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  1. #1
    Junior Member Horizon09's Avatar
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    Default Why do people dislike Bendis's dialogue?

    I just don't get this. Although I've loved comics since the early 90's, characters, with limited exceptions like Watchmen, didn't seem "real" to me until Bendis came along. Ultimate Spider-Man #1 was like a shot in the arm for the industry. Expository writing, which really seemed corny, was nowhere to be found. Instead, characters talked the way people talk. I also find all of Bendis's character voices sound different. They are distinct. So what gives?

    Maybe some people feel that his dialogue slows down the story and decompresses it. (I've heard this, of all things, about his Daredevil run!) First of all, about slowing the story: why does it have to be all action to be interesting? I find it ironic that USM #13 is one of a lot of people's favorite Spider-Man stories. =Does the comics audience, in general, have a short attention span? If you think about it, Star Wars has a good 45 minutes before they get off Tatooine, and The Empire Strikes Back has a ton of time with Luke working with Yoda, or Han and Leia fixing the Falcon. Nobody seems to complain about those. So why should the graphic medium be different than films?

    As for the decompression, I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that more dialogue deals explores the emotions (which, in turn, makes these characters seem more alive). Back in the day, you might have a character in a thought balloon say "Oh my gosh, I hate worrying Aunt May!" and be done with. With Bendis, you hear the conversation, you have the beats, to get the same info across. As a reader, I feel it on my own. It's a lot better to have it done this way, then being told what to feel by being hit over the head. If that means the story will be done in a few issues than one, I'll gladly take it.

    Do you feel the same way about Bendis's dialogue? And if not, why?

    (Please note this thread is about his dialogue, not his stories.)

  2. #2
    Why I read comics! Rahul's Avatar
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    Well, I love Bendis dialogue; its what makes him unique from other writers. You can take any page from any of Bendis book and you can instantly tell its Bendis work without having seen it cover.

    That said, it can be a turnoff at times. The style he chooses doesn't work in every setting. I dont have a problem with it, but I can understand if readers have a problem with cosmic level and regal characters having the same type of dialogue, who often happen to be in Bendis's Marvel stories.

    Bendis does seem to try and change his dialogue for such characters but sometimes it doesnt work properly(see his Doom's dialogue in Mighty Avengers, but really he writes a great Doom other than that). But what is great about Bendis is that even if his dialogue doesnt work, his character handling is the same as any other writers(save for Sentry, but thats a whole another debate).

  3. #3
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    Cause everyone's quippy, smart-assery, even if previous characterisation has set them up as a humourless pug or a refined gentleman.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Horizon09 View Post
    I just don't get this. Although I've loved comics since the early 90's, characters, with limited exceptions like Watchmen, didn't seem "real" to me until Bendis came along. Ultimate Spider-Man #1 was like a shot in the arm for the industry. Expository writing, which really seemed corny, was nowhere to be found. Instead, characters talked the way people talk. I also find all of Bendis's character voices sound different. They are distinct. So what gives?

    Maybe some people feel that his dialogue slows down the story and decompresses it. (I've heard this, of all things, about his Daredevil run!) First of all, about slowing the story: why does it have to be all action to be interesting? I find it ironic that USM #13 is one of a lot of people's favorite Spider-Man stories. =Does the comics audience, in general, have a short attention span? If you think about it, Star Wars has a good 45 minutes before they get off Tatooine, and The Empire Strikes Back has a ton of time with Luke working with Yoda, or Han and Leia fixing the Falcon. Nobody seems to complain about those. So why should the graphic medium be different than films?

    As for the decompression, I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that more dialogue deals explores the emotions (which, in turn, makes these characters seem more alive). Back in the day, you might have a character in a thought balloon say "Oh my gosh, I hate worrying Aunt May!" and be done with. With Bendis, you hear the conversation, you have the beats, to get the same info across. As a reader, I feel it on my own. It's a lot better to have it done this way, then being told what to feel by being hit over the head. If that means the story will be done in a few issues than one, I'll gladly take it.

    Do you feel the same way about Bendis's dialogue? And if not, why?

    (Please note this thread is about his dialogue, not his stories.)
    I can't really speak as to why people dislike Bendis' dialogue. I just think it comes down to taste. Bendis writes comics differently than other writers. He doesn't follow the conventions of comic book storytelling, like the expository thought balloons or narration boxes. Like you pointed out, he uses dialogue to mostly convey this information.

    All writers have a signature style. I think Bendis' style is more distinctive, since it sticks out from the crowd. Thing of it is, a lot of writers have characters that sound alike. To me, all of Mark Miller's characters sound alike. The same for Frank Miller. Or Geoff Johns. Or Joss Whedon. That's the sign of a GOOD writer- that their style is so distinctive.

