iFanboy Video Podcast

iFanboy #90 – Robert Kirkman vs. Brian Michael Bendis: The Comics Debate of 2008!

Show Notes

It all began when fan-favorite writer and new Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman posted a video manifestoΒ calling on more established comic book creators to leave Marvel and DC Comics behind and make creator-owned comics. That lead to a pointed response from fan-favorite writer and Marvel Comics mainstay Brian Michael Bendis on Word Balloon.

And then the comic book internet world ripped in half.

On September 27, 2008, Robert Kirkman and Brian Michael Bendis met face-to-face on a dais at Baltimore Comic Con to bring the debate in person and in front of a standing room only crowd. They discussed everything from their own impoverished beginnings in creator-owned comics to the current sales of their own work to the effect that mainstream exposure has on independent work. It’s the most talked about comic book panel of the year!

Who do you think won the debate?


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  1. Why are mommy and daddy fighting?

  2. Is this going to be the start of the next American Civil War?

    Cause it just seems like this is never going to end, and the more we talk about it….The more angry we seem to get. Great panel btw, I read the transcript of it on another site but damn it’s always funny to see these two go at it live. Why cant Mommy and Daddy just kiss and make up?…..

    *Thinks about that last comment and throws up*

  3. Is this on iTunes?  I subscribe to the HD feed and I’m not getting this.  Anyone else?

  4. @ Win    BTW, that is the start of a great joke about pajamas by Dave Attell that I would transcribe here, but, well, Dave Attell ain’t exactly all ages.

  5. Okay.  It’s on iTunes now.  Whew.

  6. You know that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he drives that guy Brodie crazy? Everywhere the guy looks, there’s Bugs Bunny? He hits on a girl, and she’s Bugs Bunny, and the bakery guy is Bugs Bunny, and when he runs to tell a cop the cop is Bugs Bunny? And eventually he just jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge?

    Yeah. I’m afraid to run to a cop, because the cop might turn around and be the ####ing Kirkman Manifesto. Let’s hope this panel was the end of this. For a while.

  7. @Jimski  It’s like you’re the Sentry, and Kirkman is the Void.

  8. Ive about read this, Ive heard about this, and now I got to see it! Thankyou very much.

  9. Robert Kirkman "I see a lot of old faces out there and it scares me."

    Let the record show, Robert Kirkman is afraid of old people.

  10. Who isn’t? 

    daccampo terrifies me!

  11. kirkman again? πŸ˜€

  12. @ ohcaroline– you better pray the pray the water spots I just spit at my laptop come out or I’m blaming you.

  13. This is a really great episode!  Thanks guys!!

  14. Just to sound off… the majority of my reading of Invincible, The Walking Dead, and Powers is of trades (some borrowed from the library and some bought by me), which is not represented on Kirkman’s graphs. Now, for about a year I have been buying singles of Powers and The Walking Dead. I gave up on Invincible, because it just doesn’t do anything for me (sorry guys). I have bought every issue of all the Avengers books written by Bendis. I have never read Marvel Zombies or Kirkman’s Ultimate X-Men. I haven’t bought many Ultimate Spider-man issues (maybe enough for two arcs). I did read Kirkman’s Cap run. And I bought the arc of Marvel Team Up where Darkhawk appeared (which while very well written by Kirkman I bought it because the story had my favorite Marvel character in it).

    Apparently, I am not as much a Kirkman fan as I thought. Hmmm. I do very much enjoy every issue of The Walking Dead. 

    Personally, I do credit New Avengers for introducing me to Bendis and thus bringing me to Powers. I am not sure how I came to the The Walking Dead. I want to say it was an episode of Around Comics when Mike Norton picked it for Top of the Stack, but I am not certain.

     Anyway. Since I wasn’t well represented on Kirkman’s graph I wanted to put that out there.

  15. nice to be able to see this, thanks for posting it.  Honestly I think they both have points but after a while it was just talking over each other.  And charts do nothing but weaken your case I’m afraid.  

  16. bad fucking ass!! thanks for posting this !!

