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 Home > Wizard > Brian Bendis Presents...
Marvel scribe Brian Bendis interviews creators in and around the comics industry.

Posted July 25, 2006  11:00 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of biweekly interviews that writer Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man, New Avengers) will conduct for Wizard Universe. His interview subject this time is critically-acclaimed writer Brian K. Vaughan, who has penned such innovative books as Y: The Last Man, Runaways and Ex Machina. Vaughan has balanced his portfolio by dabbling with Marvel and DC's top characters with stints on Ultimate X-Men and Batman but this graduate of Marvel's Stanhattan Project with NYU prefers to breathe life into new characters and projects, including his upcoming Vertigo hardcover one-shot The Pride of Baghdad, which revolves around four escaped lions from a Baghdad zoo in war-torn Iraq.

Bendis: Did you just wake up?

Vaughan: Yeah. This should be the sleepiest interview of all time.

Bendis: Is that your time schedule now?

Vaughan: Yeah. I usually try and get out of bed by noon, but I had a late night of Y: The Last Man last night.

Bendis: Screenplay?

Vaughan: No. Comic book.

Bendis: What issue?

Vaughan: I'm up to-I don't know what it is. But I'm in the final year. I've got like 10 scripts to go.

Bendis: You know, I'm always kind of amazed when someone announces it's the last year or announces that they're going to only do 60 or a hundred issues of a series. Why did you do that? Like, we have an ending on Powers, but I might solicit two issues that don't exist just to shock people when it's over.

Vaughan: That's a cool idea. I wish that I had that luxury. I mean, when I pitched Y I had just gotten Swamp Thing s**t-canned and everyone was pretty convinced that Y would get cancelled around issue number six. So I think that I wanted to go in to letting everyone know, 'Hey, here's a really detailed game plan. Here's where it's going, and it has a definite ending.' I had to break down almost the entire story for everyone at Vertigo, and I initially picked this arbitrary number of 60 for the series' length, but ended up sticking with it. And it worked out pretty well. I think that it's about the perfect end point.

Bendis: And why 60? Why not a hundred?

Vaughan: Well, it's about the last boy on earth becoming the last man on earth. So he starts out as a 22-year-old kid and he'll end up as a 27-year-old man. I guess that I was about 27 when I started writing and was looking back at my own journey from 22 to 27. That seemed like an important five-year stretch.

Bendis: Now I want to talk to you about this move to Los Angeles. That shocked me. Why did you move to Los Angeles?

Vaughan: Well, a lot of reasons I guess. A new challenge, mostly. But I initially moved to California because my wife is a playwright, and she was going to UCSD for her grad program. So, on a Yorick-like quest, I took a cross-country trek and followed her out here. Movie and TV opportunities started to pop up, and I felt like if I was going to have to do my time on the west coast at some point, I might as well do it while I'm already here. I know that you can write TV and you can write movies from anywhere. But I just love New York so much, and if I moved back there now, I would do much less writing and much more drinking with Garth Ennis. I'm miserable outside of NYC, but I do my best work when I'm miserable.

Bendis: Doesn't the novelty of drinking with Garth wear off after a while?

Vaughan: Have you ever met Garth? No, it's not just the drinking. All of my friends are there. Everything that I love is there, and it's just that...when I'm in New York, it's that much harder to force yourself to stay inside that lonely room you need to be in to do good work. Whereas in San Diego, it was spectacularly easy to stay in that room. And in Los Angeles, because I don't really know that many people here yet, and because I'm not as crazy about the town, it's the same deal.

Bendis: What about the soul-sucking, anti-creative atmosphere that you've surrounded yourself with?

Vaughan: I'm pretty okay with that. I've been surrounded by that before. That terrible portion of humanity exists wherever you go.

Bendis: But you know it's different there. It is.

Vaughan: Maybe, but Los Angeles doesn't make you a soul-sucking monster. I think lots of people who are already soul-sucking monsters might be attracted to this place...

