Creator Spotlight: Brian Michael Bendis

by GregFahlgren

Taking a look at the life and times of one comic book's most accomplished and beloved creators.

Welcome True Believers! Today, I am here to present to you another spotlight on my favourite comic book creators! This time around, I will be telling you about the career of a true legend of the medium, Dr Brian Michael Bendis!

Brian has been in the comic book game for over two decades now, and in that time has become one of the most revered and critically acclaimed writers of his generation. From Powers to Avengers to X-Men to Ultimate Spider-Man, Brian has rewritten the rules for comic books and helped redefine the rules for Marvel, his arrival in the company instrumental in its resurgence from the brink of destruction. A true master of the craft, Brian has penned some of the biggest and most universe shattering stories in the history of comic books, as well as created some of the most beloved characters of the last two decades.

I know I sound like I’m exaggerating, but I am a huge fan of Dr Bendis, and through this spotlight, I am sure that it will be easy to understand why.

Early Work

Crime Noir Comics

Before his writing career truly began, Brian was an artist for local magazines and newspapers. He was best known in those circles for his caricature work, and even though he didn’t enjoy it, it paid well enough to fund his first forays into comic books.

A fan asked him on tumblr about his first experience publishing a comic book he had written, and he responded,

“I was attending the Cleveland Institute of Art and for my independent study thesis I did a full comic book that was an anthology of all the different styles of writing and artwork that I was working on at the time. It was called “Parts of a Hole”, because I was a pretentious college student :-).

At the same time I was working at a comic book store so as part of my project I sold the comic at the store. It was there that I got genuine feedback from readers and a couple of the regulars of the store pointed to companies that published books at the same level my book was being produced. I then sent a copy of the book to those publishers and it was something like seven months to the day when I heard from both Caliber and one of the genre arms of Fantagraphics to publish my next comic. I originally was going to go with Fantagraphics but they were trying to, oddly, convince me to turn my book into one of their Eros comics.  I wasn’t interested in doing that. It was weird. At the same time Caliber had offered to publish my first comic. That process was going well and when I told them the weird feeling I had about what was going on with Fantagraphics they offered to publish my next book as well without any compromise. I chose to do so. It was the right choice.”

Thus started Brian’s work at Caliber Comics, where he began writing and illustrating various Crime Noir projects, including Fire and AKA Goldfish. His best known work of his early years was Jinx and a crime noir version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This wasn’t the most profitable time of his career, nor the most fulfilling, but it kept the lights on, and it also provided Brian the platform to begin building a body of work.

By 1996, his work had impressed Image founder Todd MacFarlane and was brought into the company. Writing within the Spawn universe, Brian wrote twenty issues of Sam and Twitch, as well as the first ten issues of Hellspawn. These projects were the first time he would right for licensed characters, and got him serious recognition within the comic book community, The Comics Journal describing, “...the responsibility of caretaker to his resume, in that he would answer to a vested owner about developing a property as a tangible asset with the future in mind.” In other words, he was not just a writer concerned about his own projects, and could be trusted to take on licensed characters and make their books successful.

Brian’s work at Image opened a lot of doors, but it was a creator owned work that earned Brian his first major recognition in the comic book world.

Powers

Superpowered Crime Drama

By this point in his career, Bendis had never truly written a superhero comic. Even his aforementioned work at Image was mostly crime noir style, a strange anomaly in an industry that survives on superpowered heroes. While reflecting on this, Bendis has stated that at the time he had decided that The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen had explored that genre to the upmost, and therefore focused on other genres. However, when the opportunity came to combine those two genre, Brian created a new comic book world called Powers.

Collaborator Michael Oeming stated the concept was, “a superhero universe seen through the eyes of the police... [as] observed by the media" and everyday individuals. Bendis' intention was to view the "cliches of the superhero genre through the harder eyes of the cops...” and that in the style of Behind the Music, “...every arc has some footing in a famous rock star story...”

Together, Bendis and Oeming set to work, writing and drawing Powers as a bridge between the crime noir and superhero genres, combining the two in a unique formula never before seen in the medium. Originally published by Image Comics, the book sold well enough to break even, and began to get some serious notoriety. After the launch of Ultimate Spider-Man, fans started to seek out more of Bendis’s work, and Powers sales went up exponentially. In 2004, Marvel opened Icon publishing, a new imprint exclusive to Marvel creators. Bendis and Oeming moved Powers over to Icon for several reasons, including Jim Valentino stepping down as President for Image.