  17. I love every iFanboy show, but this one reminded me why I love this site so much – That was spectacular! Just hands down the most informative, funny and brilliant kind of show any site could hope to have.

    @Ron – Your interviews were so well conducted. Seriously, dude, you’ve REALLY good at interviews! I just miss the quiff.

    Thanks again, guys, this was an absolute treat.

  18. I think Kirkman not talking about trade sales more, and using the graph for Walking Dead vs Marvel Zombies totally destroied his arguement.

    First off, for the first run of MZ his sales for his own creator worked WD went up from what they were before he did the Marvel issues. So that would essentially mean that working at a big name company would help people find out who you are and go find other works you did. If Kirkman just did Walking Dead he could’ve (hypotheically) stayed below 20,000 issues sold for each one that came out. But because he went and did a more popular series for a more popular company, his sales for his own creative work got noticed and therefore got more readers into that series. So in hindsight, you get better sales for working at a big name company then what could just for working at a small company.

    Also just not including Trade sales is ridiculous and plain moronic. We’ve talked about it all the time that more people are getting trades or hardcovers now then issues. It’s a trend that is growing by the day and probably soon we’ll be buying trades then issues. I’m sure more people bought the first volume of Walking Dead then the first issue of Walking Dead. Not in terms of money, that’s obvious what gets more money when it’s trade vs issue. But more PEOPLE probably bought the trades then PEOPLE buying the issues of the series.

    To me Bendis clearly won that part of the debate, and maybe the whole thing cause Kirkman is also ignoring the trend of realeasing more trades then issues. So yeah, I think Bendis won.

  19. @Ron, great, great interviews.  

     I think good writing is good writing, no matter whether it’s creator owned are property of Time Warner or Toy Biz (that’s a dated reference, but I was going for alliteration not accuracy) As for the future of the business, that’s going to be what it’s going to be. Besides, how many times has it been said that comics were going the way of the dinosaur?  There ‘Seduction of Innocent,’ the deep, deep ebb, after the speculation boom and here we are now in the thick of a new era, with movies drawing in new readers to both creator owned AND established characters and we’re still waiting for the bubble to pop.

    (also, as for Kirkman’s scary old faces comment, how many kids give a flying flip about writer’s manifestos? When I was a kid, all I cared about who was behind the ‘Assassination Plot.’  When you’re 8 Spider-Man weaving a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D agents into a big gooey web ball, was where it was at, not a lecture hall…but, I suppose his point was the lack of new readers and not speaking literally of the room ) 

  20. @Adam  There were actually quite a few young people in the audience — at one point they asked everyone under twenty to raise their hands, and it was not a small number.  And, as you mentioned, that wasn’t the panel that was most likely to draw the young. 

  21. I am a pretty big Kirkman whore, but don’t necessarily agree with him.  But whatever.  Great to see this debate and have them both respond to each others responses in person.  Good stuff!

  22. @ohcaroline

    not to get all drippy, hippy, but as extensive as the footage was, I don’t think it could really capture the ‘vibe’ of the room. What was it like?  Do you feel like the crowd was more on Kirkman’s side or Bendis’?  

  23. Damn!  I had to miss Baltimore for a job interview. This and iFanboy (I didn’t know you guys were going to be there).  I feel like I had to turn down tickets to the Superbowl.

    Did you guys publicize you were going? 

  24. i know it hurts, but kirkman is right. 


    it’s like when you have to do something painful for the greater good. eating vegetables, exercising, a prostate exam, whatever


  25. OK, so flash 10 years into the future, and it is the podcast forum at some con, Josh and Conor are arguing, moderated by Ron, (all three have gained 25 pounds and have much less hair) and they are arguing about the future of podcasting, all the while Ron is trying to get them to remember the good old days when hitting 100 on the frappr map was their goal…

  26. Well, Kirkman said +1 "Eff You" so he wins.

  27. I think Kirkman is right that in the long run creator owned projects make more money for the creators from a budget/profit standpoint but the high profile assignments are going to draw more attention to your creator owned projects- that too is undeniable.  Without a brand behind your name you’re an unknown and at 3 to 4 bucks a book, that’s a gamble most people spending 30 bucks a week will not take without some guarantee it’s worth it, i.e.- their mainstream work has proven they deliver good stuff.  I agree with Kirkman that more creator owned books by top creators are needed but Bendis is completely right in saying sidestepping the Big Two and going for indie gold right off the bat is like being struck by lightening.  Twice.  

