The Siege You Saw Coming: Bendis Talks! Part 3

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Did you know Warren Ellis was Brian Bendis' favorite comics writer? And that it was Ellis' run on Thunderbolts inspired Dark Reign? Read all about it in the second-to-last leg of our interview with Bendis!

Previous installments:
The Siege You Saw Coming: Bendis Talks! Part 1

The Siege You Saw Coming: Bendis Talks! Part 2

BF: Going back to Dark Reign, in terms of its origins, was it inspired by you really liking what Warren Ellis was doing with Thunderbolts? ‘Cause it seemed to evolve directly out of his Thunderbolts run.

It did, it absolutely did. It was like a lot of our comics where someone has an idea, that sparks another idea, and that sparks another idea. That’s even how Civil War was created, a bunch of us in a room sparking ideas off each other, and then just sort of escalating until it was literally Civil War. And that’s great stuff.

Warren’s my favorite comic writer, I’ve said this numerous times, and I was enjoying that immensely from the get-go, because I thought it was the perfect opportunity for him to really be writing the way he writes and yet still be writing for Marvel, which is hilarious. I think Norman Osborn may be the character he most identifies with in the Marvel Universe.

BF: You could see this in the comic; he loved those Ditko/Romita panels where Norman’s eyes were bulging out, and he’s sweating profusely, that kind of manic personality where you can connect the guy who’s the daily businessman and in charge of a corporation with the guy who puts on a green mask and flies around…

Yeah, and in my head, that’s the face Warren makes when he’s writing. So that’s why I liked it. So, when Warren was done with his run, and I was building up, and I’m thinking “Who would get the shot that would start this?” And it was clearly Norman. Norman has a team, Norman’s going out in the field, it’s all set up beautifully.

That’s when you feel it’s like really magical; you don’t have to shoehorn this in even slightly, it completely works. And he was far enough along, he’d been building up enough cachet in the Thunderbolts to get to this place. So it was an easy push.

Now, the fact that I then get Deodato to start Dark Avengers, which was a surprise, it even accentuates it more. But I do think that Warren saw how much of a Valentine it was to him, but at the same time, never ripping off one idea that he had. Because that’s also the fine line—you don’t want to be doing a cover band. Like, we all have this problem when you’re a writer on Daredevil, your instinct is to just do a Frank Miller cover band.

But that’s not a Valentine to Frank Miller, that’s an abomination to Frank Miller. That’s horrible. The reason we liked Frank Miller is because he was doing something new. You should do something new; that’s your Valentine to Frank Miller.

BF: I remember Warren saying that exact same thing about Jack Kirby, where there’s so many artists that homage Kirby, and some of them do it very well. But he said if you really want to pay tribute to Kirby, the whole thing that Kirby brought to the medium was that he did something radical and new.

And also, Kirby flat out said he hated that. He was not a fan of people ripping him off, or homaging him. He hated it. So it’s not an homage at all if the guy flat out said, “Don’t do that. I hate it.” But anyway, that’s another topic. But yeah, when you’re going into something like this, you want to take the ideas further, not just regurgitate them out because you thought they were cool.

BF: Speaking of what Warren was doing with Osborn, you personally wrote one of my favorite Osborn scenes. One of the biggest problems I’ve had, ever since Norman first came back from the dead back in the ‘90s, was that there wasn’t any moral culpability for him anymore. When he originally died, in a dramatic sense, he got his just desserts. But then bringing him back, and having him come back into Spider-Man’s life, and making Spider-Man’s life miserable all over again, it makes Spider-Man look impotent, basically. It makes it look like this guy can come into his life, do whatever he wants, hurt whoever he wants in Spider-Man’s life, and Spider-Man is helpless to put him away.

But then you wrote one of my favorite scenes in The Pulse #5, when Luke Cage goes after Osborn who has just attacked his pregnant wife; Osborn is already in custody, and he’s lawyered up, and you can already see that he’s going to maneuver his way out of the charges. But Luke just says, “I can’t let this go.” And he goes down to the courthouse, tears into Osborn’s limo, telling him “You do NOT mess with my family.” Then Spider-Man shows up on the scene and tries to calm Luke, saying “What are you doing?” and Luke replies, “I’m doing what any self-respecting man on the planet Earth would do!” And as much as I wish that could have been Spider-Man, given everything Osborn’s done to him, it was a great scene.

And I guess that’s my one hope for Dark Reign; not necessarily that Osborn dies again, but that there’s some finality to it, because this guy has just gotten away with so much, specifically with Spider-Man, as far as the people he’s killed and hurt and terrorized. He needs to pay for it.

No, I understand what you’re saying. That’s a big theme for me too, because it’s one of the clichés of the genre that you’re faced with on a daily basis. And I want to write right into it. Like Aaron Sorkin said, if you’ve got a problem like that, write into it; don’t write around it, don’t write away from it, dive into it, slap it in its face and see what you can do. And since then, that’s come up a couple of times, in New Avengers as well. That’s why Clint Barton kind of went off the deep end a little bit, because you’re like “No! We have to stop this!”

BF: When you were writing those scenes where Clint and Mockingbird were debating Clint’s decision to take out Osborn, were you thinking about the fact that their divorce came about over Mockingbird’s decision to kill a villain?

Yes, that was a big part of that. I was discussing that with Jim McCann who was writing New Avengers: Reunion with Hawkeye and Mockingbird. We were discussing the relationship at great length; like, what the relationship would be now, what they could get over, what they could get past; would they even still be in love with each other?

BF: So was there a reason for that role reversal?

Well, that’s the whole premise of Dark Reign, pushing characters into this new environment where they’re all Peter Parker. Peter Parker’s a very special kind of guy, who can put up with this sh**, who can take it on the chin. Not everybody can take it on the chin. Like Luke Cage or Clint Barton particularly, I don’t think would be able to.

BF: I don’t think Luke Cage would even want to!

Yeah, but here they are forced to do it. And roles change, roles reverse; I like stories where the environment changes the character dynamics and changes the character relationships. And I thought Dark Reign added that-- that’s what Dark Reign should be, an examination of the characters in ways you’ve never seen them before. Because they’re faced with something they’ve never really been faced with before.

In a way, it’s much easier to deal with Kang, or something you can fight head on. But this thing, where you can’t win; it’s the Kobayashi Maru of the Marvel Universe. What will that do to your character? So now you’re switching; now all of a sudden Clint’s doing something he shouldn’t do, and Bobbi’s the one going “No, this is wrong morally.”

BF: Is it because, in her case, since she has been through that scenario, she’s more controlled and more prepared for it?

And also much more aware of the outcome and the payment; payment will be due, and it’s not worth it. You can start to see how the story ends before it starts, once you’ve been through it.

Our interview with Brian Bendis concludes tomorrow!

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