When discussing Max Bemis, chances are that comics aren’t the first things that come to mind. Bemis first burst onto the pop-punk music scene in 2000 as the lead singer of the still active band Say Anything, and it was in his songwriting, producing endeavors that his attention primarily stayed. Recently however, his focus has shifted a bit. Starting in 2013, Bemis decided to make a go at writing and creating comic books. As eye-roll inducing as it can be when established stars try a new trade (actors or athletes putting out albums can be quite cringe-worthy), there are some things about Max that hint his foray into the comic world could leave us expecting truly great things to come.
Bemis is brutally honest and writes from his soul. He’s drew from his own struggles and experiences with being diagnosed as bipolar when writing his first comic mini-series, Polarity, published by BOOM! Studios in April of 2013.
Timothy Woods, Poliarty’s title character, is a struggling artist in Brooklyn. After surviving a car crash, Woods discovers that the medication he’d been prescribed to treat his bipolar disorder was suppressing his super powers. The comic is an action-adventure, but at its core, it’s also a look at humankind. Bemis first gives us a taste of a theme that will come up in his later work of:
How well do you REALLY know someone?
Who can you truly trust? He turns the light onto the readers as well, onto reflecting on their own actions and choices that make them who they are. Secondly, he knows his stuff. Bemis has always been outspoken about his obsession with comics, and had this to say in an interview with ComicBookResources.com:
My main squeeze when it comes to mainstream comics is definitely Marvel. I have everything. I hunt down copies of stuff that’s hard to find, and I just consider myself a devotee of the company.
Bemis went on to do the writing for issue #14 of Marvel’s “A+X” in November of 2014. Comic illustrator David LaFuente posted this to his Tumblr on the experience of working with Bemis:
Working with Max Bemis! (@maxbemis). Pleasure to be drawing his first Marvel script, which is killer, btw.
Most recently, and most importantly, Bemis has proved that he’s more than capable of delivering an amazing story. Max just wrapped up his 12 issue comic series, Evil Empire, with BOOM! Studios. The story takes us along a journey of a modern society evolving (or devolving?) into a truly Evil Empire. There are themes throughout the story that are dark and unsettling, and Bemis is absolutely fearless in taking us there.
The result is a cautionary tale that keeps you thinking long after you finish the last issue. Its narrator is a female hip-hop artist named Reese that has some very strong opinions on the government and how it was being run. One of Reese’s songs was used as an unofficial anthem for a new system of government that Reese is not okay with.
America is now free from morality; a free-for-all based on the concept of “an eye for an eye”. Punishment for crimes is whatever you see fit, including murder, and anyone that intercedes with you getting your justice pays the price. As the movement starts going global, Reese and her friends start up a resistance to restore humanity and take down the Evil Empire.
Ultimately, you can decide for yourself how Bemis is faring in the comic book world by reading his work. Next up for him is his third creator-owned series with BOOM! Studios- this one titled Oh, Killstrike with illustrations by Logan Faerber. It’s centered on new father, Jared, whose favorite 90’s anti-hero has come to life. Jared embarks on a mission to protect his loved ones from Killstrike, ultimately leading him on an introspective journey. Issue 1 hits comic stands May 20th.
There are times, though they may be few and far between, when stars make that career transition and it actually works out. This truly seems to be one of those times. Regardless of what readers may feel about Bemis’ work in Say Anything, the stories he’s telling through his comics are compelling and inspiring, and there seems to be a lot more from him to look forward to.