Brian Michael Bendis adds Frank Castle to an already-volatile mix!

Next week, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez unleash Iron Fist, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones upon the streets of the Marvel Universe as the newest members of the Defenders! While the timing for this new series couldn’t be better as the Netflix show of the same name prepares to launch later this summer, Bendis wants to make it clear the comic provides readers with an entirely different story despite keeping the same core characters.

And viewers who were fans of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher on the second season of “Marvel’s Daredevil” get a full-dose of four-colored chaos with this first story arc as Frank Castle comes head-to-head with the team. We spoke with Bendis about what we can expect from DEFENDERS as this vigilante finds himself sharing the scene with Marvel’s premiere street-level heroes.

Marvel.com:  Brian, you are no stranger to the streets of the Marvel Universe having spent a good deal of time carving out a name for yourself with many of the main players from DEFENDERS. How will this series give you a chance to tell a different story with these characters?

Brian Michael Bendis: What’s cool is that they’re completely different than when I was writing DAREDEVIL and ALIAS. Over the years, you know, the streets of Marvel reflect the real world, even more than anything I can think of in pop culture, other than the “Law & Order” plots. But we really feel like it’s really New York! I know these addresses in these books. So, think about how much has changed in real life from then. It’s a lot and that will be reflected a great deal in the book itself.

The relationships between the characters are very solid, which is quite a beautiful thing, and that’s one more gift that you get with having characters with their history. Their relationships are solid, but with those solid relationships comes more to lose. What I enjoyed the most about writing Luke Cage now is that he has unbreakable skin so he can’t get hurt; but now he’s got a family, so you can hurt him. You can hurt him pretty good. Those are very different versions of the character: his life on the street and his life at home. Daredevil’s relationship with the characters is different now, too. His identity is secret again, and that’s a different thing as well.

So, the relationships are something I love to explore. Holding their relationships in the firing line of the biggest bad guys of the streets of Marvel is very exciting to write. To me, that’s the biggest difference.

Marvel.com: The streets are rough and “survival of the fittest” seems to be one rule that permeates these kinds of stories. That said the individual heroes from DEFENDERS make it a point to avoid killing whenever possible. Do you think that’s an important rule for super heroes to follow?  How so?

Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah, and I’m not going to say what that moral code should be, but whatever that moral code is that a hero says that he (or she) represents, he (or she) cannot vary from it. Ever.

You know, the quintessential story is Spider-Man. He takes on Doctor Octopus, a bag of money falls, and there is nobody there. If he takes a chunk of it, he can go buy Aunt May her medicine, and no one will ever know. Except that if he ever does it, he’s not Spider-Man anymore. You can never go back. And I think that the same goes for all of these characters. There is a moral center. Luke has his, Jessica has hers, Danny has his, and Matt has his, and they can’t vary from their respective. However, what’s cool is that they all have different moral codes. I mean Jessica’s and Danny’s are pretty similar but Matt’s is different and we have other characters that come into the book as well. I think the one that speaks to this more than anyone else is The Punisher.

Marvel.com: Naturally, this leads us to Frank Castle—one of the defining examples of the “anti-hero.” What do you think readers find appealing with The Punisher?

Brian Michael Bendis: When I was deciding about what to put in DEFENDERS and what not to put in, someone on Tumblr had posted the original designs of The Punisher. You know he’s got kind of a widow’s peak hairline, pretty much what you see now but a little different. Maybe a little bit more of like a mob guy.

So, I was reading the article and it spoke about where he came from with some saying Charles Bronson helped inspire the character, and the thing is that Charles Bronson was really an answer to Watergate and the question “Will someone please take care of the bad guys? They’re getting away with everything!” I can’t think of a time in my life that has felt more like [that] than now. I’m not trying to politicize it but the present day is all kind of chaotic and crazy. A lot of people are getting away with [expletive], and so I think it’s a good time for The Punisher to be becoming a TV star and surfacing in our comic.

Defenders #3 cover by David Marquez

Marvel.com: But after decades of bumping up against his fellow costumed do-gooders, wouldn’t the other super heroes rub off on Frank and influence him to back off from his lethal brand of justice? Wouldn’t their collective arguments have any sort of effect on his approach to dealing with criminals?

Brian Michael Bendis: Or the opposite, that their ways of doing things [don’t] work at all and his does. We have their version of running around in costumes, smacking around guys in a pool hall; meanwhile, what’s different decades later? That would be his argument. Some of this you’re going to see in the book.

Marvel.com: Now, you have a cast of characters, which for me is always interesting because they’re such strong personalities, and I sit back and wonder “How will the four of them really interact?”

Knowing that he will be coming into contact with the Defenders, which hero do you think Frank Castle will get on the best with, and which do you think he will bump heads with the most?

Brian Michael Bendis: You bring up a good question. What I found was interesting, is I did also have to ask myself that question of “Who here does Frank respond to the most? And who is he disgusted by the most?” and how do you [feel] being in the room with The Punisher once you have a child? Once I had children, even if they weren’t there, sometimes I wouldn’t want to be in the same room as certain people because I had children. Frank Castle is [not] someone you want to be in the room with. In DEFENDERS, there is someone who Frank has an insane amount of respect for, and the other ones he does not. I know everyone is going to think its Jessica Jones because [I’m her] co-creator, but no. Just want to put that out there.

Marvel.com: That was actually one of the things that I was thinking about! At first blush, it seems she would be the person that Frank might relate to the most, personality wise. But the Jessica Jones in the comics—and I’m telling you what you already know—finds herself farther along in life than her TV counterpart and shows us a different character than fans of the Netflix series are aware of. After all, your Jessica Jones has a child and that changes the chemistry of her viewpoint on Frank, no?

Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah that’s true, I think that would be a good compare and contrast between the comic book version and the TV version, something like that, you know, how they would respond to Frank Castle at this point.

Marvel.com: You mentioned that The Punisher finds himself experiencing another “moment in time,” that we need heroes like him for today. I don’t want you to spoil things, but how does Frank open up things for you as a storyteller that might not otherwise be available if you were really only working with the four primary Defenders?

Brian Michael Bendis: Well, it depends on what perspective we’re dealing with here. If you’re working on the story that’s from Frank’s perspective, then it’s very different from the story where [it’s] other people’s perspective of Frank. For a great deal of what I’m doing in DEFENDERS, it is the Defenders’ perspective of Frank and the mystery box that is Frank. He doesn’t text everyone and tell everyone his plan. He does some ballsy and brassy things to the Defenders.

What I love about him, to answer your original question, is that it’s like the Angel of Death comes to the story. There are the good guys vs bad guys and then the Angel of Death shows up and you don’t know who he is for, we don’t know why and we don’t know when, and it’s pretty amazing. When I’m writing him, you not only hear about him and his days in other places but you also get what people think about Frank. That is so much scarier than he actually is. In real life, he is a wounded soul, but everyone’s perspective of him is terror. Think about it: Whenever somebody says “I’m going to punish you for your sins”—and everyone knows they’ve done something wrong—or they start to think “what have I done for him to punish me?” you get terrified!

Marvel.com: I know you’ve mentioned some of your other series that you’ve worked on where the ending was pretty definitive, and you knew where you were going. Then again, there were other times where you worked in some flexibility worked, and the story goes in different directions.

When you have a character like the epitome of the Angel of Death, and you introduce him into your storyline, does that change things for you when you’re writing out the story?

Brian Michael Bendis: No, it’s great. You get these characters that react, and you want them to react honestly. Some of them are going to [expletive] their pants, and some are going to figure out what they want. Now, what’s cool that you brought up is that some of this we are going to address—and then things developed further where were given the OK to do a PUNISHER: END OF DAYS series, like we did with Daredevil. But this won’t be like a sequel, but instead, kind of like a “side-quel” with Punisher. It’s in that world with The Punisher trying to attempt his final “Punish.”

But yeah, if you like The Punisher, stay tuned to DEFENDERS. You’re going to love it.

Frank Castle takes on the team in DEFENDERS #3, available July 12 from Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez—and be sure to pick up issue #1, on sale next week!

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Brian Bendis lays bare the secrets of the former S.H.I.E.L.D. director!

Maria Hill finds herself in a difficult situation these days. Booted out of S.H.I.E.L.D., we see her out on her own, more vulnerable than ever. Forced to ask for help—not necessarily Maria’s strong suit—she has shown up in JESSICA JONES, where the two have a bit of a frigid encounter. But big things will come for these two, as Maria embarks on a very different mission from the type we’re used to seeing her undertake.

We asked Brian Michael Bendis—writer of JESSICA JONES and co-creator of both Jessica and Maria—for his insights on the history and psychology of this most mysterious character.

Marvel.com: As a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and then head of the organization, Maria seemed like one of the good guys, but you get the feeling you can never fully trust her. Even going back to the House of M days, she feels leery of the Avengers, and they feel the same way toward her.