    What tends to get overlooked is that while the dialogue sounds alike (which I'll admit, can happen from time to time) it's the personalities that ring true. When Bendis writes Spider-Man, he GETS Spider-Man. His reactions and remarks sound are- for the most part- authentic and true to his character. He just doesn't sound off on Spidey as being the "funny guy." Reading USM, his Spidey is a lot more layered than that. He's not just some "dumb kid." He often plays up how smart and intelligent Peter is. Bendis' Wolverine skews the "mindless beserker" aspect that so many writers fall into and makes him more of a solemn warrior.

    Bendis tends to be more successful with individual heroes, with team books kind of muddying his focus since he can't concentrate in on one protagonist without sacrificing the attention directed on the others. If you look at the Avengers titles, Luke Cage is the best represented character. This is both a good thing or a bad thing. But I don't think his characters all sound alike.

    He has a style that is his own. This is a good thing. It works for him. I don't think he's the perfect writer, by all means. But he is a pretty good one, and his impact on the industry is pretty clear.

  5. #5
    Elder Member XPac's Avatar
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    I can see why some aren't a fan of it. At times, voices do seem less distanct.

    That said, I enjoy it. I think it's often fun, and gives off it's own unique energy. And I also think in a lot of ways it's more realistic. Not everyone speaks quite as economically as fiction potrays characters to. Most people in fiction talk like they have a prepared speech ready everytime they have something to say. But Bendis speak has choppy sentences and wasted words... and cumulatively I think that achieves a neat sort of effect.

  6. #6
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    Few reasons...

    First, he's fond of repeating.

    Second, everyone has the same snarky voice, regardless of who they are.

    Third, he repeats.

    Fourth, his dialogue rarely pushes moves the plot forward. A random conversation between two characters every now and then is fine. Virtually all the time? No thanks

    Finally, he repeats himself

    It stops being clever after the millionth time as it drags the plot and characters down. It's like he's trying to fill up space than actually do anything.

  7. #7
    Junior Member BadChuckBot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UKFan View Post
    Cause everyone's quippy, smart-assery, even if previous characterisation has set them up as a humourless pug or a refined gentleman.
    Seconded.

    Don't get me wrong, I like Bendis, but just in certain comics. Love his Ultimate Spidey, can't stand his Avengers. He has one style of writing and characterization, and it's not always a good fit for some titles.

  8. #8
    Once and Future King Drew Mathieu's Avatar
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    Default Refreshing in Marvel Comics

    I've been a fan of Brian Michael Bendis since the day I started to read comic books regularly (Ultimate Spider-Man). His style is far from perfect, (his long form storytelling makes it difficult to read his monthlies as opposed to trades), but his dialouge is a big hook for me. His doesn't take his stories so darn seriously, and his characters come off more human, and likable, for it. It may not be for everyone, but it definitely wins me over.

  9. #9

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    Because it uses this dialogue style with almost every character he writes and it makes them all sound the same, often in a Bendis written comic, every character has the exact same personality, if I was reading this comic to someone that person wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the characters, unless I showed them the pictures. This dialogue style works well with certain characters, give it to every character and Bendis looks very weak when it comes to characterization and making these characters unique.


    Quote Originally Posted by RDMacQ View Post
    I can't really speak as to why people dislike Bendis' dialogue. I just think it comes down to taste. Bendis writes comics differently than other writers. He doesn't follow the conventions of comic book storytelling, like the expository thought balloons or narration boxes. Like you pointed out, he uses dialogue to mostly convey this information.

    All writers have a signature style. I think Bendis' style is more distinctive, since it sticks out from the crowd. Thing of it is, a lot of writers have characters that sound alike. To me, all of Mark Miller's characters sound alike. The same for Frank Miller. Or Geoff Johns. Or Joss Whedon. That's the sign of a GOOD writer- that their style is so distinctive.

    What tends to get overlooked is that while the dialogue sounds alike (which I'll admit, can happen from time to time) it's the personalities that ring true. When Bendis writes Spider-Man, he GETS Spider-Man. His reactions and remarks sound are- for the most part- authentic and true to his character. He just doesn't sound off on Spidey as being the "funny guy." Reading USM, his Spidey is a lot more layered than that. He's not just some "dumb kid." He often plays up how smart and intelligent Peter is. Bendis' Wolverine skews the "mindless beserker" aspect that so many writers fall into and makes him more of a solemn warrior.