Since then, Powers has been a mainstay in Bendis’s career, and easily his most recognizable creator-owned work, netting him two Eisner Awards for Best New Series in 2001 and Best Writer in 2002 and 2003, and is still ongoing today as one of Brian’s favourite pieces of work. More than that, Sony green lit production on a Powers TV show on the Playstation Network, the 1st Season already out on Blu Ray. When asked how this came to be, Brian explained,

“Sony optioned us right after the first issue came out back in 2000. They originally optioned us and developed us to be a film, but after years of development, with many interesting people like Frank Oz and David Rabe, the book grew and grew and the premise and mythology of the book revealed itself to be closer to a television show than a movie. Some very smart people behind the scenes in my life convinced Sony to move it over to television and that’s when we met people who really understood what we were trying to do. The same person, Chris Parnell, who got Powers on the air is also responsible for the Preacher getting on the air. He excels at finding difficult comic book material and finding a home for it.

We set it up at FX and we were there for a while and even filmed a pilot starring Jason Patric and Lucy Punch. It didn’t end up working even though there are some really interesting things in it and people who worked on it. Behind the scenes it was a great experience, but over the course of the years of development the landscape of media changed so much that Sony called us and said we want to put this on PlayStation TV. I’m very glad we said yes. Excellent partners.”

With both the book and the TV show going strong today, Powers continues to be a centrepiece of Brian’s magical career, and will be around to entertain his loyal fans for years to come.

Ultimate Universe

Blank Slate

By the late 90s, comic books were in serious trouble. There is a larger story of how bad things were at the time that would take too long to explain, so I’ll put it bluntly: the industry was the verge of complete collapse. Marvel Comics was bearing the worst of it, the company in such debt that they were considering selling off major properties such as Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Daredevil. Bendis himself once remarked that when he first came into the company in 2000, “...they were selling filing cabinets in the lobby.” I asked him of this was true, and he replied, “That was true. On my first visit to Marvel right outside someone’s office there was a pile of them (filing cabinets) stacked up poorly with a post it note that said ‘sold’. The lights were off in the main bullpen. It was sad. I actually thought I might be writing the last Marvel comic.”

One of the major events that turned things around for Marvel was the launch of Ultimate Marvel, which was a reboot of sorts for the company. There was still a main universe with the characters we all know and love, but the Ultimate line was an entirely separate entity, allowing creators to take the existing characters and start fresh with them, creating new stories with nearly unlimited freedom.

Brian was one of the writers brought in on the project, penning Ultimate Spider-Man, which easily became one of the biggest hits in the comic book industry at the time. I’ll go more in depth about that in a moment, but it is worth mentioning that Brian’s work on the Ultimate comics was a major success in and of its own. Along with a host of others, Brian penned or helped pen many of the Ultimate Universe’s biggest stories, such as Ultimate Origins, Ultimate Power, Ultimate Six, Doomsday, Cataclysm, and finally, the final story for that universe in Ultimate End during the Secret Wars event.

The Ultimate Universe helped turn a major corner for Marvel as a company, Brian’s work throughout its existence a boon for the company in every conceivable way. But it was his work, and later creation, with one character within that universe that was truly outstanding, and possibly will go down as the project that will define his legacy when it’s all said and done.

Ultimate Spider-Man

A New Spider-Man for a New Universe... Twice

Arguably the longest run on a single book/character in the history of the comic book medium, Ultimate Spider-Man may well be Brian’s greatest accomplishment. Starting in 2000, Brian had already built a bit of a reputation with Powers and Jinx, bringing him to the attention of Joe Quesada, who was taking over as Editor-In-Chief for Marvel. Quesada one of the big goals for Quesada was to bring in fresh talent, seeking out the very best writers from across the industry and bringing them under the Marvel banner. I asked Brian how he got the job on Ultimate Spider-Man, and he explained,

“I was actually brought into work on Daredevil first. Joe Quesada read my original graphic novels and called me into Marvel Knights. It was on the strength of my first DD scripts that they offered me what would become Ultimate Spider-Man. It was a great day actually, one of the best. Any freelancer will tell you, the only way you know if you did good on a script is if you get offered another gig. ‘How would you like to start Spider-Man over from scratch?’ was a pretty amazing phone call. Creatively, obviously, it was a huge leap forward for me… the collaborating lessons were huge. There’s a big chapter on the lessons learned in my book Words for Pictures. It was a big eye opener.”

