Brian Bendis: All That and a Bag of Tricks – Part 5

DT: There was a lot of secrecy around it, do you think that that created an expectation that was harder to fulfill?

BB: My secrecy came from the single idea that when I was a kid, and Elektra died in Daredevil — I don’t know how far back you go with comics, but if there was like a surprise big moment in comics, I didn’t know about it, I didn’t have the Internet, I didn’t have a catalogue, a Previews catalogue, telling me what the book was gonna be about. I just bought them off the stands, and when Elektra died in Daredevil, I was stunned. It shocked the crap out of me. And that is totally gone from comics, because everyone has to know everything before it comes out. Same thing with movies, if you pay attention you’ll know every single thing that happens in the Spider-Man movie, if you go online and look, because it’s all there. No one will let you have your moment. And I wanted to test the readers and folks online, some of whom get their books before other people do, and I said, “Can you control yourself and not ruin the comic?” ‘Cause it’s not news . . . you know, all these comic book news sites . . . it’s not news. You’re just ruining the book for people. I would like everyone to read it and be surprised, and if they even knew the subject matter of the book, it’s over, ’cause it’s only about one thing.

So I wanted as many people as possible to have the “Get out of here!” experience that my employer did at Marvel. They were all jazzed up about it, and I said, that’s the feeling I want people to have when they read it. Marvel totally got behind me, and we said, “Look, we gave you a good year of comics, so trust us on this one. Just buy it blindfolded, buy it blindfolded, and I will personally refund your money if you don’t like it.” (laughs) And you know, it was a blast. It was a lot of fun, ’cause it was another one of those things where, you know, the Ultimate books are supposed to break format. Of course you have to create the format before you break it. Now, as the book continues, people have no idea what we’re gonna do. We just introduced Gwen Stacy this week, and they have no idea where we’re gonna go with it, they have no idea what we’re gonna do with Doc Ock. It’s all up in the air now, all the rules are thrown out the window, and that’s what I wanted to get with people. I wanted people to pick up the book and go, “I don’t even know what’s gonna happen.”

DT: Cool. I want to talk about some of your other books, but before we do I have one more question about the whole Ultimate project. Is this something where you’re thinking, “I have to keep these books in a state where they’re always gonna be this distilled pure version that anyone can get into at any point,” or are you going to let these characters have changes and things happen to them and let them develop, for want of a better word, a continuity?

BB: They just will. As soon as you get to page four of the first issue you’ve developed a continuity. As soon as you’ve established anything you’ve established a continuity. What the book is supposed to do is stay youthful and reader-friendly, and we have that recap page, which a lot of comics never do. They do their recaps within the confines of thought balloons. We’ve also thrown out a lot of conventions of comic book storytelling. There’s no big thought balloons, there’s no captions that say “Meanwhile . . .” It’s all words and pictures. And starting with issue 14, we changed the font of the lettering. What we did was, the president of Marvel had read that dyslexic kids can’t read all caps, and the question is why are comics all caps? And everyone goes “‘Cause that’s the way they are,” and that’s not a good reason. So we’ve created this new font that’s different than other books, I think all the Ultimate books will have this font, and it’s more legible . . .it’s more what people are used to seeing, you know, capitalization and normal punctuation.

DT: So you’re not thinking that someone’s gonna have to do something like this again in ten or twenty years?

BB: If I keep this job for ten or twenty years, and that’s the worst problem I have . . . you know what I mean? My job is every month to tell a really interesting story, and that’s it. Under the confines of the Ultimate it’s to be readily available to a younger audience and just be interesting to people, you know? Not talk down to people and just be interesting. That’s what we’re doing, me and Mark Millar who does Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates, we work together on creating this world.