Comic Picks By The Glick

An Open Letter to Brian Michael Bendis

August 25, 2014

Dear Brian,

Hello.  I’m writing to you as a longtime fan of your works.  Not only is “Jinx” one of my all-time favorite graphic novels, the many other series you’ve been involved with over the years has basically turned me into a completist when it comes to your writing.  The quality of books like “Goldfish,” “Torso,” “Daredevil,” “New Avengers,” “Alias,” “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “Fortune & Glory,” and “Powers” has shown me that whenever you’re listed as a writer of a particular comic I’m almost certainly assured of a good time.  While your current work on “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “All-New X-Men,” “Uncanny X-Men,” and the always ongoing “Ultimate Spider-Man” has been fun, it seems that your commitments to these titles (along with your involvement in various film and TV projects) is coming at the expense of your creator-owned work.  I realize that you have your obligations to the big companies that are paying you to write their titles, but the way in which your creator-owned series are being published flies in the face of logic.

Take this for example:  On September 10th, “Brilliant #6,” “Scarlet #8,” “Powers:  Bureau #11,” and “The United States of Murder, Inc. #5” are all expected to come out.  We’re still a couple weeks away from that date, so there’s a chance that some of them may slip to a later date.  Personally, I’m betting that they all will but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.  I also realize that you have little control over the exact dates that your titles ship, but this only serves to highlight the situation as I see it.  You’ll probably want to have a talk with whoever scheduled these titles to come out on the same day as there’s always the possibility that they did it just to get attention such as this.

Of the titles that are being solicited on September 10th, I’ve enjoyed the ones that I’ve read.  “Powers,” regardless of the time that passes between volumes, has always been a consistently entertaining read, while the first volume of “Scarlet” was good enough to make my top ten of 2012 when it came out.  With regard to “Brilliant,” it was fun in a “The Social Network” with superpowers vein, and I’m interested in seeing how the world you created develops now that this knowledge is out there.  As for “Murder, Inc.,” I’m expecting that to be pretty good given your history with Oeming on “Powers” and collaborations elsewhere.

However, the fact that you chose to start publishing “Murder, Inc.” when we have two issues left in the current arc of “Powers:  Bureau” simply boggles the mind.  You and Oeming were working on both series, how could neither of you manage your schedules to the point where you completed the “Powers” issues before starting this new title?  It’s not as if the world was going to end if you didn’t get “Murder, Inc.,” onto stands by April.  In fact, with the new “Powers” series hitting the Playstation Network in the near future, making sure that existing fans are satisfied and not left hanging would seem to be a smart thing to do here.

Then there are the scheduling issues with “Brilliant” and “Scarlet” which make it look like you’ve really overextended yourself.  There was a nearly two-year wait between issues #5 and #6 of “Scarlet,” with #8 set to arrive well over a year after #7.  Sure that’s bad, but that’s nothing compared to the almost two-year wait between issues #4 and #5 of “Brilliant.”  At least “Scarlet” completed its first volume before disappearing into the wild.

The reason these titles make it look like you’ve overextended yourself is down to the artists you’re working with.  As we saw in the 110 issues of “Ultimate Spider-Man” you did with Mark Bagley, he’s one of the fastest artists in the industry and able to keep up a pretty decent standard of quality in addition to that.  Then there’s that lengthy run of “Daredevil” you did with Maleev where the artist showed that he could handle a book-a-month schedule.  They’re not slow, perfectionist artists, but ones who are capable of getting quality work out on time.  If they’re taking on other projects like Bagley did with “Avengers Assemble” (which he did with you), and “Hulk,” and Maleev has done with the last volume of “The Dark Tower:  The Gunslinger,” the first arc of “George Romero’s Empire of the Dead,” and even heading over to DC for an arc of “Batman:  The Dark Knight,” it gives me the impression that they’re doing it because they’re waiting for scripts.

I’m aware of the fact that most creator-owned titles are produced on spec at first, with the real profits coming with sustained sales of the monthly issues and the eventual trade paperbacks.  However, if these titles weren’t selling enough to pay yourself or the artists in the first place then I’ll reluctantly admit that it makes no sense to press on with them if it leads to a death-spiral of delays such as this.  Yeah, I’d like to know how the stories of “Brilliant” and “Scarlet” are going to end, but I tend to stop caring if the wait between the first and second volumes stretches out into years.  Why don’t I read the single issues if I want to know where these stories are going sooner?  Because being drip-fed little bits of information like that is even worse.  Ridiculous delays of the kind that are currently affecting your titles are the reason that I gave up reading monthly comics in the first place.

What I’d really like from this situation is a full accounting from yourself and all other parties regarding the delays of the above-mentioned titles and why you decided to start “Murder, Inc.” without finishing the current arc of “Powers.”  I realize that’s not going to happen, so I’ll just continue to express my frustration at it on this blog.  However, it would be nice to see some sense being applied to how you produce your creator-owned titles in the future.  It makes no sense to start a new arc of “Brilliant” if it’s going to experience momentum-killing delays of the kind that plagued the first one.  Better to make sure all of the scripts for it are written first, and finish off the current arc of “Scarlet” so that it’s not hanging over everything else.  As for “Murder, Inc.” and “Powers:”  Choose one.  Focus your energy with Oeming on one series at a time, and don’t start a new arc for another title until you’ve finished the first one.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to subsidize your efforts to get these titles back on a reasonable schedule by buying your superhero work.  Those titles continue to entertain, even if they’re not quite good enough to get me to buy them in hardcover (without a 50% discount).  Still, the titles of yours that have meant the most to me over the years have been your creator-owned ones.  I can clearly see that you want to produce more of them, but it’s just going to take more sense than what I see from you right now.  That said, I’m looking forward to picking up the “Murder, Inc.” hardcover when it arrives in November.

...Assuming that all six issues have made it out by then.


Jason Glick

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