This year's Emerald City Comic Con marks Brian Michael Bendis' first major convention appearance since his move from Marvel to DC Comics, and talked the latest phase of his storied career on Friday, inside one of the large sixth-floor panel rooms at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.
It's already been a newsworthy day for Bendis, with the announcement of his first two creator-world Jinxworld comics in his DC era -- Pearl, illustrated by Jessica Jones co-creator Michael Gaydos, and Cover illustrated by longtime collaborator and Kabuki creator David Mack.
Bendis started the panel by addressing his near-death experience following a major illness in December. "I am OK. I am healthy," Bendis told the crowd. "In my need to get over it as soon as humanly possible, I wasn't giving people updates."
Turning to Jinxworld, Bendis said DC wanted to give him a home where he could bring his creator-owned comics to the forefront. "Starting today, Jinxworld is now part of DC Comics," Bendis said. Turning to the newly announced books, Bendis said Pearl stars a character who the team believes "is actually more complicated than Jessica [Jones]. Believe it or not, that was the goal."
"It's Romeo and Juliet set against the back ground of modern-day San Francisco," Bendis continued. "For those of you who love Jessica Jones, we wanted to bring something that was different, but spoke to he quality you love so much about her."
Bendis said Cover started from the concept of "comic book people could be spies," given the amount of travel involved. More Powers and more United States of Murder Inc. are on the way, as well.
Through the weekend, #1 issues of Powers, Scarlet, Brilliant, Takio and United States of Murder Inc. are available for a free download, which Bendis said he wanted to do as a thank you to the fans.
Bendis told the crowd that more news on his DC Comics "custom imprint" is on the way later in the summer.
Moving to fan Q&A, the first attendee up to the mic -- in a Jewel (Jessica Jones' superhero identity) costume -- asked how it felt for Bendis to see the character become the subject of a TV show. "Obviously, it's way more than anyone could hope for," Bendis said. "I'm at a food court with David Mack in LA. We're just eating dinner. All of a sudden there's a group of people talking about Jessica Jones like she's a real person. We just sat there quietly and listened to them yell about Jessica."
"You think that's the craziest thing that could happen," Bendis continued. "Then I get a call from Jeph Loeb: 'We're getting a Peabody Award. You should come.' All of a sudden I'm on stage, and I look out and there's David Letterman, Steve Martin, Jon Stewart."
But what he could never imagine, Bendis said, are the amount of people who feel personally connected to Jessica Jones' character arc; "to be a part of someone's healing."
A fan asked for insight on Bendis' X-Men movie writing gig at 20h Century Fox, but he wasn't able to divulge any details. "I have a very cool Fox gig, and it is X-Men-related," Bendis said, specifically not confirming (or denying) that it would be a Kitty Pryde solo movie. "Everything else is just people guessing. I'm sorry, because they paid me not to say anything. But it's cool, and it's very funny that I left Marvel and I got a call two days later about an X-Men movie."
Bendis said he turned in the last pages of his last Marvel comic, Invincible Iron Man #600, just last night. "I dragged my fee for a while because I didn't wan it to be over, I guess." Fans will see where Doom goes next -- and it's where Bendis always wanted the character to end up.
A fan asked if Bendis thought Superman or Clark Kent was the true identity. "It's a very good question," Bendis said. "What I am fascinated by, out of all he things in the world he could do, he chose to be a reporter. He didn't have to have any secret identity. I think the reason he chose reporter is, because it's the one thing he can do to serve justice that he can't do as Superman. He can reveal truth. That's Clark's job." Bendis said he's going to strongly explore Clark Kent as an investigative reporter.
Bendis said he's found newfound relevance in Superman's "truth, justice and the American way" adage, which helped inspire him to take on the Man of Steel. "Truth is under siege in our society today," Bendis continued. "Justice -- we see it every day on video, justice is not being handed out to everybody. The American dream, that is also under siege. These things, that seemed cliche just five years ago, are now damn well worth fighting for."
Why did Bendis bring back Ultimate Peter Parker after the "beautiful death" he gave him? "Because I missed him," Bendis answered. "And I could. And I'm glad I did. Now that I may never be writing Spider-Man again, I'm very glad I put all those genies back in the bottle. If there's ever a time for the Ultimate Universe to return to a genuine spotlight -- please do that -- the table is set."
Is a writer lined up to take over Miles Morales? "Yes," Bendis answered. "There are writers taking over all the characters I co-created or had a hand in," he said, but it was Marvel's announcement to make. Bendis said he's "thrilled" about who is taking over the characters, who will go down "new roads" to "surprising places."
A fan asked if Bendis' move from Marvel to DC has increased the chances of a new DC/Marvel crossover. "I've wanted to get a Batman/Daredevil crossover going since 2002," Bendis replied. "If this massive move of my career was trying to get that to happen -- it's pretty badass of me." But he made it clear there was no crossover on the horizon. "Should there be one? Absolutely. Do I want to do it? Absolutely." Bendis said he'd want it to span from "Hell's Kitchen to Gotham to the Fourth World to the Guardians of the Galaxy." The DC Universe and the Marvel Universe have "never been more different than right now," Bendis said, making now an ideal time for such a story. But it comes down to Disney and Warner Bros., he explained, and right now there's "nothing in it for them" -- but who knows what could happen in the future.
Bendis praised his artistic collaborators on the Superman books, and said that all of Man of Steel is already written. He also clarified that he's picking up from the current Superman and Action Comics storylines. "Dan Jurgens has been insanely gracious and cool with me, and I'm working with Pat Gleason on Action Comics," Bendis said. "Pete Tomasi has been doing awesome work. We'll be continuing the story that's being told, but what we think is a great, fresh place to pick up the book."
Sharing a Stan Lee story, Bendis said they had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills, right around the time Dark Avengers was coming out. The first thing Lee asked him was, "Why is Norman Osborn an Avenger?" "If I didn't have the right answer, I'm not sure the lunch was happening." Bendis also screened the first Spider-Man film, at Sam Raimi's request, with Lee.
"Who is DC's Luke Cage?" -- meaning, who is the under-the-radar character that Bendis is looking to elevate? "You're going to find out in my imprint," Bendis answered. "My imprint is all the Luke Cages of DC Comics." Bendis said he's also surprised by discovering how much he loves writing certain characters. "I love writing Green Lantern. Yes, Green Lantern shows up in Man of Steel."
"So many writers like writing the icons, I like writing the people," Bendis continued. "I've been diving real hard into the people behind the icons."
Last question concerned the challenge of writing Superman. "Writing Superman makes me feel good," Bendis said. "It makes me feel the world could be this way if we get out stuff together. Also, I'm a father. I'm a man with a few jobs. I relate to this way more than I thought I would have. I look amazing in blue tights. I didn't know!"
Bendis ended the session by expressing his gratitude for fans showing up after his near-death experience, calling the turnout and panel a "beautiful, beautiful experience."