'Always stick to your deadlines. I'm six months ahead on mine, which gives me the freedom to work on the projects I want. If you're late, you cost the publisher money and get them pissed off. And there's 800 people behind you who want your job and can do it in half the time and twice as well'.
Brian Michael Bendis, writer of Marvel Comics' 'Ultimate Spider-Man', 'Ultimate Avengers', 'Daredevil', and 'Powers', should be speaking at college campuses instead of comic book cons. When I saw him at Sydney's Supanova Pop Culture Expo (an annual convention dedicated to all things geeky), he was brimming over with friendly advice for writers of all types.
'To write realistic dialog, always listen to how people talk. It drives my wife crazy-- she'll be telling me a story, and she'll know I'm not listening to what she's saying. I'm listening to how she's saying it. Its so fascinating listening to how you Australians pronounce words'.
Commonsense advice, but it had the force of coming from a man who writes some of the world's most recognizable characters (and wins awards doing it). Bendis, bald-headed and friendly, talked like a man who genuinely loves his job and his fans. He repeatedly made reference to the legions of Internet geeks who follow his every move, attacking him for decisions he makes or chatting with him on his message board. He reads what they say, but he doesn't follow it blindly: as he said, 'you'll never make everybody happy', and this is especially true in the world of comics.
The panel was informal, and many of the questions lead to bits of comic book insider knowledge. The best involved Sony purchasing the movie rights to 'Powers'. They especially liked an issue guest-starring Warren Ellis, another comic writer. For six months they argued that they would not make the movie without the character; Bendis argued for six months that the Ellis was a real person, and could not actually be owned by a movie company. It was, eventually, settled, at great expense and great humor.
Other movie news included his impressions of the upcoming Spider-Man 2: 'It's great. I was worried after the first movie they'd make it all action. Its not. Its a Peter Parker movie, not a Spider-Man movie. The new cinematographer is awesome, too' and his agreement with the accepted opinion on the Spider-Man and Daredevil movies ('Spider-Man was awesome, Daredevil wasn't nearly as good').
Of all the big names at Supanova-- George Takai, Star Trek's Mr. Sulu; David Carradine from 'Kung Fu: The Legend Continues' and 'Kill Bill'; various voice actors and special effects techs-- Bendis seemed most in his element. He was a nice guy, sharing his enthusiasm for what he loved. He signed as many comics as people wanted and offered encouragement on this article (having a minor idol promise to read something you wrote is a nice feeling). But above all, he gave advice for writers (and editors) to live by:
'If you think its perfect, then there's something wrong. Its just done' and, once again,
'STICK TO YOUR DEADLINES'.