Comics week at The A.V. Club continues as Brian Michael Bendis talks about his early work, starting at Marvel, bringing back thought balloons, and the growing continuity of Ultimate Spider-Man:
The word “continuity” has kind of got this evil reputation, you know what I mean? What it did was, it invented a more reader-friendly comic book. Even though it’s 120 issues, you read that recap page, which by the way didn’t exist in ancient comics prior to Ultimate Spider-Man. That was a Bill Jemas invention. The new writers don’t want to bog down the writing with exposition, which is just lazy writing. So to do a recap like they do in front of Law & Order, or “Previously on ER“, to do that and get back right into the story. So that has now been applied to every comic book. So it brought down this way to tell a more layered, character-driven story, unshackling a lot of the tired ways that a monthly book was being produced. You just don’t see Wolverine slicing someone with an 80-line thought balloon over his head filling you in on everything that’s ever happened to him in his entire life, that kind of stuff. And though it sounds cheeky, “Oh, that’s a big invention,” it really seismically changed a lot of the language of comics, and freed up stuff to go nuts.
Every comic book is someone’s first or their last. If someone’s picking this up for the first time, is it entertaining? Can they follow it? You can have a four-part or six-part story, but you should be able to get right in there and figure out what’s going on immediately, without insulting the reader at the same time. And also, someone might read this and go, “I’m never buying another comic book again, I’m moving on to something else. I like girls.” And they never read another comic again, and it’s your responsibility to make that not happen. So these were the theories applied to the Ultimate line more than it was continuity, it was reader-friendly. Don’t talk down to people to get new people in.
As a bonus, he also discusses fan fallout from Avengers Disassembled.