    The undercurrent of Kirkman’s argument for me sounds like if you put in hard work, maybe even 10 years of toil and strife, you’ll be rewarded in the end.  Coming from a person that was lucky enough to be rewarded in the end, that sounds incredibly naive.  Bendis seems to be countering with that despite that having worked out for he and Kirkman and others, that is so rare it’s ridiculous to bank on that alone.  As a consumer, unless I know the creators work I am not inclined to pick up an indie by an unknown.

    Richard Dreyfuss once said he does movies to support his theater habit.


  28. Haven’t listened to the whole thing yet (still downloading) but from what I’ve read it sounds like Kirkman is the wild-eyed anarchist/green/libertarian debated the old ‘that’s-just-the-way-it-is Democrat/Republican Bendis.

    either way the debated sounded worlds more intellegent then the latest Presidential debate.

    I’ll probably fall somewhere in the middle of them – I’d love for Kirkman’s fantasy world (yeah! Creator owned everything! The market’s will work it out, whooooooo!) versus Bendises’ (that’s just the way it is, let’s make the best of it), but Bendis probably has some very valid reasons why it wouldn’t work. I think in the long run though, Kirkman’s approach is probably the healthier of the two models, if only you could convince the markets (ala – us) to let that be a working /profitable one.

  29. @Adam   I couldn’t say for sure.  From where I was sitting, the crowd didn’t seem to lean strongly one way or other.  But I talked to a guy later who was sitting closer to the front, among a vocal group of Kirkman fans.  He was in the Kirkman camp, but was also a Bendis fan and was frustrated b/c he felt like the guys he was with didn’t even want to let Bendis talk.   I would have been really curious to find out how many people went in there with pre-existing knowledge of the online discussion and how many just went to see bigname creators.  I would guess that the first group fell more in the Kirkman camp. 

    @OttoBot  In my dream world, there’s a way to have good original, creator-owned comics without losing what’s good about the Big Two.  If there were fewer Marvel & DC Universe books, of higher across-the-board quality (instead of, say, two good X-men books, one mediocre, and three total crap which seems to be the status quo now), and more original stories — whether through independent publishers, or something like Icon, or whatever — and all of this going out to a wider audience, that would be a better world.  I’d like to hear more discussion about how *that* can happen, instead of getting hung up on false dichotomies.

  30. @ohcaroline: Were you the woman in the ifanboy shirt in the crowd scenes?  Glad that someone was representing the iFaithful!

  31. @SteveM  Mayyyyybe.  πŸ™‚

  32. By keeping calm and out-thinking Bendis, Kirkman was the better debater. Bendis was up against the ropes, using interuption and volume to protect himself. But since they are both batting for different companies it is hard to see where the truth of the argument lies. 

  33. I haven’t watched the last ten minutes yet but it seems like Kirkman’s altered his thesis just a little bit since this whole thing started.  Before, he was lamenting about people who aspire to DC/Marvel work and not creator-owned work (ie the "Pulp Fiction 2/Moby Dick 2" stuff) and saying how that was essentially bad and how it was going to kill the industry.  Now, he’s going "Well, if you just want to make that really good Green Arrow run, that’s fine, but I’m talking about these creators who don’t like work-for-hire."  Except he either was talking about them before (IE the big DC/Marvel exodus he was talking about) and changed his mind or didn’t make it clear enough the first time.  If all he’s saying now is "If you want to do indie work, do indie work", that’s almost a no-brainer, but as far as the whole "I did this to save the comic book industry" thing goes, either he didn’t really bring it up much or he’s dropped that conceit and now I don’t know what everyone’s problem is.

