Brian Michael Bendis Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Early last month Brian Michael Bendis returned to Cleveland for the first time in 14 years to speak at a TEDxCLE event at the Cleveland Museum of Art. His nearly 25-minute presentation, “The Little Boxes,” is now available online.
“I was young, and I would read these books, and I became obsessed with the little boxes in the front of the book, the little boxes with the names of the people who were responsible for the experiences I was having,” the writer recalls. “At first I thought I just wanted to see my name in those boxes because I thought it was the coolest place on Earth to see your name. I was a little kid, it seemed really cool to me. But really what was happening was I was experiencing — we’ve all experienced it in some medium — I was experiencing true storytelling for the first time.”
Watch the entire presentation below.
“Sure, there are people who look like Captain America who read comics, but there are very few people in the world who look like Captain America. I go to conventions, and you meet hundreds of people over the course of the day, and no two of them look alike. You see women and people of color who love comics, and there’s nothing representing them in a way that isn’t sexualized or something.
“Now, you can’t make these decisions [to be more inclusive] consciously, because then you’re just writing in reaction to things, and that doesn’t work out, dramatically. But subconsciously, if you look at the world around you and see your readers, you go, I wanna write something that I know is true. So you start writing women better and you write people outside of your experience better, because you look at pages of other people’s comics and you don’t recognize it as the world around you.”
Crime | Police in St. Charles, Missouri, are looking for a man who accosted an employee of the Fantasy Shop outside the comic store Monday morning and demanded she hand over a bank bag. The suspect, who indicated he had a gun, then fled with an undisclosed amount of money, leading to five local schools being put on lockdown for about 90 minutes. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
Creators | Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato discuss taking over as the creative team of Detective Comics with Issue 30. “We just want to carve out a small space in the Bat-world and craft stories that resonate with the legions of fans out there,” Buccalleto says. “It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of this legacy.” [USA Today]
Set for Saturday, May 3, Free Comic Book Day 2014 boasts 60 titles, ranging from the Bongo Free-For-All and The Smurfs to Guardians of the Galaxy and the 2000AD Special.
Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 3: Mad (DC Comics): Poor Batman. His new continuity is only a few years old, and already he’s suffering from threat inflation, so that now seemingly every crime is one that could level Gotham City and every villain a mass-murderer with a three-figure body count to rival The Joker’s.
In this volume — collecting six issues and an annual from writer Gregg Hurwitz’s run on The Dark Knight — it’s The Mad Hatter’s turn for an upgrade. A villain formerly portrayed as either obsessed with hats or with Lewis Carrol’s Alice books or both, depending on the writer, Jervis Tetch here begins his road to villainy by killing a rabbit, then uses a step-ladder to reach the face of an underling who he proceeds to murder by plunging his thumbs into the victim’s eyes. From there, he murders a housewife by bashing her head in with an iron, he kills hundreds—hundreds!—of Gothamites through his mind-control technology, and he then has Batman’s girlfriend killed…by having her beaten to death in front of him.
In response, Batman tears one of the Tweedles’ jaws off, beats the diminutive Hatter until he’s drenched in his villain’s blood, then tosses him into a pond to drown until Alfred reminds him that he can’t kill the Hatter, or else he’ll be no different from him. I don’t think Batman should ever resort to lethal force, but Alfred’s argument isn’t all that powerful as presented here, given that one side of the scale has a madman murdering scores of innocents, and the other has Batman killing said killer.
That’s not the only surprisingly cliched bit of the story, which invents a new origin full of childhood trauma for Jervis Tetch akin to those Hurwitz previously gave The Scarecrow and The Penguin. Batman also decides he loves his current girlfriend, reluctantly reveals his secret identity to her and then, the very next night, one of his foes murders her while attempting to torture Batman’s secret identity out of her.
It’s a pretty problematic plot, to say the last.
It started with a simple question on Brian Michael Bendis’ Tumblr:
what advice do you have for someone that has had writers block for the past 6 or 7 years?
His response was terse:
this will sound harsh but you’re probably not a writer.
writers write every day. it’s ok, not everyone is.
but if you consider yourself one, get off your ass and get back to work!! write about why you haven’t been writing . anything. just write.
… and then it made its way around Tumblr, getting blogged and reblogged and commented on. Here’s a pretty good string of responses and responses-to-responses at Warren Ellis’ Tumblr, and Paul Constant compiled more Tumblr responses in a post at The Stranger, which then accumulated a pretty long comment string of its own.
This particular discussion resonated with me because I was in a similar situation: I wanted to be a writer for years before I actually wrote anything worth reading. It’s true, a writer writes, but when you are just sitting there all alone in front of the keyboard, it can be hard to know what to write or if what you are writing is worthwhile. I wrote great articles in my head but they seldom made it onto the computer, and when they did, I never seemed to be able to finish them. I picked at different things, but with no deadlines, I had no urgency to wrap anything up, and with no one to read my unfinished bits, I got no feedback. It’s one thing to write when you have assignments and deadlines and editors yelling at you; it’s another entirely when you’re sitting there in a vacuum.
