A post from my Marvel blog of long ago, spotlighting Brian Bendis.
April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General
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.
2 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – Bendis”
I disliked “Avengers Disassembled”, but the end of that period of the team before Bendis (I associate with Geoff Johns, and as some of John’s weakest work), had to come sooner than later. It was way off the mark Kurt (& George & others) had restored it to 6 or so years earlier. But once the new regular series by BMB began, it kept me reading, every month. Finch, McNiven, Coipel (yes!), it kept getting better, but Bendis’ writing was still the real draw. There were some rough patches. One of the super baddies during the opening arc’s prison break calling Spidey “Spider-Ass” was pretty silly. (He said “ass”.) “Recommended For Immature Readers”. 😉 I guess “Spider-B*tch” would have been too far, and I guess “Spider-Punk” (my suggestion) wouldn’t have been cool enough (or younger readers in 2004 might think it odd if they only equate “punk” with 3rd generation bands like Green Day Blink 182 and don’t see Spidey that way)
“Civil War” threw a wrench in it for me. And the annuals (Wonder Man’s Revengers, or whatever) mucked up the timelines, having all these simultaneous crises happen within an issue or 2 of each other. Tom, or someone, explained at the time, that these were myths, not in any sequential order. Which is why we should be cool with Wolverine appearing in 6 books at once. The issue of “Wolverine” where he’s on a different mission, either solo or with a different one of his 4 teams, was a nice, humorous nod to that.
But for that first year or 2, and then again right after Steve Rogers came back, Avengers was hot. I didn’t like Bucky America. Or the Protector (lazy name). Or Wonder Man as an enemy. But I loved the “behind the music” style text pages of interviews. That was a highlight. To get the characters’ thought on events after the fact. To read their takes on each other. It gave a new dimension to the older stories without hurting them. And JR, Jr did probably my last favorite work from him, on issues that saw Thor vs. Apocalypse. Hawkeye summed it up. “THAT’S what it’s like to have Thor in the Avengers.” And that sequence where an armor-less Tony falls out a window, and Spidey jumps out after him. I swear I felt those figures inside the panels showing Peter trying to reach him in time, were moving. That’s when comics achieves one of it’s rare, but unique to all other entertainment, moments of pure magic.
Maybe my favorite Bendis moment was in one of the Illuminati (lazy name, easily could’ve been more interesting & revealing if used by self-righteous villains, rather than “the Cabal”- another lazy name) stand alone one-shot specials. Drawn by Alex Maleev (fitting, considering their long history together). Brian was filling in gaps in between some of the big events we remember, having this loose association discussing the aftermath of each, or foreshadowing the next. The scene on Hydrobase. Namor refusing to go along with shooting the Hulk in space (published well after “Planet Hulk” was in full swing, like a flashback/prolog). Reed and Strange trying to reason with him. Stark’s just had enough. “We’re ALL warriors, Namor. We’re ALL willing to fight for our beliefs.” “No. YOU are a warrior. I am a KING.” “NOT up HERE, you’re not”. *BANG!* There goes Iron Man flying through the air. In the mighty Marvel manner.
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Even “Spider-jerk”, or “Spider-dork” would work. OK, letting go, now… 😆