Spiderman heroically dispatched countless foes since he arrived on the scene in 1962.
Nearly a half-century later, Brian Michael Bendis managed to kill him.
In 2000, Bendis was hired to write Ultimate Spiderman, a modern-day retelling of the classic Spiderman story. More than 10 years, 160 issues and several blockbuster Hollywood adaptations later, Bendis did the unthinkable, killing off the superhero’s famous alter ego, Peter Parker, and replacing him with a half-black, half-Hispanic 13-year-old named Miles Morales.
The change received national attention. Glenn Beck said Morales looked like President Barack Obama – and not in a good way. Lou Dobbs didn’t like the change either, prompting Jon Stewart to quip that Morales represented Dobbs’ worst nightmare: “a Latino that can climb walls.” But Bendis is unrepentant.
“Marvel is a representation of the real world,” Bendis explained from his home in Portland, Ore. “The Marvel Universe takes place in New York. Miles lives in Brooklyn – it’s actually Brooklyn. That’s a huge difference going back to my time as a crime writer. The city becomes a character you’re writing about.”
Bendis, 45, may be the most important comic book writer working today. He helped re-launch the Daredevil, Spiderman and the Avengers franchises, and his titles typically sell more than 100,000 copies, making him among the most popular comic book writers in the world.
“Brian is a unique and important voice in modern comics,” said Danny Fingeroth, a longtime Marvel editor and the author of “The Stan Lee Universe.” “He displays a profound understanding of, and respect for, the histories of the characters and their universe, but understands that they have to be updated for a modern readership.”
Raised by a single mother in Cleveland, Bendis attended an Orthodox day school and discovered comic books as an adolescent.
“I studied them like the Torah,” he said. “I memorized the ads. At 5, I literally stood on the sofa and said ‘I will be the artist on Spiderman.’ ”