  34. *sigh*

    My biggest problem with Kirkman is that he did this RIGHT AFTER getting the big promotion from Image. If he didnt have such a financial stake in this, it would ring truer (is that even a word?)

    That being said, If he would have left out the preaching about how Marvel/DC should skew their titles younger, than I feel that it would have made his message a little easier to take as well.

  35. I think the idea of "kids" getting into comics is a misdirection. We need new readers, it does not matter if they are young, old or whatever. I know more new comic readers than I have seen in along time. They are all between 16 and 20 and have brought in by interest from the movies or books like Buffy.


  36. when grown ups talk about things "for the kids" I get really weary.  Wasn’t the Comic Code Authority in essence created, "for the kids."  Kids are smart and will pick up stuff that interests them, not caters to them IMO. 

  37. @Unoob: Exactely, I dont recall Kirkman making any of this manifesto nonsense until he became one of the head cheese of Image. It seems like he wanted to look like a big shot or a better corporate genius by talking about this stuff then actually trying to figure out how to get better sales for Image. Not saying books for Image arent selling well, but I believe other then his own titles, Spawn, and maybe a few other titles for the company….Nothing else is really selling like it should.

    This is an era it seems with much more new readers of comics because of outside influences. You can deny it all you want but films have to play a factor in at least helping sales or recognition in the industry.

  38. When you gain enough stature where your voice is listened to and you have the ability to enact change, that’s when you say what you have to say. 

  39. I’m going to agree that saying DC and Marvel should be marketing their books for kids sounds a lot like the high pitch of mature quality you find in books like The Killing Joke, Bru’s Captain America, and Identity Crisis would be thrown out for watered down safe books.

    That being said, if you give a kid All-Star Superman, Ultimate Spider-Man, or Justice Society that’s perfectly fine for the most part.  Granted, a parent has to be somewhat more aware in what their child is reading than before, but then that’s kind of what parenting is.

  40. @Tork- exactly!  I think the real issue is the parents need to know what the kid is reading not the companies watering down their material to be "safe." 

  41. @Conor

    He does have stature. And people will listen to him (some of them anyways). But, and forgive me for this, With great power comes great responsibility. His original manifesto almost made getting a successful indie career, seem too easy. It had the feel of the "work at home" or "be your own boss" commercials that u see late nite on TV. I think Bendis just wanted to make the point that "Hey, Don’t quit your day jobs and think it’s going to be Caviar and Sports cars from here on in. There is a HUGE chance that your book will tank. So much so that you should expect it to." 

    It would have been better if Kirkman had just said "Listen. Its great to have a full time gig, but the real money is in having a successful comic book that you own. Even if you do have a full time gig, you should still always be working on something you created. If not full time, then part of the time. And when it comes time to publish it, Image is a great publisher."

    Additionally, I don’t think he should have lumped in the "children’s" point, without first having Image run a line (or at least 2 or 3 monthlies) of Kid’s books. Marvel already has Marvel Adventures, and DC is putting out monthlies to go with their cartoons. I know Kirkman said to Ron that he IS going to put his money where his mouth is and publish some juvenile titles. He should have waited until they were actually being published before trying to tell the big two how they should do business.

    Either way, it is/was an important discussion to have. Hopefully some creator out there will benefit from it.

  42. @Unoob – He did say most of that stuff.  The biggest problem with this discussion is that Bendis is responding to points that Kirkman didn’t make.  Kirkman’s not talking about young up and comers, he’s talking about established guys.

  43. serial killer face


  44. One thing about the debate that I noticed was that Bendis and Kirkman more or less agreed with the other’s primary point yet kind of slapped each other around over the details.  Both seem to agree that creator-owned work is a fantastic secion of comics and that everyone should at least get their feet wet.  Both seem to agree that getting that work out and published and successful is difficult and takes a lot of work many aren’t willing to put up with.  However, Kirkman stresses point A more and Bendis point B and then they seem to dick around over a chart over talking points that really have little to do with the major crux of their rhetoric at hand.

