While in high school, he submitted for a "Creative Writing assignment" a novelization of Chris Claremont's X-Men and the Starjammers story, which gained him an A+ grade for imagination and inventiveness. At 19, Bendis began attending the Cleveland Institute of Art, while working at a downtown comic book store where he eventually sold some of his early work. Between the ages of 20 and 25, he sent in a large number of submissions to comics companies, although he ultimately stopped his attempts to break into the industry this way, considering it too much of a "lottery."
Brian Michael Bendis
Best known as a writer, Bendis started out as an artist, doing work for local magazines and newspapers, including caricature work. He worked at The Plain Dealer as an illustrator. Although he did not enjoy caricature work, it paid well and funded his interest in writing crime fiction for graphic novels. He eventually moved into both writing and illustrating his work, before he began producing work for Caliber Comics, including Spunky Todd.
He characterizes much of this period of his professional life in terms of working as "a graphic artist for almost twelve years" undergoing a period within that of "nine years" living as a stereotypical 'starving artist'.
Image Comics and Oni Comics
In 1996/1997, Bendis moved from Caliber to Image Comics, where Jinx and his other previous crime comics were published by Image's Shadowline arm in trade paperback. At Image, he also produced five more issues of Jinx.
Impressed with A.K.A. Goldfish, Image founder Todd McFarlane sought out Bendis, which led to his writing Sam and Twitch. Although set in the Spawn universe, Bendis approached Sam and Twitch primarily as a crime comic. He wrote Sam and Twitch for twenty issues, as well as most of the first ten issues of Hellspawn, another Spawn spin-off title. This non-creator-owned work allowed him to, in the words of Rich Kriener in The Comics Journal, "[add] the responsibility of caretaker to his resume, in that he would answer to a vested owner about developing a property as a tangible asset with the future in mind," rather than only working on his own characters under his own terms.
Around the time Bendis began Sam and Twitch, his friend David Mack began working for Joe Quesada's Marvel Knights imprint, of which Bendis was a fan. Based on Bendis' work on Jinx, Quesada invited him to pitch ideas for Marvel Knights, which included a planned, but ultimately unproduced, Nick Fury story.
Marvel Comics President Bill Jemas, on the recommendation of Quesada, hired Bendis to write Ultimate Spider-Man, which debuted in 2000, and was targeted at the new generation of comic readers. Bendis adapted the 11-page origin story of Spider-Man from 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15 into a seven issues story arc, with Peter Parker becoming the titular hero after the fifth issue, making the book a bestseller, often surpassing in sales those of the mainstream Marvel universe title The Amazing Spider-Man. The Bendis/Bagley partnership of 111 consecutive issues made their partnership one of the longest in American comic book history, and the longest run by a Marvel creative team, beating out Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four. Bendis subsequently wrote other books in the Ultimate line, including Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, which Bendis pitched to Marvel as a follow-up to Ultimate Spider-Man, as well as Ultimate Fantastic Four, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Origins, Ultimate Six, the first three issues of Ultimate Power, and the Ultimate Comics: Doomsdaymetaseries. In 2011, Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli created the Miles Morales character as the new version of the Ultimate Spider-Man. As of June 2013, Bendis continues to write every issue of Ultimate Spider-Man in its current form, Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man.
Quesada offered Bendis the writing duties on Daredevil, which he took over in 2001, writing most of the subsequent 55 issues until 2006, collaborating mostly with artist Alex Maleev. As a major Daredevil author, Bendis' name is one of the names used for boxers mentioned by a corrupt boxing manager in the 2003 Daredevil movie. Also in 2001, Bendis helped launch Marvel's non-Comics Code-approved, adult MAX imprint with Alias, featuring former superhero Jessica Jones operating as a private investigator. The series ran for 28 issues before many of the characters moved to Bendis' mainstream Marvel Universe series The Pulse. In 2004 Powers moved from Image to Marvel's creator-owned imprint Icon, where it was relaunched as Powers Vol. 2 alongside another ex-Image series, David Mack's Kabuki.
Also in 2004, Bendis oversaw the closing issues of The Avengers as part of the crossover storyline "Avengers Disassembled". This led directly to the Bendis-helmed relaunch of one version of the eponymous team in the pages of The New Avengers. Bendis' work on this storyline included the death of Avenger Hawkeye, which proved controversial. In 2005, with artist Olivier Coipel, Bendis wrote the New Avengers / X-Men crossover, "House of M", which would retroactively be considered the second act of a three-act super-event beginning with "Avengers Disassembled" and culminating in the Bendis-written 2008 storyline "Secret Invasion". Bendis also wrote Secret War, which was serialized between 2004 and 2005. The series, which was not connected to the 1984 miniseries Secret Wars, served as a prelude to Secret Invasion. After Marvel's 2006 "Civil War" storyline, Bendis helmed another Avengers revival, launching Mighty Avengers with Frank Cho in 2007.