Bendis: That's my point. You're not one of those people...

Vaughan: Yet!

Bendis: It just surprised me because so often we talk about the difference between our mindsets and a commercial writer versus a creator-owned or private writer, and when you decided to move to Los Angeles it seems in direct conflict to the philosophy you've made as a writer with the opportunities that have been offered to you in comics.

Vaughan: I don't know. It always drives me crazy, because you always joke about how you want me to sell out more, but I feel that I'm already a much bigger sellout than you are. By doing something like Y: The Last Man, which I think is a really mainstream book-it's the kind of book that you can give your dad if you want him to be into comics-I think that's much more mainstream than my work on Ultimate X-Men. So I've always been interested in stories that might appeal to a wider audience. I don't think that wanting to do movies or television contradicts that pursuit in anyway.

Bendis: I'm not saying that because we both have the same goal in Hollywood which is that we won't cut off our arm to get it, but will take the opportunities that come if they come on whatever trek that we find ourselves on in our own business. We're the same in that way, but I would never actually make the leap and move there, not in pursuit of it.

Vaughan: I don't know if that's true. Because for me, I was an NYU film school geek. I always thought that movies were going to be part of my life. Comics is what I really wanted to do, but it's not something that you could go to school for. So film was always more of a goal for me. But when I was a junior at NY, when I started selling stuff to Marvel, that's when I really fell in love with our medium. I hope that I'll always be a comics dude who happens to do movie stuff on the side and not a movie guy who happens to do comic book stuff. But I do want to do both. I mean, like you, I resent it when you see those comic books that were clearly created only to be optioned as movies.

Bendis: Oh, I absolutely resent that.

Vaughan: It's hard for me to hear people read Y and say things like like, 'Oh, it's so cinematic.' Or 'Oh, this needs to be an HBO show.' That was never the intention. For me, Y was always meant to be a comic book and it will probably always work best as a comic book. Still, I do have ideas that I think could only be a movie and I would much rather write that as a spec script for free and drag it around behind me for 10 years out here and see if it has any takers rather than do it as a creator-owned comic and turn around and try and option it the next day. I just want to stay true to whatever medium the story feels right at. So if I have something that feels like a TV show, I'm not going to shoehorn it into Vertigo, and vice versa. But that's how I feel about every medium. Let the story dictate where it belongs. I mean, I'd love to write a novel someday, too.

Bendis: Really?

Vaughan: Sure. I want to do a radio drama. I want to write everything that a writer can write.

Bendis: Have you gotten offers to write novels?

Vaughan: I have and I just don't feel qualified yet. We get so spoiled as comic writers. Our artists do all of the heavy lifting for us and we get to do just the fun stuff, which is the dialogue. I know it's more than that, but still. I'm just not there yet, but some day. Sure. I'd like to have no one to hide behind. I'm sure you know how it goes. You have stories where it wasn't your best script of all time, but you have incredible artists and they will definitely elevate that work, which I'm very appreciative of now.

Bendis: Absolutely. And the opposite has happened too. A great script butchered beyond recognition [Laughs]

Vaughan: But I would like to try once working without a net and just having me out there on my own.

Bendis: I have had novel writing offers like that as well and you really pace around the room about it. But, I made the same decision. There've been a couple of guys in the generation before who wrote novels and you read them and you go, 'Whoa. Get the artist immediately.' But then you look at [Greg] Rucka or [Brad] Meltzer and you go, 'Jesus Christ.' I don't know how he does it.

Vaughan: I know and Rucka is probably the most amazing dude to me, because that guy has a family, comic books and novels. I mean, I write like four comics a month and I don't have any kids or anything. I don't know how any of you people with kids do that and comics, much less write a novel on top of the rest of it.

Bendis: It's surprisingly inspiring. You find yourself. It's not hard. I actually thought that it was going to be harder and I thought that I was going to step down, even though this year I have less work on the shelf. But not because I have to. I was surprised that I didn't.

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