Brian accepted the job (how could he not?), and took the story of the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, and adapted it to a seven-issue arc. The response from comic fans was almost immediate, Ultimate Spider-Man becoming an instant hit, and often out-selling Amazing Spider-Man by huge numbers. The book became the centrepiece for the Ultimate Imprint, this new version of Peter Parker becoming a major player in the events of that Universe almost immediately.

In 2011, Brian wrote one of his most ambitious stories to date, The Death of Spider-Man, a crossover event exclusive to the Ultimate Universe which details the final adventure of that universe’s Peter Parker. The story made headlines and was one of the most talked about comics that year, Peter Parker’s death seemingly unthinkable by the majority of fans. The shockwaves were made even bigger in the follow-up arc Fallout, when Brian introduced Miles Morales, a half-black half-latino as the new Ultimate Spider-Man!

There is a larger story to the creation of Miles which I won’t get into, but needless to say the move was not without controversy. Many accused Bendis and Marvel of creating Miles to pander to the PC crowd and to get publicity on the title. However, the positive reception outweighed the negative, legions of fans and creators praising the move. Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man himself, particularly liked the change as it gave a new, positive role model for non-white children to look up to. Under Brian’s loving hand, Miles quickly became of the most popular characters in all of comic books. The character even moved over to the main Marvel Universe after Secret Wars, leading his own book simply entitled Spider-Man.

Of all of Brian’s contributions to comic books, his work on Ultimate Spider-Man may be his greatest. His work helped save Marvel Comics, created an amazing and immensely popular new character for fans to rally around, and proved that if a story is told properly, anything is possible in the medium. Still writing Miles to this day, his run on Ultimate Spider-Man is also one of the longest in comic book history, only Stan Lee/Jack Kirby’s run on Fantastic Four and Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men being longer. That is mighty company for Brian to be in, and there is no doubt in my mind he deserves that honour.

Daredevil

No Fear

As Brian stated above, he was first brought into Marvel to write Daredevil under the famed Marvel Knights banner. Initially writing a three-issue arc (his scripts as he stated strong enough to be offered Ultimate Spider-Man), Bendis would be brought back soon thereafter and stay on the book for five years. Bendis’s run on the book is widely considered to among the best for the character, rivalling that of legendary Frank Miller. During his run, Bendis brought back long time villain the Kingpin, once again outed Daredevil’s secret identity, introduced Matt Murdock’s future wife Milla Donovan, and even wrote a story where Murdock surrenders himself to the FBI to face his crimes as Daredevil. Bendis’s run in many ways helped revitalize the character at time when he desperately needed it. The ill-fated 2003 movie had left many fans with a sour taste in their mouths, many feeling the character was irreparably damaged by the movie. If Bendis had not been on the book writing the stories he was, the character may have fallen into obscurity.

Brian left the book in 2006, handing the reigns over to Ed Brubaker (returning briefly to help pen the mini End of Days), but his impact of his time on the book was felt for years afterward. Brian also holds the distinction of being the longest running writer on Daredevil until Mark Waid broke his record last year, an accomplishment that is just another feather in the cap for Brian’s growing reputation as one of comic’s best writers.

Alias

Jessica Jones, Please Stand Up

Around the same time as Brian had begun his work on Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil, he was in the midst of creating another of his most famous and revered projects,  Alias. Published under the MAX Imprint with Marvel, the book returned Brian to his crime noir roots, while at the same time expanding another facet of the superhero genre.

The book centres around private investigator and former superhero Jessica Jones, a hard drinking mess of a woman with some serious skeletons in her closet. The book was very different from what Marvel was publishing at the time, dealing with mature issues and themes that were generally considered “inappropriate” for the medium. However, when Marvel Publishing President Bill Jemas read the first script, which famously started with the word “fuck”, he exclaimed, “Why couldn’t we publish this?” Thus, the Marvel MAX imprint was born, and Alias became its first title. The book was an immediate success, the stories focusing on Jessica Jones and her journey, every issues revealing another layer to her story and personality, and how her investigations force to her face her traumatic past. Within a year Alias became one of the most critically acclaimed comic book titles of its time, as well as one of Brian’s most popular works.

