Brian Michael Bendis talks Guardians of the Galaxy big changes
In the wake of Secret Wars the Marvel Universe has become even more fragmented, as the books of All-New All-Different Marvel prepare to make their debut this October. And while each new series will bring about significant change to well-known characters and superhero groups, the space pirate misfits known as Guardians of the Galaxy may undergo their biggest shake-up yet.
For one thing: a female Star-Lady, otherwise known as the universes’ very own Kitty Pryde. For another thing: Rocket Racoon as the group’s leader in Peter Quill’s absence. For another thing: Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) in outer space. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Written by Brian Michael Bendis (Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man, Powers) and with art by Valerio Schiti, Guardians of the Galaxy #1 promises to be one of the most fun books of the year, and EW spoke exclusively with Bendis about these changes, why it’s so great to write in the Marvel cosmic universe, and more. Plus, view exclusive new art, including a special inked page from Schiti.
EW: How are things different here than in Secret Wars, because this book is not your typical Guardians of the Galaxy?
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS: Before the movie came out, having read the scripts and having seen early cuts, I knew it was going to be a big winner. Not to the level that it was — you can never guess that — but I just knew it was going to be a unique experience. I got so hyper about the characters and about what their opportunities were during the making of the movie, and that’s why they offered me to take the book.
One of the things we’ve had a lot of luck with, that I enjoy, is for people who have seen the movie or the cartoon that the comic book surprises them. It’s not exactly like the movie. There are things that are similar and relationships that are similar, but there are also some differences. Our characters are so entrenched in what’s going on in the Marvel Universe that they have all kinds of cool relationships they might not get in the movies. Right now we have Star-Lord, Peter Quill, and when we last left him, his father, who was the emperor of Peter’s other home planet, ended up turning rather villainous. He was ousted as the head of his planet, and the governments of the planets came to Peter and offered him to take over as president of the planet. We didn’t see what decision he made, but there’s obviously a lot of pros and cons.
When we open up on our new storyline, we’ll see that he has been president of a planet for a while and in doing so, has abandoned the Guardians of the Galaxy. And what kind of pirate can be a president? Because basically, the Guardians are kind of like good-natured pirates. What’s that like? How much a fish out of the water is he? We also have Peter in a very passionate and evolved relationship with Kitty Pryde from the X-Men. Which a lot of people think was flat out me just putting Kitty Pryde in all of my books, but it wasn’t. It happened organically between me and some other writers but I’ll take the hit for it, it’s okay. [Laughs] So, we find out what happened in their relationship.
And you have a new team member that might be familiar to people…
When we open up the book we have a new team member in Ben Grimm from Fantastic Four. This is very exciting because he was on my list of, wouldn’t he be great on the team? When we were making this list of what other kind of things you’d want on the team that you haven’t seen before. We had Iron Man last year and Venom, who’s still on the team this year, and Captain Marvel. Then Grimm was on my list.
I was so excited to try to put Ben on the team because his original goal of his character was to be an astronaut. Being an adventurer and a superhero and all that is really cool, but wouldn’t it be cool to do that all out in space where he wanted to go in the first place? And isn’t it interesting that if Ben Grimm comes out to be part of the Guardians of the Galaxy with all of the experience he has and looking the way he looks, he’s not so much a monster? So what’s that life going to be like for him if he’s kind of labeled, but now he’s in a place where that’s not a problem anymore? The other cool thing is that with Kitty Pryde and Ben Grimm on the team, we have my goal of having a “Jews In Space” book which is what I pitched when I first came to Marvel.
I think the thing that intrigues me most about this book in particular is that it has so many different things in it, including characters. But they all manage to come together in a way that works. It’s a little crazy, but it’s also a lot of fun.
If you follow these characters, they all fit. Venom had a cosmic tint to him, Ben had a very space adventurer tint to him. Even Kitty’s craziest moments in her life have been in space. Also, she likes guys named Peter. It all fits perfectly. But I like taking it all to the next level and not repeating the story we grew up with, but finding new energy and new life for these characters. This book is the perfect place for it. Even though the Marvel Cosmic has been part of Marvel since the Kree/Skull War in the ’60s, it’s still this vast, open territory for new stories and pure imagination. What all the characters want is very noble, and I also think that we live in a world where a lot of people make their own families. There’s the family you have and then they grow up and make their own family out of their friends, and their friends become more than family, and that’s what the Guardians have done.