    And in all fairness, a lot of the big names (Brubaker, Ellis, Casey, Fraction, JMS, Millar, Morrison) either have creator-owned work out right now or aren’t afraid to work on some from time to time when they get the itch.  I understand that Kirkman’s saying they should do MORE but I think if a creator wants to do tha, he will and if he doesn’t, the universe still remains.  Except Ellis… I don’t get why that guy still does work-for-hire if he supposedly hates it so much.

  45. It’s all very rarified if u ask me.

  46. @Tork – Ellis does the mainstream crap for the money and recognition. He’s very honest about that.

  47. It would be nice to see more kids reading books but I think when people say that they mean lighter books.

    I myself do want some comic relief – funny books, and I go for that to things people publish on their own. It’s nice to have a break from the holocaust, war, dramatic relationship, serail killer, comic books…

    As for now it’s been Comic Book Comics #1 & Tzachy and Shlomo break the fourth wall #1 (and I doubt there will be a second one)  which had me laughing and chuckling – the latter one I read on the bus and people looked at me like I’m a nutter which was great.

    I also read The Plain Janes on the bus and finished it (needed to read it in both directions to finish it) and I was smiling from ear to ear.

    And there was a A3 page that I got in the free comic book day which was nice.

    I miss the light hearted fun of things like Super Shloomper which is a book that collected one page comics about a not so able super-hero which came out in a magazine,  and it’s creator nowadays banks mostly on Zbeng! which is about teens in school in an exeggerated way and it uses crude humor and it’s based on the people he went to school with and when I was younger it was great, and he does political stuff from time to time and I’m sick of those.

    I want things like the Israely made PC game which was made in some mac software about a crappy actor that has a huge ego – he wants to get on a boat to hollywood but he goes on the wrong boat and it’s a murder mistery with humor – it’s called Piposh and it has been translated to german and english but they don’t maintain the humor of the original hebrew dub and humor.

    Sure – I enjoy Box Office Poison and reading about all the crap and sadness and sometimes joy of life, and I enjoy seeing Swamp Thing taking some girls’ arm and ripping it but people forget about the funny aspect in comics books… about the  funny books.

    I enjoy the one page comic or few panel comic that is a political commentary about the situation but enough is enough – I can get really depressed without comic books pitching in.

    Where are the funny books? the childish non important comic books that adults looked upon with disgust? I want those.

    Minx is dead and it was a nice line to tell different kind of stories, and Owly is okay I guess (look – i’m an owl and i’m cute…buy me!) but I don’t want comic books targeted at kids, I want funny books…damn you!

    Nobody seems to get it. – Piposh the PC game is no more and the company disbanded (they are two brothers) after making a fair amount of games (6 I think and they had a fair share of publicity and a short lived tv series and a book that collected strips and fan meetings and what not) and now they still sell it but  burned and it’s of course cheaper – they put up the game for free to try but people had problems with it and they did it half assed.

    Super Shloomper is a hebrew book so I doubt anyone here will read it and it’s very hard to find nowadays and a second book came out which is even harder to find, and the character is used half-assed in a Zbeng! magazine which is mainly Zbeng! strips that comes out monthly which is mediocre.

    Tzach and Shlomo … #1 is also in hebrew and it’s still available for sale but I doubt there will be a second one (the best anyone got so far in a "main stream" book is 3 issues (there were cheaper comic books which dealt with things not usually deemed easy to sell and they had more issues but had only  local fame and stopped)

    There is a cheaply made small newspaper with a few strips and ads that comes out whenever – so far it had 12 issues and it is given for free.

    Israel  is a great example for unfinished comic books – Marvel had a few translated to hebrew (I doubt it was done in a good way) and sold but nowadays you can find those in a second hand advertisement website – I might buy thosesome day just for the sentimental value of the comic book development in Israel (I have a translated rocketeer in 3D which was boring and I didn’t have 3d glasses back then so it was a pain at start to try to read it)

    But two comic shops operated a few years now in tel aviv and they are slowly growing so maybe there is hope. I need to get off my ass sometimes and register my business – I want to sell comic books other people made and make them more popular (all legally) and that would mean knocking on a lot of doors…

    I’m the textual juggernaut I guess…anyway I do want more funny books – not humor in adult books (which is nice) or books aimed at kids – funny boooks! 