Brian Michael Bendis: I’ve done an immense amount of research on spy training and spycraft, and not unlike a police officer or a fireman, you’re trained to only see the worst in people. You’re trained to look for that thing other people don’t look for—those tells, those chess moves that are too complicated for us normal people, going about our days. She trained her brain to play the most complicated game of chess that could ever be played, and in doing so, you’re looking at everybody like a pawn or a player, and not as a human being, because you’re not allowed to since you have to send them on missions. And with that, people learn to mistrust.

Now the mysteries of Maria Hill—where she came from, who she is—there have been little hints and bits in my books and in [other] books over the years. But we’ve never shown who she is, where she came from, what made her, how she got so deep into the center of the Marvel Universe so quickly. These are big things, and they speak to the larger landscape of the Marvel Universe, secrets we don’t know about, secrets we don’t know about S.H.I.E.L.D., how agents are made, or how people find themselves in this position. And Maria, being at the center, really, of some of the biggest events in Marvel history—to my surprise—from Civil War to Secret Invasion—that takes a massive toll on people. So now that she has been ousted from S.H.I.E.L.D., the mysteries of her life are more fragile and the keeping of those mysteries is less important to other people. As leader [of] S.H.I.E.L.D., it was in everyone’s best interest to keep her secrets secret, but once you’re out, you’re out. The mystery of her was one of her strengths, because no one had any ammo on her. But now the mysteries are unfolding, and she’s more vulnerable. And she doesn’t have the protection of S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore, so her secrets are her biggest threat, even more than who has them and what they’re trying to do with them.

I’m a big fan of John Le Carré novels about spies and what they do once they’re done being spies. And I thought, what a great opportunity now for Jessica to live in a John Le Carré novel as she discovers the history of Maria, which also is the modern history of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel.com: I find Maria a really a compelling character; not lovable, like Peter Parker, but interesting. What do you think makes her so intriguing?

Brian Michael Bendis: Maria has to make some hard choices, and the super heroes don’t always make it easy for her. The X-Men, the Inhumans, everyone is messing with her stuff. So somebody has to be the mom. And if you’re in that position, you’re going to be bumming someone out, and you’re going to have to make some choices that someone doesn’t like.

I always liked how Matt Fraction wrote Maria’s relationship with Tony Stark. Now there’s a person who can understand the complexities of her decision-making policies.

And she took over for Nick Fury after decades. Everyone had an opinion about him, but no one had an opinion about her. And she doesn’t give you much verbally, so you have to base your opinion on her actions. And her comebacks—I always write her with a little wit and comeback because I think that shows her intelligence. So that was what was interesting about her introduction to the Marvel Universe, she came in like a hurricane who no one knew anything about.

Did I think she’d still be around? Did I think she’d be a movie star, a TV star? Did I think she’d be so entrenched in the movies and TV, and the comic books? No I did not. I know I’m more known for Jessica Jones and Miles Morales, but I had this unique experience of watching Maria catch on like wildfire in the mid-2000s. A lot of people started writing her. I was surprised by how much people at Marvel were interested in writing her because no one knew anything about her. As much pride as I feel about Jessica and Miles and Riri [Williams aka Ironheart], Maria being in the “Avengers” movie was a huge deal. And it reminded me of how special it is to add things to the Marvel Universe.

Marvel.com: You would call her a control freak, right? Her desire to be in control may have led her to support super hero registration in Civil War, and to create Pleasant Hill, for example. But it also seems like she feels that, in her position, she’s required to take control.

Brian Michael Bendis: It’s an interesting conversation I’ve been having in a few of the books—also maybe in my real life. You get to a certain age and control is an illusion. The more you grow and the more complicated your life gets, the more you realize this, and that all you can do is the best you can do in the moment you’re in. And for people playing a more dangerous game than the one you and I are playing every day, that’s more frustrating and scarier. And so here she is, trying to control a world she can’t control, as Tony Stark is, as Steve Rogers is. Everyone is trying to do their part—and then her part has a giant floating tank in the sky. And she’s aware of that, and how it looks. And we talk about it in JESSICA JONES, that she’s aware that she was almost sold to the American public as a boogeyman because the American public actually need one. They need to be mad at something, so it’s, “Here, be mad at the big floating tank in the sky.” She’s the taskmaster, the head nun at the school, the one who has to put the hammer down. And some people are going to be happy about it and some aren’t.

Marvel.com: I think Maria sees herself as a pragmatist; not afraid to do what she thinks she needs to.

Brian Michael Bendis: Yes. She has to be. She’s faced with factual reality, but also with the breaking of the laws of physics and gravity and time and space. Just imagine, “Oh hey, the original X-Men are here from the past, and they’re not going home, and we don’t know how to get them home. Is there a law against this?” I always kind of looked at her as editor-in-chief of Marvel the company. There are so many super heroes running around, smashing into each other, clashing. And I always try to imagine Joe Quesada or Axel Alonso, with a bird’s eye perspective of all of our stories being told at once, and all of that on their desks, and the madness that must create. And for Joe and Axel, it’s all fictional, but for Maria, it’s all real! Imagine you’re sitting in your office and the events of the biweekly X-Men or Avengers all happened at once!

Jessica Jones #8 cover by David Mack

Also, Maria has a lot of secrets about other people, and there are secrets about herself that she may not know. She may have voluntarily brainwashed herself to spare herself from some horrible memory that is coming back to haunt her—or she knows stuff about the super hero and super villain communities that they don’t even know. And those secrets will chase her. And you know, some politicians and people in government get secret service, but not everyone does, and Maria doesn’t. It’s almost like they’re being set up to be put down before they become a problem.

Marvel.com: Underneath it all, Maria does seem to care about doing the right thing. Yes, she has a lot of ambition, and she sometimes leads with an iron fist, but at the end of the day, she cares about protecting ordinary people. Do you see her that way?

Brian Michael Bendis: I do. And I’m not just saying this as her “biological father.” I think she has an enormous capacity for good and selfless behavior, and has shown it over and over and over again. And she has made tough choices in the face of insurmountable obstacles without blinking. Even if you didn’t agree with the politics, her actions were heroic and patriotic. And she has never buckled from that, no matter how tough the job got. So I consider her one of the great heroes of the Marvel Universe. I think she kept stuff together with everything was going off the rails. I think without her behavior in the original Civil War, we wouldn’t even have a Marvel Universe anymore. I think without her, Secret Invasion goes the other way, SECRET WAR goes the other way. And I know some of these are stories I’ve written, but not all of them. She has made deep, huge, giant choices that have affected the lives of Tony Stark and Peter Parker—the biggest names in the Marvel Universe. She has protected them and kept them straight. Regardless of her demeanor, I don’t think she’s done anything other than heroic actions; at least at the moment she thought they were.

I think some of the super heroes who have pushed against her have actually appreciated that there was something to push against, because some of them thrive on revolution and rebellion. They were grateful for what she does, because it kept things calmer than they would have been otherwise. As a parent, sometimes I see my older kids looking at me like, “It’s 8:30, please tell me to go to bed because I’m tired but I’m not going to go on my own.” And that’s what Maria has to do.

Marvel.com: What would you consider the top three key turning points in Maria’s history?

Brian Michael Bendis: I think we did well with her debut because it landed well. It also wasn’t pre-sold, and I liked introducing a character without any hype. I must say I’m proud of how well she landed. Let’s just say I didn’t have everything figured out back then, so when things went well with Maria, I was able to say, “Ok, that’s something that works.”

Number two, I think Civil War was a big deal for her, the first one. When I close my eyes and picture her, it’s some of [CIVIL WAR artist] Steve McNiven’s work that I see.

And this is going to sound cornball, but I’d say the third one is going to be the story we’re doing right now in JESSICA JONES because it is such an illumination of her. I think if anyone is even vaguely curious about what her deal was, it’s a grabber. And also, I kind of enjoyed how long we could keep her mystery going. People were not angry at us, they kind of liked it. They got the sense that we knew her deal and we’ll get to it when we do. I get people asking me little fill in the blank things about her, like, what S.H.I.E.L.D. class was she in. And that makes me think people are going to be excited when we finally tell the story of who she is and how she got here.

So I do believe the third one is the one that’s coming out right now. What a great sales pitch, and at the same time, completely self-serving!

Marvel.com: Can you tease anything about what we might see in Maria’s future?

Brian Michael Bendis: This new chapter in Maria’s life is exciting because she’s out of her comfort zone and into a new world in the Marvel Universe. And I can’t tell you how excited I was that this was all coming out in other stories around the same time that Jessica Jones would be there to catch her fall. It’s a perfect place to unlock this mystery of this woman who’s one of the biggest mysteries in modern comics.

She’s in a place where it’s, now you’ve got to find out who you are. You’ve done this job for a while, you’ve made your choices, now you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and say, who am I? What do I have to offer the world? What next, what now? And those are some of the scariest questions [a] person can ask, no matter where you are in your life. And anyone can relate to that.