Can you talk a little bit about Rocket leading the group, since that’s something that seems like it’s a lot of fun to write.
It is a lot of fun because all of a sudden you’ve got a sense that he’s been waiting for this moment. Peter had to leave the group to do his thing, and Rocket just decides that means he’s in charge. That doesn’t mean anyone else agrees or wants to even fight with him about it, so he just keeps announcing how he’s in charge and everyone’s just doing whatever they want. He’s really having a bit of a Napoleon Complex. Really, we’re having a lot of fun with it, and he’s not the greatest leader.
And then Kitty Pryde as Star-Lady…
I know that’s one of those things that some die-hard fans see and their dander rises, because change is bad. But wait and see. You’ll see exactly what that means. Some people feel like I’m personally going over to the house and breaking new toys, but that’s not the case. We’re making them vital and interesting and finding new stuff. Some of my favorite things that have ever happened in literature, and in comics specifically, were when people did do things.
I’ve spoken to a lot of comic writers and artists, and across the board, there’s one thing every creator says that’s universal: They all say, “We want to tell a different story, but we don’t want to just change someone’s clothes.” Being creative and making changes like this, especially for a book that has characters like Guardians is a way to keep things fresh.
It’s fascinating how there are these characters that have lasted decade after decade, always in their moment, always finding their voice and place in the culture where so many things have come and gone. It’s this very interesting torch-holding thing that goes on from creator to creator, like Matt Fraction had this quote about how it’s like one of those baton races. Every character ebbs and flows and the Guardians are the underdogs of underdogs, and now the number one movie of last year. I’ve been at this for a few years and it never creases to fascinate me.
You’ve been involved in some big titles and books in your career so far. How is working on Guardians compared to other runs you’ve done?
When we were working on the first movie, I had read a lot of Guardians stuff, but I had read it as a fan a long time ago. I hadn’t read it as a writer, so when I started re-reading and I discovered Peter Quill’s origin story, I think I wrote to everybody, this origin is technically as good as Superman’s or Spider-Man’s. That’s what I got all excited about. Boy, would I like to shine a light on it. I just had come off of Avengers. I thought a lot about what the Avengers stood for, and why people gravitated towards them and why we had such good luck on the book. Guardians already had that stuff in it. They were actually even more of a close knit family than the Avengers were. So many people had been Avengers that it was sprawling and this was much more intimate, they literally live in the same house together. I said, well, I’m gonna focus on that family aspect, I’m gonna focus on the intimacy of what they’ve been through, that emotion. The difference is the landscape and the imagination and how big their battles are, everything they fight against is huge and everywhere they go they make enemies.
I think the Guardians find themselves in more life and death situations than any other heroes. We talk about it in the first issue, every time they come across a metal box, you have to be scared. There’s a lot of stuff floating around the galaxy that’s very scary. Also the humor… the writers before me had it as well. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, it’s just really my wheelhouse and really what I love to write about. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Valerio. I do believe this coming run will be one of the great runs of his career. He’s an amazing artist and he’s so gung-ho to do some really special stuff here. The end of the first issue is just beautiful. I think he’s up there with Stuart Immonen, I think he’s just wonderful.
No matter what the story is, Marvel manages to bring together great writers and great artists whose styles always complement each other so well.
One of great joys of this life that I have is collaboration that just came out from being a one-man band. I try to write towards my artists’ strengths, I try to make it their world. And to work with your heroes and in this case, with Valerio, and David Marquez, where they’re still pretty new, and to be there as they explode as they find themselves and take it to the next level and be on that train with them is really magical. It’s really something special and it’s one of those things you can only get in comics. Right now, all the books I’m doing for Marvel all have what I consider to be the best work on the planet. David Marquez’s work on Iron Man is staggering and he was already great. We just got Sara [Pichelli]’s new pages for Miles Morales’ new Spider-Man book. Then Valerio just handed in a whole bunch of stuff.
There’s so many changes happening in the All-New All-Different books, but I really love what you guys are doing both artistically and story-wise. It just looks like it’s going to be so fun.
What I’m trying to do in the book is give people something they’re not going to get in the movies or the TV shows. We’ve got some really cool unique stuff that you’re only going to see in the comics, and it’s very big and very bold and very funny and very cute at the same time. So I’m excited to get people’s feedback and see what they think about the new team and the new team dynamic. And could it be that ben Grimm and Groot are the new cutest couple in comics? It very well could be. We’ll see!