So I conducted a Twinterview with Mike Benson, writer of Wolverine, Punisher and Moon Knight – but possibly more importantly, Entourage and The Bernie Mac Show.
I hoped to bounce of his choice to move from TV into comics, ask him about the challenges a new medium demands and maybe get some clarification on that Deadpool Noir rumour.
Instead it went a little bit off the rails. I only insulted him a couple of times I think. Enjoy…
Bleeding Cool: You're a successful TV writer – Entourage, Bernie Mac and more under your belt. Why take away comic writers jobs?
Mike: It's not about taking away some writer jobs — its doing what you love. I love love comics — always have. It was just something I fell into and thought I could do. There are these tests that you take in high school that help help you choose a vocation. They match your interests and your grade point average and my kept coming up as "cop". Writing was just something I enjoyed. I loved being able to get lost in myself and create worlds.
Bleeding Cool: Now, I reported you were working on Deadpool Noir recently – are you allowed to mention that at all?
Mike: lets just say i wont deny that
Bleeding Cool: Deadpool does seem to be a popular fellow – three ongoing series and mini-series too. Is there any danger of burning him out?
Mike: too much of anything isn't good, but it seems right now the fans are eating it up. I think as long as the quality of the books are good and I truly believe they are, than why not. But yes, there is a danger of burning a character out.I don't think we're there yet to be honest. When we see DP on miniwheat boxes than yes.
Bleeding Cool: Because in the past this kind of treatment killed and tainted books for years – it happened with Punisher and Ghost Rider.
Mike: And Wolverine, right? DP is Axel Alonso's baby. Axel is a brilliant editor and I think he's very aware that overexposure can be a bad. But there are some very talented writers working on these titles and they seem to be bringing their A-game. I know I'm buying them all and really digging them. What about you?
Bleeding Cool: Some of them, though I still think Deadpool peaked with Joe Kelly… but what are your top comic books right now?
Mike: Yes, Joe Kelly wrote DP better than anyone — I agree. I actually wrote him an email saying that once. I'm sure he was like who's this guy? Truth be told, Rich, if Garth Ennis was writing 4 Punisher books I'd be fucking thrilled. It's all about who's writing these titles. Well, anything by Garth. I love THE BOYS. I really like Jason Aaron's SCALPED. I like the new Moon Knight book, Punisher, and DD.
Bleeding Cool: I sense a certain degree of testosterone in these books. So do you think it's fine for grown men to read comic books again now?
Mike: Of course! I am all about the testosterone fueled books. I also am a huge UFC fan and love Howard Stern. See a pattern?
Bleeding Cool: So how did a guy like you end up reading comic books instead of hitting the football field?
Mike: Well, I did both to be honest. I grew up playing football. It was a life changer for me. I never looked at comics as geeky. Aside from growing up loving the NY Giants — my heroes were Frank Miller, Gene Colan and Jack Kirby.
Bleeding Cool: So did anyone ever point out to you that the two interests seemed contradictory at the time?
Mike:I remember once in the entourage writers room — we were talking about comics and I was getting busted on a bit –so I asked a fellow writer if he read comics in high school and he just gave me this funny look and said "No, I was too busy fucking girls."
TrevorSGraham: Frank Miller is a Hero of mine as well as the great JACK KIRBY!
Mike:I never looked at guys who read comics as men in their 30's still living in their parents basements. To me, it was a different form of story telling. It was art. I loved it. I still do. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to write characters I grew up on.
cerebralshrike :Ignore the aholes. keep doing what you're doing. U are a very talented man. Kudos, sir. You give all of us struggling writers hope
Mike:Entourage is a comedy. We had fun with it. But there was truth in there.
Bleeding Cool::Yesterday you were talking about how TV masters are more controlling than comic ones. Can you give an example?
Mike:Well, lets face it — a TV pilot can cost up to 2 mil dollars and that's for a half hr show. There are higher stakes. IF you create a hit show — your kids get to go to college. There are a lot more people involved — with comics, you have a smaller team. You have greater freedom. But with comics — it's just Axel, me and maybe an assistant editor. I work very closely with Axel Alonso and he's as bright as any showrunner I've worked with. In many ways he acts like one. With TV, you have a network, a studio and a staff of writers and producers. Also now a days there are much fewer shows. The stakes are so much higher.
Bleeding Cool:But there are three monthly Deadpool books! I see where you're coming from. So no Johnny Drama spinoffs then? Turtle V Deadpool?
Mike:HAHA — I don't think that's in the cards. What books do you read Rich? I'm curious.
Bleeding Cool::Most everything! But faves would be… ooh, New Avengers, Phonogram, Acme Novelty Library, glamourpuss, DMZ, Chew and Crossed.
Mike:DMZ is pretty great. Like the New Avengers too. By the way, speaking of DP books, my Team-Up comes out this weds with The Zapata Brothers. Give it a shot. :)
Bleeding Cool::I saw the preview, looked sweet. Was it fun to bring the brothers back? And is there a comic you can't squeeze them into?
Mike:I also am a big fan of THE LOSERS. It's hard to keep up with all the good books out, not to mention expensive and who has all that time.
Bleeding Cool: Talking Zapata Bros, you don't see many wrestlers in superhero comics – yet Spider-Man started out as one. Talk us through Zapata.
