With Great Powers Comes Great Responsibility: Bendis talks "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Powers"

Wed, November 23rd, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

"Ultimate Spider-Man" #87 "Ultimate Spider-Man" #87, Page 1
Brian Michael Bendis has gotten a lot of attention for making waves in the mainstream Marvel Universe as the writer of titles such as "House of M" and "New Avengers." However, two of his longest running Marvel titles, "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Powers," aren't even set in mainstream Marvel U. CBR News rang up Bendis for a chat about both titles.

As readers of "Ultimate Spider-Man" have seen, the recent life of teenage Peter Parker has been full of angst, sadness and gloom. "It's been a very dark period for Peter with a lot of growing up lessons and a lot of tragedy around him," Bendis told CBR News. "It's a very real world book. Sometimes that can get a little gruesome, but hey, that's the rigors of being a teenager. You open your eyes look around and go, 'Oh this sucks!'"

However, Peter's life is looking up partly due to the new girl in his life. In the pages of "Ultimate Spider-Man" Annual #1 readers saw the birth of a new romance between Peter and Kitty Pryde of the "Ultimate X-Men." "A new girl tends to brighten up the day," Bendis said. "He is rather into her and she's very into him. Probably in the beginning more so.

"She's been portrayed by all the writers of 'Ultimate X-Men' as a little high strung," Bendis continued. "So we'll see how that affects a long distance relationship. I've had them and other friends of mine have had them. They're hard. You've got to work at them. So we'll be dealing with that."

Another potential hazard for Peter and Kitty's relationship is the lingering feelings he has for Mary Jane Watson. "They are first loves and he didn't break up with her because he didn't love her," Bendis stated. "So that will be there. There will be Kitty/MJ interaction and it's not good news for MJ. She got the short end of the stick. That will be dealt with in time. A lot of it's going to come to a head around issue #100. Kitty and MJ will have to team up to help Peter in a time of need."

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Bendis said he's talked with new "Ultimate X-Men" scribe Robert Kirkman about featuring Peter and Kitty's romance in that title as well. "Robert knows what's going on. I have a little head start on him as far as their relationship goes, just because I started cooking it before he got the job," Bendis explained. "I asked him to give me a couple of issues to formulate it stronger in 'Ultimate Spider-Man.' Then we'll see what he wants to do if anything."

Another bright spot in Spider-Man's life is in the recently completed "Warriors" story arc, where Peter came through a large scale mob war relatively unscathed and put a lot of bad guys away. "'Warriors' was so much fun to write," Bendis stated. "It was inspired by some true life stuff in the '30s that happened around New York. I love writing this stuff. We'll get back to it again, but if we did it all the time people would just get sick of it."

"Warriors" featured appearances by a number of Ultimate versions of Marvel's New York based urban vigilantes. Some readers might have noticed the absences of Ultimate Daredevil and the Ultimate version of the Punisher. "Punisher shows up with the guns and it ends the fight rather quickly," Bendis explained. "It was just another kind of story that we wanted to tell. We kind of kept it out of Hell's Kitchen. I think next time we go through a crime wave, Daredevil will be front and center."

The latest issue of 'Ultimate Spider-Man" begins the "Silver Sable" arc which finds the wall-crawler accidentally entangled in a web of corporate intrigue. The arc is a result of a number of events in past issues that might have seemed like throwaway fight scenes. "This has been building up," Bendis said. "Any time you see the Roxxon logo on anything, it's been part of this. Spider-Man has inadvertently been helping the Roxxon Corporation just by stopping acts of terrorism against it. These super villains keep attacking Roxxon and he just intervenes because he's swinging by. But Roxxon thinks Spider-Man knows something or is involved in his life somehow and he doesn't know who he is. So, he hires Silver Sable to find Spider-Man."