Post-"Secret Invasion", Bendis left Mighty Avengers with issue #20 and wrote Secret Invasion: Dark Reign, a one-shot that preceded another ongoing Avengers series, Dark Avengers. In 2009, Bendis and former Daredevil collaborator Maleev launched the long-delayed Spider-Woman, following up on her role in the Secret Invasion storyline. Spider-Woman was the first comic book to be offered simultaneously on the Internet as a "motion comic" and in comic stores in print form.
Bendis re-teamed with House of M's Coipel for the 2009 crossover series "Siege", which brought the "Dark Reign" storyline to a close, and with it Dark Avengers. Springboarding out of Siege, Bendis relaunched both Avengers and New Avengers as part of the "Heroic Age".
Also in 2010, Bendis launched Scarlet through Icon Comics, his first new creator-owned comic book in over a decade, re-teaming once again with Maleev. In February 2011, Icon released the all-ages graphic novelTakio by Bendis and his Powers collaborator Mike Oeming and in mid-2011 a maxiseries called Brilliant with artist Bagley. Bendis' other 2011 projects included a new Moon Knight series with Maleev, which concluded with issue 12. In 2012, in conjunction with Marvel Studios' feature film The Avengers, Bendis began writing a new Avengers comic, Avengers Assemble. Bendis wrote the first eight issues of Avengers Assemble, a series that premiered in March 2012 that featured a new incarnation of the Zodiac, as well as the return of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which teamed with the Avengers against Thanos.
Bendis concluded his stint on Avengers and New Avengers in 2012 with the "End Times" arc. His final issue of Avengers, released September 2012, was a "jam issue", featuring splash pages by Marvel artists including Walt Simonson, Jim Cheung, and Leinil Yu.
Following Marvel's "Marvel NOW!" relaunch of its titles, Bendis took on writing duties on All New X-Men, which saw the return of the original 1960's X-Men to the present, Uncanny X-Men, whose focus shifts to Cyclops' team of X-Men going rogue after the events of "Avengers Vs. X-Men", and Guardians of the Galaxy, picking up where his Avengers Assemble run left off.
Bendis wrote the "Age of Ultron" crossover storyline, which included an eponymous 10-issue miniseries, that was published between March and June 2013. Issue 10 saw the introduction of the Neil Gaiman character Angela into the Marvel Universe.
In November 2017, Bendis announced via Twitter that he would be working exclusively with DC Comics. His DC debut in Action Comics #1000 (June 2018).Ivan Reis drew the first issue of Bendis' The Man of Steel limited series and collaborated with Bendis on the relaunched Superman ongoing series in 2018. Bendis took over writing Action Comics following its 1000th issue.
Work in other media
In addition to his primary work in comics, Bendis has produced written work in several other media, such as video games, TV and film.
Bendis was the co-executive producer and series-pilot writer for Mainframe Entertainment's 2003 CGI animated Spider-Man show, Spider-Man: The New Animated Series that aired on MTV and YTV, which features a college-aged Peter Parker, and was written to tie-into the then-unreleased 2002 film Spider-Man. The pilot episode Bendis wrote became the third episode aired. His dismay at being credited for something written by someone else, and the multitude of corporate and legal departments involved in the animation process soured him on the show.
In 2013, he was named on IGN's list of "The Best Tweeters in Comics", in part for his frequent Twitter posts highlighting the work of other creators.
When creating characters, Bendis says that he always begins with someone he knows and builds upon that inspiration, allowing the character to eventually evolve naturally. His depiction of Aunt May in Ultimate Spider-Man, for example, strongly resembles his mother.
Brian Michael Bendis with his daughter Olivia and artist Mike Oeming in March 2011
Bendis met his wife Alisa in 1995 through the Cleveland chapter of the Hillel Foundation, where Alisa worked and Bendis was a staff illustrator. The two were married within a year. Alisa Bendis manages JINXWORLD, the company through which Bendis produces his creator-owned and licensed comics work. They have four children. Of their three daughters, his oldest, Olivia, is his biological daughter, while he and his wife adopted their two younger daughters, one of whom is African-American, and the other of whom is Ethiopian. Their names are Tabatha (adopted in June 2011) and Sabrina. Bendis mentioned in a July 2013 post on his Tumblr account that they had a newborn son, who is named London.
