Max Bemis' Commentary on Black Terror #1, His First Comic "After A Year Of Weirdness And Pain"

Max Bemis has a writer's commentary on the launch of Black Terror #1 from Dynamite Entertainment. He writes,

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Bob seems like a genuinely nice guy, but as a Bipolar individual, I've had some gnarly interactions with pharmacists. I've had them deny me my sanity-preserving medicine just because they didn't like the anxiousness in my voice when it seemed like there was a problem and I wasn't going to get them. I've had them just forget to fill something. I've had them screw up and inflate prices.

That said, there are probably millions of wonderful people who are pharmacists, like poor Bob.

I like the idea that, like the people who work at an airport, nobody gets as much sh*t as pharmacists daily from people who think they're super important and are not being listened to…. Like me.


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People may have noticed I took a little break from writing comics after working on Moon Knight for Marvel. I had a total breakdown and a bipolar episode all while my son was born, my band broke up, I moved houses, and had some bizarre larger than life work interactions. That left me suffering from acute PTSD that I'm still recovering from. This included figuring out medicine stuff, which Bob is at the forefront of because we didn't know as much about "shell shock" back in the day. People like to throw anti-anxiety meds at a lot of medical issues, to this day, even if they're just sometimes just a numbing agent and anxiety isn't the real issue.

Obviously, my first-world PTSD doesn't in any way match up with what veterans suffer through, but they were the first to come to mind when I thought of a way to wrestle my demons with this book. Bob isn't just a veteran, he's lived through things a human being shouldn't have seen, interacted with gods and monsters. That's why when we meet him, he's humbled and socially disabled. I was pretty much unable to leave bed when I wrote this issue. Bob can't do much more.


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As we write this, I'm a few weeks out from going on tour again. I'm back to writing comics and chasing kids around after my own break with reality and "fall from grace". Part of this story is about what it's like to be a creative spirit, even if it causes suffering. Also, being in a punk band or any job involving social responsibility comes with a sort of stripping away of pretense, and once you look at society in that way, its errs start to become more glaring and you can just walk around pissed off all day. It's something that must be tempered.

Bob's "creativity" is his drive to fight crime in spandex. It's something he can't quit, because it's his calling, no matter what trauma it's left him with. I relate, as I don't think I could ever stop f*cking with my own mind to create art that (hopefully) contributes to society and helps people and speaks some truth, even if that struggle has led me to some seriously dark places.


The money shot.

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The idea of a superhero trying to catch a petty thief and accidentally catching a horrific serial killer came from how many of these dudes get caught speeding or something and end up caught with bodies in their trunk. The relief he probably feels when Bob suggests it's not a big deal is also funny to me.


Bob is afraid of perpetuating the cycle that left him hating life and feeling powerless. He's more afraid of his own PTSD than he is of resuming his war on crime, and he knows at this point it's probably too late to stop what he sees as a cycle that can only end in pain and regret. It's my belief that taking a chance and being yourself doesn't always have to end in pain. However, it's a scary thing to dip your toe in the pool again after disappointment and tragedy. Hence me being scared as f*ck of if people will even like this comic. Kidding, of course, hehehehehhehehehehehhehehe (cough).

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I'd like to think this story ends where I was internally when writing this, my first comic back after a year of weirdness and pain. I'm diving back into doing what I love the most, knowing that it's scary and dangerous; for someone like me, creativity can be as potentially harmful as bashing bad guys. However, writing this mini-series and working with a wonderful, supportive editorial team at Dynamite has reminded me why writing is my calling, and if it weren't for Black Terror, I wouldn't be enjoying writing all the new stuff I'm working on. This got me back on track. Like Bob, complacency and letting your soul go numb is the real risk, and we're all constantly striving to find a healthy medium between passion and personal safety and healthiness. Let's hope Bob can find it. You'll have to read the rest of the series to find out!

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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