Marvel’s Brian Michael Bendis: Creators ‘Don’t Care’ About Rude Fans

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Female Thor Marvels Brian Michael Bendis: Creators Dont Care About Rude Fans

One might think that with superhero blockbusters continuing to dominate at the box office, and each new film carrying the potential of a brand new franchise, studios would be wishing to play it safe. But over the past months, we’ve seen that’s not necessarily the case. Sure, audiences are still waiting to see a comic book superheroine anchor her own film (from either DC or Marvel); but issues of race, gender, and simply risky direction seems to be a daily topic of conversation.

Comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis is no stranger to bold creative decisions, and at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, we got the opportunity to ask him about his thoughts on the fan backlash that seems to await nearly every decision made about a comic book adaptation, be it film or television. Unsurprisingly, he’s less interested in the risks than he is in the potential payoff of a bold creator.

With some comic books having existed (and being beloved) for the better half of a century at this point, some fan criticism is always to be expected. But in the world of comics, Thor can be given a new female lead in the title role, and characters like Batman and Superman can be re-imagined by new creators every few years. And few creators have found as much success in either comics or beyond as Brian Michael Bendis.

As the mind behind “Ultimate Spider-Man” and overseer of the launch of Marvel’s entire “Ultimate” universe – which provided the rubric for most of the company’s Cinematic Universe – Bendis’ gamble paid off. Now, casting an African-American as Johnny Storm, casting a former model as Wonder Woman, or simply casting a divisive actor can be received by fans as an abomination, with little redeeming value.

Ultimate Spider Man Who is Miles Morales Marvels Brian Michael Bendis: Creators Dont Care About Rude Fans

With Bendis now seeing his comic series Powers adapted into a live-action series in partnership with Sony PlayStation, one of his leading characters has also undergone a change in ethnicity. After expressing his belief, as part of Howard Stern’s Marvel/DC Town Hall, that the best talent should be sought after above all else, we asked Bendis how he felt when seeing the negative responses to some ‘risky’ moves made for film. As usual, he didn’t mince words:

“I do think that in comics, it’s almost our obligation to push and pull, and try new things… I said online – people are kind of upset about Thor or Captain America, and things that are happening – I remind them politely that the best things you remember about your favorite character, in the history of this character that you’re so worried about holding onto…  the best things about that history are the craziest things that some creators decided to do.

“Granted, some of your least favorite things are the craziest things that some decided to do. But you don’t know until it’s all over what those things are going to be.”

You don’t have to look far to see evidence of Bendis’ sentiment: few actors were as openly criticized as Heath Ledger when he was cast as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The example has become the most often cited case of fans being short-sighted, but with good reason: Ledger would go on to turn in one of the best comic book movie performances in history. But the decision to re-cast Chris Evans from a Fantastic Four hero to Captain America, or Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk in The Avengers are also valid.

Mark Ruffalo Hulk motion capture for The Avengers Marvels Brian Michael Bendis: Creators Dont Care About Rude Fans

Now, fans of Batman can look forward to seeing Zack Snyder (apparently) adapt large portions of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” – a comic book series that was about as risky and divisive as one can get, and would go on to define the hero for decades.

With DC Comics’ co-publisher and artist Jim Lee (also on hand at the event) having endorsed Zack Snyder by claiming no film should be a literal adaptation of a comic, and some of the most famed “Batman” writers giving Nolan’s version their blessing, it seems creators tend to stick together. Bendis went on to clarify that it’s no coincidence – while making his stance on enraged, aggressively negative fans quite clear:

“Our favorite things that any creator ever did that made us want to be in comics was, you know, Frank Miller on ‘Daredevil.’ That was not what that book was about before he got on that book… I think of that while I’m writing: that the boldest things are the things that I loved. And not just imitate their bold move, but then make my own bold moves. I just politely remind people [of that].

“The people who are just agitated to the point of rude… f*** them. I don’t care about that, and that noise.”