  48. @ deadspace– I understand that but I don’t get why he thinks he has to keep writing about the "underwear perverts" just to stay afloat.  Heck, maybe Kirkman posted his manifesto just for the sake of Warren Ellis and maybe Garth Ennis.  Between Frank Miller doing 300 and Sin City (and not making a decent book for the big two in about a decade), Mike Mignola doing all Hellboy, Jeff Smith doing his thing on Bone primarily, and others, I really don’t see why Ellis think he can’t just take his incredibly creative mind and pour into another truly innovative and quality product like Planetary or Transmetrpolitian that he can distribute out of Image or Dark Horse and let the cash flow in.

  49. @Tork   Because he secretly loves doing it.  He just likes to complain.  πŸ˜›

  50. That hasn’t escaped my mind, believe me.  Except T-Bolts, you could tell in the writing how much he was hating that book.

  51. I didn’t finish watching it. Arguing is boring.

  52. @Tork – Ellis is writing tonnes of stuff just now. The man is a machine and I’m sure his cash is flowing in very nicely indeed with his million Avatar titles. But writing mainstream stories about underwear perverts and grown men in tights will bring in even more money and attract even more readers to his indie work. In the past when he’s done a Marvel book it has increased sales of Transmetropolitan trades so it makes sense for him to do something like that every so often. But Ellis has also said there isn’t anything wrong with superhero stories so long as they’re good. What he hates is that it’s such a dominant genre.

  53. Fair enough.

  54. @Tork  He might have hated t’bolts by the end, but I’d imagine that was because he didn’t get to go where he wanted to go with his really interesting initial concepts.  That’s not to say that he’s blameless for the problems with the book (though I liked it a lot through his run, and continue to like it — there were problems). 

  55. First off, thanks for posting this.  The iFanbase actually finds this stuff really interesting, and you’ve given us all a look into the underbelly of the biz of comic books.


    My take is that they are both right in their own way.  The big questions that weren’t asked, in my opinion, devolve to the follwing:


    1- What’s the amount of money a creator needs to make to be "comfortable".

    2- What’s the split that a creator owned book give the creator?  Image Comics, Darkhorse or the other must take some percentage of the profits after recouping the production costs.  So what’s the keep for the creator?

    3- How many books sold will it take for the creator to get to the comfortable level?


    According to Bendis most creator owned books don’t sell 3,000 copies so, what’s the likelihood for a creator owned book to hit the # needed to make them comfortable.


    Now I know Kirkman was talking about the Johns’ and Leob’s of the world, but what about someone like Judd Winnick?  Think he’d get a following big enough to make a real living?


    Just wondering.

  56. One would have to see the numbers for something like Godland or Fear Agent (which I don’t know) to get a feel for how someone who isn’t at the very top of the food chain would make out in the indie markets alone.

  57. They both have good points and when all the cards are shown I think they’ll both be right.

  58. I don’t know. I like Kirkman’s body of work but he always comes off as a little bit of a douche in interviews and even in this little debate with Bendis. It seems like he tries to intimidate with the way he carries himself, which has always struck me as kind of angry. It may be just his way and I might be totally off base but I’m gonna go with my gut and say…douche.

  59. As a guy who’s spent a little time around Kirkman, and you’re totally entitled to your opinion, he’s not at all a douche.  He’s incredibly sincere, and that "intimidation" thing your talking about is pretty much ironic.  He’s a giant friendly teddy bear, and the guy really, sincerely appreciates his fans.  I’ve never noticed a hint of what you’re alluding to.

  60. Well, I have been known to be VERY wrong in the past. It’s probably my douche-dar on the fritz again. Sorry for dissing your teddy bear. πŸ™‚

  61. Kirkman, I love his work and what he’s trying to do but those graphs were priceless.  Good times with Kirkman. Just keep delivering big guy. 

  62. I found one! A kid that is reading comics… sort of:


  63. Kumite! Kumite! Kumite!

    I want Tong Po. Give me Tong Po!!!!!!

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