What’s going on in this book, and in other very big books at Marvel, with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the face of that part of Marvel, is going to be altered dramatically over the course of the summer. And those players, and their place in the Marvel Universe, will all deal with this big shift. Some will succeed, some will fail, some will turn, and it’s going to spill out into other books. Particularly, a very cool story is going on in SPIDER-MAN and INVINCIBLE IRON MAN because of this. So if you’re reading all of them, you’re going to be so rewarded. And if you’re just reading one or the other, we’re going to show you some cool, new stuff because of what’s going on with Maria and the future of that part of Marvel.

The secrets of Maria Hill continue to be revealed in JESSICA JONES #9 on June 7 and JESSICA JONES #10 on July 5, both by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos!

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Brian Michael Bendis walks the fine line of writing Victor Von Doom!

This week, the star of INFAMOUS IRON MAN, Victor Von Doom, began to feel the threat of a perennial foe closing in as Reed Richards made his appearance in issue #8. This version of Mister Fantastic hails from the dead reality of the Ultimate Universe, which presents a unique new take on one of Marvel’s oldest rivalries and a sturdy obstacle for would-be-hero Doctor Doom.

We spoke with writer Brian Michael Bendis about how he manages the challenges of writing a villain-centric series alongside long-time artistic collaborator, Alex Maleev.

Marvel.com:  Brian, let’s start things off with talking about the challenges of writing a villain book versus your more typical hero book.

Brian Michael Bendis: Well, we have someone who is arguably the biggest villain in the Marvel Universe who wants to attempt to redeem himself. This is the man with the biggest hole that he’s dug for himself and [he] is going to try and crawl out of it. That is something I have been dying to do for years. I can’t tell you what year I wrote down this idea, but I can’t think of anyone who would be better suited to attempt this with and be more difficult. You have to live inside his head and approach it from the perspective of knowing everything that he’s done. There is no falling back on something like “Oh, he’s got amnesia!” He knows everything that he did, he knows where all the bodies have been buried, and he is still going to climb out of it. That is the biggest challenge; it’s looking through that perspective that is oh-so-different than mine on every level.

Marvel.com: Despite the challenges, there are some rewards to it, right?

Brian Michael Bendis: You know, it’s funny. My favorite thing that I do with this book that is so different than any other title I’ve ever written is there are a lot of quiet moments with Victor; I think more than we’ve ever seen before. I mean, there are other books that have shown him with quiet moments, and that’s well established that there is public Victor and private Victor, but this is all Victor’s interior. We’re seeing Victor in some personally strenuous circumstances, but I try to find places where the “old Victor” can pop out just for a little bit: “Unhand me, woman!” You know those lines. That is how he speaks when he is angry, and I’m not sure it’s something that would go away just because he decides to be a better person.  So, writing that is a lot of fun. I literally go “Ok, now I have to write a ‘Victor is a [expletive] part.’”

Marvel.com: Apart from the fun in writing Doom’s voice, what’s the greatest challenge to tackling the Lord of Latveria?

Brian Michael Bendis: [Laughs] I’d say looking at the story through his perspective and finding empathy—not sympathy, but empathy. I think that’s the hardest thing with a “villain book.” You have to find that thing to which you are emotionally connected, or at least, understand where they are coming from so you can use that for yourself in your writing.

It’s so funny. In comics, it’s such a unique thing to have a character like this, but it is the norm in television from Tony Soprano to Walter White—characters with a lot of layers, but [who] are making their money with criminal activity. As the writer of “The Sopranos” would say, “people will watch as long as they are good at their job.” You want to watch Victor try to crawl out of a hole because oh my God! That’s like hearing a David Blaine stunt is about to happen! Who could not watch that?

Infamous Iron Man #9 cover by Alex Maleev

Marvel.com:  Now, you mentioned your interest in seeing villains dig their way out of impossible holes. I know you touched on this a bit, but do you find you connect with this on a personal level that translates into Victor’s story?

Brian Michael Bendis: No…I mean, that would be ridiculous of me to say “Oh, I crawled my way out of a hole or two in my day.” Everyone has said “I need to fix this or that,” you know? I think anyone can relate to the idea that when you do fix a mistake, it’s the best feeling in the world. Don’t you feel great when you call up a friend and go “Hey, remember that thing you heard? It’s not true…I love you.” Then it goes away, right? What a lovely thing that is, right? So, imagine that experience, but instead of it being between your friend and you, we’re talking about your entire life and the reality of the world depends on you healing this mistake. As far as Victor goes, “Could he do it? Could he honestly do it?” In every issue, he is moving two steps forward one step back, but he is getting closer.

Marvel.com: This leads right into my next question! Naturally, we have all made mistakes, like you were mentioning. Some of us have even made some truly awful ones; but one of the things that I was thinking about, particularly in relation to where Victor was and where he is trying to go, is there a point of no return? Is there a point where the readers cannot, or dare I say should not, connect with the villain, given how horrible their past actions were?

Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah! Well, I should say yes, but with Victor—you see, the really big “gift” that’s given to me with Victor and the reason why I think people are more forgiving, for lack of a better word, with him is because they know the story of his past. They know his Romani past, they know about his mother, and they know what she did to him. Once you kind of understand where it all started from, you’re kind of like “Okaaaay. This little boy is trying to escape from this hell,” and you’re rooting for him. That is really where people’s heads go. It is never too late in a lot of people’s eyes.

Marvel.com: I see you’re also turning the screws on this setup in bringing back Ultimate Reed Richards, aka The Maker. In this instance, we are seeing a sort of inverse of Doom: a once-hero now-turned villain. Was it too much to resist pairing these decades-old antagonists against each other again?

Brian Michael Bendis: I mean that wasn’t in the initial planning of when I wanted to do this book, but once you start putting all the cards out, you start seeing all 52 of those cards laid out and start going “Oh my God! There is an evil Reed and a trying to be good Doom!”

I remember I called [editor] Tom Brevoort and I said, “I can’t think of a reason not to do this. It’s just too good. There [has] got to be something that I’m not considering, you know this has got to be done before or something.” I almost wanted Tom to tell me “Oh, this has been done before” and I would have been freed of that burden. But instead, he responded, “Yeah, I think we have to do that. For people who are desperately missing the Fantastic Four, there is a little something for all of us.” Then what happened—unplanned—was an emotional Fantastic Four story. Here they are trying to re-discover themselves and find out who they are without the tropes of that other book. That’s fun to write and it’s very in-tune with the “adultness” that the other book had. It’s a little more emotionally sophisticated in INFAMOUS IRON MAN than maybe a book about the teenagers would be because we are dealing with serious issues.

Marvel.com:  One last question for you, Brian. I know that you’ve said before that this story has a definitive beginning, middle, and end. Where are we right now in Doom’s redemptive arc? Any hints as to how it’s going to end for one of Marvel’s most infamous villains?

Brian Michael Bendis: Mmmm. I would say past the half way mark. Truthfully, you are going to love this, this is a great last line of an interview that really doesn’t answer the question. It will end in the only way it could.

Marvel.com: I think you might be right about that!

Brian Michael Bendis: I swear to God, the ending I pitched was like, “Could I get there?” And nothing has moved it. There is no other ending in sight. Maybe it will change tomorrow, and sometimes that does happen. You think you know the ending of the story and you hear a lot of writers talk about that—knowing their ending before they start. This ending is powerful. I even shared it at the Marvel retreat a year ago, which was before the book had even shipped. That’s how sure was of where the story was going to end. And it hasn’t [changed]—which is very unusual for me! I try to leave an open mind at heart, because I want to be surprised. And this one? The only surprise has been how fun the journey is to write, but the ending is still the ending.

Continue to follow Doom’s journey of redemption in INFAMOUS IRON MAN #9 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev on June 28!

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Brian Michael Bendis wonders what it would take to drive Ironheart over the edge!

The possibility of successfully navigating an angry super villain is approximately three thousand seven hundred and twenty to one! No need to tell Ironheart the odds of victory—chances are, she already knows!

But how invincible is Riri Williams? Can she maintain her sense of youthful idealism and hope in the face of villains seeking her demise daily? Writer Brian Michael Bendis tackles these questions and more not only in the current arc—issue #8 arriving June 21—alongside artist Stefano Caselli, but also in our most recent interview.

Marvel.com: We’ve spoken in the past about Riri Williams as a source of youthful hope for the Marvel Universe. What do you think it is that makes her such a positive character; not just for readers but as a person herself?

Brian Michael Bendis: She has a very unique perspective. I really dove into it when I discovered it, but if I’m honest, it’s hard to describe. She’s a studier. A lot of learning, but not a lot of experience. She has that youthful perspective of not yet knowing just how crappy the world can be. She’s been studying the global situation since she’s been nine years old, but it’s different seeing and experiencing the world versus studying it. That’s something a lot of people can relate to, you know? It’s a real thing in life.

