Brian Bendis: All That and a Bag of Tricks – Part 7

DT: Now Powers is the book that to a certain extent was your big coming-out. (Congrats on the Eisner, by the way.)

BB: Thanks, yeah, it’s the first book I’ve done where we hit it out of the gate. Even with Jinx it took like six years for anyone to buy it. That’s fine too, believe me, I’m not bitching, but it’s nice to get the check the year that you made the book. Just once! I’m not asking for too much. Just one time, I’d like to get the check the same year. So, yeah, Powers started small and got real big real fast. It’s stayed in a nice comfortable place.

DT: Was the whole homicide/VH-1 Behind the Music superheroes idea what fell into your head and got the whole thing started?

BB: I am fascinated with celebrity media and that does permeate a great deal of my work. I was putting it all together, and putting together, well, where does superheroes fall into this? Like if there were superheroes, what if? Comic book writers always do this, right? With Powers, you’re putting it together and you’re looking at Mike’s sketches and you’re going, “Hey, I don’t think anyone’s done this yet!” And then it comes out and everyone says “I can’t believe no one thought of that,” I go, “Yeah, me neither. Woo hoo!” And I grew up in the era of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, and I think one of the reasons I didn’t tackle superheroes for so long is that when you are faced with the greatest superhero stories ever told in the comic book medium when you’re in high school, you’re sitting there going, “Oh what am I going to do? Dark Knight Returns, what the fuck am I going to say?” You’re talking about eight years where I didn’t even think about superheroes, you know? I didn’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said. And I’m not a big fan of, you know, “I’ll create a Batman-like character and call it Ratman or something.” If I get to write Spider-Man, that’s great, I love Spider-Man, but I’m not going to create a Spider-Man like character for myself to own. I’ll either do the big ones or I’ll create something totally new in a different genre. I have been lucky where I got to do both, so what do you think of them apples? (laughs) With Powers, it was fun to explore the superhero world through this way because I hadn’t seen it done, and it has endless possibilities of stories to tell. We’ve got like a pile of them. And I haven’t seen any of them done. I have never seen a superhero groupie story. These are all things I haven’t seen, and that’s kind of fun to put out there.

DT: The most recent issue, number 13, was the magazine-style issue.

BB: Yeah, boy was that hard. That was a big pain in the ass.

DT: Was that something that when you came up with the storyline you said, “This is something we ought to do,” or did you come up with the magazine idea and say, “Some time down the road we should do this?”

BB: As a writer — you know about the three act structure, right? Well everyone’s got the second act that kind of sucks. Everyone’s got the great beginning and the great ending and kind of a wonky middle, and I’m very aware of that. So I always try to create some kind of new challenge in the second act that I haven’t seen before, and I thought that this tabloid idea accomplished a great many things. It opened the world up of Powers, ’cause we’re always looking at the world from Walker and Deena’s kind of skewed, sarcastic point of view. So OK, we’re opening up the world very clearly, we’re showing how the media deals with it, not too dissimilar from how the media deals with our politicians or our movie stars, with a reverence and yet a savagery. It furthered the story in a way I hadn’t seen before. There’s actually a plot inside the magazine itself. And at the same time, it sets us up for a few stories down the line. Everything that’s in that magazine will be explored in Powers or has been explored in Powers. So, it served a lot of purposes and it was worth the hardship that it took to create it. It was three people doing the work of a staff of seventy, and the typos to show for it.

DT: So how do you put something like that together, differently than you put together a regular comic?

BB: It’s almost an exact ripoff of a British tabloid called Hello magazine. I pulled a few issues of that out and I bought multiple copies of them and I showed them to the staff and I used them as reference points. I wrote all of the text and all of the ads and I designed some of the ads and I sent them over to Mike and went over all the pieces. He was happy to get a break from the talking heads for an issue. We put it all together with the help of [colorist] Peter [Pantazis] and Ken, Ken Bruzenak is one of the greatest letterers in the history of comics, and we’re lucky to have him on the staff now for Powers. He worked with Howard Chaykin in the 80s and he’s one of the greatest letterers ever. He said I’m looking to stretch my legs, and I said wait for the next issue. Their second issue of the book was this issue, and they kicked ass. We’re pretty proud of it, and people were just thrown by it. People just want to be surprised. They want to never know what’s gonna happen. Not, “Here’s the murder, here’s the solution, here’s the murder, here’s the solution.” You throw them wrenches, you say, “Hey, look at that.” There is a perverse pleasure in that both the 13th issue of Powers and Ultimate Spider-Man were such a left turn.