The Amazing Spider-Man #600–601: "Amazing Spider-Man Covers You'll Never See! #4" & "The Best Version of Myself" (with Klaus Janson and Joe Quesada, 2009) collected in Spider-Man: Died in Your Arms Tonight (hc, 192 pages, 2009, ISBN 0-7851-4459-5; tpb, 2010, ISBN 0-7851-4485-4)
Daredevil: End of Days (8-issue limited series, with David Mack, Klaus Janson, Alex Maleev and Bill Sienkiewicz, October 2012 – June 2013, collected in Daredevil: End of Days, hc, 216 pages, 2013, ISBN 0-7851-2420-9)
Spider-Woman: Origin (6-issue limited serier, with Brian Reed and Luna brothers, December 2005 – April 2006, collected in Spider-Woman: Origin, hc, 120 pages, 2006, ISBN 0-7851-1965-5; tpb, 2007, ISBN 0-7851-1966-3)
Spider-Woman #1–7 (with Alex Maleev, 2009–2010) collected as Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. (hc, 176 pages, 2010, ISBN 0-7851-1999-X; tpb, 2011, ISBN 0-7851-2630-9)
Ultimate Comics: Fallout #1–2, 4, 6 (with Mark Bagley, Gabriel Hardman and Sara Pichelli, 2011) collected in Ultimate Comics: Fallout (hc, 136 pages, 2011, ISBN 0-7851-5912-6; tpb, 2012, ISBN 0-7851-5913-4)
Avengers Vs. X-Men #0–1, #8, #11 (with Jason Aaron, Frank Cho, John Romita Jr., Adam Kubert and Olivier Coipel, March–September 2012, collected in Avengers vs. X-Men, hc, 568 pges, 2012, ISBN 0-7851-6317-4)
AVX: VS #6, "Verbal Abuse" (with Jim Mahfood, October 2012, collected in Avengers vs. X-Men: VS, tpb, 160 pages, 2013, ISBN 0-7851-6520-7)
Age of Ultron (10-issue limited series, with Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco, March–June 2013, collected in Age of Ultron, tpb, 288 pages, 2014, ISBN 0-7851-5566-X)
Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand (5-issue limited series, with Mark Bagley, November 2013 – February 2014, collected in Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand, hc, 440 pages, 2014, ISBN 0-7851-8919-X)
^Cowsill, Alan; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2012). "2000s". Spider-Man Chronicle Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 259. ISBN 978-0756692360. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Mark Bagley, the series built on the original Spidey stories but soon spun off into bold new directions.
^Cowsill "2000s" in Gilbert (2012), p. 262: "The Ultimate Marvel Team-Up series also brought on board big-name creators...with Matt Wagner drawing Brian Michael Bendis' story in the debut issue."
^Cowsill "2010s" in Gilbert (2012), p. 339: "The Ultimate Universe got a new Spidey – Miles Morales. The teenage hero's half African-American and half Latino ethnic origin gained Marvel publicity across the world, but the new series written by Brain Michael Bendis and illustrated by Sara Pichelli was gripping enough to be a hit with fans in its own right."
^Manning, Matthew K.; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "2000s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 305. ISBN 978-0756641238. Writer Brian Michael Bendis began his impressive run on the Daredevil title with a small character-driven four-part story, teaming with his old friend David Mack.
^Manning "2000s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 307: "The herald to the start of Marvel's adult imprint, MAX, Alias was the first of a new comic series that was targeted specifically for a mature audience. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and featuring the art of Michael Gaydos and covers by David Mack, Alias explored the life of cynical private investigator Jessica Jones."
^Manning "2000s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 323: "Writer Brian Michael Bendis would turn the Avengers' world on its end with this shocking new crossover event drawn by artist David Finch."
^Manning "2000s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 324: Superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Finch relaunched the title under the name The New Avengers. The comic focused more on Marvel's arguably most popular super heroes."
^Manning "2000s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 326: "Teaming with artist Olivier Coipel, Bendis created The House of M, a major Marvel crossover event centered around an eight-issue limited series."
^Manning "2000s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 341: "With plot elements planted years earlier in the pages of writer Brian Michael Bendis' many comics, the clandestine infiltration of the Earth by the alien race of shape-shifters known as the Skrull first surfaced in the pages of New Avengers #31 when a dying Elektra transformed to reveal herself as a Skrull."
^Manning "2000s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 335: "With the help of artist Frank Cho, Bendis created the Mighty Avengers, a government-sponsored team that would serve as the antithesis to the still-underground New Avengers."
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