Mike:When I was writing Moon Knight – I felt like his rogues gallery needed a little help – there's just so many times you can use Jack Russell and I had this idea about these two fast talking Lucha Libre hitmen. I wanted them to be tough, but have a comedic edge to them, like whenever they're in the heat of things they're talking about something else I also liked the idea they were into pop culture and used things like Facebook and twitter and could talk about the i-phone. And they worked and fought together as a team, but busted on each other like brothers or close friends do. Something you'd see in an early Robert Rodriguez film.
breakmyarms: i was hoping you would bring back someone old school like Morpheus or Lupinar.
Mike:I grew up on movies and they are a huge source of inspiration to me. The first book I did for Marvel was a Punisher Max book and I wanted that book to feel like a Michael Mann film. And Laurence Campbell knocked it out of the park.
Bleeding Cool::There are those that prefer their media stay separate, comics to be comics, films be films, can you understand that point of view?
Mike:Of course. I can understand it. But I'm talking about what inspires me.
Bleeding Cool::But are you an advocate? Would you like to see more mis-mash of media in general?
Mike: I am not talking about ripping off as much as taking a theme and making it your own. But to each his own.
Bleeding Cool::Not ripping off but taking ideas and approaches from one media and using them in another?
Mike:Yes. I look at it as being inspired. I mean everything borrows from everything else in one way or another.
Ian_Austin:- it boils down to quality. If the readers hate it, rip-off. If they like it, it's inspired.
Mike:People knock Quentin Tarantino all the time, but that guy is a master.
MattStaggs :yeah, but is he a "foot fuckin' master?"
Mike:I love his work. He takes something else and makes it his own. I'm not saying that's what I aspire to do all the time but, shit, I respect the man big time.
Bleeding Cool::Themes and characters aside what about panel-to-panel executions? I ask because there has been concern that comic books are losing something. The thought bubble has gone, the sound effect is going, scenes seem written for TV then placed into panels. Do you see that as a problem, or something that's blown out of proportion?
Mike:I've heard that argument before. When I read silver and bronze age comics the books are much more wordy. You hear every single thought and a lot of the time it feels like a waste of space I feel comics have grown. I mean i'm not for super sparse dialog but say whats needed I dont personally need to hear every thought. I want the story to unfold in a natural way.
jameslucasjones :It's a visual medium. Why tell when you can show?
Bleeding Cool: But they did manage to squeeze an entire story into one comic! A very wordy comic!
Mike:I want my comics to feel contemporary. Where do you stand, Rich?
Bleeding Cool: Oh I'm much more in the new camp. but I do sometimes miss the compression of old. The one-issue story seems to be a lost art.
Mike:Well, there have been some pretty great one-shots. Charlie Huston has written a few. But I hear you. I'm curious — what TV shows do you watch?
VictorGischler :Family Guy, Glee, Venture Brothers.
Bleeding Cool: The Thick Of it, Gavin&Stacy, Have I Got News For You, Miranda, Misfits, The Queen, and as much news/politics as I can fit in. You?
Mike:@VictorGischler, LOVE that you watch GLEE.
Bleeding Cool: American wise, a lot less since the Wire went away. Probably Dexter, Fringe, Daily Show, Steven Colbert, Curb and Conchords.
Mike:The SHIELD, THE WIRE, DEADWOOD, the best show every — THE SOPRANOS — CURB, The OFFICE
VictorGischler: Glee is like if the people who did the film ELECTION mugged High School the Musical and took over.
Mike: And nothing is better than the original Twilight Zone!
normal jubei_ : no "Always Sunny…" what gives?
Mike:@VictorGischler, LOVE ELECTION!
Bleeding Cool::See I'm getting a picture here. Which comic is crying out to be a TV series – and which TV series a comic book?
Mike:I would say SCALPED would make an excellent FX, HBO show.
Mike:As far as a TV show being a comic— hmmm — good question… SOUTH PARK. I dunno. Nothing jumps out at me. I'm glad that WALKING DEAD will be a series. I was out there pitching a zombie series for the last 4 yrs called AFTER.
peterschueler :I think 'Lost' is basically a comic book. As is 'Buffy', which is why Season 8 works…
Mike:It was bound to happen and The Walking Dead is very good so I'll def watch that. it would work if it was an ensemble cast. i wouldnt want a show solely about Dash Bad Horse. the other characters are so rich I've often thought they should take those old horror comics like EERIE and CREEPY and make them into a horror anthology.
Bleeding Cool::There have been attempts, the old Tales From the Crypt stuff. TV horror does seem to be going through a revival. I blame Twilight.
Mike:I refuse to see Twilight — no interest. I've only watched TRUE BLOOD a few times and it had its moments.
Bleeding Cool::Me too but I wonder if I'm missing out on cultural osmosis, I mean I read Harry Potter… and I read a few comics for same reason.
PhilipJWalsh :They'd make a fun show. They were beyond Twilight zone, but similar and now standards would allow Creepy or Eerie to work.
Mike:I love horror so anything in that vein wks for me on the small screen. Remember CHILLER — that used to scare the shit outta me as a kid.
Mike:I liked Harry Potter a lot and also read the first two books. It was very well done. I feel as long as you have your nose in a few things you dont need to see everything.
Bleeding Cool: Those are wise words my friend, wise words. Talking of which… new WWE comics story breaking on Bleeding Cool right now. Looks like your Zapata Brothers are ahead of the zeitgeist!
Mike: so pick up my DP team-up and give me your thoughts I'm sure im asking for trouble. Will be checking it out asap.
Bleeding Cool: Thank you for your time!
Mike: no, thank you man. This was a lot of fun and I wish you the best!
As you may have gathered, Deadpool Team Up #898 (yes, they're counting backwards) with The Zapata Brothers ships this week.