By Hussein Wasiti — This is the second of Brian Michael Bendis’ early creator-owned work that I’ve read, the first being his true-crime epic Torso. Like Torso, this book also happens to be a true story. Fortune and Glory details Bendis’ personal experience trying to adapt his comic Goldfish for the big screen. In it, he depicts Hollywood as this strange other land, one which constantly surprises while also living up to every stereotype we’ve all heard about it. Bendis also provides the artwork for the comic, a dramatic deviation from Torso while also feels stylistically similar in a really unique way.
From the first page, Bendis grabs readers here with his meta humour. Fortune and Glory is a much funnier book than Torso. Its source material enables it to inject natural meta comedy and commentary throughout. The plot and writing feel very personal, due to the story being aggressively autobiographical. You’d think a comic with non-sequiturs would read poorly, but Bendis’ writing style invites the reader’s attention by how personal he’s being. Bendis develops a pretty interesting dichotomy between himself and Hollywood. He depicts himself as a relatively homespun and sometimes naïve person, one who should feel uncomfortable in the boring meeting rooms of Los Angeles, but he is also depicted as being straightforward. Oftentimes this leads to a connection between himself and whichever Hollywood executive he’s talking to. For all the flack Bendis receives for his “Bendis speak,” which involves a lot of dialogue with much back and forth between characters, it’s a very effective way to structure a scene. This is doubly the case for this kind of story, where conversations with Hollywood executives go on for a long time, often with little of value ever being said.
If you’re also interested in reading Bendis’ perspective on his own work, I’m glad to report he delves into his origins as a comic book creator as well. He documents his various projects, even at one point explaining the origin of Torso, and he skillfully ties all of this into the story at hand and how it relates to his love affair with Hollywood.
As a time capsule, this provided some unique insight for me. More so than Torso, this comic showcases Bendis’ career at a certain point in time. He is arguably in his creative prime here, telling the story he wants in the way he wants it told, and he understands his personal relationship with his readers since this work is independent. It’s like he’s making this comic for you, sharing his personal anecdotes with you and taking you along for the ride. There are shades of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, with Bendis’ directly addressing the reader.
Bendis’ art also feels radically different than Torso, which made very liberal use of inks and shadows, with vague expression-work and a large number of panels. With Fortune and Glory, Bendis clearly took a more cartoonist approach to the story, with easily-definable linework and expressive characters. Bendis in particular, as depicted in this comic, is a much more lively character than anyone in Torso. There are a lot of repeated panels in this comic, and, coupled with his traditional fast-talking dialogue, this is a masterfully-paced book. There is never a dull moment, and the great facial expressions he gives his characters oftentimes had me chuckling like an idiot.
Overall, Fortune and Glory comes highly recommended. Bendis’ early comics are some of the most unique and vibrant comics you’ll ever read, and this is no exception. The storytelling is fresh, the writing electric, and you just may find yourself laughing out loud more than once.
Fortune and Glory: A True Hollywood Story
Writer/Artist: Brian Michael Bendis
Publisher: DC Comics - Jinxworld
Release Date: April 16, 2019
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Hussein Wasiti is a history undergraduate with an intense passion for comics. You can find his weekly writings over at comicsthegathering.com, and periodically on The Beat. He is on Twitter as bullthesis, and he lives in Toronto with his hordes of comics.