Say Anything lead singer Max Bemis is a lifelong comic fan. Before getting in to music, Bemis spent his childhood collecting comics and watching classic animated series like “Batman: The Animated Series.” Recently, Bemis rekindled his love of comics by breaking in as the writer of “Polarity” at BOOM! Studios, a series about Timothy Woods: a bipolar artist stuck in Brooklyn who survives a near fatal car accident that helps him discover that his bipolar medication has been suppressing his latent superpowers. The series draws from Bemis’ own experience with bipolar disorder and his time living in Brooklyn.
Bemis stopped by the CBR Tiki Room at New York Comic Con 2013 to discuss his background with comics, why music and comics make a good mix, his experiences with bipolar disorder and more.
On his love of and background with comics: [It’s] so much that I’m dorking out over you right now. … I grew up reading them as a very small kid. I think my gateway was “Batman: The Animated Series,” “X-Men” cartoons — I started collecting them, going to Golden Apple and spending my allowance. I got hard into it and I continued to be so until music kind of took over my life. I came back about five years later with a voracity that was unmatched by many people even in this room, because it’s like I’m obsessed.
On what he thinks makes comics and music work well together: I think it’s just because they both tie in to these niche parts of the human brain that are really creative. I’m not saying acting isn’t a creative profession, because it definitely is, but as a musician you’re dealing with weirdness. The idea of rock and roll is making weird cool. That’s what comics is about: it’s weird and cool. So, I think there is a lot of crossover, and I think especially in the community I come from which is punk rock, someone like Gerard [Way], we were the weird dudes in high school — we were the freaks. A lot of those people are comics fans too.
On dealing with bipolar disorder: It manifested itself in me around the age of 19 and it was right when I was recording our first record and my band was starting to gain popularity. I got tripped out hard. Basically, what happened — and I’m such a Grant Morrison dork, so I’m going to go back to “The Invisibles” — but the experience that he describes all the time about being abducted by aliens in Katmandu or whatever, it was similar to that except it was my body chemistry that got me there. I was writing about all these themes, a lot of themes that are explored in “Polarity” and they started happening to me in real life. Not because I was going crazy — they were really happening because of my music career and living in Brooklyn at the time. It was very meta, and then my whacked-out chemistry — I went nuts. I stayed in a hospital, I had several bouts with it, partially because I was smoking endless amounts of weed. It went on for four years, in and out of the hospital. Then, I started taking it seriously and I’ve been “normal” for eight years now, nine years. Happily married, have a kid, very stable life. At the same time, it is something I still struggle with in the sense that my experience is always going to be somewhat affected by the fact that I have a chemical disorder.
On his next steps in comics: I’m here to stay. I basically told myself I didn’t want to start writing comics until I felt like I could have a career doing it. I feel like I’m getting there and I can’t go into detail quite yet, but I can tell you that I’m in a situation with BOOM! that I’m in love with. I think they’re the most amazing company. We have books planned together for a while. I did an issue of “A+X” for Marvel that’s coming out in November, which I’m really proud of. They were really cool as well and let me do a really weird story. I hope that anyone who is a mainstream comic reader or hasn’t checked out “Polarity” checks out that “A+X” issue. It’s kind of a gateway into how I think a little bit. They really let me make it weird.