WHETHER WORKING on X-Men or the 2014 film “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Brian Michael Bendis is becoming master of the “big event.”
One of Bendis’ most impactful moments at Marvel, in fact, arrived with the introduction of Morales, the half black, half Puerto Rican Spider-Man who debuted two years ago in Marvel’s Ultimate universe.
Bendis says that Morales is still fun to write, even after the mayhem surrounding the debut died down.
“The only thing I was worried about with Miles, because I had already spent a lot of time with him before [fans] had ever met him, was the audience accepting somebody else as Spider-Man,” Bendis tells Comic Riffs. “I’m hugely relieved that people love him so much.”
(Miles Morales came to be after Bendis and colleagues working in Marvel’s Ultimate universe shared one regret: that the original Ultimate line did not introduce a Spidey of color back in 2000, when Ultimate Spider-Man debuted.)
[MILES & ME: Why biracial Spider-Man matters]
Partly due to his many writing commitments, Bendis says he rarely makes it to conventions. But he did make it to San Diego Comic-Con this past summer. There, Bendis saw people dressed up as Morales’s Spider-Man, and he was greeted by many fans who let him know what the character meant to them. “It was,” he says, “one of the greatest moments of my whole career.”
For Bendis, Morales and the role he plays in the Marvel universe is about the hero he has the potential to be — and not so much about his racial makeup.
“That’s always what it’s been to me” — Miles’s being a great Spider-Man, says Bendis. “I was just craving a Spider-Man that I thought more reflected the world that we live in, vs. the world that Peter Parker was invented in. A lot of the icon characters from Marvel and DC [Comics] were created in the early ’60s by straight white men, as far as we know. And that’s the world that they reflected.
“The world that we live in now is much more colorful and diverse and open,” Bendis continues. “It just seems that we should reflect that whenever possible, without doing it for stunts. When you [depict] Brooklyn or Queens, there’s a tone that I didn’t think we had properly reflected in the books. I see more of a reflection of our society than a reflection of his race. [Morales] is not a character that reflects all things to all people.”
Bendis clearly enjoys writing teenage superheroes. His current run on the new Marvel titles All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men (which is part of the larger X-Men crossover called “Battle of the Atom,” which concludes with today’s No. 2) deals with the original five teen X-Men. Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast and Angel are time-traveling from the past into the present — an act that has ramifications on the future of all mutants (as well as for mutants from the future traveling to the present ... there’s lots of time travel).
Over the years, Bendis says, Marvel offered him the keys to the X-Men universe many times. But each time, he didn’t have a take that wasn’t obviously influenced by the classic run of Chris Claremont.
“This idea of the original X-Men traveling here to the present, to deal with what they see as a disaster — this is their nightmare, but it’s actually happening,” Bendis says.
“It was an idea that I had floated around the X-office for years,” he continues. “As a fan, I wanted them to do it. No one ever seemed to stick with it. And every time I would hear it, I would think of more and more ideas that could be done. So when it was offered to me again for me to do the X-Men, they said, ‘Do that book with the original X-Men,’ and I’m like,”All right, I’m in.’ ”
During Bendis’s run on X-Men, the return of one of the title’s most popular characters — Jean Grey — was hotly debated. The character has died and been resurrected many times, but she stayed dead over recent years.
That’s a big deal, Bendis says, “because it’s actually Jean Grey. It’s not reincarnated Jean Grey. It’s not the clone of Jean Grey. It’s actually her.”
The return of Jean Grey provides Bendis with a chance to see what happens when you give the Internet what it wants.
“The one thing everyone asks for [online] is that they want Jean Grey back, but they don’t want any nonsense — they want Jean,” Bendis tells us. “So I said: ‘Well, I want to test the Internet. This is exactly what they said they wanted. We’re gonna give it to them and see what happens.
“It’s been very fun to watch the reactions,” he continues, “because she is the most polarizing character in comics, by far.”
Grey’s role grows even bigger after the events of “Battle of the Atom” with “The Trial of Jean Grey,” which crosses the time-traveling X-Men into another Bendis production: Guardians of the Galaxy.
“ ‘The Trial of Jean Grey’ is going to afford a lot of the characters a very unique perspective of the X-Men’s legacy,” he says, “and that’s where they make some big changes.”
Bendis’s involvement with the Guardians of the Galaxy comic (an alien all-star team of rebels who find conflict in every corner of space) is a direct result of his involvement with the development of the movie — which Marvel Studios is scheduled to release next August.
“I took the [Guardians of the Galaxy] job because I’ve been involved with the movie from the ‘Hey, should we make a movie of this’ phase, and there’s been a lot of drafts and a lot of proposals and a lot of interest and lots of discussion among the creative committee about the characters.
“When it came time to relaunch the book,” Bendis continues, “the publisher called me and said: ‘Listen, really you should do this. If you can get that enthusiasm from the meetings onto the pages, that’s exactly what I need.’ ”
There have been Guardian reboots in the past, of course. The success of Bendis’s run is rooted in his attempts to bring the team closer to the Marvel universe.
“For me, the disconnect on the book was that [the Guardians of the Galaxy] were so far away in space that it felt like someone else was publishing them,” he says.
The opportunity to add to his comic-book writing resume was also inviting. “Going from very well-known as a crime-fiction author to a space-opera author was very enticing to me personally,” he says.
Despite all the success he’s had with some of Marvel’s biggest characters, Bendis retains humility.
“I look back and say, ‘Really? I still get to do this?’ It’s a true honor.
“A lot of people just want their books written by someone who feels that way. I really care, and [fans] like that I care. So many little things have come my way because of it.
“So much more than I ever thought I’d get out of this career in my life. Way past what the goal was.”
“I took the [Guardians of the Galaxy] job because I’ve been involved with the movie from the ‘Hey, should we make a movie of this’ phase,” says writer Bendis.