So here’s the advice I would have given Bendis’ inquisitor:
X-Men: Battle of the Atom seems poorly named. The title references the nickname “Children of the Atom” often given to mutants for an old school, sci-fi feel, so you think this battle would have something to do with being a mutant, when in actuality, it has more to do with time travel and really, just being an X-Man. They could have called it X-Men: Fight for the Future and that would have made more sense, but then everyone would have just thought about that one X-Files movie and that would have gotten us nowhere.
Still, while X-Men: Battle of the Atom is an awkward title, it seems to promise one thing, deliver another and both ideas were a little oversized to begin with, much like the story the title denotes. Brian Michael Bendis once again hits the readers with a surgical strike, but this one’s a little more invasive and disguised than the clean-up or shakedowns of events past. Comparing it to Infinity, Hickman seems to be working from very broad concepts (intergalactic battle, world building/destruction) that started his Avengers event to the very narrow (save Earth, Thanos has a son, new Inhumans popping up on Earth) and more easily understandable to the reader, almost like a reward. Did you bear with us for the Alephs and Builders and high concepts? Here are some new characters and human interest stories to make it more palatable. In the end, I think Infinity will work much better as a coherent trade and over-arcing narrative telling a big space yarn.
In X-Men: Battle of the Atom‘s case, the story started out simple (put the time-traveled X-Men back where they came from) and got more and more complicated as he wrote further, from a narrow point to broader strokes full of brand new characters who had maybe a glimpse of a reason to be there. The story reads much better as single issues, like tiny bites of candy that make you sick if you eat them all at once. In the end, it will probably make more sense… well, let’s face it: at the next big event.
Let me see if I can make sense of what went on….
WARNING: I’m giving you the short, short version of X-Men: Battle of the Atom so if you want to read it for yourself, stop here and visit your friendly neighborhood comic shop! If you’ve already read the X-Event, read on!
Digital comics | Viz Media announced Wednesday it has brought its entire library to iBooks. Viz manga are already available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and its own app, so this pretty much completes the set. [ICv2]
Crime | Manga creator Takaaki Kubo was arrested Tuesday on charges of threatening a city councilor in the town of Amagasaki. Kubo, whose series Bakune Young was published in North America in the early 2000s by Viz Media, was arrested after police traced a threatening e-mail message to his home computer. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Art Spiegelman has been the subject of four retrospectives so far this year, the latest at the Jewish Museum in New York. Charles McGrath talks to him about what he calls “The Great Retrospection,” as well as his tobacco addiction and, oh yeah, comics. [The New York Times]
Although Image Comics has staked out territory as both the premier publisher for creator-owned work and a proving ground for fledgling writers and artists, it was another 1990s company that served as an entry point for many of today’s top talent: Caliber Comics.
Launched in 1989 by retailer Gary Reed, Caliber Comics was a harbinger of the coming wave of creator-owned titles. Launching with two flagship books — Deadworld and The Realm — Reed quickly expanded the line with his in-house anthology book Caliber Presents and a entire sub-line of illustrated books similar to Classics Illustrated. But perhaps its enduring contribution was as a doorway into the comics industry for writers and artists who are today marquee names
The list of A-list creators whose comics debuts were made possibly by Caliber is mind-boggling: Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Michael Lark, James O’Barr, Brandon Peterson, Dean Haspiel, Georges Jeanty and Jason Lutes all made their comics debuts here. In addition, Caliber also was where many budding creators made their first recognizable work; it was at there that Mike Allred created Madman, and Guy Davis blossomed with Baker Street.
Conventions | More than 50,000 fans are expected this weekend at Montreal Comiccon, where comics guests include Adam Kubert, Andy Belanger, Becky Cloonan, Bob Layton, Chris Claremont, Dale Eaglesham, Dan Parent, David Finch, Karl Kerschl, Mike Grell and Rags Morales. Last year’s event drew 32,000, but organizers believe the inclusion of celebrity guests will attract significantly more attendees. [Montreal Gazette]
Creators | Artist, writer, and former carnival fire-eater Jim Steranko talks about his career in comics ahead of Nashville Comic Expo, where he will appear this weekend. He talks about learning to read — from comics — when he was a year and a half old, his many adventures outside of comics, and why he chose Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Stan Lee asked him which Marvel comic he would like to work on: “I could have nailed Spider-Man or Thor or the Fantastic Four, but that meant following Kirby. I might be crazy, but I wasn’t stupid. I pointed to Strange Tales and said I’d tackle the S.H.I.E.L.D. series, which was a Marvel embarrassment — the word ‘wretched’ comes to mind. I didn’t mention it to Stan, but I figured that on this strip, there was nowhere to go but up!” [Nashville Scene]
Last Wednesday saw the release of Battle of the Atom #1, the first part of a 10-part crossover through the various X-Men titles. The first issue is written by Brian Michael Bendis, current scribe of two of the four X-titles it’ll run through, with art by Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia, and a cover by Art Adams to give it that “big X-Men event” feel.