It’s easy to understand Bendis’ stance, having enjoyed a fair amount of criticism with his decision to not just return Peter Parker to high school (thus kicking off the hero’s greatest renaissance), but help launch an entirely new take on most of Marvel’s biggest names (now raking in billions at the box office). The risk of a potential miss remains (*cough*Green Lantern*cough*), but Bendis warns that trying to stifle a creator’s desire to do something new is never – ever – going to solve the problem:

“I will tell you, almost across the board for comic creators, if you yell in their face they’re just going to do it more. That is not the way to stop them from doing whatever they’re doing with Emma Frost. Do not yell at me. I’ll do it more, I’ll lean into it. And I won’t even realize I’m doing it.”

amazing spider man 3 Marvels Brian Michael Bendis: Creators Dont Care About Rude Fans

Seeing how superhero adaptations will only increase in regularity on both film and TV, it’s hard to know if fans will start to realize that it might be best to let creators… create, or use a failure to justify their concerns. Neither side is wrong, but Bendis’ point that the only stories or characters worth remembering are the ones that tried to stand out is just as true on film as it is on the page.

We welcome comments or responses to Bendis’ statements in the comments below. Do you think he has a point, and writers shouldn’t be forced to follow the same old formula? Or do you disagree with he and Jim Lee, and think that comic books should be adapted just as they are?

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on Marvel as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

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TAGS: comic con 2014, powers

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  1. Bendis is an incredibly sh*tty writer. All he cares about is decompressing stories and using gimmicks to take your money. And as he’s said in an interview, he gets his ‘dialogue’ from eavesdropping on teens in the mall food court. Creepy.

    Bendis “dialogue”:

    A: “Is this gonna be a whole thing?”

    B: “A thing?

    A: “You know, a thing.”

    (Recycle Who’s On First Style, make sure it goes nowhere.)

    C: “Tookus!”

    I’ll never forget the issue of Ultimate Spider-Man that retold the previous issue’s story from ‘a different character’s perspective.’ Sure. He’s a lazy con artist.

    And when he writes Spider-Man he makes him annoying. Spider-Man is usually written to be witty and wise-cracking. Bendis makes him irritating and stupidly childish to the point where you find yourself hating your favorite character. Bravo, hack.

    • What a surprise: an online discussion about comics has resulted in an abusive rant by an angry fanboy with a weirdly intense, almost personal animosity towards a Marvel writer. Well, I guess there’s a first time for everything, right?

      • No surprise here: you can’t refute any of the points I made, so you attack me personally.

        At least you sprinkled it with irony. Like accusing ME of making it personal, and labeling me a ‘fanboy’ after you posted 6 comments in this one article, one of which details your obsession with the ‘comics blogosphere’.

        I thought you were B.M. Bendis at first, but your first sentence was well written.

        And yes, that B.M. stands for Bowel Movement.

        • “No surprise here: you can’t refute any of the points I made, so you attack me personally”

          I don’t feed trolls, I call them out. What? Do you actually expect me to debate you about whether or not Bendis is “creepy” or whether or not his initials really stand for “Bowel Movement”? Not gonna happen, troll.

          • I accept your surrender, troll.

            Now go back to reading your signed copies of Ultimate Spider-Man.

            • Accept my “surrender”!? LOL! It’s like talking to an 8 year old!

              • …in that most 8 year olds are smarter than you.

                • LOL! I know you are, but what am I?!

    • I agree 100%

    • Yes that is exactly the same trash he did with the avengers, one word dialog and then just like in your example he told the same weak no action story like four times from the view point of four different low level characters. Who ever is marvels editor should be fired. They let the writers do anything .they try to have a cover that sometimes has nothing to do with the story.I like marvels characters more but DC is doing a much better job with there writing.

  2. Bendis’s comments might have some weight, if he wasn’t a 3rd rate hack who wishes he could write something as acclaimed as Miller’s Daredevil run.

    • Are you crazy?

    • That’s right. Attack the man instead of actually thinking about what he said. It’s worked for so many politicians, right? ;)

  3. I feel like nobody is getting the point of what Bendis is saying. Comic fans can complain all they want but the movies are still gonna be made and the cash flow will only increase. The trolls on this site have nothing to do all day but complain about how the human torch is black? really? when you really should be concerned if Micheal B. Jordan is talented enough to fill the roll. It is almost like it effects their personal lives how frustrated they get. It’s laughable.

