Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Thursday,
Apr 28th
Home Leisure Arts, Culture & More Meet Brian Bendis, the man who killed Spiderman

Meet Brian Bendis, the man who killed Spiderman

E-mail Print PDF

L-r, the final issue of the ‘Ultimate Spider-Man,’ featuring Peter Parker, and the first issue featuring Miles Morales.NEW YORK — Spiderman heroically dispatched countless foes since he arrived on the scene in 1962.

Nearly a half-century later, Brian Michael Bendis managed to kill him.

In 2000, Bendis was hired to write Ultimate Spiderman, a modern-day retelling of the classic Spiderman story. More than 10 years, 160 issues and several blockbuster Hollywood adaptations later, Bendis did the unthinkable, killing off the superhero’s famous alter ego, Peter Parker, and replacing him with a half-black, half-Hispanic 13-year-old named Miles Morales.

The change received national attention. Glenn Beck said Morales looked like President Barack Obama — and not in a good way. Lou Dobbs didn’t like the change either, prompting Jon Stewart to quip that Morales represented Dobbs’ worst nightmare: “a Latino that can climb walls.”

But Bendis is unrepentant.

“Marvel is a representation of the real world,” Bendis explained from his home in Portland, Ore. “The Marvel Universe takes place in New York. Miles lives in Brooklyn — it’s actually Brooklyn. That’s a huge difference going back to my time as a crime writer. The city becomes a character you’re writing about.”

Bendis, 45, may be the most important comic book writer working today. He helped re-launch the Daredevil, Spiderman and the Avengers franchises, and his titles typically sell more than 100,000 copies, making him among the most popular comic book writers in the world.

“Brian is a unique and important voice in modern comics,” said Danny Fingeroth, a longtime Marvel editor and the author of The Stan Lee Universe.

“He displays a profound understanding of, and respect for, the histories of the characters and their universe, but understands that they have to be updated for a modern readership.”

RAISED by a single mother in Cleveland, Bendis attended an Orthodox day school and discovered comic books as an adolescent.

“I studied them like the Torah,” he said. “I memorized the ads. At 5, I literally stood on the sofa and said, ‘I will be the artist on Spiderman.’”

Like others drawn to stories of caped crusaders and mega-muscled heroes, Bendis was searching for a stand-in for his absentee father. Stan Lee, the Jewish co-creator of Spiderman and other comic book heroes, became something of a father figure for him.

But the rabbis who taught him as a child weren’t too fond of Bendis’ hobby.

“I would just start drawing without thinking and [suddenly] it’s a bunch of naked guys and I’d get sent home,” Bendis said.

After high school, Bendis attended the Cleveland Institute of Art. An independent comic book publisher picked up his final thesis and published it.

After graduation, he continued working on comic books but supported himself doing freelance illustration and caricatures at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

“It’s the lowest form of human existence — and I worked at McDonald’s,” he said.

Through the 1990s, Bendis hustled his work on the road with fellow independent comic book creators. Those years were somewhat of a golden age for the independent comic scene, producing a bevy of talented, original creators.

But the period was financially rough for Bendis and his wife, Alisa, whom he met while doing a freelance assignment for the Hillel Foundation.

Even his successes didn’t change the basic financial equation. The day after his work on the crime comic JINX won an Eisner Award, the comic book equivalent of an Oscar, he was back at a Bar Mitzvah drawing caricatures.

BENDIS’ explosion on the independent comic book scene coincided with a shakeup at Marvel Comics, the largest comic book publisher in the world. A new president and editor in chief wanted a fresh voice for the company.

Joe Quesada, then the editor in chief, called Bendis in 2000 and told him that he wanted to bring him to Marvel.

“I asked, ‘What do you need an artist for?’” Bendis recalled.

After what Bendis describes as a long “dead” silence, Quesada finally answered, “‘You know your art isn’t that good, but you’re an amazing writer.’ ”

Bendis’ first assignment was a four-issue run on Marvel’s Daredevil. After the first two issues, Quesada asked him if he was interested in writing Ultimate Spiderman. The series became one of the best-selling comics of the decade.

“He’s really terrific,” Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, said of Bendis. “I think he’s one of the few comic book writers that has a really singular voice in terms of dialogue. He just has the snappiness of a really great crime novelist.”