Also, it’s a little similar to what we did with Ultimate Peter Parker in terms of that journey of coming to know something as opposed to just learning about it. But Riri’s process in gaining this perspective couldn’t be more different than Peter’s. The similarity is that they’re both growing up fast as super heroes.

Marvel.com: Sometimes, people do their very best to avoid letting others become aware of their greater weaknesses. What do you think Riri would want to avoid letting people know about herself?

Brian Michael Bendis: She’s terrified. It’s funny, you know? Some people don’t know what they do not know. But then again, there are others who are well aware of what they don’t know and it can be incredibly unnerving. She’s aware of her blind spots, and she can figure out what she doesn’t know.

For example, she could be in a fight and then run the calculations of how much more damage she can take before things go really bad really quickly. And that’s both helpful and a little nerve-wracking to know. With higher intellect comes more fact-based fear.

Marvel.com: Let’s assume you aren’t the mild-mannered writer that you are, and instead, are one of the four-colored comic book villains you write about. How would you go about breaking the heart of Ironheart?

Brian Michael Bendis: [Laughs] I’m actually going to do that in the book, so I can’t tell you that! That’s actually my job: to be the worst person in the world and figure out how to bring low the best person. It’s hilarious you’re asking me that!

Marvel.com: Well, you can’t blame me for trying! Let me ask this another way: How evil are you? What are some ways we can expect to see Ironheart tested to this extent even if in the future? How might you test her limits?

Brian Michael Bendis: [Laughs] Her limits are different. There’s no “Uncle Ben’s killer” to get. It’s not that kind of story. It’s about how she’s going to process her tragedies and move forward in life. That’s what the stories we’re going to tell are going to push her to the limit. Push her up against the wall and make her think twice—like what happened with Peter. How will the technology and legacy that she’s taken on will help her grow?

Invincible Iron Man #8 cover by Stefano Caselli

Marvel.com: It’s interesting as you’ve juxta-positioned Riri against Peter a couple of times. But whereas Peter’s origin seems to be centered around personal responsibility, Riri’s seems more focused on self-assurance.

Brian Michael Bendis: I keep connecting them because, while their stories are so specific, they’re also quite similar in their “everyman” qualities; we can all imagine ourselves in their positions doing something better or more exciting than we might. That’s what inspires.

And going back to your earlier questions, that’s my goal: to create situations that allow me to tell stories where I can push these characters to the extreme. It’s also worth pointing out she’s only two weeks into her super hero origin. She may very well be on a journey that puts her past Ironheart and onto something else. That’s very exciting!

Marvel.com: Looking down that road, there’s a common trope in comics over the past 30 years to go “dark and gritty.” Is this a place you could ever see Riri Williams going?

Brian Michael Bendis: There’s “dark and gritty” and there’s dark and gritty. In a similarly youthful book, Miles finds himself in a pretty dark place. His dark place looks like Matt Murdock’s brunch! [Laughs] It’s all perspective. I look at Riri’s story as a survivor’s tale. I don’t think that kind of darkness has a way “in” right now, but in five years? Who knows? We might discover something that would lend itself to that kind of story. But at the moment, the book is about hope and proactively working to make the world a better place.

As the global news is more chaotic, I’m finding that when I read the scripts back, I’m startled at how intimate and personal they’re getting. Because of that, there’s going to be a lot of “feels” and hope more than I ever have written before.

Marvel.com: Do we need moments of levity when we approach those narrative breaking points for our characters?

Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah, exactly. Fun is a dirty “F word” in some parts of the comics community, but some of my favorite comics right now have a lot of fun in them. Even the darkest ones possess a little fun. You have a suit of armor you made in your garage? You should have fun with it! That would never not be fun—it will always be fun!

See what Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli have in store for Ironheart in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8, coming June 21!

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The creative team behind Marvel's street level heroes comes together to answer your questions!

Coming June 14, DEFENDERS unites Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist as Marvel’s street level team supreme! Get all the info on the comic to come in a special live blog with writer Brian Michael Bendis, artist David Marquez, and editor Tom Brevoort–dive in below!

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Brian Michael Bendis shares his formula for creating a better bad guy!

As INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #6 hit shelves this week, readers discovered a rough week for Riri Williams. Not only did she see her latest adventures going viral, but Ironheart had the unenviable position of catching the attention of the latest villain to the “Red and Gold” rogues’ gallery.

Of course, every hero needs a good villain; it comes with the job—and the fancy armor! But not just any baddie will do. So, who better to talk about what goes into crafting the right kind of enemy for an armored super hero like Iron Man or Ironheart than series writer, Brian Michael Bendis?

Marvel.com: Who are your favorite villains in the Marvel Universe, particularly those who existed before you became “Brian Michael Bendis” the comic writer?

Brian Michael Bendis: My favorites are not going to surprise too many people. Magneto is probably the [most well created] villain as far as craft goes. Here’s a character who teeters on the verge of madness, but we’ve also seen what’s formed him. We know what drives him. We understand and empathize with his point of view. We may even agree with it. We just can’t agree with how far he’ll go to make it happen. And that makes him a phenomenal antagonist. You can create a villain who not only does the audience like but also agree with. But then he goes and does something, and that’s where he loses them.

I’m going to switch to Doctor Doom for a minute here, but it holds with Magneto, too. There’s a real winning personality most writers have been able to find within the “Bwwaa ha ha” bad guy moments where we see this villain is a real person. When I picked my members of the Cabal, those characters were six of my favorite villains and there they were. That dynamic was ideal because they’re all Type A personalities with very clear agendas. They’re all broken in some way, and they wear it on their sleeves. What makes for a better “Twelve Angry Men” than that?

Marvel.com: What about these villains makes them compelling characters for you not only as a reader but also as a creator?

Brian Michael Bendis: You know, so many people wonder why we like Walter White from “Breaking Bad.” You don’t have to like these characters, you just like watching people be very good at what they do. Take a look at Tony Soprano and what he did. Walter White was better! And it’s fun to see people be good at their job. Even TLC reality shows do this same thing with their extravagant home flipping and wild motorcycle building series. That’s what makes villains captivating: seeing them pull of these grand plans better than anyone else!

Marvel.com: Of course, you’ve done more than just play with other people’s toys; you’ve created your fair share of characters as well during your tenure at Marvel. What do you think helps villains make the greatest impact, both on fans and on the residents of the Marvel Universe?

Brian Michael Bendis: There are two things I’ve always wanted to accomplish. Every creator— no matter the medium—has certain “itches” that they want to scratch. It doesn’t matter how many times you scratch it, you just can’t help but go back there for more, you know? With me, this idea of taking a villain like The Purple Man and scraping off the comic book silliness—and I mean that not at all in a pejorative sense, but as someone who loves it—but to scrape off all of the “stuff” and get to the true horror of the character, what it can do and what it represents. From there, I want to be able to tell a story that gives the ultimate version of its power and form, and from there, it becomes impossible to disassociate the villain from the respective hero. It’s definitely something I got to do with Purple Man and Jessica Jones.

The same notion, that I’m in the middle of right now, is the other big mountain that I’ve wanted to climb. I’ve done versions of this before, but I’m fascinated with [something] right now, and that is when people land themselves in these deep, dark pits and have to crawl out of them. The one that Victor Von Doom is in right now and is trying to pull himself from in INFAMOUS IRON MAN is the biggest hole anyone’s ever tried to escape from—to be honest—all of literature from the dawn of man. To go from what he did in [Secret Wars], which was an abomination of all things, and now here he is trying to redeem himself from that? It’s so much fun to write.

Marvel.com: It goes back to your previous point about villains where we may have a good idea about the end result, but it’s watching the path that the character takes to get there that imparts a sense of closure—that proves satisfying for us as readers.

Brian Michael Bendis: Exactly, especially when the Marvel Universe never closes and its characters are always in motion and moving in different directions. So, to take a moment to zero in on a character and explore what he or she wants and how far that person will go to get it is really some of the most fun you can have as a writer. Look through the eyes of Magneto? I’m Jewish, I get it! [Laughs] But would I go where he goes? Of course not! But trying to put yourself in his shoes is a pretty interesting thing.

Marvel.com: We’ve been looking at things from a broader perspective, but let’s drill down a bit and look at both Iron Man and Ironheart.

Given that both characters’ heroic personas evolve from their powerful armor, how does this affect the way you go about developing a villain? Is it the person in the armor or the armor on the person that drives the development of their enemies?

Brian Michael Bendis: [Laughs] You said a lot there—that was like 30 questions! But they’re all excellent ones. This is all I’ve been thinking about lately with these two characters. Yes, with Iron Man, the metaphor of the armor isn’t lost on anyone including the person in the armor. They’re all smart enough to get how he’s wrapped himself in this protective cocoon so the bad people can’t hurt me anymore. So, there’s that.