  4. My problem isn’t even about, for example, a female thor. My problem is logistics.

    Thor is someones name, someone who still exists. Lots of people have used Thor’s hammer in the past and not been CALLED Thor. It seems silly to call her thor, when someone is running around also called Thor.

    She has his hammer, she can be the new goddess of thunder, she can have all his powers, but calling her Thor just seems like something designed for drama instead of any other good reason.

    The only explanation i’ve heard that even came CLOSE to making sense was that its a title. But its never been a title in the past, only now it is, NOW they are saying its a title because its convenient.

    And even if it was a title, the title would be Goddess of Thunder. Not Thor, Thor is still his name, his title is god of thunder.

    Ugh. I know, its a massively nerdy argument but it still irks me.

    The rest i don’t even care about.

    • +1

    • This is exactly the point about Thor. In fact, there WAS a Thor Girl back in 2000 who had a Captain Marvel/Shazam type ability set based on Asgardians and used a hammer that was (probably) far too powerful for what she was.

      Originally, whoever possessed the magic walking stick could transform into a BEING with Thor’s powers, esp those attributed to Mjolnir. They were not “Thor.”

      This was apparently retconned sometime later to mean that Dr.Blake (the first owner of the walking stick) was, in fact, Thor, and he simply didn’t possess his memories.

      The whole thing seems far too convoluted to me, now, and apparently no one remembers the farce that Thor Girl was (and how unsuccessful it was).

    • +1

      You wouldn’t make Odin a woman or Venus a man, Aphrodite a talking male dog or Jupiter a Justin Bieber teenage female fan… wait, that last one might actually be ultra-violent and war obsessed.

    • This is my only issue with all the changes as well. Captain America is a persona, filled traditionally by Steve Rodgers but others as well. Thor is the actual person so unless Thor is an androgynous name like Chris or Pat it doesn’t make much logical sense. To me, I read it as a lazy way to try to introduce a new character by riding on someone else’s name, which isn’t very creative. I have no problem with a new character filling in for an unworthy Thor if that’s the story they want to tell, but let them stand or fall on their own.

    • Nope, it’s a title. It’s clearly stated multiple times in the comics. Marvel even has a name for the process “Hammer Possession” when the personality (not the memories or mind) is downloaded into a person wielding said hammer. There’s not even one hammer, there’s somewhere north of 12.

  5. I don’t mind a bit of change in superheroes in the comics or the movies….tweaks are fine and usually good. But drastic changes in gender and race often feel forced and contrived to meet some PC guilt ridden agenda to purge some past injustice.

    I’m not a fan of the falcon becoming Cap…..it’s a disservice to the Falcon character and his race. Heck it just flat out saying well as a African American character falcon your 2nd rate but now that you have taken over the role of a formerly white superhero your now 1st class and more important.I call bull sugar on that Falcon was and is just as important and heroic as cap. He darn well doesn’t need a shield to be interesting and important.

    I will love the day when writers and directors can take existing characters or create new ones of different race and genders and use their creativity and make them relevant and interesting for the fans as opposed to having a generic story with a established character and changing the race/gender and trying to sale this lazy change as earth shattering and forward thinking.Its like owning a blue car and the painting it red and then telling everyone how creative you are….

    • Spot on.

      • +1

    • “I’m not a fan of the falcon becoming Cap…..it’s a disservice to the Falcon character and his race… I call bull sugar on that Falcon was and is just as important and heroic as cap.”

      Sorry, but Marvel is not going to keep the secret identities “separate but equal.” Fans will just have to accept that their new Captain America is black.

  6. “I will tell you, almost across the board for comic creators, if you yell in their face they’re just going to do it more. That is not the way to stop them from doing whatever they’re doing with Emma Frost. Do not yell at me. I’ll do it more, I’ll lean into it. And I won’t even realize I’m doing it.”

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I rarely read comic books anymore.