The "Silver Sable" arc does not mark the female mercenary's Ultimate Universe debut. She first appeared in the "Ultimate Spider-Man" video game, for which Bendis penned the story. Bendis structured the game's story so it fits in with the continuity of "The Ultimate Spider-Man" comic book. "I believe it's set right between #36 and #46. It starts right off at #39 and then it skips a couple of months."

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Bendis plans on referencing some of the events that occurred in the video game further down the line, but Ultimate Spidey readers don't have to shell out the cash for the game and spend hours completing it to understand and appreciate the current story arc. "The only common place between this arc and the video game is the appearance of Silver Sable," Bendis said. "The whole point of the Ultimate line is that you can pick anything up and not feel left out, but if you do pick up everything, you get this giant tapestry. That's always the case."

One of the major events of the "Ultimate Spider-Man" video game was the return of Spidey's perpetually life energy hungry arch nemesis, Eddie Brock AKA Venom. The game ends with Venom at large and stalking the concrete canyons of New York City for prey. "He's got to eat. He's looking for homeless people and an 'Ultimate Spider-Man' video game sequel," Bendis joked. "He's not happy. He's half-man half-monster."

Eddie Brock might hate what he's become, but by the end of the video game he's coming to terms with his monstrous symbiotic other half. Bendis promised when Venom next appears in the "Ultimate Spider-Man" comic, his power and rage will be guided by a purpose.

The other major event of the video game was Peter learned some of the facts behind the plane crash that robbed him and Eddie of their parents. "We will be seeing more of this," Bendis stated. "A lot of it will be dealt with in issue #100 as well.'

One of the smaller events in the game will have repercussions for the entire Ultimate Universe, not just Spider-Man's corner in it. In the game, the government of Latveria enters the superhuman arms race by recruiting the Beetle (who also makes his Ultimate U debut) to procure super powered operatives. Bendis said that this will be followed up in the various Ultimate titles.

"Ultimate Spider-Man" #87, Page 6
Readers waiting for a four color adaptation of the "Ultimate Spider-Man' video game might be better off swinging down to the local place where they can rent or purchase video games. "There's been some talk, but I think we might leave it as is just to be cool about it and not be slimy and capitalizing," Bendis explained. "I think it's kind of cool to leave it as is and have a story just for the game because that is what we promised."

Once the current "Silver Sable" arc finishes, Peter Parker will find he has some competition as the Ultimate Universe's resident wise-acre. "After Silver Sable we'll be going right into Deadpool and the Reavers which guest stars the Ultimate X-Men," Bendis explained. "Because Kitty is in Peter's life, there are more new kinds of adventures like a Deadpool related arc."

Like his mainstream Marvel Universe counterpart, The Ultimate Merc-with a-Mouth will be armed with a sense of humor that Bendis characterized as being kind of like a manic Vince Vaughn and a little less like Jim Carrey. "He's different than the one you see in the mainstream Marvel Universe," Bendis said. "He has a similar look because it's a great costume, but the voice is different and I would say smarter."

Like "Ultimate Spider-Man," "Powers" is another one of Bendis's long running titles, but that's really where the similarities end. "Powers" has no connection to the Marvel Universe, being a creator owned title by Bendis and artist Mike Oeming. Also, unlike "Ultimate Spider-Man," it's a mature title that takes a gritty look at the work of a Homicide Detective in a world of super heroes. And the super heroes of that world often have to deal with enemies far more fearsome than any supervillain, such as paparazzi and lurid tabloid journalists. "We handle superheroes as if they were rock stars," Bendis said, "Some are one hit wonders and some are legends. Some are notorious and some are beloved. We deal with the media drenched culture, especially the way we treat our celebrities."

"Powers" #15 "Powers" #15, Page 1
Investigating the deaths of the fallen superheroes/celebrities are the stars of "Powers," Detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim. Walker is a former superhero who lost his powers and filled the void by becoming a great Homicide detective. His partner, Deena, is coping with the horrific ordeal she suffered in a recent arc. "She was kidnapped by a super villain, tortured and ended up contracting superpowers," Bendis stated. "She ended up murdering the villain and inadvertently murdering a boyfriend who attacked her and she hid the evidence."

