by Matt Brady
Theres this little story coming up from Marvel this week called Secret Invasion
Over four years in the making, the story will be told in a central, eight issue miniseries by Brian Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu, and literally dozens of tie-in issues and spin-off miniseries. At the center of the story a secret invasion of the earth by the shapeshifting alien Skrulls. On one level, its a good, old-fashioned alien enemy that the superheroes of the Marvel Universe can punch; while on another, there are more than enough parallels to keep fans and non-fans keeping the messageboards hot all summer (invading force with superior firepower telling the natives that they have a better way for them to live, anyone?).
In the first of three conversations with Bendis coming this week, we sat down with the writer to talk about the broader picture of Secret Invasion
, its parallels, how it came to be, the reaction it will most likely garner, and more. Newsarama
: Brian, lets start on a broad view since were close to the first issue, and more can be said. Something that struck me from the Entertainment Weekly
interview was that the root of this isnt the militaristic, Mwha-ha-ha! evil alien invasion, but its prophecy based and rooted in the Skrull religion and psyche as much as anything else. Brian Bendis
: Yeah. Theres been a full build of than in the Skrull mythology over the past couple of decades. Weve all seen alien invasions, in every form of media known to man. When they feel most real, when the argument is, in fact, arguable - thats when it gets more interesting. I always hearken back to Magneto you can even buy the Magneto was right! t-shits people like the villains who can look you in the eye, completely express themselves, and you end up saying,
well, youve got a point
, but Ive got a problem with what youre doing. Or they could maybe even charm you into taking their side. What weve got here is something that will be along those lines. The Skrulls are going to offer something better than what we have, maybe. So right there, its a case of, Okay point taken, we have some problems here on earth, and you dont have those problems, so maybe we should
be a part of the Skrull Empire.NRAMA
: But to them, earth is in/is part of the Skrull Empire, correct?
: Right. Its what they believe to be true the earth is already part of the Empire. Whats important in all of this is that, much like on earth, we all dont believe in the same thing, we all dont like the same comics, and we all dont believe in the same god. Its the same thing with the Skrulls there are certain sects that believe in certain things and other ones that dont, or some people believe things more religiously than others. There are Skrulls that hate Reed Richards with a passion, and there are people who dont care about him at all and just want to get on with their lives. Its just like what we have on earth.
Now, imagine that with an eighteen-world empire. There are that many more feelings and belief systems at work. So, whos coming here now may be people with a completely different belief system than those who were here before. So they were here before with an agenda, which was right, as far as they were concerned, but the belief system maybe wasnt enough to support it. NRAMA
: To try to clarify with an equally nerdy analogy, youve got the smooth-headed Klingons and the wrinkly-headed Klingons (which carries its own weighty explanation), as well as Klingons who dont always see things the same as their leaders
: Thats a pretty good example. In Secret Invasion
, were going to meet those people. Particularly in New Avengers
, were going to pull the curtain back and see things from their point of view. Its a huge disservice to any comic book story to spend all the time developing the heroes and giving them such three dimensional personalities as many writers have in mainstream comics, and not do the same to who, or whatever the antagonists of the story are.
If you look at some of the most popular villains, Lex Luthor, Dr. Doom, Magneto those are the ones that we totally know where theyre coming from, and that makes them more interesting. Not that youre rooting for them, but you understand
them. That makes the fight so much better. Thats what will be happening here. They will not just be bald, wrinkled chin, greedy, laser gun totin, spaceship flyin aliens coming to get us. Theyre not the boogeymen. Theres something else afoot here. NRAMA
: So its a manifest destiny thing, an empire-building exercise
: Right and at Marvel, thats when it really clicks - when we find that little nugget, that thing where its a real-world connection, something that we all can relate to. We live in a country that was literally built upon manifest destiny and were watching the world be invaded and separated and jihaded. We know what this feels like, and we know what it means. NRAMA
: So, not to put too fine a point on it, youve got an invading force with superior firepower, coming to what they see as a backwater planet, telling the inhabitants that they
have a better way and they will make them follow their way, and this invading force is encountering resistance
the nugget of the real amidst the larger story, costumes, and rocketships? BB
: Exactly. And thats the kind of thing that when youre pitching a story to Joe [Quesada]
if you start with Okay, aliens invade the earth
he glasses over, and starts to stare at the wall; but when you add in what you just said there, and the connections come together for him, he wakes up and gets really interested. I like to see the Marvel heroes involved in these kinds of stories that ask many of the same questions were faced with. Theres an argument to be had, and stories to be told. NRAMA
: But at the same time, you do have readers who are bemoaning the face that their escapist reading has less and less escape in it. You mentioned 9/11 in your Entertainment Weekly
interview, and that pushed a lot of buttons, both of recognition and of complaint. How much real is too real?
