, "Mighty Avengers" #9 on sale in February
Next, Suter asked about Tony Stark, whom Bendis described as "the bittersweet victor" of "Civil War." He then mentioned that Iron Man seems to be everybody's favorite hero and villain, and that many fans suspect Stark of being a Skrull. "I think that really, people don't like him because of the mustache," Bendis joked, "and the roller skates on the armor."

Bendis described Tony Stark as "a futurist, who sees the world not as it is but as it could be, and as it should be." He acknowledged that Iron Man's decisions could be seen as "cold," but that he always has a reason for his actions. "You don't always know what he's going to do, but you know why he's going to do it," Bendis said. "He always has some argument, some reason this is the heroic thing to do." Bendis compared Tony Stark to Magneto--quickly acknowledging that Iron Man had not done anything as villainous--saying that, "you hear Magneto talk and you might think, Okay, he has a point. I don't like what he's doing, but his point of view is valid."

"New Avengers" #37 on sale in December
This combination of forward thinking and decisive action makes Iron Man one of comics' most compelling characters, according to Bendis. "From a writer's perspective, he's one of most difficult characters to write because you need to think of someone smarter than, you and then write that," he said. Bendis described the Initiative as an example of Stark inventing what he thinks the future will need.

Later in the interview, Bendis characterized the Marvel editorial retreats as a valuable experience, but one that "can get ugly." "You know if you can survive that room, it's a very good story that deserves publishing," Bendis remarked, adding that the writers built upon and revised each other's ideas, and that in the end stories would evolve to become better than the writers had originally conceived.

This lead to the much-debated question, "Is Tony right?" "He's made his point," Bendis said. "Whether he's right or not will be defined by a few things coming up." The writer noted, however, that i"if the Initiative becomes a cohesive unit, that will be the first time we've seen that in the Marvel Universe in some years."

"New Avengers" #37 on sale in December
Asked what the Initiative and its members will look like on the other side of "Secret Invasion," Bendis revealed, "Some of them won't come through it at all, some will be changed. Some will switch sides from where they were in 'Civil War,' some will betray each other, based on other reveals."

According to Bendis, the Skrull roster will be seen in "Secret Invasion" #1, which will also indicate exactly when the aliens replaced their heroic counterparts. "We're not going to wait for 'Secret Invasion' #6 to tell you what's going on," Bendis said. "Right away, we turn all the cards over and say, look who's who.

"In 'New Avengers' and 'Mighty Avengers' we'll rewind the clock, we're going to show who was who and when they turned, we're not going to leave it up to interpretation," Bendis continued. "If you were a fan of the 'X-Files,' when they kept telling you they were going to reveal everything and they never did, it's not like that."

Page from "New Avengers" #37, on sale in December
Bendis did clarify later, though, that while readers would know the identities of the Skrulls right away, it was not yet certain that the heroes of the Marvel Universe would ever know for sure.

Suter then asked what would suggest "Skrully behavior." Listed Bendis, "You were dead and now you're alive again; your ill-defined powers are being used in ways that seem like many different writers are using them differently; mustaches... many things can give off a Skrulliness. On the internet, green eyes have become the Skrull hunts, I find that very funny."

Bendis repeated his and Reed's assertion that any "Secret Invasion" tie-ins will be self-contained and not required reading to understand the larger story.

"New Avengers" #38 on sale in January
Spinning off from a joke about how quickly he writes, Bendis apologized for the lateness of "Halo: Uprising," noting the series was meant to be complete before the game "Halo 3" launched. "It's not my fault or Alex Maleev's fault or Marvel's," the writer said, explaining that the approval process with software publisher Bungie was "necessary, but very slow going. We didn't see that coming." He also joked that the game "Call of Duty 4" could ruin one's marriage.

Asked if the current "Namor" miniseries would tie-in to "Secret Invasion," Bendis replied, "Absolutely," but could not go into details because the connection is "such a big spoiler." He also joked that Namor's secret is that he has green eyes but wears contacts, "which is really a bitch underwater."

Page from "New Avengers: Illuminati" #5 on sale now
Regarding the cover of "Might Avengers" #8: "The large Carnage may or may not be Janet Van Dynem," Bendis said, adding that the Dr. Doom arc would feature "an ending never seen in a Doctor Doom story before."

Asked if there would be any "in your face cop outs," Bendis noted that the series will be judged on its weakest reveal, and that Skrulls are smarter than that. "Here's a hint," Bendis said, "when Electra died, she hit the floor as a Skrull. Cap stayed Caplike." He also said that, from a writer's perspective, wiping away inconvenient plot points simply isn't interesting.

In closing, Bendis directed fans to the "Ask a Skrull" column on Marvel.com. Suter indicated that the first podcast with Brian Reed would be on the site in early December, with the Bendis interview following about a week after that.

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