Few writers in comics today are as prolific and well-read as Brian Michael Bendis. Winner of five Eisner awards, Bendis transitioned from detective and noir comics into superhero titles and has been a leading creator at Marvel for some time, including his role in crafting the Ultimate Marvel universe…
Since then, Bendis has written an enormous number of titles from X-Men to The Avengers and created many beloved characters including Miles Morales, Riri Williams and, of course, Jessica Jones. His acclaimed Image Comics title Powers was also adapted into a Playstation Network series that ran for two seasons.
We recently spoke exclusively to Bendis about Jessica’s roots, his take on the Netflix series and Loot Crate – because like many of you, he’s a Looter!
When you created Jessica Jones, how did you choose to make her a private investigator as an alternate career path to super-heroism?
I spent the first 10 years of my career writing and drawing crime fiction graphic novels and I had been doing lots of research that led me into the world of private detectives. I was so intrigued by it that I even toyed with getting my license but it was too much of a time commitment.
I observed that so many private investigators and private detectives used to be something else. They used to be police officers or corporate security. It just felt like it would be a job and ex-superhero might have. A way to make a living.
In terms of detective and noir stories, not necessarily comics, where did you take inspiration for crafting Jessica’s corner of the Marvel universe?
I had read an article in a movie magazine about Sean Young, who once was considered Hollywood A-list. She talked about how it was weird to know where the A-list parties were but to know that she wasn’t necessarily invited anymore.
Jessica started as me thinking about the superhero version of that idea. Once on a list and now down here in the dirty streets.
From a writing standpoint, what are the challenges to making a character like Jessica who can be so self-destructive into someone that you can root for?
As many writers have said your lead character doesn’t have to be ‘likable’ but they have to be good at their job. Think of all the famous characters who are technically unlikable: Tony Soprano, Walter White. You like them because they are very good at something. Jessica, for all her self-loathing, is actually a very fine and thorough detective.
Also, though she is self-destructive she was also a victim and it’s easy to root for a victim. I know people in my real life who have… risen so far above situations they found themselves in. I find it so heroic and inspiring.
When you first met [Marvel’s Jessica Jones showrunner] Melissa Rosenberg, did you know that Jessica was in good hands?
Well, I had already read an early draft of the pilot so I didn’t have to have ‘a good feeling’ about it because I had actual proof that she had it all under control. Later she would have me visit her writer’s room and the writers all asked the right questions. I felt so good about her chances.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones won a Peabody Award, which is a huge TV honor, and you attended the ceremony. What was that like?
It was amazing. One of my favorite days. Probably because I didn’t know how fancy a situation it was going to be. Thankfully I was dressed well for the occasion but on top of getting to spend the evening with the writers and stars of the show, we were sitting in a room with Jon Stewart and David Letterman and Steve Martin and all of these people I truly admire and have been inspired by.
And then all of a sudden you find yourself on stage receiving this very prestigious award in front of THEM! You look down and there is Steve Martin and David Letterman giving you polite applause for your achievement. It was absolutely surreal. I will always be grateful for the experience.
Did Rosenberg give you a heads-up that she was going to name Jessica’s parents in the Netflix show after yourself and your wife, or was that a surprise?
I think they’re not legally allowed to ‘surprise’ people with stuff like that. Somebody emailed me and asked, would I be okay with it. But I did forget and was surprised when I saw it a year later or whenever it was.
What aspect of Krysten Ritter’s performance do you think best captures the spirit of the character you wrote?
Do you know that in the entire show she never says the F-word? Alias the comic is famous for being the first Marvel comic to feature the F-word. So sometimes you can feel that Jessica is synonymous with that word and all that that word brings. Krysten has this ability to say the word with her face. I felt like I heard her say the word numerous times on the show. But it was just her acting. I am so impressed with her ability to deliver anger and anguish and rage and pain as subtext to sometimes very funny dialogue.
The Marvel’s Daredevil team have also stated that they took some inspiration from your run writing Matt Murdock. If the show runners of any of the Netflix shows asked you write an episode, would you be interested?
If I thought I would be of genuine service to the show, absolutely. But writers’ rooms are very organic places and not all of them are meant to have intruders. I’m happy to have my ‘thank you’ credit.
You’re writing the new Defenders comic series out this summer, which is very exciting! What can we expect from your take on the Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist team dynamic?
Well, these are characters I have a very deep affinity for. The great joy for me with the success of the TV shows is that people all over the world are sharing my long affinity. It wasn’t too many years ago where I would be made fun of for how much I like Luke Cage and now Cage is a big TV star and I win. 🙂
These characters are going to form a team that helps defend the new meaner streets of Marvel. Some pretty shocking things are going to happen that changes the entire landscape of the criminal territories in marble. The Defenders will be there to help us.
The series will guest star just about every street-level hero you could possibly think of. The artwork is by David Marquez who worked with me on Civil War and Iron Man. He’s just one of the best superhero artists working today.
You’ve written a huge amount of characters in the Marvel universe and created some popular ones. Out of curiosity, who is your favorite Marvel character to write that you didn’t create?
That is really tough. Really really tough. I guess I have to say Spider-Man but I’m just saying that because it’s a name. I could name dozens of other characters.
You’ve been a Loot Crate subscriber for quite a while now! How did you first find out about us, and which is your favorite crate that you’ve received so far?
I am! I am an early devotee. I believe I was gifted you by one of my peers and I was vocal about it on Twitter. My favorite box actually came recently… the [Marvel Gear & Goods ‘Weapon X’] box was both inventive and hilarious and downright charming. I don’t know why, but I just found everything in the box to be a step above.
What’s the one character or franchise you haven’t received in a crate yet that you’d most want us to include? (We can’t make any promises, but we’ll definitely tell the team. 🙂 )
Now you’ve really got us thinking about that one. Thanks for taking the time to chat, Brian!