A little less than a year ago, I sat down with, at the time, one of Marvel’s newest writers, Mike Benson. As a huge Moon Knight enthusiast, I was particularly excited when I was given the opportunity to interview not only the writer handling one of my favorite characters, but a fellow Moon Knight enthusiast. He had just taken over the reins of Moon Knight and was looking forward to a bright future in comics. Mike has written for TV shows such as Entourage and The Bernie Mac Show but made his mark early in comics focusing his energies on the edgier characters such as Moon Knight and the Punisher. Two arcs into his critically acclaimed run on Moon Knight, he’s recently tackled Wolverine and will soon take a shot at Deadpool. Mike Benson has seamlessly made his transition to comics and has found a solid spot for himself at Marvel.
A man who truly loves his craft, Mike has been kind enough to sit down with me once again to talk about the current status quo of Moon Knight, his Wizard nominated Wolverine one-shot, his upcoming work with Deadpool and a new HBO series currently in development.
A review of Benson’s latest issue of Moon Knight can be found here.
Kevin Powers: Thanks once again for taking the time to speak with me. As one can tell from my reviews of the title, I feel that you’ve been doing a superb job on Moon Knight. Like you, I’m a huge Moon Knight fan as you and our readers know, and I find that you really do the character justice. Have you enjoyed writing it as much as I have enjoyed reading it?
Mike Benson: This has been a dream gig — truly. The whole experience has been extremely liberating as a writer. To not have any monetary restrictions like in TV, and to be able to write action sequences, it’s been a total blast. Moon Knight is hands down one of the most fun projects I’ve been involved with.
KP: What was the motivation behind sending Moon Knight to Mexico?
MB: Mexico seemed like a cool place for Moon Knight to go while he was on the lam. Mexico, also conjures up certain images that played into where we wanted to take the character; a place where Moon Knight could encounter new dangers, problems, heroes and villains off the grid. Not to mention it’s the polar opposite to New York City. I felt it was a fresh environment for Jake Lockley to reboot and get his equilibrium.
MB: Well, Axel Alonso and I really collaborated a lot and came up with some new characters, hopefully to add to Moon Knight’s rouge gallery. We created a new Mexican hero. Kind of like a Mexican Punisher, only with a bit of a supernatural bend to him. And also some super villains that are as dangerous as they are hilarious. We’re very excited for this new arc to begin.
KP: Very cool. It seems you are entering some untapped territory for the Marvel Universe.
So how does it work? Has Marc Spector been abandoned for the time being and replaced by Jake Lockley? It’s an ingenious cover system for our hero, but could you clarify the logistics?
MB: Actually, Marc Spector is dead. As you know, that was Moon Knight’s true identity; so killing off this part of him and assuming another identity will most certainly have a psychological effect on his character — whether it be positive or negative.
KP: With Moon Knight now operating south of the border, what is going to become of the supporting cast. You’ve done a phenomenal job making this book as much about Frenchie, Marlene, Crawley and Ray as you have Moon Knight, so how will they play into the coming story-arcs? Will they still be a major part of the story?
MB: Thank you. But for this arc, the gang is going to take a brief hiatus. But as I mentioned, there are going to be a new cast of characters that Jake will be forced to interact with. And don’t worry, Frenchie, Marlene and Ray will be back. You can count on it.
MB: Well, it’s sure set up that way, isn’t it? But I guess you’ll have to wait and see. Sorry.
KP: Just the answer I was looking for! To what extent, if any, will Moon Knight play a role in “Dark Reign”? He told off Cap during “Civil War” and gave Tony Stark a run for his money during “The Initiative,” but remained quiet during “Secret Invasion.” Will he be playing a larger role in the Universe from here on out?
MB: Let me say this. The plan for Moon Knight has always been for him to play a more significant role in the Marvel Universe. In a perfect world, he’ll weave in and out of the larger playing field, still being able to be a fringe character and have contained storylines.
KP: Khonshu told Spector that he had “other clients.” Does this foreshadow the injection of new villains? Heroes? Perhaps just pure chaos?
MB: This was a very intentional statement. Take what you want of it for now, but I can assure you it was not a throw away line.
