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Interview with Jeph Loeb

Before he was a Wizard Top Ten comic book writer, and before joining the talented group of creative people behind Heroes, Jeph Loeb wrote several hit movies in the 1980s. A script for a Flash feature film that never surfaced led him to a choice meeting with Jeanette Kahn, then the publisher of DC Comics, who proposed to Loeb that he should write a comic book for DC. That comic book was Challengers of the Unknown.

Challengers, with artist Tim Sale, propelled Loeb into the comicsphere, and he, with Sale, continued their collaboration with the Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special. The popularity of the Halloween Special led to some award-winning mini-series and other team-ups between Loeb and Sale included the popular Superman For All Seasons, Catwoman: When In Rome, Spider-Man: Blue, Daredevil: Yellow, and Hulk: Gray.

Traveling between Marvel and DC throughout his career faster than Hiro bounces between continents, Loeb's comic book career included runs on Cable, X-Force, Captain America, X-Man, and Superman, and then finally, Loeb was the writer of a popular Batman story arc drawn by superstar artist Jim Lee and the best-selling Superman/Batman comic book series.

Loeb's runs on Superman/Batman and Supergirl recently ended as he has signed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics, where, among other things, he will soon be bringing us The Ultimates 3 and 4 and a special Heroes Reborn/Onslaught anniversary event. A very big, top-secret comic book project from Marvel is said to be on the horizon.

In between all of this writing in the world of four-color, Loeb continued to have his hand in screenwriting and production, including a 1994 TV-movie called Model By Day which, if anything, gave us our first chance to see Famke Janssen as a superheroine. He was also a supervising producer and writer for a children's series titled Seven Little Monsters. In 2002, Loeb joined the staff of The WB's Smallville where he wrote some of the show's most memorable episodes, giving us Clark Kent's first exposure to red Kryptonite, his first leap of a tall building in a single bound, and an episode that sadly became the final acting appearance of Christopher Reeve. Loeb was also one of the architects and executive producers of the sadly aborted Buffy the Vampire Slayer animated series, working directly with creator and friend Joss Whedon.

After Smallville, Jeph moved on to become a supervising producer on the popular genre hit Lost, working with creator Damon Lindelof and crew to expand and explore the mysteries of that show's second season. After a meeting with Heroes creator Tim Kring, Loeb knew immediately that he wanted to be involved with this new project. The interview follows.


How did you first become involved with the Heroes project?

I've known Tim Kring for far too long than either of us will admit. We actually have worked together before... I think the less that is said about that the better... (I had a wonderful time, Kring is HUGELY talented... and let's keep it that way, shall we?!)

So, when he set off on this adventure to write the first modern day take on comic book mythology he thought for some reason I'd have an opinion about it. (Laughs) I was over at Lost at the time and Damon 'The Real Deal" Lindelof had been talking to Tim as well.

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Kring and I spent some time on the phone together and then decided we needed a much longer session. We met over at the Empath Magic Tree House where I'm lucky enough to have a writing studio with Geoff Johns, Allan Heinberg and a major comic book guy to be named later. We started talking and walking together at like 3 in the afternoon and when it got to be about 8 PM at night, we had walked so far into the next town that it was HOURS before we got back. But, during that time, Tim got to just let it all out of him... he had the story completely worked out and he really just needed a sounding board. Oh, and the fact that he didn't know who Magneto was or that there was even a guy who had "magnetic powers" was kind of a tip that he was doing this totally on instinct. That's one of the things that is so magical about Heroes. You'd think that Kring is a total geek, when he's not a comic book guy at all. Which shows to go ya what we've always known about comics -- that it's CHARACTER that drives the narrative mixed with the cool of the visuals. Kring just got it. BAM.

He also wanted to get some visuals for the script and I introduced to him to Tim Sale. So, Tim S. was on this project even before I was!

What was your initial reaction upon reading the Heroes pilot script?

Well, what amazed me at first was how faithful Kring had been to his pitch to me. So many of the tiny details he had talked about in the abstract were now part of this woven tapestry of madness. That, and it was smart. Really smart.

And when you saw the pilot?

It surprised me. I found it very powerful. In a weird way, almost TOO powerful. It just grabbed me and wouldn't let go.It's very inspiring. One of the things that Kring spends a great deal of time thinking about is the state of the world. He's very active politically and very CONNECTED to the human condition. He would talk about how for so many people RIGHT NOW is a very scary time. He wanted to create something that gave people HOPE. That maybe, just maybe, mankind was going to save itself from itself. I was IN before the first scene, but when it was done, Tim K. casually asked what I thought. My answer was that I could start Monday morning. That was pretty much it!

One of your most popular comic book projects in recent years was the Superman/Batman series for DC, where you redefined the relationship between those characters and the way they interact with one another. Is there a particular "duo" from Heroes that you enjoy writing the most?

Most...? uh... no. They all have their moments that make me smile. I have a particular fondness for Niki and Micah... but that's the Dad in me. I like that they all have their own rhythm. Their own... music.

Is it easier to write for characters that are completely fresh rather than keeping to a set mythos as Smallville is?

Different muscles, same task. It's still storytelling. I liked that we were referencing the Superman mythos in Smallville, but those stories had to still be as unique as they could be on their own. They weren't comic book stories.