A fan asked Brian on Tumblr how Alias got its name, and Brian told this funny story, “Interestingly it had quite a few names during its development. Marvel Inc., Alter Ego… it was difficult to find a name that succinctly expressed that she was working cases specific to superpower related secrets that wasn’t silly. Alter Ego was the name of Roy Thomas’s magazine and Roy Thomas used to be one of the Editors in Chief at Marvel so no one wanted to step on his toes. Marvel Inc. was just not a very good name. And you can’t imagine how exciting it was to finally come up with the name Alias and then see it all over billboards and buses as the JJ Abrams TV show was picked up! But it was nice of them to give me a shout out on one of the episodes.”

However, the project was not without its challenges. Because the book was published under the MAX imprint, Brian and his collaborators could not use any of Marvel’s more famous heroes (with the one notable exception of Spider-Man making a cameo). Eventually, as Jessica’s popularity increased, Brian would end the series, and move the characters to the main Marvel imprint with a new series, The Pulse.

Under this new name, the series continued, bringing Jessica into the larger superhero community, revealing a past with Peter Parker and beginning a long term relationship with Luke Cage. What Bendis did here was fairly incredible, taking a character that was supposed to be outside the main Marvel continuity, and bring her in full force, giving her a long and detailed past, as if she had been a part of it all along. The character even had a child with Luke Cage, eventually marrying him, a marriage that has stood to this day.

Brian’s work on Alias and The Pulse is truly commendable. Brian created a character that was so unconventional that Marvel had to create a new imprint just to publish her stories, and slowly bring he3r her full force in the wild world of Marvel comics like no other character had been done before. Alias earned Biran multiple Eisner nominations, and has most recently been adapted into a television series on Netflix entitled Jessica Jones, which has already been renewed for a second season. If that isn’t validation for Brian’s work with Jessica, I don’t know what is.

Secret War

Start of a Legacy

The first major event (in the 616 universe) of his Marvel career, Secret War was the beginning of a long stretch of stories for Marvel comics that would last for nearly a decade. Capitalizing on the political environment of the time, Brian would focus the story on Nick Fury, and his place in the new millennium. Fury, who had become tired of soft policies on terror and threats to the United States, led an unsuccessful attack on Latveria with a secret team of heroes, heroes that he afterwards had their minds wiped.

This failed mission resulted in a full scale attack by Latveria on New York, the mystery of why unravelling in front the heroes of Marvel as the realized what Fury had done. The result of this story was Nick Fury would step down as head of SHIELD, and then vanish from sight, every single hero in Marvel questioning Fury’s actions and if they could ever trust him again. This would also be one of the incidents that would lead to Civil War, which Brian had a hand in crafting years later.

More importantly, Secret War showed what Brian could for the greater Marvel Universe, the run of stories I talked about redefining the company. Brian had a hand in nearly every one of those stories, penning many them himself as he took the reins his most important project in the career: the Avengers.

Secret War
$24.99  $10.13

Avengers

Relighting the Flame

Since their creation, the Avengers have always been called ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’, and for a long time, they lived up to that name. However, at some point, Marvel’s flagship team began to take somewhat of a backseat in the world of Marvel. Sure, they were still involved in some of the biggest storylines in Marvel history, always would be, but it had been a long time since they were considered the top team for Marvel, often being outshined by either the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and several others. That was, until Bendis was put on the Avengers titles, and Marvel, as well as the rest of the comic book world, was never the same again.

Brian’s first story with the Avengers was the now famous Avengers Disassembled, where the Avengers roster was shaken to its core, Scarlet Witch going mad and destroying the Avengers Mansion, killing Hawkeye and Scott Lang in the process. This event, which also saw Tony Stark get into some serious hot water and She-Hulk destroy Vision, disbanded the Avengers, making way for a new book and a new team, entitled, New Avengers, a book where Brian would stay and write for the next eight years, along with sister book The Mighty Avengers which only further expand the team.

