Months back, Brian Michael Bendis shocked the world by jumping from his two decade home of Marvel Comics over to DC Comics. Bendis began his DC sojourn in the world of Superman, but that is just the tip of the Fortress of Solitude. With his arrival at DC, Bendis has promised a new dedication to his series of creative owned titles collectively known as Jinxworld. Many of these titles, such as Powers, United States of Murder Inc., and the all-ages Takio (with artist Michael Avon Oeming), and Scarlet with Alex Maleev have experienced delays and cancelations over the years that have frustrated fans and Bendis himself. But now Jinxworld is back, and ready to take the comic book market by storm.
Joining these established Jinxworld titles will be Pearl with Bendis’ Jessica Jones co-creator Michal Gaydos and Cover with David Mack. Pearl is the story of a young assassin trying to navigate the world of the Yakuza and Cover asks what happens when comic creators become super spies. Along with the new titles, all the classic Jinxworld titles will soon return. Brian Michael Bendis told us what to expect from these titles and what led to this renewed focus on the Jinxworld imprint.
Den of Geek: To what do we owe this renewed focus on Jinxworld?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well, a few things. My birthday last year was a landmark birthday, so you can’t help but sit on your porch and take stock of everything. I’m healthy. My kids are healthy. I love me wife. But what can I do? What am I missing? Where have I dropped the ball? Absolutely, it was my passion and dedication to my creator owned work. My passion was always there, but behind the scenes, no one was seeing what we were doing because I wasn’t committed to it. That is embarrassing to me, and let’s fix it. On top of that, I announced to my friends, “I’m going to spend the year and create 50 things. They’re not going to be fifty amazing things, but I’m going to spend a year and force myself to lock down 50 ideas…written down that are brand new and not done before.”
From that, six months later, the offer from DC comes and them saying, “We think you should return to Jinxworld, we’re fans of it and it’s annoying to us that you haven’t got back to that.” So whatever we were going to do next, if I resigned at Marvel or if I didn’t sign anywhere, it was going to be with a fierce rededication to Jinxworld. What was great was that DC wanted that from us and came to us with a robust partnership plan to really publish the shit out of these books. I was relieved. It was exactly what I wanted. If I had to write Santa a letter, that’s exactly what I would have asked for. I called my collaborators and said, “Hey, you guys want to stop what you’re doing and get back to what we’re supposed to be doing?”
And then I got sick. Then I ended up in the hospital. The weeks went by and sometimes, there were days I was blind and there were days I was told, “You’re not getting out of here.” There was genuine care with collaborators visiting and talking comics. Greg Rucka sitting right next to me talking about Superman quietly. These things impassioned me and emboldened me. I said, “I have to get the fuck out of here and tell these stories.” I desperately wanted to do that. So, you’re holding the results of all of that. I was lucky enough to get out and got to work.
At the same time, as we were putting the books together, as I was being reintroduced to the history of DC and people were talking about what Kirby was doing when he came over, not that I’m anywhere in his ballpark, it’s the idea of someone moving from Marvel to DC and what he was creating then and how old he was. I wrote a very serious letter to my collaborations. I said, “It just occurred to me, and sure I almost lost my life, we are of an age where we have all the facilities as creators. We know our craft, we’re on that road. We’re at an age where we know why we’re telling out stories and what we’re telling. Sometimes, when you’re a younger creator, you find out later why you did it. We know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We are at the height of our powers. Sometimes people get better when they get older, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it dwindles. But this is it. Let’s acknowledge that, let’s not pretend this isn’t our moment.”
All four of the guys started kicking ass and inspiring each other. I was sitting there and seeing pages of Pearl and Cover and Murder, and the only people who benefit are the readers and me.
Pearl with Michael Gaydos
Tell us about the genesis of Pearl? When did the idea percolate? Was it originally slated for Marvel?
It was never pitched to Marvel, but it was definitely going to be the next book me and Gaydos did. We had like a year before any of the things I just talked about and we decided the next thing we did after Jessica Jones would be creator owned. We had a whole year to percolate on why we were doing this book and what this book is and what’s special about it. I really focused on making sure there are things in the book you’re not going to see anywhere else. Things that are unique. Little things, big things… these things are sometimes people’s whole entertainment budget, so you want to make sure you handle everything with care. So, we were talking, and the very first conversation, and you’ll see this with all the Jinxworld launches, they started with another conversation or another idea, and then you say, “No, the real idea is this…”
It started with me becoming obsessed with other people’s obsessions. Tattoos was one of those. The art of tattoo. Because I was told when I was a boy that if you get a tattoo you’re not going to heaven and about Holocaust tattoos, it always had a different connotation to a young Jewish kid from Cleveland than it did elsewhere. Here where I live in Portland … it’s a big part of the culture. It started with this and I asked all my friends who are covered, “Talk to me about this…talk to me.” That story made me start chasing people, and that got me talking to other people and artists and it ended with people saying, “Hey, you know I’m part of the Yakuza,” and I was like “Oh, really?” Then you realize the connections that are all in the book, the fantastic connection between art and violence that has always been there. But it’s also about truth and beauty, a fascinating dichotomy. It made us realize that there’s a story to tell here. And then Mike Gaydos started buying tattoo guns and immersing himself. We got such a great plot and I started wanting to know more about Pearl.
Suddenly Mike says, “There’s someone in my family, they have a skin condition and if they get marked, you can’t see it unless they get angry, and then it fills in. I talked to this tattoo artist and asked, “If this person tattoos himself with an empty gun with this condition, would that work? And they said,” Yeah.”
Pearl has a skin condition and you can’t see it until something is really about to happen. That idea, her art is her body, and I got so excited. So that’s where Pearl came from.