But what they do with the armor? Wearing armor goes back thousands of years. Who doesn’t think about armor and King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table from hundreds of years ago? Armor has been used for many reasons: religious, military, iconic. For Victor, he’s clearly working on some level where technology and all things mystic are merging. And this is something I’ll be playing out not just in his book but others as well. Stuff I hinted at years ago with Tony Stark, Sorcerer Supreme in the future. There’s an argument that says the Singularity might still come from man, and a character like Tony might have decided that when the Singularity comes, he might want it to be him.

With all of that in mind, I’ve given a lot of thought over the armor Victor has and what it could do along with how he uses his sorcerer abilities to enhance what it can do. Then we have Riri who has designed her armor using the base of Tony’s ideas, but then we’re already seeing that she’s added things to [hers] that his could not do. I think we’re seeing that [it] will be, as issues go on, it’s going to be both fun and frustrating. Just when you start to like something that her armor can do, it will change. But that’s just like her: Riri is also in a state of constant fluctuation personally.

Marvel.com: Which brings us to the issue of the villains…

Brian Michael Bendis: Right. The other question you asked centered on the villains that are developed around these heroes. Looking at these heroes, whose powers center around technology, the one thing that stands in direct contrast would be something organic, right? Something that can’t be controlled by technology. Hulk vs Iron Man is the perfect [example] of this conflict as they’re getting their powers from different places. One is getting stronger as the other is growing weaker. I love this character, Animax, that we recently introduced. She’s this mutant who can basically create creatures out of nothing. Monstrous creatures are great for an armored hero to fight!

Interestingly, that character was co-created by my daughter Olivia, and Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s son, Henry Leo. I was sitting at the table and I said “I need a villain!” and Henry Leo responded “It’s a woman, she’s a mutant, and she shoots animals out of her hands.” And then I asked Olivia, “What’s her name?” to which she replied “Animax.” And there you go. Thanks, guys! So, sometimes it’s as fun as that to dip into that sort of childhood imagination, or in my case, I stole it from our children. But I feed and clothe them, so it’s okay.

But then we have another interesting villain named Tomo the techno-golem, who’s running the Japanese underworld and has the power to take over and overload technology. Both Tony and Riri are trying to figure out how her power works. It’s either a level of technology they can’t understand or Tomo’s invented it. In either case, this presents a real challenge for Tony and Riri, and it’s something they can’t really seem to figure out right now. Already the villain is developing faster than they can! It kind of speaks to the larger challenge these technologically-based heroes face, and that’s the danger of becoming obsolete. Anyone who’s working at Apple or Sony will tell you there is this feeling of being constantly chased and becoming nothing more than an old Walk-Man. And that’s the legacy for a hero who works in a suit of armor.

Marvel.com: Iron Man’s made a lot of enemies over the years, and so, finding villains ready and willing to do battle with a red-and-gold armored hero shouldn’t be difficult. Does Riri need her own villains or do you think it would work perfectly fine for her to go on tackling some of the members from Tony’s rogues’ gallery?

Brian Michael Bendis: I feel the same way about Miles Morales as I do Riri. Anywhere I can add toys to the toy box, then by all means. It’s important to me to add as many as I’ve either used or broken! So, yes, I’ve been actively looking to invent new villains for the Iron Man world. It was actually the second item on my list when I knew I’d gotten the chance to take over Iron Man: work on the rogues’ gallery. But the reason I don’t want to do 100% brand new villains is that it would create a sort of disconnect. Why isn’t Miles bumping into Shocker at some point or another? He’s there. Is this the same world or not? That’s where my head’s at.

But yeah, there will be new characters. It goes back to Joker and Batman, right? When you have a new hero who comes out and announces him or herself to the world, it creates a sort of challenge to less heroic characters to step up. It’s a billiard ball effect where people respond in a myriad of different ways that the hero will have to deal with.

Marvel.com: Last question: Some might argue that Tony’s greatest enemy is himself. Do you think that’s the case for Riri? Why or why not?

Brian Michael Bendis: Riri doesn’t know who she is yet. She’s fiercely intelligent [and] discovering new things about herself each day. So, no, I don’t think she’s in the position to be her own worst enemy yet, you know? So far, her choices have been very heroic.

And this is where I’d disagree with the idea of Tony being his own worst enemy and put him on a higher pedestal than some do. Because they’re not wrong. That philosophy is more popular than mine. While Tony has a self-destructive streak, he always does the right thing. With everything he’s been through and the addictions he’s struggled through—even though he’s not with us anymore—it appears to be the work of a very heroic and noble man, who may not see that in himself. He may knock himself down in the Second Act, but he always gets back up.

Find out who’s targeting Riri next in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #7, available May 17 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli!

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Peter Parker and Miles Morales reunite for a milestone story!

In 2012, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli gave us the legendary team-up of Peter Parker and Miles Morales with SPIDER-MEN. Through the dimensional tampering of Mysterio, Peter ended up in the “Ultimate” universe and came face-to-face with his own death as well as a brand-new and younger hero with the mantle of Spider-Man. Five years, one Secret Wars and a Civil War II later, and the two now live together in the Marvel Universe, but one massive question still remains: Who is the Miles Morales of Earth-616? The first five-issue event left that particular juicy nugget of information on a cliffhanger that has yet to be resolved…until now.

The highly-anticipated follow-up to SPIDER-MEN arrives this summer from the reunited team of Bendis and Pichelli along with colorist Justin Ponsor. Luckily, you won’t have to wait until the first issue of SPIDER-MEN II drops in July for some answers. We spoke with Brian about the long-awaited sequel, the iconic web-slinging legacy of Spider-Man, and the question he’s been asked the most on social media for half a decade.

Marvel.com: So tell us a little bit about SPIDER-MEN II…

Brian Michael Bendis: Well first I have to tell you about [SPIDER-MEN]. So a few years ago when Miles first debuted, we did a series called SPIDER-MEN where Peter and Miles met for the very first time. The Peter from our universe, and Miles from the Ultimate Universe, and what was surprising about the series—for me as well by the way—was how emotional it became; it started in my head, as a fan, I would want to see them team up immediately, but the emotions of the series were so raw, and what Miles took away from it was so powerful. And also it just became about legacy and loss and individuality and it ended up becoming one of the best things I ever did at Marvel, in no small part to what Sara Pichelli achieved with Justin Ponsor on the pages. We ended that series with kind of a cheeky, [tongue-in-cheek], cliffhanger or like, what they call, an “anti-cliffhanger” you know? Where after it’s all done, Peter comes back to his universe, takes a shower, sits down and decides to Google Miles Morales, because there was no Miles Morales he knew of. He Googles it, and we see his reaction to it, but we don’t see what he sees. So of course for the last few years, every week and even lately, every day, I’ve been getting beamed with “What did he see?” “Who is Miles Morales in the 616?,” but what’s great since the first series, and the reason we didn’t do another series right away was because Secret Wars was coming and [Civil War II] was coming. There were such big events coming and one of those events, Secret Wars, created a situation where Miles and Peter live in the same Marvel Universe now, which changes the dynamic between them and changes the dynamic of all the Spider-People, and as soon as that happened I was like, “Well, then we get to do SPIDER-MEN II, and they’re in the same universe, like that could be exciting” and also create a brand new story to tell, and sometimes I think that everyone knows that sometimes the thing you worry about the most with sequels, is that it’s just going to be the same story over and over again, whereas this one already the premise is completely different because now Miles and Peter are living in the same universe, their legacy is of the same cloth and it alters everything between them. Plus, we still don’t know who Miles Morales was in the 616 before our Miles got there, so we have a very interesting bunch of things to reveal.

Marvel.com: What’s the gestation period been like over the last five years for the sequel?

Brian Michael Bendis: Well, it’s one of my favorite things about a shared universe, is that on top of what you’re writing for the characters, other things are happening to the characters, like now Miles is in the new universe, and now he’s a part of CHAMPIONS, and half of [Civil War II] was people fighting over his head, so things have changed in his life, and his relationship to the Marvel Universe is completely different than it was in the first series and that’s exciting. Also, a lot of people know who he is now, they know that there’s a movie coming with him, he’s in the cartoons, he’s a Build-A-Bear, he’s everywhere! It’s exciting to have him with his own fan base now coming back to meeting Peter and seeing what’s up between them.

Marvel.com: Where would you say that this series fits into this tapestry that you’ve been building for nearly two decades within the context of the Spider-Man stories you’ve been writing?