: Its a valid question, but my line and [Civil War
writer] Marks [Millar] line is very similar: anything that isnt preaching. Anything that isnt Captain America looking at the camera telling you whats wrong with you. Its story and characters first, and subtext should be subtext. I cant stand being preached to, and its not in me to do it. All the stuff that were talking about are the fascinating questions that people hopefully will enjoy throughout. We have a community of fans online, discussing things all day. Now we, the publishers ask a question Who Do You Trust? Whose Side are You On? Theyre questions that can carry you through the summer. People are still
arguing about the issues of Civil War
, and thats been over for over a year now. We put out the Who Do You Trust? question, and its the greatest thing in my life to see 17 Skrull threads not one, but 17. And theyre all having a blast and talking up. Theyre asking the question to theyre asking it on the nerdiest level, theyre asking it on the sociological level. Its good.
I think it was Oliver Stone who said that your job as a storyteller is to ask the question, not to answer it. No preaching. There will be heroes hitting villains but for a reason. You need a reason. NRAMA
: Going back to the origins of the story and obviously, some more can be said now, but youve maintained that the Skrull invasion storyline was in your mind back in the days of Avengers Disassembled
and New Avengers #1
days. Was it a flash, something where you just had the sudden thought of, Theyre all Skrulls! or was it a slower thing that grew up inside you as an idea? BB
: Anybody who writes or draws comics has a wouldnt it be cool? list, and the great thing is when you get this job, you get to do that, or you get to pitch things from your list. I did have this list of thing that I would love to do, and I saw the Skrulls as something that you could scrape the cheese off of, and really do something cool with. When took over Avengers, I thought, This is the place to do it.
Also, about the same time that I took Avengers
, I signed a rather long contract with Marvel, which allowed me to do longer-form storytelling, which a lot of my peers just dont have. Geoff Johns can, and hes doing it on Green Lantern
for one, but largely, theres a lot of hit-and-run going on in comics nowadays, which is just the nature of freelancing. But, Im just in a position where I can tell longer-form stories, and it kind of dawned on me that theres almost an obligation to try something like that as well. If Im one of the two guys who can
do it, then I should
And I do appreciate and love that kind of stuff, so I threw it out there right away for New Avengers
, and it was always supposed to be an Avengers reveal and an Avengers story. But as Civil War
hit and World War Hulk
hit, yes, a market opening for these big stories in the summer, but the Avengers franchise also altered. Though the books are doing really well now, it wasnt written in stone that it was going to happen at the time. Again, it was going to be an Avengers reveal, a big Avengers summer storyline, but a lot of organic stuff happened to it. Civil War
got pitched, and we all agreed that it just accentuated what I was going to do, which was fantastic it made me feel like I was going in the right direction. Here was something that totally
helped the Skrulls.
You guys want to go ahead and kill each other? Oh please, by all means.
You guys are going to create a situation where the Hulk beats the crap out of you? Please. We wont stand in the way.
It really felt like things were organically building towards a great place for the storyline to tell. It really made me feel like I was telling the right story everything was fitting in.
So that happened, and then, organically, two Avengers books happened, and now it can be revealed that one of the reasons that I took on the second series as well as that, knowing that my Skrull story was happening, I needed to do both. In the time it would have taken for me to hold someones hand or to be preventing someone else from telling the stories that they really wanted to tell because all of this Skrull stuff was happening, wouldve been a nightmare for another writer to have to deal with. So, by doing both, I was able to build the story the way I wanted, and then, by doing both books, Ive got characters on both teams that are really touching literally every corner of the Marvel Universe: mutants and gods, street level characters, Iron Man as the top cop of the world. Now the Avengers really involved every single aspect of the Marvel Universe.
Joe and Dan then came in and said that since the franchise was built to the point where it was at the center of the Marvel Universe, the storyline had become a Marvel Universe story, not just an Avengers story. It was everything. NRAMA
: And that was something of a surprise to you? BB
: Something, yeah. I had already had my event [House of M
], and I thought we all only got one. But as they said, if the story and the Skrull plan was as big as I wanted it to be, I had created this Universe-wide event, and it needed to be treated that way, not limited to the Avengers. Thats how Secret Invasion
: As you said, youve been a part of many events, pretty much going back to the latest wave of them. How does Secret Invasion
compare when it comes to the others when it comes to moving it through editorial? Both you and Joe have talked over the years about the arguments and the out-and-out fights that have happened at the Marvel Editorial Retreats over the years did Secret Invasion
get a warm reception when it was brought in to the room of editors and writers?BB
: The biggest difference was that Civil War
was born in a room with a bunch of writers, and Mark raised his hand to write it. Secret Invasion
was born in my basement and was brought to the room, just like Greg [Pak] was doing World War Hulk
and brought it too the room. It was a very similar situation. Other people have brought things to the room, and they dont survive the room, which kinda means that they wouldnt survive the internet. NRAMA
: [laughs] Really?BB
: Its true. The feeling is, if you get out of that room alive, your story is going to go. It aint a polite room. Its kinda awful. Its fun, but if you get your heart set on something, and someone in the back of the room says, You know
and it completely derails your
thing, and everyone falls in love with what the other guy just said
its not the best day you ever had, thats for sure.