The couple’s financial worries were over. Bendis finally had regular comic book work and his original graphic novels were optioned for movies. He and Alisa began thinking about starting a family.

Doctors told Bendis that Alisa wouldn’t be able to have children, but as they prepared to adopt, she became pregnant with their daughter, Olivia. Later the couple adopted Sabrina from Ethiopia and, three years later, a third daughter, Tabatha, through a domestic adoption program.

“Adoption is something I’m insanely proud of,” Bendis said. “My wife wanted to make a family of the world and help raise children with a lot of love that they might not have gotten otherwise.”

BENDIS raised the idea of shaking up the Spiderman franchise at a Marvel creative retreat.

“We thought about what we wished we could do differently,” he said. “We talked about that the New York in Marvel comics isn’t the one you see when you walk outside the door.”

Ultimate Spider Man No. 160 was published in 2011. In that issue, Peter Parker is killed by his archenemy, the Green Goblin. In the next issue, Morales inherits his super powers after being bitten by a genetically engineered spider.

The Jewish nature of comic book superheroes has long been an object of speculation, with much attention focused on post-Holocaust Jewish psychology and the yearning for powerful protectors of the innocent.

But Bendis traces the connection back even further.

“The Torah is full of mythological sources of father and son, and so is Marvel Comics,” Bendis said. “I think about my upbringing with a single mother — I have father issues — I was born to do this. That’s why I can write.”

In December, Alisa gave birth again. It’s a boy.

 

IJN e-Edition

This is only a taste! Get full access to the IJN via our e-Edition, only $14.04 for IJN Print subscribers.

E-Edition subscribers get access to a complete digital replica of the IJN, which includes all special sections.

Get the IJN's free newsletter!

Cast Your Vote

Do you eat kitniyot on Passover?
 

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Rock legend Phil Lesh gathers musician friends for a Grateful Dead Passover

Andrew Silow-Carroll SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (JTA) – “Why can’t we eat veggie burritos tonight? Will I be miracled? Will they play ‘The Wheel?’ Will Phil sing?” These four additional questions were asked at a Passo... [Link]

Hundreds attend 1st Jewish film festival in Casablanca

Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA) — Nearly 500 people attended the first Jewish film festival of Casablanca, which was organized in the Moroccan city by a Sephardic Jewish woman from Atlanta. The three-day event, which end... [Link]

Can you help a kibbutznik find his American relatives?

mbrodsky SEEKING KIN The “Seeking Kin” column aims to help reunite long-lost relatives and friends. (JTA) – “If only” – it’s the most common regret expressed by “Seeking Kin” interviewees, an... [Link]

Amid complicity debate, Polish clergy to attend 70th anniversary of post-Holocaust pogrom

Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA) — Polish clergy and researchers will hold a seminar in Kielce about a historically significant pogrom in which locals killed Holocaust survivors in that city 70 years ago. Occurring amid... [Link]

Netanyahu calls for ‘direct, bilateral negotiations’ with Palestinians

Marcy Oster JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is ready to start “direct, bilateral negotiations” with the Palestinians. The invitation, which Netanyahu has repeated... [Link]

Palestinians riot as Jewish worshippers visit Joseph’s Tomb

Marcy Oster JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinians in Nablus attacked Israeli soldiers escorting a convoy of Jewish worshippers who entered the West Bank city to visit Joseph’s Tomb. The 26 busloads of worshi... [Link]

Sides swap character attacks in trial over Bay Area’s Koret Foundation

Andrew Silow-Carroll SAN FRANCISCO (J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California via JTA) — A civil trial focused on control of the $500 million Koret Foundation is pitting its founder’s widow, Susan Koret, a... [Link]

As Jews flee Belgium, a seder marks a family exodus

Cnaan Liphshiz BRUSSELS (JTA) — I was feeling nervous about coming to Brussels for seder with my family. Making the 130-mile trip there from my home in Amsterdam meant taking my 5-month-old son on a train that... [Link]

Intermountain Jewish News • 1177 Grant Street • Denver, CO 80203 • 303 861 2234 • FAX 303 832 6942
email@ijn.com • larry@ijn.com • lori@ijn.com