KP: We could go on for hours about Moon Knight, but moving away from the Fist of Khonshu, let’s talk about some of your other upcoming work.
First off, congratulations are in order. You were recently nominated for “Best One-Shot of 2008” by Wizard for Wolverine: Chop Shop, the only Marvel title on that list.
MB: Thanks a lot! I was totally stoked when Daniel Ketchum, my editor on the book, told me I was nominated. Daniel did a wonderful job editing the title too. So big props to him. It was one of those scripts that just spilt out of me. It just felt right while I was writing it and I rarely say that. Marvel had so many killer one-shots this year, I know because I bought them all. I just lucked out I guess. Either way, I’m really honored to be nominated by Wizard. A magazine I actually read.
KP: The topic of the book [Wolverine: Chop Shop] is often the butt of jokes and dark humor, but it’s a very real and very scary thing. Where did the concept for the story come from? Did you wake up in a bath tub full of ice missing a kidney after a party?
MB: No. As you said, it’s one of those things that have been in the zeitgeist and I believe I was tossing around ideas with Axel and it was a notion he had and I just ran with it. Because it’s one of those well-known, urban myths, I did my best not to make it cheesy and to be honest; it only worked because of Wolverine’s ability to regenerate organs. Otherwise, I would’ve stayed far away from
the story area. It just made sense for him.
KP: Coming in March you’ve got a One-Shot Annual featuring a huge fan-favorite, the merc-with-a-mouth, Deadpool; and in a few months, a Deadpool mini-series. Knowing the following that Deadpool has and the overbearing excitement that surrounds his even being featured in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film, do you feel more pressure writing this issue?
MB: No, I don’t feel more pressure because I throw myself into every book I write. Deadpool is a balancing act between action and comedy, but in many ways it’s easier because of my background, which has been writing comedy for TV shows. Either way it’s been a lot of fun.
KP: During your year at Marvel, you’ve written some darker and edgier books; whether it’s Moon Knight, Wolverine, or the Punisher. Will the Deadpool Annual see a lighter and more humorous side of Mike Benson?
MB: To some degree, however, I don’t want to rely on comic set pieces. Deadpool is a true badass in his own right. I don’t want the book to become comic relief for the more “serious” titles. A good story is a good story and that’s what I want to focus on. My goal is to have it be true to the character and have moments of levity mixed with good hardcore action and snappy dialogue.
KP: As a writer and storyteller, the best advice I ever received was “a good story is a good story,” no matter the medium. Another Marvel personality, Craig Kyle told me that a few years ago.
MB: Well, I can’t disagree with Craig on that point. What I always tell people who want to be writers, whether it’s in TV, or comics or whatever, is if you want to be a writer — you need to write. A lot! Not study other writers, or take expensive writing courses or talk about writing, but sitting in that chair and actually doing the work. Don’t get me wrong, taking the classes and the other stuff is fine, but what will really improve your craft is doing it a lot. Everything else is icing.
KP: A couple of months ago Variety reported that you and your writing partner, Marc Abrams, were developing an HBO show about Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis (who also appeared on a billboard in Moon Knight #25), any updates on that front or anything you’d like to share with our readers?
MB: Yes, Marc and I will be producing the pilot and hopefully the series through our company; Catapult 360. The show will be about Anthony, when he was a boy growing up in LA during the ’70s, with his dad, who was a notorious drug dealer to people such as Keith Moon and bands like Led Zeppelin. It’s kind of like The Wonder Years told through a Martin Scorsese lens. I’m really excited about it. And as far Moon Knight #25…nice eye by the way! Tex was cool enough to give me that page and I’m giving it to Anthony as a gift.
As far as what’s happening with the project; I can’t say whom just yet, but one of my all time favorite writer/directors is in negotiations to pen the script. People are going to flip when the deal hopefully closes. Fingers crossed.
KP: I am very excited about your upcoming projects and love the work you have done thus far. From the sounds of things, you are etching yourself a nice place in the comics community. You will be attending the New York Comic Con this year, correct?
MB: Thanks for the kind words. I’m really having the time of my life. And yes I will be attending this year. My first time at the New York Con. Can’t wait. See ya there!
KP: Awesome…thank you again for taking the time to chat with me, keep up the great work!