So I came to the room with the Skrulls as an Avengers event, and was quickly talked out of it in exchange for this, and then everyone started touching it. Whats great about it is that people start throwing out great ideas that you get to keep, and you look like a genius; but at the same time, you have to fight off ideas that you dont want to do that are terrible. But on the other hand, youve got someone like Joe, whos not really a fan of this type of story, more or less, but if you convince him, youve convinced a whole section of people who arent necessarily a fan of that type of story that theres something there, which feels really good. NRAMA
: You still have to convince Joe of the merits of something these days?
: [laughs] I know there are a lot of people who think that Joe and I are pals, and I get to do whatever I want, and that is absolutely
not the case. Thats why I work there. I dont need working with pals in my life. I need someone whos going to tell me that I suck when I suck - before
it gets printed. So thats good.
And then me [Jeph] Loeb and I will go at it, and hes the idea guy and throwing out these big possible ideas at you, and his arguments are fantastic. So the Skrulls survived three whole retreats, so it felt really good. But up to and including that third one, I figured that the next retreat would be the one where the idea gets spiked. But it never happened. Things were added, certain characters were voted on being a Skrull or not
: You didnt have that set in stone? BB
: Some of the characters were locked down most of the big
ones were locked down from the early days of New Avengers
, but as we got closer to the event, everyone wanted to reveal a Skrull or something else, so we had to vote. Sometimes when we voted and wed all agree that such-and-such character was a Skrull, Id get home and think, You know, it doesnt work, and have to call in and see about getting things changed back. NRAMA
: So, in your estimation, have you ever gone mad with all of this power? BB
: No the highlight of it is that Loeb and I will scream at each other to a point where Alan Fine, the President of Marvel Publishing, whos not at every meeting, said, I had no idea
they were this passionate. And then I felt embarrassed. I mean, Alans like the boss of the boss, and here was I was, screaming myself hoarse at Jeph Loeb in front of him about whos a Skrull. It was the dumbest conversation two educated men have ever had about other people. NRAMA
: So what was the argument about? BB
: Oh, I cant say it now, because it ruins a plot point, but it was pretty hilarious. NRAMA
: Moving back to the story itself what youve said about the difference in the Skrull philosophy and the differences in prophecy that theyre following
why now? What got this particular invasion started that, apparently, has been going on for a few years?
: Quite a few things came into play. Some of them have been very public, but were going to illustrate that very dramatically in the issues that Jimmy Cheung is drawing in New Avengers
. Were going to rewind the clock the to the end of The Illuminati
miniseries, and were going to see what happened on the very next page, and form there, follow the Skrull Empire all the way through.
Anyone who is reading this thats a fan of recent Marvel comics knows that the Annihilation Wave was a disaster for the Skrull Empire, Galactus ate the throne world. Thereve been some dramatic, horrible events that have happened to the Skrull empire on top of them losing the Kree-Skrull War and other things that are very public. So well be rewinding them and putting those events in order and showing how they match up with some sects prophecies, and may have shifted the tone of how the Skrull Empire handles things. NRAMA
: Speaking of the tie-in issues that show other parts of the story
youve mentioned about the Avengers
tie-ins before, and what youre planning there with putting all your cards on the table, but Secret Invasion
is an event with a hefty number of tie-ins. How much of a hand did you have in those? BB
: Some of them, I had a pretty big role in. You want to involve as many people as possible to have fun with the big storyline that youre telling, but you also want to learn the lesson from both companies past about what kind and what quality fo crossover you want at least in theory. The final product will be the final product, and youve got to let people tell their stories.
But when I was creating the first issue, I had a few ideas that I put out there ideas for the Fantastic Four and others. Whether they would choose to go that route or not, I just wanted to put it out there as an opening for a tie in that would be really cool. And my judgment on the tie-in being really cool is if whether or not people could understand the story and find it cool if they werent reading the main story. Its like the Star Trek
movies the best ones are the ones where you never had to have seen Star Trek
before to enjoy them. If Star Trek IV
was the first time you met Captain Kirk, youd be able to understand the story and have a good time. Thats the same type of thing I was looking for with the tie-ins.
