Brian Michael Bendis, Eisner-award winning creator, needs no introduction.
Besides being the acclaimed writer of monthly hits Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, Daredevil, Alias, and Powers, there’s the Jinx line of crime graphic novels (Jinx, Goldfish, Torso, and Fire), the Hollywood satire Fortune & Glory, and an impressive run on TMP’s Sam & Twitch to consider. Citing Bendis as one of the best writers working today is a severe understatement, and despite an impressive workload, he continues to deliver the realistic dialogue, unexpected plotting, and intelligent storytelling that his reputation suggests.
And he also has this habit of working with the best artists in the business.
The busy scribe and new father recently took time from his schedule to answer a few questions about his work regimen, his strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and the name of the writer that intimidates him. Enjoy.
Brandon Thomas: As a writer, what have you found to be your greatest strength?? On the other hand, what’s your greatest weakness??
Brian Michael Bendis: It’s always hard to answer this because someone who reads my work will disagree, but I think my strength is knowing when to shut up. I’m always pretty proud of the quiet moments, or when I yank balloons off a script because I can see the art is saying everything that needs to be said.
Weakness is a tough one to answer. I think it has something to do with my not getting into certain genres like fantasy or sci-fi. I just don’t like writing it and I am probably limiting myself as a writer for not trying. But I have some issues coming out where I really try to expand my genre palette.
Thomas: Can you expand a little on the genre expansion you mentioned, or is it too early in the game to comment??
Bendis: Too early 🙂
Thomas: You seem to be especially adept at the art of the sub-plot, lacing character moments or foundations that may not actually “pay-off” for months in the future. What dictates the timing of the pay-off??
Bendis: Thanks. I try to be organic with that. Life doesn’t have a three act structure, so though we have a story to tell and pay off is good and fun, it’s not always the goal.
Thomas: It’s obvious that your scripts are tailored to the specific artist you’re working with. What’s something you’d request of a Mark Bagley, that you’d never ask from an Alex Maleev??
Bendis: For a back rub.
Really, Alex and Mark are so different that comparing them is almost silly. They are both the top talent at what they do and I don’t say that lightly. I hope I’m working with them for as long as they make comics. Same for Oeming, Hollingsworth, Mack and Gaydos.
Thomas: Who’s another artist you’re waiting to work with??
Bendis: I used my clout to cross a lot of those names off my list with Ultimate Team-Up, Bill S, Totleben etc., and I have a couple of people I am working with now on secret stuff that are going to be HUUUUGE! But I would love to work with Bolland, Chaykin, Perez, Mignola, Bilal, Manara, and I know for a fact that this will probably never happen as I have tried.
Thomas: Was there a moment in your life that suggested without question that you’d be a storyteller??
Bendis: Probably the first whopper bullshit story I told my mom.
Thomas: What was the best advice someone gave you when you were trying to get your first story published??
Bendis: An art teacher who sucked did give me good advice. He said if the piece is frustrating you, no matter what the deadline, put it away and come back to it later, don’t force the issue.
Thomas: Are you ever going to illustrate one of your own stories again??
Thomas: What’s the least amount of time it’s ever taken to write a script?? What’s the longest??
Bendis: I think I wrote Ultimate Spider-Man #13 in a day. It just flew out of me, same with Alias #1. It was just ready to burst. I think the longest is a year but that’s with putting it away in a drawer and coming back to it. I do that a lot.
Thomas: When’s the last time you’ve written something, left it and come back, only to say to yourself, “Man, this is fucked.”
Bendis: Oh, all the time. Ask Marvel. Sometimes I hand it in and grab it back. I do that a lot too.
Thomas: Where is your best thinking done??
Bendis: Bike riding in the afternoon or the shower. Bike riding is very important to the process.
Thomas: When you were originally slated to pen Ultimate X-Men, you withdrew yourself from the running, only to return years later for a six-issue run. Is there a regular Bendis-written team book on the horizon??
Bendis: There are definitely some big Marvel projects involving a lot of characters, something I am very excited to do and something I finally feel ready for. To apply my styles to even bigger comics is an interesting challenge.
Thomas: What scripts are you working on right now?? Do you try to focus on one specific project at a time or are you writing everything concurrently??
Bendis: I let it happen organically. I wake up and write what’s ready. I am very much in the Ultimate Universe this week, working on Spidey and a secret project. I write whatever comes to me and try to keep it as pure as possible.
Thomas: Are you ever worried about getting too far ahead on a book, and being slightly disconnected from the work by the time the pages come back??
Bendis: No, that’s the best. I can read it fresh and get a good feel if the scenes are still working.
Thomas: Do you have a favorite issue that you’ve written?? What about an issue that didn’t quite turn out the way you expected it to??
Bendis: I have both, but I try not to say. It’s not my job to effect people’s feelings about something. Someone might love a book that I don’t and vice versa. You gotta let the work speak for itself.
I do know that a lot of the work I have been able to co-produce is stuff I am insanely happy to see in print.
Thomas: Who’s a writer that you follow who just blows you away every time?? Is there anyone out there that intimidates Bendis??
Bendis: Intimidate? Alan Moore is the be all and end all.
Impress and delight me? Rucka, Mack, Ellis, Jones’ Hulk, and I love what Johns is about. There are so many people firing on all cylinders.
I love a writer who does something I would not have thought of or writes smart. I love these guys because they know how to write and they know how to have fun with it. I love sharing the Ultimate Universe with Millar.
I hate writers who are desperate for attention or blatantly working up Hollywood pitches in their books. A lot of guys writing with bile in their throat and don’t even know it doesn’t make for a good read. It’s great to write angry, just be in touch with it.
Thomas: How has becoming a father changed the writing of Brian Michael Bendis??
Bendis: It’s hard to say. I am sure it has. It certainly hasn’t softened me, it’s obvious my daughter’s going to have to wait twenty years before she can read any of my stuff, so I might as well continue on my way.
Thomas: And with that Bendis “continued on his way” to the many projects (both confirmed and secret) on his full plate. Thanks once again to the writer for stopping by, and I’ll see you all in seven.