This certainly is a setting and a world you’ve never really touched that much before in your creative owned work? What drew you to a tale of the Japanese underworld?
When you do as much work in the organized crime genre as I do, it’s all so good, all so fascinating. People from all walks of life thrown up against walls and forced to face their fears, forced to face their mortality. But all organizations and cultures are different than the other ones. It’s a Venn diagram of similarities, but there’s honor, duty, and family. But as generations go by and there are some values that corrode.
Who is Pearl and what is she looking for?
Pearl is a tattoo artist, an apprentice of her mother; they run a tattoo shop in San Francisco. Her whole life has been immersed in the Yakuza. All she wants to do is come up a master artist at the level of her mother. But the world itself has constantly frustrated her. With her family gone, it’s just her and her shop. It’s the choices made for her versus her choices. It’s one of my favorite things, the idea of living in a world where choices are made for us versus the things we want. She’s about to meet her doppelganger from another clan. This opens her eyes to the idea she doesn’t have to live the life she’s living.
How long is Pearl planned to be?
Pearl was six issues, but we had a very good week last week. We’re debating whether or not to keep going or do other things. We are so excited with how well she did in a tough market place for brand new things. I guess people felt a lot of love towards Jessica Jones and were willing to give us a shot. We debuted strong. I’ll let you know next month. I told Mike, “We have some awesome choices and they’re all good.”
Scarlet with Alex Maleev
Where does the new volume of Scarlet pick up?
The new volume of Scarlet picks up in a very surprising place. The entire city of Portland has been shut down by the revolution started by Scarlet and the gang at the end of the last arc. You do not have to read the last arc to enjoy this. It opens up and the bridges of Portland have been blown, the city has been shut off and surrounded by US army, and Scarlet will be heard.
Real life politics have kind of lapped the world you created in Scarlet, how has this changed your approach?
This is my absolute favorite subject that only I care about. I’m writing a book that started eight years ago. Everything about the world that the book is reflective of has shifted under its knees. And yet everything about the book remains true. On top of re-debuting the book, we’re also doing a pilot for Scarlet on television. I’m helping adapt the first story while doing this new story and they’re both potent to where we’re living right now. What’s interesting is that in this book you’re seeing a city under siege. This is an insanely over the top idea when I first wrote it and it doesn’t feel totally insane anymore. Because what we’ve learned every day this year is that normal is not what you thought it was.
In this politically charged climate, do you have any fears of presenting a situation that parallels the real world?
No, we’re not a political book. I must say, what Scarlet fights against, her one point, her only point is that corruption should not be allowed. That corruption is rampant and has gone so far out of control that we can’t even breathe, and she wants it to stop. And every time she tries to stop it a corrupt person gets in her way and she has to push back. I have not met anyone who read this book who is pro-corruption. That’s not a political issue. There are corrupt people everywhere. She’s not fighting cops, she’s fighting bad cops. She’s fighting people who have betrayed decency. When that badge is betrayed that’s worse than a criminal.
Powers with Michael Avon Oeming
When can we expect more Powers and where do we pick things up?
There’s a whole Powers graphic novel all ready and ready to go this Christmas.
So no more single issues?
No, we just have enough for a graphic novel, but they’ll be more. I hear from fans everyday bummed out there’s no third season of the TV series, so I said, “Let’s give them a big thing. They’ve been waiting. Let’s give them a whole book for Christmas.”
United States of Murder Inc. with Michael Avon Oeming
What is the focus of the new volume?
It’s United States versus Murder Inc. It’s the government versus the five families who’ve had kind of a Cold War that’s not going to be so cold anymore when the leads of our book are told to shut it down.
Takio with Michael Avon Oeming and Olivia Bendis
When can we expect more Takio?
There will be more Takio later next year. I have Olivia plotting this year.
Good! Because in this market we need Takio.
I know and I was genuinely surprised that when I went to DC, they asked for it. How they’re publishing YA material, I’m so happy. And it has the benefit of Olivia being young enough to do writing.
Cover with David Mack
Talk about the genesis of this project? Where did the germ and idea come from?
This is a very special book for us; this is David Mack and I collaborating again. I truly believe he’s a genius. I’ve known Mack since he was a teenager. What we’ve done is taken all the stuff we’ve gathered over the years in our life as comic creators and applied it to the spy genre. There’s a lot of truth in this book. I’ve spoken at Langley and David worked for the State Department. We’ve met a lot of interesting people and we thought what a fun way to express our love of comics, of fiction, and the spy genre at the same time.
What comic creators would actually make great spies?
Funny you should say that because I reached out to them and asked, “Would you like to do a variant cover as yourself as a spy?” So I asked people who I thought would make great spies. That’s Nick Derington from Mister Miracle. There’s Bill Sienkiewicz. I’m going to do one. David is going to do one. And Ivan Reis is doing a variant. We did people you don’t see variants from normally.
Any plans to return to the world of Jinx and Goldfish?
I must say, after the story I just told you, I’m looking at a bunch of brand new ideas and brand new collaborations. That’s a lot more interesting to me at the moment than a return to. That doesn’t mean I won’t wake up tomorrow with a fever and say, “Oh my God, I know what to do with Jinx.” I’ve had the personal fun experience of adapting both those graphic novels in screenplays so I’ve already had fun. Not fun for you, I know, but I’ve already scratched that itch and this list of new ideas are just there and I have to do it.
Can we hope for more Brilliant with Mark Bagley?
This one I’m sad about because Mark Bagley is exclusive with Marvel. This was on my pros and cons list for going to DC because we love making comics together.
The latest volume of Scarlet debuts on August 29.
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