Bend It Like Bendis! - Part I

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Brian Michael Bendis had agreed to an interview with Broken Frontier. And who better to do it than me, J.P., BF’s biggest Bendis aficionado? So, Frederik and I compiled a list of questions to ask the guy and I gave him a call. This was the most fun interview I’ve ever done.


BROKEN FRONTIER: Hi. Is this Bendis?

BMB: Yes it is.

BF: Bendis, Hi, this is J.P. with Broken Frontier.

BMB: How are you J.P. with Broken Frontier? Very professional sounding.

BF: I try my best. If you could see the half-assed way I have to set up to record this conversation you’d see there’s nothing professional about it.

BMB: [Laughing] Well, I appreciate the attempt.

BF: Well, I appreciate you agreeing to do this interview.

BMB: No problem man. I just saw the trailer for War of the Worlds. Oh my god. It was just on E. Oh my god.

BF: The last one I saw didn’t reveal too much.

BMB: No, this one is the real trailer.

BF: I’m very very excited about that movie.

BMB: Yeah, very cool.

BF: So speaking of movies, what did you think of Sin City?

BMB: I liked it very much. I posted it on my board. I got to see it a couple weeks early. So I like, it’s just very interesting that there’s this movie that’s like an exact duplicate of the comic book. Because we all discussed like, what it would be to do that, can you take the exact language of comics and make a movie out of it. And someone’s done it, so it’s interesting to analyze it. I think long term that Robert Rodriguez is going to be remembered very fondly for being a real digital film making revolutionary. He’s just sitting there and doing it. And doing it differently every time.

BF: Oh yeah. And doing it so much better than they did in Sky Captain.

BMB: Yeah I really didn’t like Sky Captain. It was blurry shit.

BF: Do you think it will inspire other comic book movies as far as how accurate it was?

BMB: I don’t know. It’s hard to say, but you know it’s a legitimately interesting movie that made money and that’s always a good thing. It’s good for independent comic films when they make money because more of them can get made. I wonder if Frank Miller’s going to make another movie, like is he going to direct another movie. That’d be pretty amazing.

BF: Well what I read in Entertainment Weekly is that when they interviewed him and Rodriguez, Rodriguez made it sound as if he wanted to do all the Sin City stories.

BMB: Yeah, I hope he does. He does like his sequels so... I think I was surprised at how good the actors were too. I mean, Michael Madsen was abysmal but Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke were really outstanding.

BF: Oh yeah, Mickey Rourke oh my god. You can’t even recognize him.

BMB: Yeah, he was really amazing. Howard Stern said he should wear that make-up everywhere. [Laughs]

BF: So speaking of movies once again, what’s the status with the Jinx movie? Is there anything?

BMB: I’m writing it this summer. Some people think it’s already written, but that’s not the case.  It’s weird -- you see these announcements and, like, nothing was scheduled to even start until this summer. I wrote the Alias pilot for tv already and no one even knew that deal existed. At this point, I haven’t even started Jinx and people think it’s already filmed or something. That’s how it goes, so that’s why that place is not my day job! It’s crazy out there. Everyone thinks it’s this golden palace of dreams and money but it’s not.

BF: Anyone that’s read Fortune and Glory knows that.

BMB: And the reason there hasn’t been an immediate sequel to Fortune and Glory is that it’s just a lot of the same crap so far. There’d be a point where you’d read it and go, “Bendis is an idiot for still showing up at these meetings!” The reader will turn on me at some point, so I’m waiting for more unique experiences.

BF: What about Powers? Once again, something that seems like it may’ve been let out of the bag way too early?

BMB: It really just got re-upped. It’s the most re-upping we’ve ever got. They bought it again. They just re-bought it again like last week. And there’s a new writer attached that’s actually a name writer, I’ll wait for them to announce it. But it’s a very good writer, plus Frank Oz is still involved; in fact, he just e-mailed me today. I’m fingers crossed.

BF: Very cool.

BMB: We’ll see. Yeah, I have so little to do with it that you know, it’s just nice to be kept in the loop. As I said, my fingers are crossed.

BF: So with Jinx and books like that you obviously start out pretty small with Image and Caliber. But then you made it to Marvel. So you know what it’s like to be a small guy and then make it huge. What advice would you offer to anyone trying to make it into comics?