I asked Marvel Editor Tom Breevort about how Brian ended up writing the Avengers, and he told me, “The idea for doing what became New Avengers happened at one of our creative retreats. At a certain point, Mark Millar advocated that Avengers should feature all of Marvel’s biggest characters, including guys like Spider-Man and Wolverine. By the next day, Brian had thought about this and come in with his pitch for the series.”

Under Brian’s loving hand, the Avengers’ roster was expanded massively, including the likes of Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Thing, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and literally dozens more. He helmed such projects as House of M, whose events lead to the depopulation of the mutant race, drastically changing the Marvel Universe as he went. As the years passed, more epic stories were written, including Secret Invasion, which lead to the Dark Reign era of Marvel, renaming the book Dark Avengers and letting Norman Osborn take centre stage as the team’s leader. Finally, he penned the crossover event Siege, which saw Osborn’s downfall and the Avengers’ return to glory.

From there, Brian would pen another Avengers title simply named Avengers, using the book to further the storylines he had already established. It all came to a head in 2012, where nearly a decade of work on the Avengers lead to Avengers vs X-Men, where Brian would write (alongside fellow comic greats Ed Brubaker, Jonathon Hickman, Matt Fraction, and Jason Aaron) to single biggest event in Marvel history up to that point. Depicting a massive conflict between the Avengers and the X-Men, the return/destruction of the Phoenix, the undoing of Scarlet Witch’s “No More Mutants” spell, and the death of Charles Xavier, AVX was a masterpiece, Brian helping craft one of the most important storylines in company history, changing the shape of the Marvel Universe once again.

I asked Tom Breevort about how important Brian was for that decade in Marvel, and he stated, “...Brian’s time on New Avengers was hugely important–it brought the spotlight back to the main Marvel U from the Ultimate U, and primed fan excitement such that doing films on Iron Man or Thor or Avengers seemed viable. He made Avengers the top franchise again.”

Brian’s last work on the Avengers was for the first eight issues of Avengers Assemble, bringing back Thanos, the Zodiac, and finally the Guardians of the Galaxy, whom he would be taking over writing duties for by the following year. While that particular book was given to them mega-talented Kelly Sue Deconnick, Brian handed the custodianship of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ main books over the capable hands of Jonathon Hickman, who had quite a run himself if I may say so myself. However, his contributions on the book will be forever felt and appreciate by all comic book fans. The stories that Brian crafted are considered some of the greatest in company history, a feat nearly unmatched by any other writer to have passed through that company since its inception. Simply put, Brian’s run on Avengers reshaped the Marvel Universe as we know, and helped bring Marvel back to the forefront of the comic book world, and may indeed be his greatest accomplishment.

Age of Ultron

Changing the Game, One Last Time

Even though Brian had left the Avengers in more than capable hands, his work as one of Marvel’s chief writers for their company-wide events wasn’t finished. Age of Ultron was the last company-wide crossover he would helm until this year’s Civil War II, and it was by far one of the most harrowing and thought provoking stories of his career.

Bringing back Ultron after a long hiatus, Brian details a world where Ultron had returned and destroyed nearly all of humanity, killing the majority of the world’s superheroes and taking over the world in a matter of days. The remaining heroes were forced underground and could not use any kind of technology in fear of Ultron finding them, and with things as they are, they were filled with despair, their defeat so complete even Captain America is filled with despair, hunched over in a corner, trying to come to grips with everything they had lost...

What Brian did with this story was truly amazing. Yes, the heroes did seek out solutions, but the death toll was insane, eventually the only ones left Sue Storm and Wolverine. It very greatly echoed Age of Apocalypse, but with a much deeper problem. You see, instead of just sending heroes back in time to prevent Ultron’s victory, which Wolverine and Sue did by going back and killing Hank Pym, Brian showed how foolish that solution could be. By killing Hank, Wolverine and Sue made things worse, creating a new future than ended with the world being destroyed by Morgan Le Fey. Going back the second time, they found worked with Hank to not only defeat Ultron but restore the timeline as it should be.

But again, Brian did not just leave it at that. By going back in time (twice), Wolverine and Sue did irreparable damage to the Timestream, the latest in a long series of time manipulations in the Marvel U that finally put too much strain on the Timestream and shattered it. The shockwaves were felt through the Multiverse, changing things in more ways than anyone could have imagined.

