Brian Michael Bendis is reflecting on his 8 years of writing The Avengers with Marvel.com before taking on the X-Men franchise. Bendis made me start buying and loving Earth’s Mightiest Heroes again. Fans say they have event fatigue (I’m guilty of saying that) but we sure kept devouring them over the past 8 years. Bendis was the mastermind (or key collaborator) of epic after epic from House of M to Secret Invasion to Siege. Bendis gives some insight into how these Marvel milestones went from brain to page.
Avengers became the center of the Marvel Universe and House of M was a huge game-changer in the Marvel Universe that turned an Avenger into a pariah and depowered millions of mutants.
“When the book becomes the center of everything, there’s a lot of ways for that to go wrong. That wasn’t my goal to turn the AVENGERS into the center; my goal was to just make this the most awesome thing ever, filled with stuff I hadn’t seen in an Avengers book before. I knew that would be slightly controversial, but maybe not as controversial as I intended. The way the market responded to things, the book became a centerpiece for the Marvel Universe and the series of event [stories] that came about. If you remember, events were nothing. Disassembled was one of the first events. And then House of M came right after that. They literally came to me and said, “Listen, Joss [Whedon] isn’t writing ASTONISHING X-MEN this summer, he’s got to go do something else. If you want to do an Avengers/X-Men fun thing, that’d be great.
People can look at the first cover and see New Avengers/Astonishing X-Men and that’s what the book initially was. I had a thing left over that I was talking with [Jeph] Loeb about from Disassembled: if Wanda goes nuts, what does Magneto do about that? That seemed like a great Avengers/X-Men summer thing, because what’s the biggest problem for the Avengers and the X-Men? It’s Wanda. House of M burst out of that, and all of a sudden the Avengers are the centerpiece of all these big events, because by nature, the roster is pulling characters from different parts of the Marvel Universe. Back when the Avengers were just Avengers, and you could only see these characters in the Avengers, they were the Avengers. But the way I set it up, with Spider-Man, and Wolverine from the X-Men, and [Thor’s] an Asgardian—now you’ve got an arm out from every corner of the Marvel Universe pulled into this one book. And that makes it, by its own nature, the centerpiece and with that comes a lot of scary stuff,” says Bendis.
The revelation that Skrulls had infiltrated every team and organization (for years) was huge and made me go back looking for the clues that had been there. Bendis recalls that ”OH —-” moment in New Avengers when the knife went in Elektra and she turned green!
“The reveal of the Skrull stuff was a big one because I’d been planning that since the first issue. And when Elektra became a Skrull, if everyone went, “Who cares?” I’d be screwed. It was all I had. I was relieved that Leinil Yu had killed it, he did an amazing job, and we were able to go about with our Skrull storyline with such excitement from our readers for so long to the point that it became its own event, which wasn’t even the plan.”
The Bendis era is filled with action and dramatic moments. The author reveals the other pivotal scenes that mean a lot to him.
“My favorite moments are usually the quieter ones, like CIVIL WAR: THE CONFESSION and some of the tie-ins during Civil War. Discovering the funny repartee between Spider-Man and Luke Cage, that wasn’t in my initial plan. That just kind of happened, the characters kinda took over.Things like that, which may not be exciting to some people, but as a writer, it always makes me happy to do something I haven’t seen before. When I can put something in the Avengers pot that wasn’t there before. And at the end of the day, the whole time I was on AVENGERS, people were yelling at me because Spider-Man wasn’t an Avenger. Well he’s been an Avenger for eight years, so guess what? Wolverine too. Also, discovering new things about the characters because of their placement in AVENGERS,” Bendis said.
“Overall, my top favorite thing is that I can’t think of a day where I haven’t been thrilled with my collaborations. Every single issue on all of the Avengers books has been quite outstanding, as far as high-water marks in super hero comic book art in the last eight years. Even the first two years of NEW AVENGERS with David Finch and Steve McNiven; I still think that was Steve’s best stuff. Me and Jimmy Cheung did an amazing amount of issues together and people don’t even realize. I would steal him in between issues of YOUNG AVENGERS and I ended up getting a lot of comic books out of him. Mike Deodato has done more issues of Avengers with me than anybody over the course of all the books. I got to work with almost all of my heroes. I got to work with Alan Davis, Howard Chaykin, Neal Adams, Walt Simonson, and John Romita, Jr., all on the same book. There is no way I’m not going to look back on this and go “What?!”
For this geek – I love the return of Luke Cage, his relationship with Jessica Jones and his rise to leadership. The New Avengers Annual – the wedding of Luke and Jessica was beautiful. I love the moment when Luke brought to Avengers to his New York City neighborhood. Luke was lifted up to major hero status but stayed grounded and he kept Earth’s Mightiest Heroes grounded and relatable.