BMB: Well, it’s all relative. My advice is the advice I say to myself everyday including for my mainstream work: Make something you’d want to read. If you have a story you’re dying to tell, something you have to get off your chest or something you say ‘I’d like to see this story’… just do that. Don’t worry about anything else. Don’t worry about the market. Don’t worry about people say they say they want or think they want or what you think they want. You will never ever win. That goes all the way to decisions I make in my mainstream books.

Where some of if people go, “Don’t do that!” and I go, “Well I want to see it! I really think I have something to say.’’ You just got to do a book you will want to buy. And you know it’s funny, I see it in independent books too. I see a lot of guys putting out a book that I think they think would sell as a movie. It isn’t a story they’re dying to tell. Or if they are, they’re not convincing me…

You know, like a reader I’m sitting there looking at it and all I see is “It’s Minority Report meets Willy Wonka,” or some other Hollywood pitch. Stop using my medium to sell movies! It’s one thing if you make a comic and [movie execs] buy it, but don’t purposely chase them -- it cheapens the whole thing.

Sometimes when I say that, people think it’s really hypocritical because I’ve actually sold stuff to Hollywood, but I think you can see the difference: someone actively pursuing Hollywood through comics and being lucky enough to have someone buy it is a totally different thing.

BF: I can understand that. Now, one other thing I want to ask you about--though I don’t know how much you’ll be able to talk about it--is the new Spider-Man video game.

BMB: Huh? What?

BF: Oh, is that all that I’m going to get out of it?

BMB: Yeah. It’s so stupid. It’s the worst kept secret ever but they’re announcing at E3 which is just a little bit away. I cannot confirm or deny its existence but I will tell you that it is fucking awesome!

BF: [laughing]

BMB: That’s all I’ll say. And it’s just amazing.

BF: You probably can’t tell me if you’ve played it, but since you said that it’s awesome, that must mean…

BMB: Yeah. Well if I am working on a video game, I mean, if that’s true, I may or may not have a beta test X-Box in my house where I can play unfinished games.

BF: Okay.

BMB: That is awesome too.

BF: So now, obviously you said you can’t confirm or deny the Spider-Man game, but is there anything else you might be working on video game wise?

BMB: Hmm? What? We have to move on.

BF: Okay, okay.

BMB: No, I can’t, I can be coy all day. I just can’t, I really can’t. Not until May 12th. Then you as a member of the Bendis Board will be annoyed by it. As much as you want to know now, by April 20 to May 20th, you’re going to be like, “Alright already! I’m sick of hearing about it!

BF: Okay. I can’t wait. So, you’re penciling a story coming up in Powers #12. What was it like for you to get back into drawing?

BMB: Well, I’m not going to be inking the artwork because I hurt my eye and I tried to do it but it just wasn’t turning out like I hoped. Mike Oeming is going to ink the interiors for me, but even drawing the cover -- which I did ink -- was something that I immensely enjoyed. I just love to draw. It’s labor intensive for me and it takes a while for me to do a drawing, but I never stopped liking it.

It’s weird in a sense, because I fully planned on being a comic penciller and I spent a whole lot of time working towards that goal. In retrospect, being where things have ended up it’s really surreal that I’m a writer. I mean, most people think that I’m a writer, while I spent years and years training to be an artist. As I said, I enjoy drawing immensely. It was a very happy evening, doing that cover.

BF: Can we expect to see more out of you then?

BMB: Oh absolutely! That was always the plan. I would draw more even today, but look who I get to work with -- life is just full of opportunities. Stuff just comes your way and I don’t know how much longer they’ll let me play at this level. I get the pick of the litter.

Michael Lark and Alex Maleev, Oeming, Finch, Copiel, Bagley, Gaydos, all of these guys are incredible. Everyone is at the top of their field and it’s hard for me to say, “Oh, I’m going to go draw.” No, I’m going to do this for now, knowing that I can draw whenever I want.

It was nice that I could still do it though. It made me happy, I’ll tell you that.

BF: You mean like, you didn’t lose it.

BMB: Yeah, it wasn’t too hard to get back in. It’s like working out, you know what I mean? You can lose your muscles...

BF: Well, unfortunately I don’t know too much about that working out bit.

BMB: Well, then you’ve heard people on TV say it right?

BF: Well, yeah, you know I’ve heard people that are muscular say it.

BMB: [laughing]

Continued tomorrow...

- JP Dorigo

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