Last week, New Avengers #35
And someone got
hit. Over and over again.
To catch up, The Hood made his move in the issue, explaining to his gang how the rules would now work. If the heroes went after them, they (meaning the villains) would go after the heroes’ families and loved ones. For the assembled villains, it was remarkably forward thinking.
In sending the message of how things were going to work from now on, The Hood picked a target – Tigra, who’d just stopped Jigsaw from completing a robbery. With a camera-armed Jigsaw in tow, The Hood broke in to Tigra’s apartment, and beat her nearly to death. As he beat her, he called her mother to drive his point home. As far as hero beat-downs go, it was pretty disturbing. Thing is, as those who watch comic book fandom know, there’s a hair-trigger on the misogyny gun that’s fired anytime violence against women is seen, or on occasion, even just presumed by the viewer.
This time though…not so much. There were some complaints scattered around, but in a post-Identity Crisis
industry, there were no overwhelming calls for writer Brian Bendis’ head, no effigy burnings, no demonstrations, and to date, no threats made to Bendis.
Violence against women in comics has become a narrow tightrope, and apparently, Bendis has made it to the other side. We wanted his take on the scene from the issue, as well as his plans for The Hood.
: First off Brian, the scene of Tigra being beaten. It was…disturbing, to put it lightly.
: It was written
to be disturbing. Any time someone’s being beaten, and it doesn’t have that aura of superhero derring-do…yeah, it’s going to be disturbing. It was supposed to be violent; it was supposed to be a complete reversal of what you’d expect, especially from a top-tier superhero book. I’d like to think that no one is reading New Avengers
expecting to see a hero have their ass beat. If it was a crime book, or even in Powers
, readers probably wouldn’t have even flinched, but you weren’t expecting it here and that was the point.
: But reading it at first, honestly, I was somewhat reluctant to see what fans were saying. There does seem to be a segment of fandom that’s looking to go after anything that remotely looks like a misogynistic act, and here is a guy beating a female character unconscious in what’s not even a fair fight. But – obviously, there’s some ill feeling towards you about the scene, but I’ve yet to spot the pictures of little bald dolls being burned in effigy…
: That’s the glory of comics. You never know what you’re going to be burned in effigy for. You thought I was going to get it for this, didn’t you?
: Well, yeah…at least more than what it seems to have been…
: But there seemed to be more people mad that the Purple Man was in the group of villains or someone who’d been captured two months ago was already out and back with the rest of the gang. But seriously, I didn’t
think we were going to get hammered for it for a few reasons – there was not one sexual element to it. I was careful with that – there was nothing sexist. It was about one person needing to do that – to beat up a hero. It’s probably getting a little bit of play or leeway too, because not everyone is sure who everyone else is – there’s a chance Tigra is a Skrull – she’s been bouncing around the two Avengers
books, she’s with Hank, she flipped sides in Civil War
might be buying me a little bit of room.
The other reason I don't think it was seen as misogyny is that I think my work has shown I don't have that in me. Everyone is equal. Daredevil had an awful time of it in my run on the book; and that doesn't make me anti-Catholic or anti handicapped people. Everyone has their moments.
And also, people don’t like cats, so it gets a bit more of a pass. Most people reading New Avengers
are dog people.
: So if Man-Wolf was taking The Hood’s beating…
: Look out! [laughs] Hate mail a-comin’!
: But seriously, in the whole scene, you kept everything on camera, both within the story (as Jigsaw filmed it), and in the page construction itself with Leinil. Why was it important for you to do that? There have been countless beat-downs in comics over the years off camera with similar end effects. Why keep this one right there, on the page, showing the fist connect with her face?
: I made that choice very deliberately. Don’t get me wrong - I do
like to keep some things off camera or panel if that will serve a particular scene or story. But in this instance, moving this off panel would have alluded that something sexual was going on or something rapey was happening. It would have added a level to it that we absolutely
did not mean. Every time you pan away from something, you’re hinting that something worse is happening, or you’re trying to be clever and get away with something that you positively can’t show. With an on-scene panel, Leinil and I controlled what was going on and what was seen, and I think that added to the reason why no one was letting us have it.
It’s a perfect example of storytelling 101 – pulling away during a beating, you let the readers assume the absolute worse. No matter what your intent was, the readers will always
think something worse is going on than what’s in your head. That’s something that goes back to Rosemary’s Baby
, when there’s that shot of the baby where the door is in the way of the shot, and you can’t see the baby. The whole audience leans to the left to try and look around the door and see what the baby looks like, but they can’t. But I bet, if you ask anyone who’s seen that movie what the baby looks like, it will be the most horrible thing that they can dredge up from the darkest pit of their imagination.
And I’ll be the first to admit – sometimes in comics it’s fun to do that, but that’s not the case here.
: All that said – this doesn’t mean the same thing it used to, does it, in the “language” of comics?
: What do you mean?
: Just that there are ways that writers have, and can still “mark” a character – kill a relative (either their own, or the hero’s), destroy a planet – things like that to show how evil the character is, and usually, that marks them for death down the road. 15, maybe even 10 years ago, this would’ve fallen into that camp – that The Hood, a guy, beating Tigra nearly to death – he’d have to die or be beaten up much
worse for that particular transgression. It was the karma of comics. That’s not so much the case here and now, is it?
: Not really, no. A little of that to me is sexism – that whole, “You beat up a girl; you’re going to get a worse beating.” Nah – if you beat up anybody, you’re a douchebag. You’re a bad guy. Nothing about this was man versus woman. This is The Hood’s agenda versus Tony Stark’s agenda, and this is how he’s going to make his mark and sell it to the other villains. But the subject of the beating could have easily have been Paladin or someone like that. It just so happened that in this case, it was Tigra. So it’s completely up to how the material is presented and the intention of the author.
