If you’re an avid reader of contemporary superhero comics, Brian Michael Bendis needs no introduction. The Portland-based writer/artist hit the comics scene in the mid-’90s, penning noir crime comics for indie publishers until he landed his dream job: writing for Marvel Comics. Bendis, winner of five Eisner Awards (the comics equivalent of a Pulitzer), became one of the prime architects of the company’s Ultimate line and perhaps the most celebrated Daredevil writer since Frank Miller. Bendis’ books are consistent best-sellers—and perhaps more importantly, he’s O.C. star Seth Cohen’s favorite writer. Hardcore fans generally love or hate Bendis, but Portland is all the luckier for having him. Locals have a chance to share the love/hate at this weekend’s fifth annual Stumptown Comics Fest, where Bendis is one of the special guests, along with luminaries like Mike Richardson and Steve Lieber. After the interview we wound up having a very serious discussion about the obscure Marvel toy robot-turned-comic series Rom the Space Knight. I’ll spare you the nerdtastic details, but trust me: It ruled.
WW: Way back in first grade, when they asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, did you raise your hand and say, “Comic book writer”?
Brian Michael Bendis Comic book artist. Since I was 5 years old I was drawing Spider-Man. It’s one of my earliest memories, it has always been the goal. The fact that I made it this far, or I made it at all, and made it to Marvel—and I was always a Marvel kid—and found myself under a contract at Marvel, is shocking. I’m way past my goal.
Pure geek question here: Hulk vs. Silver Surfer? My inner 10-year-old just has to know.
You know who wins? The readers! Although…I think Surfer wins, but I haven’t done the math in my head. I try to write about loftier subjects (laughs).
Your big project right now is Secret Invasion, which asks the question, “Who’s a Skrull?” And for the WW reader out of the loop, what’s a Skrull?
A Skrull is a member of a shapeshifting alien race that’s been a part of Marvel lore since the birth of the Fantastic Four [FF No. 2, 1962], but this is the first time that they’ve really been a genuine psychological and physical threat in modern comics. For the last year or so we’ve seeded a lot of doubt and paranoia within the Marvel Universe, asking the question, “Who can you trust?” And Secret Invasion answers the question. Which I’m very happy to report is the No. 1 book in the country right now.
Awesome. OK: Who’s a Skrull?
[Ex-WW film editor] David Walker is a Skrull. If you look around, there are Skrulls all over Portland. You have to look close, but they’re easy to notice.
Maybe Tom Potter? He did just declare April to be Comics Month in Portland.
Really? Do I get a free bagel? I better go, I’m going to go down to McDonald’s to get my free something-or-other. But yeah, Portland is seething with the creative comic book community the likes of which you don’t see outside of New York.
Why Portland, do you think? Why not, say, Menomonie, Wis.?
You know, it’s a convergence, it’s hard to describe. I think about it a lot, which isn’t the reason we moved—we moved for the ungodly rain, obviously. It’s not just a comic-book community, it’s a fantastic comic-book community. For those who don’t know, some of the most ferociously talented artists and writers, both indie and mainstream, work in and around Portland. There’s quite a few publishers here as well and you add it all up and it’s quite something. There was one year where Wizard magazine was having their big convention in Chicago and they flew so many of us from here to there that we wondered why it wasn’t just in Portland.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
There are a lot of pluses and minuses, but I think teleportation would be good because I just like to get there. Although I do like my bicycle, so I’m torn. Flying looks like fun, and invisibility—for many, many reasons. Or the power to say what I mean, that would be nice. I’d like the power to think of the Great Comeback One Liner, that would be useful.
They could call you Editor-Man.
Yeah.... The great thing about comics is there is something for everyone. Every taste, every genre. It’s the medium in which you have the best chance of really feeling a creator’s vision. Even mainstream comics. Every word I write for Spider-Man makes it to the page. That’s why so many TV and film writers and musicians run to comics. It’s one of the great places to express yourself.
SEE IT: Stumptown Comics Fest 2008 takes place at the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel, 1000 NE Multnomah St. 10 am-6 pm Saturday-Sunday, April 26-27. $6 per day, $10 for the full weekend. All ages. Visit stumptowncomics.com for more info and a full schedule of exhibitors and related events.