The other thing was not to use them to tell the same joke over and over again, which is have every issue of every thing that happens this summer is a Skrull reveal. We mandated that will not be happening. Everyone had to have a unique pitch and a unique take. A perfect example and an excellent one that I had nothing to do with, other than I put out some of the religious philosophy of the Skrulls came when Fred Van Lente came up with a pitch for the gods of the Marvel Universe which he wanted t use in Incredible Hercules
which was better than what we were going to go with.
So its a mixture of just throwing out premises like Roberto writing the Fantastic Four
tie-in after he got the one sentence of, Heres what could happen with the Fantastic Four
and he took it and ran and had a blast. Thats great I would have never told him what story to tell, and Mark was like that with Civil War
- you have to let people tell their stories. Treat people the way you would want to be treated.
I know tie-ins are a sticky thing with fans, and sometimes the readers feel abused, but its really not how its generated on our side. Were looking at what the best story to tell is, and whats the most creative way we can handle the story. There were a few guys who wanted to come in and tell a Skrull story just because they wanted a bump in their book, but it was the purists, who had something unique to offer to the story they were the ones that stuck. The final call will be the readers call, but whatever you chose to read will only accentuate the experience for you. If you want the single disc DVD, youll get the full story. If you want the double disc edition, fine. If you want the Blade Runner
five discs with the toy in the briefcase, weve got that too. NRAMA
: And of course, any talk of tie-ins comes with the normal admonition that you really dont need to buy them to enjoy the story
: No you rally dont, and I think our track record on this is pretty solid. Its our goal to make you want to buy them, not to make you have to buy them. Thats the mandate all the way down. I want you to read Secret Invasion #1
and get so excited that you buy something that you may not have read before, and try something out.
The only little difference is that most people buying Secret Invasion
have been buying Avengers
, so those fans are going to get a big reward from what they read in the Avengers tie-ins. So if youve been following, youre going to get a big payoff. Youre not going to be penalized for not buying them, but youre going to reap some big rewards when we pull the curtain back and show you everything. NRAMA
: One last thing and this always comes up with you and your bigger stories. Youre on the internet a lot, probably more than you should be
: Youve seen the buzz for this, as you mentioned earlier. There have been threads going for a while. Theres so much built up for this, both coming directly from Marvels marketing department in various ways, as well as being started up by the fans themselves. At what point does the sheer volume of discussion get to you? BB
: Its impossible to say that Secret Invasion
wasnt created without that in mind. It doesnt get to me, really. It doesnt get to me when Im criticized or people say nice things about me all day long. Ive got a pretty good rhino-skin about that, and I can tell a good criticism when I see it. The only thing that really annoys me on the internet is when people take my words out of context or lie about me, like anybody else being defamed for something you didnt do or say it what gets to me.
But as far as the guessing game of who is or isnt and that stuff theres nothing about that that isnt fun to me. And I know that there are a number of people all over online that have decided what they would like out of this. They have written it in their head particularly, they have decided upon which character they would like to be a Skrull or not to be a Skrull.
Lets say someone has already decreed in their head that Rocket Raccoon is a Skrull. Lets say that Rocket Raccoon turns out not
to be a Skrull. That equals in their head that I suck, and that will be that for the rest of their lives. I know that, and theres nothing I can do about that. I can just get a little Zen about it. But even those people who are screaming for my head they really are having a good time. Theyre getting a lot of fun for the few bucks or whatever theyve put into this so far. I learned a couple of years ago that its a game. If you dont enjoy the game, or cant handle the game, just dont be a part of it, you know? But I can handle it pretty well. I enjoy the back and forth. I enjoy the conspiracy theories and all the back and forth.
But my entire summer will be variations on the Rocket Raccoon example, my entire summer.
And I do feel bad there are people out there who are really big, big fans of certain characters that, since Ive been writing them, have been just really nice to me, and I know theyre about lose their shit on me. And I feel bad. Ive felt bad all year. There are some guys whoa re fans of characters that, all year long, have been on my board and just couldnt be nicer and defend me at every turn, but it was already locked in
: Dead fan walking
: [laughs] But the worst thing is if you put out work and no one gives a shit. That
is bad. Ive had that happen too. This is much better than that. This is what we call a high class problem on any level. Theres nothing wrong with it.
Im at a point though, where I get more upset when I see people bag on other creators instead of me. I mean, I get more worked up when someone trashes the Coen Brothers than I do when someone trashes me. I know thats mentally ill. I know that. But thats okay. Im sure someone can diagnose that for me, but thats okay just leave it. Im fine [laughs].Secret Invasion #1 is due in comic book shops on Wednesday