This is actually a hallmark of Brian’s writing. No action is without consequence, and even though Wolverine and Sue did save the world, their manipulations of the Timestream created even bigger problems. Because of this event, Angela from Spawn fame entered the Marvel Universe, and the event Cataclysm saw the arrival of the Marvel Universe’s Galactus enter the Ultimate Universe, both events leading to important storylines for their respective universes.

The positive consequence of this story line however was the resurgence of Hank Pym. Brian not only brought Hank back to prominence, but he showed how important he is the Marvel Universe, and why he is such a great character. Because of Age of Ultron, Hank got to take centre stage in Avengers AI, and has since become a central point in stories such as Time Runs Out, and Rage of Ultron.

Age of Ultron is a perfect example of what make Brian one of the all time greats in the medium. It was a large scale, universe altering event, using plot devices that have been seen many times before. But Brian was able to present them in an entirely new way, showing the consequences of rash decisions, and how just one man can decide the fate of an entire universe. Brian has done this countless times throughout his career, and it has made Marvel and comic books in general a much more exciting place.

X-Men

Past, Present, Future

As Brian’s role in the Avengers books had ended for the most part, his next large project was to take over writing duties for the other half AVX’s equation, the X-Men. This move was met with huge fan approval, appropriate given what Brian was able to do with the Avengers, and many fans were hoping that Brian could help get the X-Men back on top of the mountain as well.

His first move wasn’t small, sending Beast back in time and bringing the original X-Men to the future (under the title All New X-Men). This single move sent shockwaves through the comic book world, taking the characters from 50 years ago and placing them today’s environment, and examining how each of them would deal with. It also created a lot of conflict with the X-Men themselves, especially once the older Cyclops and his team re-entered the equation.

On that side of the coin, Brian further explored Cylcops’s new role in Marvel, an outlaw revolutionary trying to do his best at continuing Xavier’s dream while also living outside the law. Brian also examined Cyclops’s extreme guilt and shock over Xavier’s death at his hands, an action that changed Scott forever, and how it changed his relationships with those closest to him.

Throughout Brian’s run, he re-wrote the rulebook for the 05 X-Men as well, the characters we see in his books vastly different from those of 50 years ago. The dissolution of Jean and Scott’s relationship was a major breakaway, which also lead to Emma Frost and Jean Grey becoming friends (unbelievably terrifying by the way), Beast’s feelings for Jean finally being revealed, and young Cyclops’s horrible revelation of what he would become. The biggest change however, was the revelation that young Iceman as gay, a fan theory that’s roots had begun way back in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original run. This move was one of the single most important X-Men character reveals in history, Brian not caring at all for the backlash and doing what thought was right for not only for the characters but what was right for comic books.

Brian’s biggest selling point on these books for me however was his work with Kitty Pryde. No longer the teenage sidekick of Wolverine, Kitty took centre stage, mentoring the O5 X-Men and truly coming into her own as one of the X-Men’s greatest members. His work with Kitty continues today since she joined the Guardians of the Galaxy, and I don’t think Kitty has ever had a better advocate for her than Brian. (He also made Magick a hugger. That’s hilarious in and of itself.)

Brian’s run on the X-Men ended last year with Uncanny X-Men #600, but his influence on those books cannot be ignored. Like his work with the Avengers, Brian brought the X-Men back to the forefront of Marvel, and changed the game in more ways than anyone could have thought.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Space Avengers

As I stated above, Brian’s last Avengers story led to the return of the Guardians of the Galaxy to the Marvel Universe as a way to set up a new Guardians book with Bendis as the writer. Using that story as a platform, Brian transitioned into with usual gusto, adding Iron Man to the roster and taking the Guardians into new directions against new and old enemies alike. After Age of Ultron, Brian added Angela to the team, the former Spawn character joining Marvel due to cracks in the Timestream and a fairly complicated legal action (long story, good story).

Brian’s main focus was to bring the Guardians to the same level as the X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four in notoriety just in time for them to get their own major motion picture. To that end, Brian’s treatment of the team of misfits was beyond amazing, fleshing out the characters in ways that hadn’t been thought of before. His work with Star-Lord in particular was phenomenal, focusing on his complicated relationship with his father, Emperor J’Son of Spartax, as well as the noble if a little apathetic nature of the character.

Brian’s time on the book is also noted as the first time the Guardians got involved in major events outside of the Marvel Cosmic, even penning two crossovers with the X-Men. It was during these stories that the relationship between Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde began, a move met with a roar of approval from loyal fans.