Brian Michael Bendis: I think it’s a very big chapter about legacy; ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN from its very first issue was about the legacy of Spider-Man even though we were retelling the stories or reexamining the stories for modern audiences. We’re still telling the story of Spider-Man, it’s still about the legacy and much like I was living in and continue to live in Stan [Lee’s] shadow with Spider-Man, I can relate to Miles so much because that’s what it must feel like to be Spider-Man when Peter Parker is there, so I relate to it, and what I discovered was that a lot of people did, a lot of people grow up admiring someone, saying “That’s what I want to be like when I grow up” and then they grow up and go, “Well actually, what I like about that person is that they’re an individual with an individual voice so maybe that’s what I should be looking for, instead of looking to emulate.” A lot of people who make comics can relate to this. I broke in and said, “Oh my God, I wanna be Frank Miller” and then you soon realize, “Well, what I like about Frank Miller is that he’s unique, so what can I do that’s unique? Not just imitate him, but what can I do?” Even writing DAREDEVIL, it was a challenge because I was writing the book, the reason that I wanted to be here in the first place. So what can Miles do? And that’s going to the be answered in this series.

Marvel.com: And like you said we left off on this cliffhanger, with Peter researching Miles in his own universe. Is there anything you can tease about what Peter, and as an extension, the readers, will learn about this other Miles?

Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah you know sometimes I, because I’m cheeky online, and I’m cheeky on Tumblr; like I’m half cheeky so sometimes I’m answering serious, sometimes I’m being a goofball. With this one over the years, I’ve been a goofball, like people were “meme-ing” with it, they’d always used it like, “Peter Googled something about comics and there’s the answer,” you know? It was always like a fun meme, which I really like so I would always re-post them so people might think that we’re not gonna really answer the question of who the Miles Morales is in the 616 universe, or [they think] I’m gonna do a trick answer [like], “It’s really been Miles the whole time, there’s no other…” No. There is a person Miles Morales and we’re gonna meet him and it’s a story to tell. So, it’s a very important story to us and we’ve been planning it for years and we wanted to make sure it was the right time and the right people to do it so I just want to make it clear since I’ve been so goofy about the answer that you’re getting a real answer, a serious answer, not a fake out.

Marvel.com: And going off that, how does “our” Miles Morales, who’s now living on Earth-616 play into this hunt so-to-speak? How does he feel about this other “him”?

Brian Michael Bendis: Well, that’s it. There’s gonna be a team-up between Peter and Miles, the first one in a while, and that’s gonna not only illuminate who Miles is but they’re going to find themselves up against some serious, serious big time problems, the first one being Taskmaster.

Marvel.com: Now that Peter and Miles know that these other universes exist, what kind of fun did you want to have with these types of concepts this time?

Brian Michael Bendis:  Well that’s the thing, it’s actually different because now they’re all stuck in the same place; there is nowhere to go. They’re stuck with each other, so let’s figure out what this [mystery] is about. For Peter, we’re talking a lot about Miles, but for Peter you got to remember, when he put on the Spider-Man costume, he wasn’t [like], “I’m going to start a movement, there are going to be so many Spider-People when I’m done!” That was not the plan. So his examination of power and responsibility gets amplified by the fact that he has brought upon a genuine amount of Spider People that their power may become his responsibility as well. Is it his responsibility? This is what we will look into.

Marvel.com: Since that other storyline dealt with Peter Parker dying in that other universe, in the Ultimate Universe, is our Peter kind of reeling from that knowledge about his death? Is he aware of his mortality than he was before and will it affect his motivations?

Brian Michael Bendis: Excellent question—You will see in [SPIDER-MEN II #3].

Marvel.com: You just mentioned Taskmaster; like Mysterio and the Ultimates in the first run, what can you tell us about the key players, both heroes and villains, in SPIDER-MEN II?

Brian Michael Bendis: Well it looks like Taskmaster was sharing a cell with Mysterio, or I should say sharing a cell-block and found out about what Mysterio was up to in the first series and Taskmaster is using that information for a plan that’s pretty dangerous because Taskmaster may not understand the dimensional ramifications of what he is doing; he is planning to pull off a heist, but he may be folding realities, but this isn’t going to be a dimension-hopping story—we just did an awesome one with SPIDER-GWEN—we are flat out in the Marvel Universe. We’re right here.

Marvel.com: Final question: What are the stakes like?

Brian Michael Bendis: They’re everything. I mean you are talking about a young man who is searching for his identity, you’re talking about Spider-Man who’s looking to lock down his legacy in a way that will do Uncle Ben and everything that he’s worked for proud. Peter’s fought for years [so] he can’t have it all fall apart now, so for the men of [SPIDER-MEN II it’s] gigantic, huge. And If I may, I haven’t mentioned Sara and Justin. Sara, the co-creator of Miles Morales, and she’s been there for every major event, almost, that has happened to him. I really didn’t wanna do this without her so I was thrilled that she agreed; so having Sarah and Justin together which is the entire creative team of not only the first series, but of Miles Morales’s origin and of his [current] book, it’s a real treat that we get to continue on.

Marvel.com: Anything else to add?

Brian Michael Bendis: You know what? It’s exciting just because this series is the one I’m asked the most about. “When are you going to do this? When are you gonna follow up on this?”  and there just wasn’t a good time to do it until now, and all the stuff that’s happened since then has made the story that much more potent. Again, a few years ago, when we started SPIDER-MEN, I couldn’t even imagine that there would be a Miles Morales” movie and that the Spider-Man movie franchise would be so loving towards the work we did on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN; what a perfect time to take our next big step [with] the “Spider” characters in publishing.

Get ready for SPIDER-MEN II from Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor this July by reading the first issue of SPIDER-MEN now for free! Offer valid until Thursday April 27 at 9:59 AM EST on one (1) digital copy of SPIDER-MEN #1 only. Marvel user account and internet connection required.

 

 

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Brian Michael Bendis goes over his lead’s ups and downs as a detective!

Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Jake Gittes. Popular culture gives us no end of rugged, hard-hitting private detectives who can sling quick-witted as if genetically-engineered to do so, but only one of them has had the honor of also calling themselves an Avenger.

That would be Jessica Jones, a no-nonsense investigator, mother, wife, and Defender. We’ve seen her solve some difficult cases on the page and screen, but it’s time to dig deep into what makes Jessica a particularly effective gumshoe. We got a hold of her co-creator and current JESSICA JONES scribe Brian Michael Bendis to chat about Jessica’s noir influences, her role as a wife/mother and the cathartic effect she has on her writer.

To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, “An interview with Mr. Bendis is, uh, the stuff dreams are made of.”

Marvel.com: As a co-creator of this character, what do you think makes her such an effective private investigator?

Brian Michael Bendis: Her perspective and experience and attitude. You have to have this perfect mesh of intuitive understanding of the human condition; I mean this is really what all detectives are. You’re looking at something and seeing things that other people wouldn’t see. You train your brain to see the tells on a person’s face so you can tell if they’re lying or not. You train your brain to scan a room and see little bits and pieces that other people wouldn’t know. On top of that, I think Jessica is quite excellent at knowing the right people to go to, to find something out and that’s one of her real successes. As a street level character, she kind of knows— like she’s one of the few people who knows where Night Nurse is and she knows where the gun runners are. She knows where all the players are, and she knows who to ask certain questions of something. Like right now, I’m doing a story where [Jessica] is trying to find out who is trying to murder Maria Hill, and that’s far out of her normal wheel house, but she was able to dig under some rocks and find the people who might know the people who know the people so she’s very good at that, I don’t think she gives herself enough credit. Just having had her perspective as an Avenger, as Luke Cage’s wife, as now a Defender, you know, she’s in it, she has a really unique perspective of the entire super hero community so when people come to her with problems revolving around it she’s able to figure out not only how to solve the case, but if the case is even a case; which is sometimes what a detective’s job really is. Is this case a case? Sometimes they’re not.

Marvel.com: That’s a good segue into the next question, which is when it comes to genre, Jessica Jones is very much like a noir character, so can you talk about the noir influences that went into creating the character and her stories?

Brian Michael Bendis: Oh, from Jake Gittes, all the way to the real life detectives I’ve met, to the most unique detectives in fiction, like [the movie] “Brick.” I love these movies or stories where there is a detective in the last place you would expect one. Ed Brubaker did an amazing series called Scene of the Crime that I absolutely loved as well. “Chinatown,” obviously, is the one that you go “Ok, don’t be bad, because there’s ‘Chinatown,’ try to be good like ‘Chinatown’.” And in there are so many excellent tropes about detectives and their relationships and why people hire a private investigator. Sometimes the police aren’t just enough, you need special attention or a special perspective and she definitely stands among her influences, that is one thing I definitely bring with her if that makes any sense is that she definitely does not.

Marvel.com: I’m glad you brought up “Chinatown” because, generally speaking, private investigators in pop culture have mostly been men with women taking on the role of the femme fatale, and she is such a subversion of those tropes…

Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah, I get it and we talk about it a little bit because, you know, there is a lot of muscle work with detective work, it’s a lot like [you’re] getting into fights in the back room of a bar or you’re body-guarding and fair or not, over the decades men would take those jobs, but Jessica, obviously, is unique and didn’t need to worry about that so from there we were able to build a completely different experience. Yes, there are real life private investigators and detectives that are women right now and actually I know them so I am not saying that there aren’t women detectives, there absolutely are and I’m just saying that you’re right that traditionally and certainly traditionally in fiction, we’ve seen a lot of men so once you start digging into what is unique about Jessica, yeah, Jessica has her unique perspective, and also a female perspective, and also the perspective of someone with the power to back it up, so she may get into jams that would be difficult for normal people, that she can get out of and that adds to what’s unique about her as a detective as well.