But to the larger point – there’s a lot of misogyny in comics, and a lot of misogyny in all media. Even female empowerment is sexualized in this country, and that’s not good. I completely agree with all of that. You’ve got to be careful in how you show it, but I just don’t think this scene fell under any of that. Most people seem to get it.
: And to cap that it wasn’t sexual, The Hood explained why he was going to do what he did beforehand…
: And he didn’t veer off course. Probably the most shocking thing is that he accomplished it. No one tapped him on the shoulder as he was about to give her the punch that would knock her unconscious, there was no one swinging in the window to her rescue. It happened - and it was awful.
: With someone like The Hood here – who is organizing the villains, and showing that it will work – as a writer, do you start to side with him? Speaking from a story construction viewpoint, he’s was kind of blurring the line, at least in this issue between protagonist and antagonist – he had a goal, there were obstacles in the way, he overcame them and accomplished his goal...
: Well, you gotta remember that no one is the villain of their life. No one wakes up in the morning and says – except in bad movies – “I’m a bad guy.” Nobody. Everyone has an agenda – there’s a reason for what you’re doing, there’s someone standing in your way, you figure out a way around them. I do tend to do whole issues here and there dedicated to villains because sometimes I think it’s so easy to have them go, “Bwa-ha-ha! Why did I do that? Easy, because I’m the villain!” and then have Spider-Man beat them up. If you talk to modern comics and fiction that people are used to, the audience knows that by now. The villain monologue is a cliché, and people want to see the other side of things, to explore their side. We’re a post-Sopranos
culture. From the cops’ point of view, Tony Soprano is the most horrible person ever, but flip it, and tell the story from his side, and it’s compelling.
So, with someone like The Hood, someone who has a lot of mystery and blank spots in his character, there’s a lot of great opportunity to present this material from a fresh standpoint. And from there, you show his plan, his motivation, how he wants to come in and get some of these losers out of the same cycle of bullshit they’ve been stuck in their whole lives. For them, The Hood’s a fresh face and he has new ideas, so now, even the older and more well-used shall we say, villains can get a fresh coat of paint, because they’ve got these new outlooks as well.
I love writing that – I got to do it a lot in Ultimate Spider-Man, with new takes on older characters which allowed us to step back and look at, say, Norman Osborn’s point of view of the world, which makes it more interesting than, “I’m the Green Goblin!!!” He’s a complicated man.
NRAMA: One last question about the fight specifically – did you choreograph that panel-by-panel or did you just tell Leinil to go and be brutal about it?
BB: Nah – I pretty much put it out there panel by panel. I do tell Leinil or anybody I work with to feel free to do with it as they please, but when given the freedom to do that, usually people follow the script pretty closely. I try to give them what they need to draw it in a way that’s complimentary to them. So I do choreograph all fights, at least to allow me to get to the other beats that are coming in after.
Newsarama Extra: Want proof? Click here to download Bendis’ original script from the fight sequence
NRAMA: The Hood’s overall plan – “they come after us, we go after their families.” He brushed off the question of how they were going to find the families…but there’s a hint at a Civil War connection here…all the heroes’ families? That’s just one stolen laptop from the Super Hero Registration offices. You’re talking about Tony Stark’s worst nightmare, and the ultimate vindication of the Anti-Registration side here…
BB: Indeed – that’s always been the threat of danger with the Registration Act in and of itself – that was always there from the first day. It’s the Identity Disc – not to bring that up again. But here’s a guy like The Hood, where we don’t know the full potential or nature of his powers, other than they’re demonic…and he’s got an agenda, and apparently information as well. This is Tony’s worst nightmare. Right now he’s using it to his benefit, but what happens when he decides that he wants to start whacking people?
NRAMA: To wrap things up on this front – where does The Hood’s story go from here? Obviously, the series heads over to the tie-in with Mighty Avengers, but is The Hood something that you want to fully explore and take to its conclusion yourself in your books, or is this something that you want to put out there and let other creators play with it in their books?
BB: Both, really. I don’t announce to everyone that The Hood is available, and everyone should use him, but we all throw stuff around. If the idea is big enough, and The Hood idea is pretty big to the point where a lot of people can grab at it and have fun with it, then you try to allow that to happen. The point of reintroducing The Hood in the first place was that I thought he was one of these great new characters that no one was using because it was Brian K. Vaughan’s character. Everyone was identifying him with his creator, and that’s not how characters cultivate and really become classics. They have to get some face time. To introduce The Hood into a place like the Marvel Universe, and then not let anyone touch him would be the epitome of douchiness. He’s out there now, and there’s a big plan afoot, and we’re seeing his first steps. #36 and #37 are very big throwdowns between the Avengers and The Hood’s gang which builds up to New Avengers Annual #2, which is a big ass fight and wrap up to this storyline.
And The Hood is involved in Secret Invasion as well – to Skrulls, it doesn’t matter if you’re a good guy or a bad guy. If you’re a human with powers, you could one day stand against them, and that’s not good. The Skrull thing is about power – and defeating those individuals with powers.
NRAMA: Could there be one – or more – Skrulls among The Hood’s gang?
BB: Could be. Easy. So he’s part of that, and the stuff that comes after. He’s also popping up in some other places - Daredevil, War Journal and some others books down the line. And I’ll be working around it – the plans that other creators have for him are very, very cool.