    Bendis tends to be more successful with individual heroes, with team books kind of muddying his focus since he can't concentrate in on one protagonist without sacrificing the attention directed on the others. If you look at the Avengers titles, Luke Cage is the best represented character. This is both a good thing or a bad thing. But I don't think his characters all sound alike.

    He has a style that is his own. This is a good thing. It works for him. I don't think he's the perfect writer, by all means. But he is a pretty good one, and his impact on the industry is pretty clear.

    Except often when Bendis writes a character he uses this style and it doesn't sound realistic or make the character likable, it just doesn't work for every character. It rings false with some characters, not true.

    I can't imagine Captain America or Dr. Doom speaking the way Bendis writes them. Makiing Cap or Doom speak like that doens;t work, they are larger then life characters, Doom in particular would go out of his way to speak like that, he is very arrogant, prideful, pretentious, he feels his words should convey his mental superiority to those around him, so having him call Ms. Marvel fat makes him seem like a chidish simpleton, it doesn't work for the character.
    Last edited by The Master Meglomaniac; 04-16-2011 at 09:18 AM.

  10. #10
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    For me, the thing that shows that all of Bendis' characters sound alike isn't true is the USM story where Wolverine and Spider-Man switch bodies. There's no thought balloons or narration boxes to tell us what happened. It solely depends on the characters, their reactions, and how they speak to convey that it's two people in different bodies, and it works BEAUTIFULLY. Peter in Wolverine's body STILL sounds like Peter, from the jokes to the witty banter, to just the way he freaks out about things. Wolverine in Peter's body still sounds like Wolverine, as his reactions ring true. It's just a good example- I feel- of Bendis' writing style at it's best.

  11. #11
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    "Why?"

    "Yeah, why?didn't I ask that a second ago?"

    "Because Steve said so."

    "So?"

    "Yeah, so? is there an echo in here?"

    "No way there can be, she left the team after Secret Invasion!"

    That's why. It's like Aaron Sorkin meets Ernest Goes To Camp, it's meant to come across as snappy and modern but it comes across as inappropriate in most of the situations in the comics he writes because they involve superheroes and dire straits, not someone picking up an ugly chick at a bar and regretting it like a sitcom's dialogue. The tone suits Ultimate Spider-Man because it balances the humour and drama a lot more than Avengers does. However I find his Sorkin lite banter style to not be universally applicable although that's what he seems to do.

  12. #12
    Drug Free Til '93 lobsterj's Avatar
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    'Nuff said.

  13. #13
    Senior Member agrich's Avatar
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    I don't think it is that cut and dried. I love the dialogue in Powers, and loved it in Dark Avengers and Daredevil. (Didn't read USM.)

    But it really grew tired to me in the Avengers books and events like Secret Invasion and Siege.

    Maybe my problem is that the more characters there are, the voices aren't as unique and seem more similar to each other. Takes me out of the story if too many characters have similar tone and expressions and stuff.

  14. #14

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    Bendis has a great instinct for what makes quippy, flowing colloquial dialogue.

    He lets this instinct override concerns of characterisation way too frequently.

    When he's working on a book where he has complete creative control over the cast and expected pacing, tone, and level of action, you get comics as wonderful as Ultimate Spider-Man. When he's writing within the framework of a shared universe with established expectations, he makes small but annoyingly frequent flubs where he chooses to alter a character's voice a little bit instead of altering his style a little bit.

    So you get the likes of Doctor Doom saying "Okay". You get solemn characters making a quip. You get articulate characters failing to express themselves, and action-driven characters sitting around chatting. Not all the time, no, but enough that there's a continued nagging sense that characters are being fitted to the dialogue instead of vice versa.

    Great dialogue-writer. Fails to respect the fact that when you're wobbling off the edge of fifty years of shared continuity, you should be adjusting your course to stay on, not shifting the route markers.

  15. #15
    Junior Carrot Patrolman Jamie's Avatar
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    I have a similar problem with Bendis' dialogue as I do with Whedon's (at least, his tv dialogue -- I haven't read Whedon's comics.) They don't write dialogue the way people talk[1]; they write dialogue the way people wish they talked. It's too self-conscious, too clever, and (as illustrated by that Doom panel) often written seemingly without regard for who is talking.

    Now, I haven't read the stories people are citing as excellent work, so I'm not claiming that everything he does is wrong.

    I did like his Decalogue storyline in DD up until the rather disappointing ending, though.


    [1] Not that I would want to read dialogue written the way people really talk, either. There would be far too much "um" and "uh" and so on. The trick to good dialogue is not to mirror reality but to make it believable for the reader; evidently Bendis scratches that itch for some readers and not for others.
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