A post from my Marvel blog of long ago, spotlighting Brian Bendis.
You know, I was thinking about yesterday’s post, and it made me realize how little I write on this blog about Brian Bendis. I think it’s just because he’s easy to overlook, somehow—easy for everybody to overlook, because he’s been around for so long now, writes three or four comics every month, and everybody’s already placed him somewhere on their own personal taste-meters. We take him for granted.
And I know that his work isn’t to everybody’s taste, not on everything he does. He’s been a divisive figure in certain circles—mostly the circles my books live in. (There was one point, after I’d complemented him on a stack of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN issues I’d just read that he quipped, “I’ve got it figured out—you only like me on books you don’t edit!”)
But I have to tell you, he’s a guy I have the utmost respect for. He works. He works at his craft. He’s not productive because he’s fast, or because he’s not trying, he’s productive because every day he sits down and writes.
He’s an innovator. The approaches he’s taken to writing different things over the years have actually changed the overall shape of the industry. “Decompressed storytelling” has become a cliche, but the core of what decompressed storytelling is about, the thing that made it work, Bendis handles that better than anybody else. He invented it. A whole movement based upon his personal writing style.
He’s got an indy soul. He’s never forgotten his roots as a writer and artist working at Caliber. You can see it in the guys he’s chosen to work with over the years—not always on his biggest, most popular books, but on titles like ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP. Bendis has wide-ranging tastes in comic book art, and uses his position as one of the pre-eminent writers in the field to work with guys who might otherwise never be drawing Spider-Man or the Avengers.
I think we all forget, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN should not have worked. it shouldn’t have worked. It was an idea doomed to failure, a thing that had been tried in the past a few times and a few ways with dismal results. And while the success of the series isn’t all down to him, the thing that really made it work, both short-term and long-term, was the quality of the creative team and the work they produced. All the promotion and advertising and hype in the world isn’t going to make you successful for any length of time without something to back it up. And Bendis brought some game.
He stays. He’s got an investment in every book he signs on to do, and his pattern is to put in nice, long chunks of time on them. Over 110 issues of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, something like 60 issues of DAREDEVIL, around 55 issues of AVENGERS in assorted forms, 40-some odd issues of POWERS. He’s not a quick-hit-and-run guy. He’s in it for the long haul.
He is the best interviewer about comics in comics. The series of creator interviews he did for Wizard Online a year or two back were tremendous. It’s a shame there’s really no money in it, and it’s not a great use of his time, because it’s fascinating what you learn about your favorite creators when they’re talking to Bendis.
He genuinely is touched and humbled by the fact that he gets to do this, that he’s successful at it, and that people love to read his words and his stories. He’s generous to his collaborators.
He’s not afraid to experiment with his storytelling. And even when a particular experiment doesn’t work out 100%, he doesn’t let that stop him from trying something new or different the next time out of the box.
Now, I know this seems like an enormous hand-job, and I don’t know that there’s any way around that, other than to say that this isn’t something I was coerced into writing, I didn’t lose a bet or something, and I’m not trying to get Brian to lend me ten bucks. But because Bendis and I have different tastes and different styles and different approaches, it’s been easy for the people who’ve wanted to, the apologists, to separate me from him in their minds on the books we work on together that might not always be to their liking. And I just feel some odd compulsion today to set that record straight.
Bendis and I don’t always see eye-to-eye. We’ll argue over and around story points, and he’ll get a bit defensive about his story if I’ve got too many comments for him, and so forth–the usual writer/editor stuff. But while I might be more simpatico with Millar in terms of taste and background, and while Slott may be a friend as well as a co-worker, Bendis is the real deal. He’s one of those rare guys who changed the way people make comics. Love him or hate him, he’s not a flash-in-the-pan.
Plus, I really love him as Vic Mackey in THE SHIELD.