|Brian Michael Bendis|
In a few short hours, the biggest comic book in Brian Michael Bendis’ comic writing career, Marvel Comics “Ultimate Spider-Man” #1, will be in the hands of fans.
While many fans have expressed reservation about Marvel‘s plan to restart Peter Parker’s career as Spider-Man in the 21st century, the first few reviews of the title have been positive.
“What I have seen is incredibly nice,” Bendis told the Comic Wire on Wednesday night. “The one thing I thought would be the hardest pill for people to swallow, people haven’t commented on.
“People don’t like change, for the most part. ’cause, you know, it’s scary, and a lot of the time, change is for the worse. And a lot of the time, an idea that starts off as a marketing idea is that it panders too much and makes no one happy.” The company’s plan with the Ultimate line — an X-Men title will be joining the line in December — is to reach beyond the comic book audience to members of the public who are not now, and perhaps never have read comics. “And I think from page one that it is very obvious that this isn’t the case here.”
Which isn’t to say that Bendis doesn’t know where the skepticism some fans have expressed is coming from.
“I’m pitched stuff all day long by other companies. All day long. And it’s all silly crap. And you can’t even imagine it. And you can’t really go ‘are you gonna make that?’ ’cause they’re going to make it either way.” But he says he was won over by the Ultimate concept. “I absolutely saw what Ultimate was about. I do like change. I like it when things are stirred up.”
The good reviews are also pleasing to Bendis as they often signify turning around the opinion of a naysayer.
“Some of them clearly stated that they were online bitching about this before it came out, and they’re admitting they were talking out of their ass ahead of time,” he said. “And by that I mean that they were talking about it as if they’d seen it and obviously they hadn’t.
“Regardless if it was high profile, or if any one cared, it’s a very gratifying book, it’s a very fun book. It’s been a blast.”
And while chronicling the adventures of a teenage Web slinger might seem to be a bit of a change for a creator who won an Eisner award for his gritty crime stories, Bendis sees this is as a natural project for him.
“You’ve got a character like Peter Parker, who couldn’t be more three-dimensional. … I’ve always been about character, I’ve always been about subtext and such. All the assignments I’ve had have all been about that.”
And, of course, the assignment pleases Bendis’ inner fanboy.
“A lot of this is stuff I never thought would happen. I never envisioned I would be at Marvel, and so happy with it. And with all my GOOD friends at the same time. … The 12 year old me is, like, ‘WOO HOO!’ I have a Spider-Man poster in here with my name on it. That’s cool!”
As for fans who are alternately worried that Bendis will be trashing all they love about Spider-Man or simply retelling the original stories with contemporary slang and clothing, “I know they’re wrong. And I do believe that a lot of these people will be buying the book, so I’m happy to let people read the book and let the story tell itself.”
While he won’t get into specifics, Bendis says fans should expect some tweaks to the classic Spider-Man legend.
“If you go back and compare the books, which I would love for people to do … I think you’ll see that what we’re doing is that we’re adapting the book, like we’re adapting it for a movie. … Catching the essence of the scene and the characters.”
One change that’s been picked up on by advance reviewers is that Mary Jane Watson is in the book from the beginning, instead of having her introduction teased at in issue after issue. Bendis says to look for some changes in the Peter Parker/MJ dynamic as well.
“The relationship I’m setting up for Peter and Mary Jane is a lot more complicated, and a lot more innocent, in that they’re 15. … Their relationship will be about each other, not hormones. … I’ve never dipped into my own teenage neuroses for my writing, and I’m having a lot of fun.
“There’s a childhood thrill. It’s a cross between the constant training of yourself to be a certain kind of writer, as an adult, and being able to take that training and apply it to a childhood dream that you weren’t even pursuing, since it was so unattainable.”