Marvel.com: And like you’ve said, she’s been in the Avengers, she has tried the whole costumed hero thing” before starting Alias Investigations, so what aspects of crime fighting came with her to her detective days and which kind of fell to the wayside.

Brian Michael Bendis: What I like about her, and I know a lot of people like about her, is that she tried it, ok, she tried it, it felt like [expletive] to her, which is totally fine, and like I said even with people who [are] in comics, they are creators, they come to do a certain type of comic, and then they go “Oh, I don’t like that type of comic, I don’t want to make that comic,” right? But other people love it, they think it’s the best way to do it, so that’s the people who should do that, so the people who think that being a super hero is the best way to do it, those are people who should be [super heroes], and yes Jessica who doesn’t think that that’s the road for her or she thinks it’s proven it’s not the road for her, she absolutely should not do it, she should do it her way. So having the experience of wearing the costume and bouncing around and not appreciating it as much as others gives her that unique ability to scrape the [expletive] off of any story and get right to the meat of it; whereas other detectives and reporters might find themselves distracted by the flash of powers and flying around, she is not. She’s seen how the sausage is made so she’s alright. You’ve seen it too like, even reporters who have met fifty thousand movie stars, when they meet a new movie star they get all giddy, it’s exciting you’re meeting a movie star. If you want someone solving your case, you want something who isn’t going to start giggling if Tony Stark shows up. [She can ask], “Are you full of [expletive] or not?” That’s what Jessica can do.

Marvel.com: And kind of going off that, being a P.I can be a morally dubious job; how does that weigh on her conscience or affect her husband and child for whom she wants to set a positive example?

Brian Michael Bendis: Well that’s it and that’s really what the new series has been about for me. As I have often confessed, [JESSICA JONES] being a book that I’m the most aware that I’m working some [expletive] out of for myself. Sometimes when you’re writing you don’t know what you’re working out until it’s done whereas with Jessica, I am a father of four children and I am constantly finding myself being looked up to by them, they’re looking for answers from me. When you find yourself all the sudden in this position, where people are looking to you, you have to kind of examine who you are and why you put yourself in this situation, so that is part of what Jessica is doing, she wants to be the detective, she wants to solve her cases and by doing so, maybe make the world a better place, and when her daughter is old enough to look around, it’ll look better than the one Jessica looks at and she says that in the series to Luke. They’re both freaking out about being parents when they don’t think they’re fully realized as humans yet and as I’ve discovered in my life, I’ve never met anyone who said, “Oh good, I’m gonna be a parent because I’m fully realized as a human.” You always go, “Oh [expletive]! I’m a parent now, but I’m not done baking myself.” Because you’re never done, it’s the truth. So this is what Jessica and Luke will be dealing with in the series is, “We’re parents now so that means that we have other responsibilities on top of the responsibilities we had” or “The responsibilities we had are now amplified because we’re doing it not only for ourselves and for the world, but for this child. Not only do we want to raise her to be a good person, we’d like to help the world be somewhere safe for her and also, wouldn’t it be nice when she is old enough and looks at her [mother], that she sees Jessica Jones, the detective who saves people and is heroic and making the world a better place, not the gigantic pile of loser that she thinks she was years ago.” And the reason I say she thinks she was [is] because I don’t, I think she’s a survivor. She thinks otherwise.

Marvel.com: Final question: if you had to nail down a MacGuffin, so to speak, for Jessica over the course of her career, what would it be? What would her Maltese Falcon” be, in other words?

Brian Michael Bendis: Oh, it’s the Purple Man in a way if you think about. Here is my vague hint because the real interesting thing about your question is that her journey with the Purple Man has not come to an end…there’s your big tease.

Find out what’s next for the powerhouse P.I. in JESSICA JONES #8, on sale May 3 from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos!

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The team meets Angela, battles Thanos once again, and much more!

Celebrate this incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy’s tenth anniversary while also prepping for the May 5 release of their new film with these gems from Marvel Unlimited!

Writer Brian Michael Bendis’ first arc on GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY may have dropped the team in the middle of intergalactic politics, but the second—issues #410, specifically—introduced them to a brand new lifeform and mixed them up with another Thanos plot to destroy the Earth. The legendary Neil Gaiman also helped work on some of these stories, drawn by Sara Pichelli, Olivier Coipel, Valerio Schiti, Francesco Francavilla, and Kevin Maguire.

As the team celebrates a victory, Iron Man and Gamora sneak off to get friendly, after which Tony calls Pepper Potts and the deadliest woman in the galaxy finds herself targeted by Maxilin the Accuser. She gets back on her feet and gives him trouble, but he proves formidable enough to nearly kill her until the Guardians appear and Rocket takes him out.

After that, Peter meets up with former Guardian Mantis to talk about a vision he received that revealed the past and future to him all at once. She couldn’t help, but did suggest he talk to an old foe. Meanwhile, Angela—who debuted at the end of AGE OF ULTRON #10—hits the scene and immediately goes toe-to-toe with Gamora.

As that battle rages, Star-Lord meets with the previously alluded to individual: Thanos. He’d also seen a vision, but knew the truth behind it: “The Earth is doomed.” Why? Because they messed with time and space way too many times. Peter, as you might expect, doesn’t like this revelation.

Eventually, the Guardians get the drop on Angela and lock her up. Peter returns, hears her story and releases her from captivity so she could head to Earth and see it for herself.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2013) #4

Guardians of the Galaxy (2013) #4

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Back in the vicinity of Quill and Stark’s home planet, the Guardians answer a distress call from Abigail Brand, head of S.W.O.R.D., who has been overtaken by Thanos’ forces in the pages of INFINITY. Even Angela gets in the action.

Finally, in the last issue of this batch, Gamora and Angela bury the hatchet and team up to blast the Brotherhood of the Badoon on their home planet of Moord in an attempt to find the missing Thanos. They even learn the truth that he’s on Earth, but don’t believe the source and head back into space towards their next adventure!

Transmissions from Knowhere

Between issues #9 and #10, the Guardians got involved in Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity, which saw the Avengers teaming with all kinds of alien races to defeat Thanos and the Builders. However, our heroes only popped up after saving Abigail Brand in the sixth and final issue of the event’s core limited series. The Guardians played an important part in the overall battle that ended with Thanos frozen in a statue-like state. That didn’t last long as Namor freed the Mad Titan in NEW AVENGERS, but even the being who’s nearly destroyed reality more times than we can count fell quickly to Emperor God Doom in the pages of SECRET WARS. Of course, he returned along with everyone else in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe in books like THE ULTIMATES and CIVIL WAR II.

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Brian Michael Bendis lists his favorite moments from nearly five years with the team!

Stuck on Earth and scattered across the planet, if there’s one thing that can bring the Guardians of the Galaxy back together, it’s a common enemy. On April 12, “Grounded” reaches its conclusion with the final issue by writer Brian Michael Bendis in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #19!

After close to five years of wandering around the universe and sometimes saving the day, it’s time for the Guardians to part ways with one of Marvel’s most prolific writers. An era of Guardians history comes to a close in this special doubled-sized issue, featuring work from Valerio Schiti and an all-star team of guest artists.

To celebrate the achievement, Brian gave us a retrospective look at his favorite moments alongside the most dysfunctional super group in the galaxy.

Marvel.com: Let’s start with the best of the worst: favorite villain?

Brian Michael Bendis: Peter’s father. It was one of the reasons I wanted to write this book, having done the research working with the Marvel Cinematic Creative Committee. They were debating whether or not Guardians was a movie franchise—this was when Guardians was as cult as it gets. They sent me some material and some things they were thinking about and I started reading—and I had read it as a fan—but to read it considering its global potential was an interesting thing to do. And then reading Peter’s origin story was so exciting to me because, if you read it, it’s as good as Spider-Man or Superman, it’s just not as well known. The purity of narrative is beautiful. This king crash-lands on Earth in the middle of a space war, falls in love with an Earth person, knocks her up, goes back to his space war, and she’s left on Earth with a half-alien baby—and the boy will never know. This is phenomenal stuff. And then he grows up to find out who he is and “Oh my god, your father’s an a-hole across the galaxy!” Most kings of anything are not known for their warmth. So, to dive into that and cover that for almost the first entire volume was very fun and something I was dying to write.

Marvel.com: Favorite guest star?

