Spider-Man, X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s just a fraction of the comic books that award-winning and best-selling author Brian Michael Bendis is currently involved with, and that’s without mentioning his past writing credits on Daredevil, The Avengers and The Fantastic Four.
His work has spawned both film and television, but for Bendis, writing isn’t enough. On top of all of this, he’s finding time to be one of UO’s newest instructors, serving as a professor for the comic book and cartoon studies minor.
“I’m very excited, and I hope I don’t screw it up,” Bendis said.
Bendis’ class will offer an exclusive look into how the comic book industry works.
“It’s everything. It’s a nuts and bolts class,” Bendis said. “It’s the nuts and bolts of how comics are made on a mainstream level and how they’re made on an independent level. Some people think you need a team of hundreds, but you don’t. You just need you and the initiative.”
Bendis is an adamant believer in the idea that the writing experience is individually unique, so he hopes to have as many perspectives has he can in his class.
“When you’re teaching writing, people think that the class is just me teaching students how to write like me, but really it’s the opposite of that. I don’t want anyone to write like me,” Bendis said. “I plan on a lot of my friends in the Portland area who are very well-known comic creators to give their perspectives, also. I’m trying to give as many perspectives as I can to the students so that everybody gets a chance to find which one works for them.”
Outside of his writing credentials, Bendis has recent teaching experience from being a professor at Portland State University where he taught a similar class. When Bendis decided to leave PSU, the program director for the comic book and cartoon studies minor, Ben Saunders, called up Bendis to see if he’d be interested in teaching the class at UO.
“[At PSU] I was kind of the only comic book guy there. It made the class stand out, but it also made it really frustrating. Here, there’s a great support system from the professors within the comic minor.”
During his time at PSU, Bendis sought to make the class workshop extensive, believing that that’s the best way to learn about writing.
“I’m a big believer in workshops. It’s the only way you’re going to learn by doing it over and over again,” Bendis said. “We’ll also show some Will Eisner documentaries and some hidden gems from Jack Kirby, pretty much the grandmasters who created this language. We’re going to look at the philosophical history of comics as well as doing plenty of workshop stuff.”
If all goes well, Bendis plans on teaching the class for the foreseeable future, which is something that the majority of comic book enthusiasts are hoping will happen.
“The size of the class is like 20 or so students, and you have to be approved to be in the class by Saunders,” said Sam Koch, a cinema studies and comic and cartoon studies minor. “I currently don’t have the credits for the class, but I still plan on sitting in. The comic book industry is a tricky medium to write for. It’s not as easy as fitting some words in a little bubble.”
Bendis is hoping for nobody to feel like they’re in a bubble while they’re in his class.
“There’s no right or wrong answer to creativity,” Bendis said. “I’m hoping to give the students all kinds of different creative avenues that they’ll be able to explore so that they can get what they need out of the class. You find that little nugget that’ll change their life, so I try to give them as many little nuggets as possible.”