“The struggle is glorious. It is long. And it is punishing.” — Brian Michael Bendis
“There ain’t no way but the hard way. So get used to it.” — Airbourne
I was listening to an episode of the “Bendis Tapes” recently — the long Q&A interviews Brian Michael Bendis does for John Siuntres’ Word Balloon podcast (my highest recommendation) — and Bendis spoke about how tough it is for ANYONE to break into the field they really want to be in (comics or otherwise). As Bendis was trying to break into comics, his “day job” was doing caricatures (at parties & bar mitzvahs) and a one page comic strip for The Cleveland Plain Dealer. He kept doing both of those freelance gigs for YEARS even after he’d started getting some mainstream work.
He’d already done Jinx & Torso at Image. He’d done Sam & Twitch and Hellspawn for Todd McFarlane. He’d done Fortune and Glory at Oni Press and launched Powers at Image. He’d sold two film options. And he’d started on Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man at Marvel. In fact, it wasn’t until Ultimate Spider-Man #5 that he finally took the plunge and quit his day job.
No one gets to where they want to be easily. It’s a relentlessly brutal grind. You prepare yourself for the possibility that the struggle might take years and years. But really, it takes years and years LONGER than the years and years you think it’ll take.
And doubt will inevitably start to creep in. Can I REALLY do this? Am I deluding myself?? Why will I succeed when so many talented others have failed??? Was it really THIS HARD for everyone else????
It’s difficult to answer those questions. Well, all of those questions except for the last. Yes. Yes, it was THAT difficult for everyone else. And somehow knowing that your struggle isn’t any more difficult than others who’ve succeeded gives you strength to keep fighting (maybe a little of “if they can do it, so can I”).
Bendis was 33 when he wrote his first comic for Marvel. Joathan Hickman was 37 when he wrote his first for Marvel. JJ Abrams was 40 when he directed his first feature film. Brad Bird was 42 when he directed his.
You have to grind it out. You pay your dues and prove that you’re an unstoppable force on a quest. And if you grind it out long enough, you’ll get A shot. It won’t be THE shot, where they hand you a set of keys to the kingdom and say, “welcome to paradise!” It’ll most likely be the tiniest sliver of a shot. But that’s all you need.
It takes a long time to get your shot. But the Bendises, Hickmans, Abramses and Birds weren’t sitting around WAITING for it to fall in their lap. They were out there busting their ass, fighting, grinding, working, improving. They’d battled every day up until their shot, to capitalize on it when it finally presented itself. And then when they got their shot, they fucking killed it.
You never fail if you never give up.
Brian Michael Bendis
- born August 18, 1967
- 26 when did Fire
- 27 when did Goldfish
- 29 when did Jinx
- 31 when did Torso
- 32 when did Sam & Twitch
- 33 when did Powers (April 2000)
- 33 when did Hellspawn (August 2000)
- 33 when did Ultimate Spider-Man (October 2000)
- 34 when did Daredevil
- finally became full-time comic creator!
- 38 when did New Avengers
- 38 when did House of M
- 41 when did Secret Invasion
- 43 when did The Siege
- born September 3, 1972
- 34 when wrote/drew did Nightly News
- 36 when wrote/drew Pax Romana
- 36 when wrote Transhuman
- 36 when wrote Red Mass for Mars
- 37 when wrote Secret Warriors
- 37 when wrote Fantastic Four
- 38 when wrote S.H.I.E.L.D.
- 39 when wrote FF (Future Foundation)
- born June 27, 1966
- 25 when wrote Regarding Henry
- 32 when wrote Armageddon
- 32 when created Felicity
- 35 when created Alias
- 38 when co-created Lost
- 40 when directed/c0-wrote Mission Impossible III
- 43 when directed Star Trek
- 45 when directed/wrote Super 8
- born September 15, 1957
- 24 when worked as animator on The Fox and the Hound
- 30 when created/wrote/directed Family Dog
- 33 when directed episodes of The Simpsons
- 40 when consultant/advisor on King of the Hill
- 42 when directed/wrote The Iron Giant
- 47 when directed/wrote The Incredibles
- 50 when directed/wrote Ratatouille
- 53 when directed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Actually, as I publish this, it’s the 50th anniversary of Fantastic Four #1 being published by Marvel Comics. That was the first of the silver-age superhero comics Marvel published, with X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk etc. to follow. When they co-created the Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby was 44 and Stan Lee was 38. That was Stan’s first big hit, though Jack already had one under his belt as he’d co-created Captain America when he was 24.