Marvel Head of Television Jeph Loeb stopped by the CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International 2013 to discuss the challenges “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” faces as it heads to its September 24 debut episode, whether the highly-anticipated “Captain America: White” comic with longtime collaborator Tim Sale is still on, his possible future comics work and more.
On the challenge and risk of branching out into television with “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”: First of all, we have a secret weapon, and that’s Joss Whedon. Joss has made some of the most intelligent and important television, certainly within the genre. So, we hedged our bets pretty strong in that regard. … Marvel decided it wanted to be in the television business, we knew no matter what we did it was going to be a risk. Just look at the number of shows that come out with all the fanfare in the world and can’t find an audience. Now, particularly when the world is so fractionalized and there are all these choices and DVR and binging and all these things that you could do, how do you turn it back into event television?
I think I’ve been lucky, or whatever the word is in that “Smallville” was something people watched regularly, a very loyal fan base. “Lost” really defined it in a way, because at that time, DVRs had actually become part of the culture, but you wanted to be there on a week-to-week basis. And you’re right, I think the beginning of “Heroes” had that same kind of pull to it. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” in general is something that everyone who’s working on it — and it isn’t just Joss — Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancheroen and Jeff Bell, who are all executive producer/writers on the show, and an amazing writing staff — all know that the only way we’re going to succeed is if you fall in love with the characters. Starting with Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, we have a leg up.
I think the challenge is really ABC’s to get them to show up the first night — that’s the marketing of it. With that, we have input, but it’s really theirs to do and they really understand it. They’ve been doing a great job. Our job now is, they’ve got to come back week two and three and four. Our feeling is we’ve got great characters and terrific stories and the show looks amazing. We’re not going to be able to have 30 Iron Men come flying out of the sky at the end, but hopefully what we can do is have an intimacy with our characters.
On the target audience of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”: When you’re talking about after “The Avengers,” you’re talking about a through line with Agent Phil Coulson in Clark Gregg, so there is a “want-to-see.” For most people when they’re making television shows, they have to start with a “What is it?” and we don’t. Now, we’re going to want a bigger audience. We’re going to want — particularly on ABC because there’s a strong female audience that comes there — how do we get the “Grey’s Anatomy,” the “Scandal” audience to go, “Oh, this looks like something that’d be fun.” Again, the movies help us. You don’t get to be the third highest grossing film of all time with “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” I think is now the fifth — that’s not the San Diego crowd going again and again and again. At the end of the day, the idea is to make people understand that this is a show for men, for teens, for women, for families.
On the long-term goals and planning for the series’ hypothetical second season: You always have to plan ahead. It’s different in my life now, because having been a writer, producer, executive producer on a show to now also be as Marvel’s Head of Television, I also have to interface with the network and with the studio. I get to see it from both sides. What’s interesting is it isn’t just a creative decision that people are having where they want to think about it further out. The network is thinking about it that way, too. It isn’t just a conversation you have at episode one. It’s a conversation you have when you sit down to talk about the show. I think that’s one of the real challenges of producing television.
On the long-anticipated “Captain America: White”: “Cap: White” is still on. I’m happy to say that this is a partnership. I can’t get Tim [Sale] to draw any faster. When the pages come in and they’re as beautiful as they are, I don’t really care. He has script, we still go on a script-by-script basis, and we’re deep in. I’m feeling good and he and I have talked a lot about, “Wouldn’t it be great if it came out around the time of ‘Cap 2,'” which is not that far away.