Still writing the book today, Brian continues to innovate and change the status quo for the rag-tag team of misfits, adding the Thing and Kitty Pryde post Secret Wars, and forging new paths as he always does. One can only hope that Brian stays of Guardians for a while, his work with the team making them mega-stars within the comic book world.

Iron Man

Becoming Invincible

Just before Secret Wars, Brian had officially ended his run with the X-Men. During the event he wrote a few of the tie-ins, but there were no clear plans as to what he would be doing after the mega-event concluded other than continuing his work with the Guardians. Then, the announcements about All-New All-Different Marvel came out, and it was revealed that he would be taking over writing duties for one of the most iconic characters in Marvel history, Iron Man.

Brian has of course written Tony before, Iron Man a central character during his Avengers run, often right at the heart of every major storyline Brian penned, as well as having Stark join the Guardians cast when Brian started on the book. However, things had changed a lot for Tony since the last time Brian had written Tony, the stories AXIS, Time Runs Out, and Secret Wars putting the character through some serious status quo shifts. But all this did was create the perfect environment for Brian to come aboard and take Tony in a new direction as Iron Man tried to find his place in this brave new world that was All New All Different Marvel.

So far, Brian’s work on the book has been stellar, many critics already calling his interpretation of Tony one of the best in recent memory. Currently writing two ongoing titles, Brian’s work on this character has only just begun, but if his track record means anything, I predict that Brian’s time with Iron Man will be some of the best Tony’s ever had.

Other Work

In addition to his most popular work, Brian has compiled an impressive list of lesser known titles over the course of his exemplary career. Marvel work of note has been his short but meaningful run on Spider-Woman, his work with the character on New Avengers and two separate solo books helped bring the character back to prominence. He also penned Moon Knight fora year or so, his brief run critically acclaimed and helping the character get some much need TLC.

Other than Powers, the most famous of his creator owned work are Brilliant, The United Stares of Murder Inc and Scarlet, the last of which is still ongoing. His most recent work outside his normal books was the Secret Wars tie-in Old Man Logan, bringing that character into the main Marvel universe and was one of the best tie-ins I personally read during the event. These works may not be his most famous, but they have certainly added to the incredible tapestry Bendis has crafted over his magical career.

Teaching

Passing On the Craft

In addition to his incredible writing career, Brian has also taken upon himself to help others, like me, figure out the craft of writing. On tumblr, Brian has fielded many, many questions from aspiring writers, always ready to give advice and encouragement to those who need it, time and time again giving back to the industry that he loves so much.

To that end, he teaches a writing class at the Portland State University, passing on his wealth of knowledge to a new generation. This inspired him to write, Words For Pictures, an instructional text on how to write comics.

I asked Brian how what inspired him to begin teaching, and he replied, “Diana Schutz. On top of easily been one of the most underappreciated geniuses and forward thinking members of our comics community, Diana is a very good friend and supporter. I would come to her class and talk on a regular basis. When Portland State was thinking about having a comics writing class they asked her but she, already having her own, recommended me. She knew I was busy and had lots of children but she also knew that I had this itch because we had talked about how from the moment you break into comics, until today on this very tumlbr, immediately people start asking you for professional advice and craft advice. Even though the medium is easily a hundred years old there are still only a handful of texts and other sources of education for people interested in doing it for a living. There is still so much mystery involved.

I had lunch with the people at Portland State and was offered the class. Literally later that day I just happened to be on the phone with Walt Simonson, who many of you know is one of my spiritual heroes, which is not a regular occurrence, and he mentioned his class and I was reminded that he is also a teacher. And then I was speaking to Klaus Jansen, we were working on Daredevil, and was reminded that he is a teacher and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, Jeph Loeb appeared in Portland for something and we had pizza and he mentioned that he was a professor at UCLA back in the day. Even though I have known jeph for years I did not know that. It just seemed that the universe was telling me I should be teaching.

It was.

I remembered back to my days as a student and what kind of class I would have liked to take, one that I basically crafted for myself over the course of my lifetime. I applied that to my philosophy that you should make a book that you would buy and now I have a class in my head that I would like to take… I had to do it.