Walker and Pilgrim's investigations often have them probing the lives and deaths of their world's premier costumed champions. "We follow them through different homicides and looks at the world of superheroes based on the deaths of superhero icons, which you clearly can't do at Marvel or DC" Bendis explained. "We get to kill an icon on the level of Captain America and analyze what that life meant from that aspect. You really can't get that kind of story in any other comic book."

The detective's latest case might have dire implications not just for Earth, but the entire galaxy. "In issue #13 someone comes out and a superhero lands on his head and rips him apart," Bendis said. "Walker and Deena are investigating the crime scene and discover that the person who was murdered was actually a superhero that no one has ever heard of. We discover that he's the galactic guardian for our sector. He literally deals with stuff that is so out there that civilians don't even know who he is. So, Walker and Deena's involvement in this case takes a surprising turn."

"Powers" #13 began the arc and the current issue #14 features scenes with speakers delivering monologues on life and society. "There will be a connection between the framework of this arc," Bendis explained. "I have a series of people doing monologues that we kind of wrap around the story. They will connect at the end of the arc towards the beginning of that issue."

Walker and Pilgrim's investigations often turn up truths that have dire consequences for them. With that in mind, you can be certain another bombshell revelation is coming. "We go pretty far in changing the status quo every ten issues and we're about to do it again in issue #17, where something shocking happens to Walker that really changes the book dramatically."

"Powers" #15, Page 2 "Powers" #15, Page 3
Bendis also hinted at another plot thread that will be addressed in upcoming issues of "Powers." "There's something interesting that we're dealing with just now, even though the books a couple of years old," Bendis stated. "Why are the superheroes dieing now? There hasn't been a superhero death for years and then Retro Girl died and all of a sudden a hero dies every three weeks. What kind of society have we built where they can't even last?"

Bendis and Oeming are planning on "Powers" lasting a long time, but when the time is right they have plans to give the series what all good things have. "I'm feeling pretty good that it's a unique book and not just repeating itself over and over again," Bendis explained. "Once we feel like, 'All right we're done.' We'll wrap it up."

Readers looking to catch up the past cases of Detectives Walker and Pilgrim have plenty of options. "Issue #13 is a good jumping on point," Bendis said. "I also love when people buy the trades. If you can, find 'Who Killed Retro Girl?' or if you want to start with the Marvel issues, 'Legends' just came out in trade paperback. We put a lot of goodies into them. They are like your double disc DVDs."

With the trade collections being the equivalent of individual DVDs, Bendis and Oeming are excited to release a collection that's like a boxed set and just in time for the Holidays. "We have a hardback coming out for Christmas that's our whole first year in a giant size hardback," Bends stated. "It includes the best of letter columns from the first year. It's really coming out beautiful. It took us months more to get it together than we thought it would. So, I'm excited for it to come out."

"Powers" #15, Pages 4 & 5
Soon, hardcover collections, trade paperbacks and comics might not be the only places to follow the adventures of Walker and Pilgrim. A feature film version of "Powers" has been in development for awhile with Frank Oz attached to direct. "A draft came in from a writer named David Rabe," Bendis said. "He's a very good writer. He wrote 'Hurlyburly' and 'The Firm.' He's a very interesting writer and we'll see what the studio does with his draft."

While he may get more exposure for higher profile titles like "New Avengers" or "House of M," Bendis is delighted by the faithful following that both "Powers" and "Ultimate Spider-Man" enjoy. "It's been a very gratifying time for both books," he said. "We're a few years into both books and to see people feel like it was worth their time and effort, it really makes me happy. We try to build it where if you stick with it, you get a lot more from it. People seem to really have been getting that lately. It really is more than I could have ever hoped for as a response goes."

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