Brian Michael Bendis: Just last night, I wrote my goodbye to Guardians, so it’s all fresh on my mind. I think having Tony Stark up in space for as long as we did in the middle of golden run as a movie star was pretty exciting. Also, we had a lot of fun with him—what a great field trip for Tony to go on. And then, hilariously, him and Gamora hooking up, which shows up on my Tumblr feed every three days. It’s going down well as one of the great super hero hookups.

Marvel.com: Favorite event or tie-in?

Brian Michael Bendis: I’m very, very fond of “The Trial of Jean Grey,” even though that was a self-executed mini-crossover. I love when the X-Men go off into space, I love the weird X-Men stories. And the idea of bringing Jean Grey into the present and Jean Grey being a gigantic cosmic serial killer, as far as most people are concerned, a genocidal maniac. To put her on trial and be actively writing both books, making sure the trial happened organically in both books, was very exciting. It was like, “Ooo, you know what’s never been told before, this story. And I’m writing both books!? And, oh my god, Kitty and Peter fall in love in the process!” So everything about that, I really enjoyed and I hear from a lot of people about that. That’s probably everyone’s favorite story from my run? That’s the one I hear about the most.

But the one I think is my favorite tie-in stuff is probably the Black Vortex stuff, which is Sam Humphries’ storyline, but I thought it spoke well to what we, as a group of writers and artists, added to the galactic books over the course of the last couple years. There were interesting interactions between all the characters. We were just way into it.

But I also gotta say, for as weird as it is, the Guardians were always kind of in their own little world, and I know people like that about them as well. One of my mandates was to bring them more to a centered position in the Marvel Universe, so I added them into Infinity, which was the first time they crossed over in one of my books. Just having them show up in the event was so surprising because they’d never shown up in anything before. So that moment was really exciting for me.

Marvel.com: Favorite fight?

Brian Michael Bendis: Kevin Maguire is one of my favorite comic book artists of all time and we got him to do a couple of issues. And it was an issue with a Gamora and Angela team-up, [GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #10], I thought he did an outstanding job with that issue. It was a big, big fight, breaking into a planet, and I thought he did an exceptional job.

Marvel.com: Favorite Groot quote?

Brian Michael Bendis: I actually have a very funny story about that. We were making the “Powers” TV show last year and I was on set, because I wrote episodes. And I’d be in the video village and I had a little desk where I’d sit and literally write Marvel comics while they were setting up the lights and stuff. There were sometimes hours where I literally had nothing to do, so I’d sit and type. So I was sitting in the corner, typing. And one of the actors, whose name is Sharlto Copley, he’s in the show—he keeps looking over, thinking I’m writing the TV show. And I’m writing GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Sharlto comes up behind me and just out of nowhere, reads what he sees on my screen, and yells “I am Groot!?” And it turns out, Sharlto has no idea who the Guardians of the Galaxy are, he never saw the movie, he has no idea what “I am Groot” means. And it was one of the pages where Groot keeps interrupting, that’s the joke, he’s just saying “I am Groot, I am Groot,” so Sharlto looks at it and thinks I’m crazy. He yells, “I am Groot,” everyone else in the video village jumps because they’re like, “Why is he yelling ‘I am Groot,’” because they get the reference. It was a totally unique, once-in-a-lifetime, hilarious moment where he’s yelling “I am Groot, I am Groot” and has no idea why people are laughing.

But one of my favorite moments of writing the entire series was the variant cover that Dale Keown did where the joke is that Jean Grey is talking to him and she can translate “I am Groot” into his actual words and his words are very poetic—and I probably worked harder on those words than anything I worked on that year. You got a little taste of what goes on in Groot’s head for real and I heard from a lot of people on that, so that went well.

Marvel.com: And favorite Guardian?

Brian Michael Bendis: Ahh! See, having written other team books, it’s never about “favorite Guardian,” it’s really “favorite relationship.” We knew that Rocket and Groot are the relationship. But when you discover friendships, or antagonisms, or a new type of relationship within the group of friends, that’s always my favorite stuff. So when something like Angela and Gamora—they really like each other. I think Angela just adores Gamora, and they fight well together and are happy to know each other—that kind of stuff I really like. And I liked writing Tony and Rocket, because Tony is sometimes like Rocket, but in the Avengers. He’s kind of caustic and like “I know everything and everyone’s gonna do what I say.” So for him to [be] faced with this little animal version of his own ego, on a ship—it’s really fun to write. On Avengers, it was discovering that Luke Cage and Spider-Man were hilarious together. That was a surprise, it wasn’t planned. The same thing happens here, where the characters start to gravitate towards each other or away from each other, and the towards each other is always the most fun stuff. And you can’t force it.

I also like this—and I know people really like this and it’s the thing that I’m [guiltiest] of—but, if Kitty Pryde’s not busy, I will grab her and put her in my book. And the most outlandish incident of me doing this is putting her in outer space for a while. I thought Kitty’s no-nonsense, once-a-teacher, strong-Jewish-woman-up-in-space was a ton of fun. And her juxtaposition to Gamora was a great bit of fun. I think her presence on the team, with Tony’s, was very different. What I wanted, and liked, was adding this element that wasn’t in the movies. Just to see what shakes out differently—and with Tony and with Carol [Danvers] and with Kitty and Venom and Ben Grimm, I thought we were able to do that every time.

Marvel.com: What about the team dynamic did you enjoy writing most? How did you approach the characters differently as time went on?

Brian Michael Bendis: I kind of got it in my head that they’re kind of on a road trip that never ends. They’re in a big RV, or on a tour bus, and the tour never ends—the dynamic of a tour. Traveling with family or traveling with friends—you ever go on a long trip with friends? It’s unique. So I wanted that dynamic to be constant, fighting over food and chairs and where we’re gonna stop and where we’re gonna eat. Just making sure that the life seemed like it was being lived inside that ship in a way that most people can relate to—you get on each other’s nerves, you laugh at stupid stuff, you get the giggles. Just normal traveling stuff. I also like that they all go away from each other for a while too.

It’s a very unique book in how they interact with each other. They are as close to family as anything in comics, but they also have their adventures. Always making sure that it felt like they were living together. There’s a lot of detail in the scripts about what’s in their rooms; Peter’s room is messy, Gamora’s room is perfect—how their lives interact with their environment. It’s a fun part for me.

Marvel.com: And finally, what are your overall thoughts looking back on nearly five years with the Guardians of the Galaxy?

Brian Michael Bendis: When I got the job, I originally came into comics as a crime fiction writer, and the things I was most known for, Daredevil or Jessica Jones, real-world crime fiction, that is what’s been my additive element to comics—my love of this and where my strengths are. So I found myself, just a few years later, writing a talking raccoon book—and dying to do it. That’s the other thing: I wasn’t doing it just to see if I could; I really wanted to do it. And when I got the call to do it, I was so excited because the challenge is enormous. Because, we haven’t mentioned, when I got the book, the book hadn’t been produced for a while. The last volume [before] was considered one of the great standards of Marvel Comics and one of the great runs of all time. The reason that there’s a movie is because of them. Stepping into a book that was already so well-loved among the core fanbase, no matter what I had accomplished in comics, I knew I was going to have to prove myself over time. So I was grateful that I was allowed the chance to do so.

The other thing that has to be mentioned is that there wasn’t one issue of any Guardians book that I had my name on that wasn’t drawn by one of the great talents of this generation of comics. From Steve McNiven, to Sara [Pichelli], to Frank Cho, to Kevin Maguire, and finally with Valerio Schiti—every annual, every special, every tie-in, everything we did had these great artists, including our finale, which is packed full of these awesome artists that I love so much. People just love these characters so much and they love drawing them, so every time you call up anybody in comics and say “Hey, you wanna draw raccoons and trees and spaceships for an issue?” the answer is “Yes I do!” So I was, and will forever be grateful, that the book was so beautiful, and exciting, and poppy on every single page. This book was gorgeous.

I also became very aware, of all the books that I write—and I write some very mainstream books that people have heard of—from the moment that I took the book, all the way through to this weekend at a sleepover that my kids had, if you tell kids that you’re the writer of Guardians of the Galaxy, they crap their pants. And I write Spider-Man and Avengers and Iron Man, but Guardians—my children’s friends stare at me like Rocket Raccoon actually just walked in the door. So, of all the books that are out there right now, I think Guardians is the one that has the most gateway potential. Kids are going to be seeing this and I’m so proud that when they see our stuff, they’re going to be seeing such beautiful comics—because on top of the characters, that’s how people fall in love with the medium. And I hope, when people see Valerio’s work or Steve’s work—and how exciting a visual and inspiring for the imagination it is—that people will find a way to stay with us. So my takeaway is that I’m very happy that the movie took off and that I bet right—because I bet on this a year before the movie came out and I was very happy that it did. But I’m also immensely proud to have put my name on such beautifully illustrated books.

Witness the end of an era with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #19, by Brian Michael Bendis and artist Valerio Schiti, on April 12!

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