    • “I’ll do what I want and don’t care about you (everyone potentially interested in my work)enough to even notice.”

      Hilarious. And the comment about how creative people stick together, etc., is funny as well since we all know money is one of the best glues around.

      The whole mass of superhero movie makers reminds me of the parent who briefs himself on their child’s favorite storybook characters just enough to “modify” them and feel it’s “okay.”

      “Heeey, if we give Hansel and Gretel the power of flight, they won’t need breadcrumbs! I’M BRILLIANT!!”

      Comic characters didn’t make a splash because they did something “new.” There are many many characters who are original that the general public doesn’t know of. Without above average stories, any comic might as well be Archie.

      Comics rarely do radical things except to bolster sales. A good source of entertainment rarely requires “splash” making extras if the foundation is quality to begin with. This sort of thought is self-defeating since each permutation has to add SOMETHING else over the top to trump the last creation. Even the thought process that goes along with this effort ends up tainting the creation, deviating it more from it’s original source. When the deviation is radical enough that it might get too much bad attention, they make a reboot, instead, which qualifies extreme changes.

      With comics, at least a superior is around to veto decisions or terminate creators from titles if things don’t pan out. Even independent publishers didn’t scoff at feedback from readers, good or bad.

      I also disagree with placing “talent” as a priority over more acceptable casting; there are plenty of applicable candidates with both qualities.

    • Well Bendis I just stop buying your books… How’s that buddy?

  7. I think that both Mr. Bendis and the so called ‘over-reacting fans’ have a point.The thing with all these iconic characters is that they haven’t emerged in the last decade.They have been here since the 40s,60s, 70s etc.So with all those comic books,movies, animated series behind us, fans have developed a perceptive inertia towards these characters.And it hurts us when we are forced to come out of it.And expressing that doesn’t make one racist.When I showed some of my friends that Nick Fury started out as a white they didn’t like it.Because they watch the MCU movies and are accustomed to Samuel.L.Jackson as Nick Fury.At the same time fans should also be tolerant towards changes in comics because frankly, they will be the first ones to get bored reading the same stuff.I bet many of them wouldn’t have liked the idea of an aged Bruce Wayne.But those who were patient enough to go through the ‘Dark Knight Returns’ would know how magnificent the whole interpretation of that situation was.And with parallel universes, major characters are already tweaked a lot while the originals remain untouched.So I guess, it requires a little understanding and patience, both on part of the writers and the fans.And most importantly, one shouldn’t judge the stuff one hasn’t seen (like it’s being done with BvS currently).

  8. “We don’t care what the people who buy our product think.” Yea…keep telling yourself that, see where it gets you.

    • Actually, writers have always been this way. *EDITORS* on the other hand ARE supposed to worry about little things like whether or not the customers are still buying. If the customers stop, then traditionally editorial is supposed to step in and right the ship.

      Of course actual history is as full of instances where editorial completely failed as it is when they succeeded. After all,anybody remember the Spider-clone saga? Should have lasted max six months, reaffirmed that Peter was the one true Spidey, and sent Ben Reily off to The New Warriors, and instead…..

  9. I feel I need to weigh in on this issue. The fans are backlashing is so overated and just stupid. Look I liked millers run on daredevil the same as everyone else, but I’m currently digging the new daredevil seris just as much. Now who is to say thatthe daredevil netflick show will use millers story? Will I not watch? Will I then go online and tear into every article about how millers daredevil would have done it this way or god why did they not use millers version it would have been so much better. No. Why? Because honestly I got better things to do. I’ll watch it because I like daredevil. I’ll read female thorand if I like it I’ll keep reading if not or well I wasted a few dollor as I tend t read 6 issues and judge. Now if they transition thor as a female in film will I be outraged? No, but id like to see how and why they are doing it. The same with fantastic four, what is the story of sue and johnny? Adopted, step siblings? If it works cool, if not me complaining won’t change it. With batman v superman will a miller inspired batman be cool? Will I complain that bale is better? No as I haven’t seen anything of the film yet to compare. Same with wonder woman, I’ll reserve judgement until I see her in action. Will I cry because the colors are not right? Or that she does not have blue eyes or that she is tan skined? Does her skin tone, her eye color, skin color, costume color change the charater at a.fundemental level? No. Guys we.need to stop the ranting( haha stop ranting on screen rant), but seriously we can say that this movie is trash or this director is destroying this character….and yet we will all see the films to see if they are as bad as we fear, and relize.we.are. a minority of the veiwers. Millions of people will o to see these films and if its good they will go and spread.the word, but to say a film a yr from now or 2 yrs from now is trash is premature and not needed. Watch the films, read the comics watch the shows. Or don’t it really doesn’t make a difference if 1 person feels they are better than the people makeing the shows and movies and makeing the comics, than as bendis said f*** you.

