CBR: With Event Leviathan you've been exploring the intelligence agencies and clandestine underbelly of the DCU. Was this a story that you had been sitting on ever since you started writing for DC Comics?
Brian Michael Bendis: No, it actually first got pitched to me the first time I met [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan Didio. We didn't know each other at all -- even though we have hundreds of mutual friends -- we had never been the same room together so, when me coming over became very serious, he and I had a secret coffee and we immediately started talking story because we're both nerds.
He just started talking about stuff he wanted in the DC Universe, stuff he's told other writers too, and one idea he had even been personally playing with in his work was this idea of the redundant agencies. And it happens, not on purpose, there's just a lot of really good writers creating good stuff but some of that created stuff there was already a version of in the DC Universe. There was, like, seven organizations that did almost the same thing and, as the curator, he was always frustrated with that and he said to me, "If only there was a story that could clean that up and do so in a way that empowers all of it," and I was like "Oh!" and I got sidetracked.
I have a soft spot for spy thrillers, it's kind of what I write about always, and I guess maybe he felt, not knowing me, maybe this is something I would like. It also gave me an opportunity to really laser-focus my research on this area of the DC Universe and I called him like a week later and said "Hey, is that a thing you were serious about because I think want to do it!" And so, literally from our first meeting, it was like Superman and this.
What I was thrilled about was that everyone was cool with the genre that we were choosing, that we weren't doing a beat 'em-up or disaster film; it was our quote, unquote "thriller" and that's a different flavor and I'm so happy so many people have gotten into it.
CBR: If I remember correctly, you once delivered a talk at the CIA and I was wondering if that visit had informed this story at all.
Bendis: Yes, absolutely. It was two years ago. I got invited to speak there with [Marvel Comics editor] Sana Amanat just to talk about what we were doing with popular culture, how it affects what they do and it was really interesting. That whole process you get super-vetted so it was like two trips to [the CIA headquarters in] Langley. One, to meet everybody and have dinner in their fancy dining place and the second time to do the actual talk. Both of these were filled with tours, meeting people and research and all of that came about because of the work I had been doing at Marvel and in the genre.
So, hell yes, not only this but the [Jinxworld] book Cover I do with David Mack. These things came straight from the experiences we were having, both true and fictitious, absolutely. You get such a flavor when you walk into Langley and I know other writers that have had that opportunity too and some of the people I've seen on TV. It's a really unique place that speaks to a completely different universe that you and I live in and so once you've lived in that world -- or even visited it for ten minutes -- you realize you know what to write about and how real it is.
CBR: The scope of this is huge and -- you've gotten a little over a year under belt now with DC -- is there any specific character you were really jonesing to add into the story or give the spotlight in this crossover?
Bendis: In this one, it's the last page of Issue #4, I was dying to get to. From the moment we announced who the stars of the series were, people were -- rightfully so -- aggravated that there were certain detectives that were not in the forefront. Little did they know that we had a plan for them and that they were in the story and that we were going to reveal them in the second act but it was a mystery and I couldn't spoil that online.
So, I was very excited to show that we knew Elongated Man and Zatanna and Hellblazer and everybody else who should also be in the story and that one of our characters was smart enough to make sure that happened. That, I was very, very excited about.
CBR: I feel like Harvey Bullock is right in your wheelhouse from your pulp stuff before Marvel and with Daredevil.
Bendis: Bullock was definitely the one everyone at DC wanted Alex [Maleev] to draw the most. It feels like Alex has already drawn him and probably did in No Man's Land. Any character that's in Leviathan is someone I was deeply trying to get to and thought I wasn't going to get a chance to in the other books that I'm writing. We handpicked them specifically for what they bring to the story and for what we thought we could offer them.
CBR: This all spun out of Action Comics and you've been writing it and Superman for over a year now. I remember hearing Superman was one of your big draws to sign with DC. Now that you've got quite a bit of experience getting in Clark Kent's headspace, I was wondering what are the joys or surprises you've had over a year on writing that character, especially at the center of this crossover.
Bendis: I think what I deeply respond to is the enormity of his responsibilities. I'm always writing about power and responsibility; kind of came with the gig I used to have [writing Ultimate Spider-Man for eleven years]. You take it with you to other superheroes, you can't help it. Superman is the ultimate embodiment of it and kind of the adult version of it. If Spider-Man is sort of the teen version, Superman is the adult version; if there's a difference in power between teens and adults, there's a big difference in responsibilities with power as an adult and I really dig having a character that represents that which I can relate to, and I've been feeling that way about other people and what he's been going through with his family and what he's been going through as a reporter, which is what this story's about.
It feel likes the most truthful stuff I'm writing. You try to write everything truthful but everything with Superman feels super, super truthful to me and that feels good.