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Masters of SciFi – An Interview With Marvel’s Brian Michael Bendis

Brian-Michael-Bendis_l.jpgIn the past decade, Brian Michael Bendis has gone from obscure indie comic book writer to Marvel’s biggest superhero. Now he is helming his second summer event for the comic book publisher, Secret Invasion. He spoke with about the series and his upcoming projects.

Q: Secret Invasion is your second big summer event after House of M in 2005. What did you learn from that experience?

A: Realizing that the marketing of a story can really change the expectations of an audience. In House of M, I was quite aware that if you put the word “event” on something it creates an expectation — and we definitely delivered on that. But I am aware that if House of M 1 and 2 were one issue, like a double-sized issue, the reaction would have been far superior — It’s like when you’re at a concert and the band knows when to blow your ass out of your seat and when to slow it down. In Secret Invasion we’re going to hit the ground running with the big hit song.

Q: Will you be involved in the upcoming Avengers movie?

A: Zak Penn was hired to write it, and Zak got me a job at Fox writing a big Bermuda Triangle movie, so I have no ill will or my usual burning loathing of my peers about it. It’s a big-ass thriller — we’re formulating the outline right now. As for the Avengers movie, in my opinion, there’s a different language to a group superhero movie, and that it should be analyzed and picked at in script form until they’re absolutely sure it’s ready. But I think they will — I’ve seen a lot from Marvel that proves that they will. They did have us involved with the Iron Man movie.

Q: What role did you play in creating Iron Man?

A: There was an Iron Man brain trust that [director Jon] Favreau and [producer] Kevin Feige put together with me, Mark Millar and a bunch of other guys to sit and really nit-pick the script to death. That’s how you do it. Then a few months later, I got a call from Kevin and he said, “Hey, Sam Jackson is coming in, but we don’t really have anything for him to say.” 

Q: So you wrote the scene with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury?

A: I didn’t write the full scene. They just called me at midnight and said, “We need some words.” And I literally wrote three pages of stuff, some of them were ridiculous and some of them were very serious. This is going to be pretty obvious the moment I say it, but Snakes on a Plane hadn’t come out yet, and it was funny to write, “Get that mother-f–g armor off your motherf–g ass.” Timing is everything, and when I re-looked at it, I was really embarrassed that I handed it in, but that was my opener. It was a big nerdgasm, even for a crotchety old bastard like me.

Q: You’re working on two screenplays based on your comics: Jinx, about a female bounty hunter that Charlize Theron was rumored to be attached to, and Torso, based on the true story of the Cleveland Torso Murderer. 

A: Well Torso is not a screenplay that I wrote. They hired another writer. I was lucky enough to have lunch with David Fincher a little over a month ago, and I was excited out of my mind to meet with him. He showed me all the work they’ve done on Torso and I would totally go see this movie. As for Jinx, I don’t have much control over that, but it was a lot of fun going back into something I wrote years ago and rewriting the whole thing with a hopefully mature brain.

Q: Is it a difficult transition to go from writing comic scripts to movie screenplays?

A: Hard being relative, there are challenges, but at the same time I study a lot of cinematography and movie language in my writing for comics. The downside is that in comics there are no budgetary concerns — it’s me and my imagination, and if you want to have a dinosaur attack 100 superheroes, it doesn’t cost anything! Secret Invasion 1 would cost a billion dollars. But when you have an unlimited budget, you subconsciously get lazy with your choices. When you have no money, you start getting clever.

Q: Why are comic book movies so popular now?

A:  You’ve got guys in charge of the studios, and guys who are filmmakers who are all born comic book fans. And I think special effects have finally caught up to the imagination. I got a private screening of Spider-Man with Stan Lee before it came out, and what really got me was, here’s a guy, he thought of this 45 f–g years ago, and special effects just caught up to it. It took his whole lifetime to see a special effect that could catch up to his imagination — that is really amazing.

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