  10. I’m with him on this.

    Being a fan of someone or something isn’t the same as hiring someone to keep making you something the way you like it. It’s about following them on their creative journey.

    If I for example follow a musical artist or film maker, I want to see he or she wow me with his or her next work. I don’t want them to just keep repeating themselves and make the same think over and over.

    I’ve read tons of comic books including all sorts of special issues and limited series, and I love to see different takes on the characters. It doesn’t hurt what is already there, because I can always go back and read the stories I loved one more time.

    And while there are a few stories I would love to see adapted into live action, I certainly don’t mind to get all new stories with new takes on the characters. It won’t re-write my childhood or something like that. It can’t take any of those great stories that I’ve already loved away. And should they make a version I don’t like, it’s not the end of the world. Give them 5-10 years and they’ll try again.

    Maybe I’m just too happy a person to get really angry about stuff like this. I’ve even enjoyed some of the comic book movies that everybody seem to hate. In the end they’re just supposed to entertain me for a few hours. And they did.

  11. I agree. F*** them. Obviously their bitching & moaning hasn’t hurt sales, otherwise their petty opinions would matter. They only complain because they can. To be so passionate about how something won’t work, before even giving it a chance, only show that’s their character. If they wouldn’t be complaining about the direction of a book series, or movie casting, it’d be about something else that’s very petty. It’s not the end of your lonely world if a writer chooses to try something new.

  12. There is a difference between boldness and stupidity. Frank Miller’s material was good and bold. This new stuff if is being confused with being bold and you would think these ppl would know that

  13. I just realized something, to me this is not controversial. I welcome the change, but don’t exactly appreciate it, as it smell of token gesture and PC. So what if more white males read comics?! It is not racist or discriminatory in the least, it’s just demographics.
    What I realized, was that this issue is widely being discussed. And that is what the executives want. They want us to talk about their products, get hyped over it, in whichever state of emotion.
    I will definitely check female-Thor when it comes out, because it has raised a lot of questions, which can only be answered with me reading it, and because I love Norse and Greek mythos. And also, that picture of her in helmet does look effing cool!
    PS: can’t wait for her and Lady Sif to get nasty! Taking the Marvel executives own business strategy, you have to cater to a wider lesbian community and those who enjoy it!

  14. Marvel says this new Thor is not temporary, that she is the new, one and only Thor and that she is here to stay.
    How long before Odinson becomes worthy again, and takes back his hammer?!
    How long before Steve Rogers finds a way to get back his powers and rejuvenates, and Falcon realizes, just like Bucky, that Steve IS Capt. America?!
    That is why I don’t appreciate what Marvel is doing. It’s a farce, pure and simple, and it won’t be long before they bring back the original characters, and reintroduce them to the modern audience.
    That is why, what they are doing is insulting. What of those women, or African descent who have engaged themselves to these new characters? What are they supposed to read after female-Thor and Wilson get pushed aside?! Catering to a wider female and black cultural audience! Pfff, what a joke!

  15. Bendis is a fantastic writer, from guardians to spidey. anybody who claims they’re going to stop reading his work is completely ignoring everything he just said.