A lovely editor at Random House named Patrick Barb caught wind of what was going on with the class and offered me the chance to make the book, and considering I have every book ever written on the subject I knew that I would buy that book… so I had to make the book.

If you have the opportunity to teach the thing that you do I highly recommend it. It is paying it forward in the most pure sense of the word. And on the most selfish level, it forces you to go back to basics a few times a year and really examine the work you are doing on that level. Sometimes I see writers losing sight of the basics. Teaching forces you to go back.

My final exam is to make your own comic. Among those comics, every semester, are among the best comics I will have read that year.”

Personally, Brian helped me with my work, always willing to answer questions about the craft, doing so for no other reason than because he wants to. If there is no other sign of the kind of person Brian is, the fact that he spends so much of his time helping his fellow writers is a testament to his kind heart and gracious soul.

Current Work

Continuing A Legacy

What’s Brian up to these days? Well, as I’ve stated he has taken over writing duties for Iron Man, and is currently writing two ongoing titles, both of which have been getting rave reviews. He is continuing his work with Powers and Scarlet, both of which have new trade collections coming out. His biggest current project is helming Marvel’s upcoming company-wide event, Civil War II, which you can preorder the collected edition from the ad below.

Away from his comic book work, Brian is also producing the television adaptation of Powers, which is entering its second season on Playstation TV. With so many projects on the go at once, Brian Bendis may well be one of the hardest working and busiest creators in all of comicdom, and no matter what he puts his mind to, I’m sure it will be successful.

Legend

Simply the Best

I asked some of Brian’s colleagues about Brian and his career, and here is what they had to say:

“Bendis is the master of conversational dialogue in comics, makes the hard stuff look easy.” – Comic Book Legend Gerry Conway

 “He always shares his candy.” – Powers artist Michael Oeming

“He has an ear for dialogue unparalleled in contemporary comics.” – Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue Deconnick

“He’s a great writer, almost certainly the dominant mainstream comics voice of the 00s and a lovely guy who clearly adores comics as a medium. His Indie work was some of my initial comics crushes when I came to the medium circa 2000.” – Fellow Uncanny X-Men writer Kieron Gillian

“Brian is a terrific writer who has never failed to turn in an entertaining issue. His characters really live, really speak, and climb right off the page. He’s changed the shape of modern comics and still manages to keep fresh and exciting at every step. He’s also a lot of fun to debate with at Marvel retreats, though I am not sure he would say the same.” – Marvel Editor Jordan White

“I love him. The sweetest guy I think I had the pleasure of knowing in my time at Marvel. Just genuinely smart and thoughtful. He understands character like no other and has a flair for dialogue as unique as any artist has a style of line-work. His body of work is unparalleled, probably putting out around 3X what I've put out over the ame period and always quality. In fact, I'd say he's probably still my favourite writer not called Jason Aaron or Scott Snyder :)” – Ultimate Universe Co-Creator Mark Millar

 “He's been my partner in crime for a long time now, so I will take advantage of your article to thank him for all the great books we have made so far and for the great ones yet to come!” – Ultimate Spider-Man artist and frequent collaborater Sara Pichelli

 

Brian Bendis has had a truly magical career, one that is already considered to be one of the finest in the history of the comic book medium. Many (including myself), compare him with the greats of comicdom like Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, Gail Simone, Mark Waid, Gerry Conway, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and a host of others.

For myself, I think he is one of the best people to come into comics in a long time. He rebuilt the Avengers, helped bring Marvel out of the darkest of times to rise higher and farther than they had ever thought possible. He created Jessica Jones, a character that has redefined super heroes and what they can be, and how those stories can be told. He created one of the most important comic book characters in the last 50 years with Miles Morales, going against the grain and giving a role model to so many young people. He has changed the status quo of the X-Men, making them as important to the world of comic books as they’ve ever been. In short, he has changed the genre for the better, and made comic books a better place.

Personally, he has helped me many times. The advice Brian has given me about the craft and the encouragement he has offered me has been truly wonderful, and I thank him every day for being gracious enough to help an unpublished schmuck like me badgering him about the craft. His work in teaching the next generation is possibly the great part of his legacy, and shows how much he cares about his genre. Thank you Brian, and may you continue that work so that more people can find love in this crazy art we both fell into.

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Updated: 05/23/2016, GregFahlgren
 
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