Comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis recently gave an interview with Marvel on his approach to writing, and during the exchange he took time to discuss Invincible Iron Man’s Riri Williams. He said that at this stage in the game the character “doesn’t know who she is yet,” which is interesting since it appears as though he is equally lost.

It is perfectly okay for a character to lack self-awareness, but readers should generally be able to peg the character and empathize with him/her within the first or second issue.

The problem with Mr. Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man after six issues is that he seems to think readers should just love his character because the entire Marvel universe loves her. Unlike DC’s Jessica Cruz, who became a hero after overcoming crippling anxiety and fear, Mr. Bendis’ creation stresses out because too many individuals and groups want to experience her awesomeness first-hand.

For those who have been wondering why Marvel’s sales have faltered over the past year while DC’s Rebirth continues to impress, look no further than IIM #6. It should serve as a case study in what not to do if you want to build momentum for a new character.

Anyway, check out my latest YouTube review for a full rundown of why IIM fails while books like Green Lanterns: Rage Planet have guys like me saying, “Who is this Jessica Cruz character? She seems kind of cool.”

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

4 comments

  1. As always great review Doug, and I still hate the fact that Mary Jane is in the book. and although I never expected a reply, I told Bendis this directly on his tumblr, and that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it while she’s still part of it.

  2. A theme of “What’s it like to be a phenom?”, or, “What’s it like to suddenly become rich and famous?”, could generate some interesting stories. Like, what sort of adventures did Oliver Twist have *after* he was rescued and adopted? But a writer would need to have some idea what that actually feels like. Sudden entourages, sudden wealth, paparazzi ruining your life. Read up on the lives of sports phenoms, or young singers, or someone who won a huge science competition. Maybe even depict the character being undone by quick fame and unrealistic expectations, and how she climbs back up out of that hole. Even more interesting if she isn’t all-competent, or her success was a bit of a fluke.

    1. That’s an excellent point, Jack. Stay tuned for my next review! 🙂 I saw the preview of IIM #7 about a week ago, and Riri is surrounded by people wanting her autograph. You’re definitely onto something, but that too would have required Bendis to set it up properly. I think he just figured he could make it up as he went along as long as Riri was portrayed as a smart woman. Like so many other authors, he knows that he’ll be shielded from legitimate criticism if he completes an ideological checklist. Getting treated with kid gloves from the mainstream comic review sites gives him a lot of time to figure out where he wants to go with the character.

    2. But can Bendis write his daughter as a burn out failure. That’s part of the problem with how he writes both Riri and Miles. In his mind they are both literally and figuratively his children.

      He really should have studied the Hobbit if he wanted to see how you write a story for your children. Rule 1, they aren’t the main character or any character in the story.

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