And on Heroes it's not about the powers or the villain of the week. These are people whose lives have been turned inside-out because of... AH! You nearly tricked me into giving away one of the big secrets in the show... Sneaky, Craig, verrrry sneaky...

If you could have any superpower, what would you want it to be and why?

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I'd bend time like HIRO and go back to be with my son. 'Nuff said.

Of the characters of Heroes, which character do you feel has the most interesting or appealing power?

Again, there's no "most" for me. I understand Niki because I've written about the duality of human nature in almost all my films and comics. But, Nathan's flying, Matt's telepathy, Claire's indestructo -- c'mon -- how great is that?!

A lot of comparisons have been made between Heroes and Lost. Are they fair?

They are both high profile, big cast, cliffhanger driven serials. Fair isn't the way I look at it (jeez, Craig, I'm just busting you left and right!). If we're going to be compared to something, I'd rather be compared to Lost -- the #1 show on television that is smart, funny and extremely well produced than most of the stuff out there. But, other than that, the only island we deal with is Manhattan island and while I do believe there's a hatch at 1700 Broadway... what was the question again?

Is there a particular character that you'd really like to explore more into the background of? If so, why?

All of them. We're just beginning. There are hundreds of stories to be told and each comes with its own set of complications. The more we tell those stories, the more we learn about how many other stories there are. It's just fantastic.

Can you talk about the writing process a little?

This is very unique show. We are ALL involved in every bit of the script. We have a stake in each of the characters and work very hard to make sure that no one has a cooler story than the other. It so exciting watching it come together and we haven't even started rolling film yet!

Have you and the other writers been "let on" to the truth about some of the secrets behind the characters' origins?

We're not only "let on," Tim Kring is the kind of showrunner and creator who invites us to add to the secrets. And that we have!

Is it true that you are the show's resident comic book genius/guru?

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I wish! Unfortunately between Jesse Alexander, Aron Coleite, Joe Pokaski, Michael Green -- and guys like Harrison Wilcox and Oliver Grigsby working in the writing office, I'm just another geek with a lame excuse on Weds to sneak out of the office to buy new comics!

Did you interact with series creator Tim Kring at all years ago when he wrote the screenplay for the movie Teen Wolf Too, based on characters that you created?

ARGHHH! I thought we were going to leave that alone! Oh, well, I'm glad we at least cleared up my statement in Question 2... I was worried that people might think Kring and I had worked together in porn. I mean... er... that didn't come out right at ALL!

What is it about the Heroes project that excites you the most?

The storytelling with such a superb cast. It all lines up so wonderfully.

Can you talk a little about the process of creating an episode of a show like this?

Well, Craig, it's pretty simple. Jesse Alexander has the power to go into the future and he watches the show and takes a lot of notes. A LOT of notes. We're going to be a big hit, by the way. In Sweden we're going to be the Number One selling DVD of all time. Bigger than Titantic. Ah, the future! It seems like yesterday... Other than what happens on the show, however, Jesse won't tell us nothing. No stock tips. No sports scores. Just THE SHOW. My new best pal and he won't even tell ME! @#$%! The only problem is that when Jesse gets back, he's so exhausted that someone has to read his thoughts. That's when Natalie Chaidez, one of our other Co-Executive Producers, works her mojo. She roots around in his mind and plucks out the scenes we need. I'd like to reveal all the powers that staff has -- the super speed, the multiplexing, the heat vision -- but all of that's classified. The other day Adam Armus and Kay Foster were pulling the moon out of orbit and the funniest thing happened! Damn you, Craig! I probably have said too much...

But according to Jesse, everyone who comes to the 9thWonders site will learn more about the show than any other website. Only here will you be able to "chat" with the writing staff and the directors and even Bryan "WONDERFALLS" Fuller -- who, as we all know is actually the World's Greatest Super Villain -- he's so smart he makes Lex Luthor and Brainiac sound like doorknobs...

Is there any possibility of a Heroes tie-in comic book series?

With this crew, we can practically guarantee it! And not just in comics, but on the 'net as well.

For those who are familiar with your comic book work, why do you think will Heroes appeal to them?

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Oddly enough, I think it's important that we get out the word that you DON'T have to know about comics -- and in particular MY comic book work -- to enjoy the show. Quite the contrary. Heroes works on both levels and that's very much on purpose. We're telling the best stories we can -- hopefully the best stories in one hour television -- and that's very satisfying. But, yeah I'm not an idiot despite what Jesse will tell you -- if you love my comic book work, you'll love Heroes. But, at the same time, if you HATE my comic book work -- AND I KNOW WHO YOU ARE! -- you'll love Heroes. If you DON'T know my comic book you'll love Heroes. I think that just about covers it!

Who were some of your favorite comic book heroes growing up?

When I was really young, Superman and Batman. And as I got older, it was all about The Fantastic Four. I have to admit that until now I hadn't really thought about it, but the FF is TOTALLY about character and that makes it very close in thinking to what we are doing on Heroes.

So w're all over the world with many different characters. How are these people going to come together?

Verrrry carefully! (laughs) C'mon Craig, you know I can't tell you that! WATCH THE SHOW AND TALK ABOUT IT!

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Just that "TALK ABOUT IT" is my new slogan. I just love the idea that HEROES is that show that everyone will be talking about. And those of you who have found this website or are lucky enough to have seen the pilot at the San Diego Comic Convention already know... it's the greatest thing ever -- SO TALK ABOUT IT!


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