So how promising was the first issue? Here are a few reviews from around the web:
“The metaphor is strong and it hasn’t gone away. Chris Claremont was the one who decided that it was a full-on allegory for race and religion and sexuality. I’m a Jewish kid, and I have a multicultural family [two of Bendis’ daughters, one Ethiopian and one African-American, are adopted], and with that comes all sorts of stuff that you witness or are a victim of. I have it pretty easy, and still I’m like, ‘Wow, you really said that right to my face?’ So it’s nice to have a book I can shake it off a little bit. I’ve never had that. [...] It’s not a mistake that Kitty Pryde, the most Jewish superhero that has ever lived, is the leader of the X-Men now.”
– writer Brian Michael Bendis, discussing X-Men in an interview in The Oregonian that touches upon his life in Portland, Oregon, his role in “full-on luring” other creators to the city, and his career at Marvel. Bendis and recent Portland transplants David Marquez and Michael Avon Oeming will be signing Wednesday at Things From Another World.
A writer who identifies himself as conservative asked Brian Michael Bendis what he thought of the Orson Scott Card “witch hunt,” and in passing commented, “I understand most creators are on the left side and its natural that their personal views seep into their work.”
Bendis questioned that, saying:
what we can agree on is that most writers are empathetic by nature. we spend most of our day thinking about the deepest, darkest and most promising thoughts of a variety of characters and with that comes a great sense of sympathy and empathy for a variety of people and their struggles.
is that left of center? I don’t think so. I think it’s pretty centrist.
I have a great many friends who wholeheartedly label themselves conservative and I don’t think any of them feel differently than me about wanting everyone to have whatever they want this life. I have friends from all over the world who have grown up in all kinds of communities and with all kinds of different political beliefs and the one thing we have in common is we all want everyone to be happy.
Bendis goes on to say that Card, who is a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, which actively opposes same-sex marriage, “is going out of his way to try to deny people their rights as human beings,” adding, “it flies in the face of the empathy that I expect from writers.”
When learning to draw well I always thought there was some “secret” that would make me better. Turns out the “secret” was just hard work.
– Marvel artist Ryan Stegman, via Twitter
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard aspiring creators ask these questions of professionals: “Where do you get your ideas?” “What’s the secret to making great art or telling great stories?” As if there’s a magical incantation that will instantly transform learning amateurs into masters.
A few years ago, my husband was in the hospital for a fairly serious procedure that required an extended stay. After the surgery, he began experiencing excruciating pain and, following a bit of work, learned that it had to do with the stitches: There had been too many and some were too tight, so the surgeon was called back in to take a look. The surgeon spotted the problem immediately and asked a nurse to bring him some scissors. Snip, snip, the tension was released and the surgeon said everything should be fine in a few hours.
Which it was, but after the surgeon was gone, my husband was left with bloody gauze, a pair of scissors and the remains of his stitches left all over his chest. We waited and didn’t touch anything, thinking, “Oh, that guy is coming back or something.” He didn’t. I grabbed a nurse, and with a long-suffering sigh, she apologized and cleared away the remains. When we said we thought the surgeon had left everything behind because he would be coming back, she explained this is just something surgeons do. When in the operating room, there are people on hand to take care of the little things so the surgeon can concentrate on the task at hand; they tend not to give things like cleaning up a second thought, if even a first.
Brian Michael Bendis is an incredible surgeon of event storytelling, and Age of Ultron #10 leaves stitches and scissors all over the reader’s chest. I can’t even say I’m surprised, nor can I really confirm that this is a “bad thing.” There’s no value judgment here: Age of Ultron needed to get to point B, it got there after 10 issues, and point C is going to be handled by a variety of folks (including Bendis himself, but we’ll get to that). In the end, I’m not exactly sure why it needed to be encased in black plastic, as the ending literally tells us to stay tuned for yet another issue (or series entirely). But I’m getting ahead of myself. Did you dare to open your sealed copy of Age of Ultron #10? Of course you did! Follow on, Dear Reader, as we talk about the skill inherent in a Bendis event and all the things that are traditionally left behind.
WARNING: Yep, spoilers for Age of Ultron #10. Honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much about knowing something that would ruin your enjoyment of the series whole, but it’s up to you if you read further. Do you dare? Click on, brave soul.