  16. After reading the walls and walls of text about people hating on the new Thor I still fail to see what the big deal is like really , like I’m still confused on this whole aspect but the main thing of what I’m seeing is that Thor can’t be a chick if the Old Thor is still alive and kicking . Why? What is the big deal with this and why are so many people up in arms about it ? I’m going to assume that its not a sexism thing because many commentators have stated that don’t care that shes wielding the hammer , its her taking the name which again sounds crazy when I write it out . I really would like some one to explain this to me , with out much attitude please and thank you.

    • That’s the issue. Thor is his name. Thor Odinson, the god of thunder. The god of thunder is his title. So it’s fine if he has become unworthy of the title and of Mjolnir, but a woman taking the name of Thor is absurd and makes no sense. What about the rich history they’ve given Thor Odinson? Is all of that complete bunk now because Thor is apparently all of a sudden a woman? These are the biggest issues people are having.

      • Just to back up what Todd was saying (I can’t say I’m an expert on Thor, but regardless), the character of Beta Ray Bill would be a prime example. Beta Ray has the powers of Thor, he has his own hammer, but never took on the name of Thor. This is because there is only one Thor. Please correct me if I’m wrong though.

  17. Where do you draw the line on race changes? Like suppose they were making a biopic about JK Rowling, but for whatever reason they decided to cast Naomie Harris as JK Rowling, would that be okay?

    • we are talking about changing the race of a fictional character. someone who doesn’t actually exist in reality. a comic book character.
      you are talking about an actual, live, real person.

      i’ll give you a couple of minutes to see if you can figure out the flaw in your comment.

      *starts humming the final jeopardy music

      • Nope, no flaw to be found. It’s a perfectly reasonable question. Since the question was what the pro-race change people considered going too far. Because you always hear them say, as long as their race isn’t fundamental to who they are there’s no reason to not change their race. So why shouldn’t that “logic” also apply to biopoics?

        As for comics, I’ve heard someone say they would be okay with changing Steve Rogers’s race, even though being white is fundamental to who he is, since he was Hitler’s Aryan Superman but hated everything the Nazis stood for.

        • yeah, let’s also do a “12 years a slave” with a white cast as the slaves, and a black cast as the masters. After all, we are all human here, with human emotions. We can definitely relate to being enslaved against our wishes and forced into manual labour, regardless of colour or race! Let’s do that, and witness the uproar!

          It’s absolutely fine to have a female be worthy of Mjolnir. But why is she called Thor?! A lot of other characters were worthy, but they retained their respective names. No one called them Thor!

          Also, maybe the female-Thor is Angela? Thor’s sister?

  18. F@*k MBJ as the new torch, he can go back to making movies about druggie convicts trying to not to rob baby’s mama’s purse or what ever fruit cake station was about!!! And there is nothing arrogant about having expectations about our super heroes having the same gender or race that made the who they are!!! Now in thor’s case is different because the character is changing, but they are right she shuldnt have his name????
    Well and i wont se FF4 because i already know it will suck with every thing that they have done, a black torch, told the cast to not read up on there characters, and other things. If liam neeson became the black panther there would be an up roar and MBJ knows it!!!!

  19. If people really do not like the material and voice that much disdain for it at what point are they not fans anymore? I got tired of what was going with comics back in the late 90′s and stopped buying them. I read a few issues of Ultimate’s and other titles over the years due to having friends in the comic business that basically got them for free and I still never regained an interest in them. People who still feel compelled to buy something they really do not enjoy should possibly consider finding a new interest for awhile.

    As for the changes people dislike and so-called canon, a lot of these conversations might stem from a combination of a sense of entitlement from some fans and a complete lack of the ability to compartmentalize different versions of the same idea. In the 80’s and 90’s there was just comic books and a handful of cartoon adoptions and the stray video game thrown in. Most of the cartoon and game versions of the comics had nothing to do with things from the comics and some strayed slightly from the comic’s structure. Nobody cared, fans just took the adapted version for what it was and still read the monthly comics because it did not change how the comics were laid out so it was not life altering.

  20. Bendis will care if fans stop buying books with his name on it…..I did.

  21. Ah the entitelment issues of fanboys…Entertainment for everyone or a modern struggle? Find out in news at nine!

  22. Y Bendis I love how “improve” Thanos & The Avengers :rollin eyes: