Comic Book Biography: JEPH LOEB

jeph-loebJeph Loeb has worked on everything in comics from The Challengers of the Unknown to Superman and Batman. We caught up with him as he ends his run on Superman/Batman and begins the new Supergirl series.

First Comics News: You have been in comics since the first Long Halloween Special. How have they changed since you started?

Jeph Loeb: Actually, technically, I’ve been working in comics since before that. My first work was an eight issue mini series calledThe Challengers of the Unknown and has just been collected as The Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! It was also the first time I worked with Tim Sale. Brian Michael Bendis wrote the introduction. (Unabashed plug!)

I don’t really see that much of a difference in terms of storytelling. In terms of production, there’s a world of difference — the coloring, the paper — comics look sensational. Personally, I’d like to think I’m getting better at my craft as a writer, telling more entertaining stories, more emotional stories, different kinds of stories. At least, that’s the plan!

1st: What are the differences between working at DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Awesome Comics?

Jeph: Very different, and very much the same. It still is essentially an art form that is 22 pages long and dependant heavily on the skills of the artist to bring your words to life. Maybe DC’s characters are bit more iconic and Marvel’s characters have a bit more of an edge, but that line is getting blurrier particularly of late. When I worked at Awesome it was very different as an experience because in addition to being a writer, I was the publisher. Rob Liefeld and I for a very short period (18 months) took a shot at becoming the #3 comic book company and with the talent roster we had, I think we’d made a pretty good run at it. When you’re working in your own Universe, when you actually own the characters, you have the freedom to tell any story you want. Characters can live, die, get married, divorced, age, get younger — anything without having to worry about the larger (and for DC and Marvel terribly important and I respect that) picture of how valuable these icons are to other mediums — from Television to Movies to Video Games to Pajamas. And believe me, that value was something Awesome would have grown into as well!

1st: You are finishing up your run onSuperman/Batman, what else is planned before you go?

Jeph: Go… where? At the end of the 25 issues? It’s a huge story that will hopefully tie up all the questions and mysteries from Issue #1 and still rock. This book has been a wonderful experience on so many levels. First, being able to reach as wide an audience as we did is thrilling. (Superman/Batmanconsistently has been in the top #3 books sold every month and often topped the list). Not just for me, but for the characters who deserve that kind of exposure to today’s readership. The series is about the awe I have for the DCU and getting the reader involved in this magical place where Heroes do the best they can. It’s a very important book to me, but I also know it is time to go. My Dad always taught me to leave the party when it’s roaring.

There is one last Superman/Batman story that I will be involved in and that’s Issue #26. This stand alone story was to be written by my son, Sam, who died recently at the too young age of 17, after a valiant three year battle with cancer. Sam had finished plotting the book and it really is something wonderful. That’s not just a father’s pride; he had his own voice, his own style. He got his first writing gig at 15 from Joss Whedon (not me!) on Tales of the Vampire #5 and DC, in particular, Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza, offered him this issue off that work. Sam earned it.

After Sam died, all of his friends who work in comics (and the list is astonishing) came to me and asked if they could help finish this issue. There will be more about it as it comes together but it’s a Who’s Who of modern comics because that’s the sort of person Sam was. I can say, in all honesty, it will be the single more important thing I do in comics…ever.

1st: You have a long association with Rob Liefeld, are there any plans to work with him now that he is at DC?

Jeph: Not right now. But, Rob and I will find some trouble to get into at some point. We always do!

1st: Catwoman: When in Rome wraps up next month; what’s your next project with Tim Sale?

Jeph: Our next project is a true labor of love. We return to the prestige format, 48 page square bound format that the original Batman Halloween stories were told to do The Holiday Spirit — a collection of 8 page stories using probably my favorite characterWill Eisner’s The Spirit.
Tim and I had spoken to Will and his publisher Dennis Kitchen about it for years, but could never get our schedules to mesh. Now, unfortunately, we’ve lost Will but his legacy will live on. I’m honored to be involved with anything that has to do with The Spirit.

And as luck would have it, I have two other Spirit projects coming. First off, Darwyn Cooke and I will be doing the first everBatman/Spirit story. Darwyn is a master storyteller and a brilliant artist so I’m very much looking forward to that.

Then, I’m thrilled to be writing the feature length movie adaptation of The Spirit for producer Michael Uslan (Batman, Batman Begins, Constantine) and the good people at ODD LOT ENTERTAINMENT. It’s a hugely challenging task and I’m very psyched about it.

1st: You have written Superman, Batman and several of the X-Men titles, what made Supergirl the right project for you?

Jeph: Timing. I have a teenage daughter who is my world and this character of Kara Zor-El came out of my head with no small inspiration from her. Now, my daughter can’t bend steel in her bare hands, but the stories of what it’s like to be a young woman trying to find her way in the world is both universal and very personal to me. Besides, she’s a kick!

1st: Had you been a fan of any of the previousSupergirl series?

Jeph: Sure. All of them. But at the end of the day, the idea thatSupergirl is Superman’s teenage cousin is so pure and simple, I agreed with DC that she should be reintroduced that way.

1st: This will be Supergirl’s 5th launch, what are you planning to ensure that she will be successful this time?

Jeph: Um… I’m not sure how to answer that. If I had the formula for success, I’d be working in the field of curing cancer not comic books! But, I’d like to think that grounding her back to the core character of being his cousin, combined with the kind of kick butt huge DCU type stories that have helped makeSuperman/Batman a monster hit and being lucky enough to get my pal Ian Churchill to illustrate it with his finest work to date — we’ll keep our fingers crossed. From what I’ve heard, we’re coming out of the gate really big and I hope to keep that up!

1st: What was the thinking behind releasing the 2nd print of Superman/Batman #19 as Supergirl #0?

Jeph: That was my idea but as with anything, none of it is possible without the support of DC and in particular Dan Didio and Bob Wayne. We wanted everyone to have a chance to get in on the ground floor of this series and we all agreed atSuperman/Batman #19 was essentially the prequel to the series. By offering it again, folks who missed it the first time around or if you want to read that story again with Supergirl #1in hand, you can. Pure and simple.

1st: You worked with both Ian Churchill & Norm Rapmund on the Coven at Awesome Comics, what is it like to work with them again?

Jeph: Even better. First off they’re friends. Secondly, as with any partnership, hopefully you get better at your craft. You understand your partners’ strengths and try to play to them. And when people see this first issue — wow! Ian really brought it up a notch or three. The only comparison I can make is to Ethan Van Skiver who I’ve known and admired for years and who just Blew up on Green Lantern Rebirth. The right character at the right time with perfect writer in Geoff Johns. I believe the same thing will happen with Ian on Supergirl. Even without Geoff Johns! (laughs) (Note: Geoff and Jeph share an office together in addition to being best pals).

1st: You first storyline in Supergirl deals with Power Girl, how does this tie in with the JSA Classified comics published at the same time?

Jeph: Without giving too much away, Power Girl writer and JSAteam captain Geoff Johns works about eight feet away from me, so hopefully it’s one big coordinated effort in the way we think comics ought to be. We hope. Maybe. (laughs)

1st: Is Supergirl going to be appearing exclusively in her own title or are there plans to have her join the Teen Titansor some other team?

Jeph: The magic eight ball says: Stay tuned!

1st: Is the Supergirl series going to be based in Themyscira, or are you setting her up with a secret identity and new friends, etc.?

Jeph: All of that will be dealt with in the series. And while I love that it is called “Themyscira” I can never spell it, so Kara just calls it “Paradise Island.” She’s good that way.

1st: What happens after the Power Girl storyline?

Jeph: More action. More fun. More interaction with the rest of the DCU. And one big, bad ass villain who I can’t reveal except that his initials are “L.L.”

1st: How far in advance do you have this series plotted?

Jeph: I know what the first year is all about. But, things change. My hope is that by being fluid in the storytelling and not as rigid as some folks are, I have the chance to make the story go where it wants to as opposed to where I want it to go because I have some preconceived notion. I know that sounds probably pretty stupid, but I still believe that Willy Loman delivers the mail to the Baxter Building and The Fantastic Four call Stan Lee up and tell him what they’ve been doing on their latest adventure. I have my own phone bill to The Daily Planet and it’s Huge.

1st: How does this Supergirl fit into the DC Universe?

Jeph: Awkwardly? (laughs). Simply? She’s one of the most powerful beings on the planet and she’s been here for a very short time trying to figure it all out. Some of it will be good, some of it won’t. Kind of like life.

1st: Are there any plans to deal with the Peter David’sSupergirl, and the fact that people in the DCU remember another Supergirl?

Jeph: Read the series.

1st: Will Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman be prominent characters in the series?

Jeph: Yes. Not exclusively, but they are her touchstones.

1st: How long until we see the return of Comet andStreaky?

Jeph: Um… Not on my shift. I believe that a good idea is a good idea and that Supergirl is a great one. The cat and the horse… maybe not so much. Oh, terrific! Like I don’t have enough people pissed off about the dog, now I’m going to hear from the cat and the horse people. Thanks a lot! (laughs).

1st: Thank you for your time and I can’t wait for the first issue of Supergirl.

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