In the first half of CBR’s interview with Jeph Loeb, Head of Marvel Television talked the recently debuted “Jessica Jones,” and how despite its unusually dark themes, it’s something he sees as firmly in the classic Marvel mold.
In the second part of CBR’s latest interview with Loeb, the exec and superstar comic book writer discusses the qualities that connect all of Marvel’s current live-action TV projects — the aspirational heroism of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Marvel’s Agent Carter,” “Marvel’s Daredevil,” “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” and the currently in-production “Marvel’s Luke Cage;” shows that Loeb makes clear have more in common with each other than all having “Marvel’s” at the start of their titles.
Loeb also provides quick updates on the upcoming “Iron Fist” and “Defenders,” the former of which has been the subject of fairly widespread rumors in recent months — that it may not materialize as a Netflix television series at all, in favor of a TV movie or a “Punisher” season. Loeb dismisses those claims, stating that there’s “never been any change” in the status of “Iron Fist.” He also expressed his enthusiasm for Marvel TV’s able to explore real-life struggles in its often larger-than-life shows: “In a world that, right now, can be very confusing, and there are some real villains out there, if we can tell stories that inspire people, that can only be a good thing.”
CBR News: Jeph, your more recent comics work has mostly been big, colorful superhero stuff — “Hulk,” “Nova” — but you’re certainly familiar with the more street-level, noir-toned fare of these Netflix shows, going back to comics like your Batman work with Tim Sale. Do you find it easy, on a personal level, as a creator to connect with the Daredevils and the Jessica Joneses of the Marvel Netflix world?
Jeph Loeb: Let me put it this way: I find it very easy to connect with good storytelling. When I’ve been able to work with the caliber of people that we’ve been working with, then it becomes, hopefully, things that are as successful as the shows that we’ve been doing. There is a very large plan in terms of where we want these characters to go, and the stories we want to tell, and the showrunners that come along on that adventure know that and know that they’re working on a very big tapestry, in the same kind of way the filmmakers know that. That’s what our responsibility at Marvel is, to make sure that the stories that we’re telling feel new and fresh, and at the same time, continue to expand.
For us, it starts with a very simple question: What is a hero? Every single one of the stories that we’re telling — whether it’s Phil Coulson, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.; Agent Carter, a woman who’s trying to make it in a clearly-defined males’ world; to a blind attorney who’s trying to save his neighborhood; to a woman who’s trying to, in many ways, save herself; to the first African-American superhero that comes from the streets and is interested in making sure that not just Hell’s Kitchen, but we’re going to be going up to Harlem, and really dealing with what’s going on in the world, both in terms of superheroes and race. It’s important that we have an opportunity to use our characters to tell real-life stories. Grounded stories that make people think about the world that they’re in. I think that’s another thing that we’ve really touched on with “Jessica Jones.” Her relationship with Kilgrave and what happened to her and how you recover from that is something that is worth discussing, and in many ways, this is a very brand-new arena to do that in. I think that’s why a lot of people are responding to it.
Any time when you can start to open up the world and allow people to have conversations about current social events — and I’m not trying to get up on a soapbox at all, but that has always been Marvel. Whether it’s race, or whether it’s drugs, or whether it’s just what it is to feel helpless in society, these are the issues that make comic books much more than what some people think of them as, which is the “biff, bam, boom!” of children’s literature. And that’s not to say there aren’t places for that — when I wrote “Hulk,” one of the things that I loved about that book was that it was fun. We went back to “Hulk Smash,” and lived in that world. But when I told the story of “Hulk: Gray,” it was a very personal story about a man who didn’t live in a black and white world. He lives in a world that was gray. Some people saw him as a monster, and some people saw him as a hero. How do you deal with that? And what is that metaphor at the end of the day?
I think one of the things that separates Marvel from other superhero, genre-storytelling is that it very much lives in the real world. We don’t have cities that have made-up names. It takes place in New York. Hell’s Kitchen is a real place. The streets and the avenues that we talk about are real things. They get into real cabs and they have real phones. It’s not to say that we don’t have a car that flies, and you can’t have a lot of fun with it, but it needs to start in a place that’s very grounded — and then you build up from that. If an audience has to accept that there are people with abilities that are running around in uniforms, then the audience needs to understand that, “Oh, it’s a real world. What would it be like if those things happened?” In a world that, right now, can be very confusing, and there are some real villains out there, if we can tell stories that inspire people, that can only be a good thing.
You’ve spoken of the overall plan for these shows, and we’ve known from the beginning that it’s meant to culminate in a “Defenders” miniseries. But there’s still a long way to go, between “Daredevil” season 2, “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist.” Is the “Defenders” plan fairly fluid at this point, or do you have a clear idea of how it’s all going to go down?
Short answer is yes, and the big answer is, you know I can’t talk about that. [Laughs]
Right, not looking for specifics, but in a larger sense?
Very much so. Has been from the very beginning.
Will there be some Iron Fist-specific news in the near future, or is that maybe a bit down the road — casting or a creative-type attached to it?
One of the things we wanted to be able to do was make sure that “Jessica” — which was a property that a lot of people did not know, and really, hats off to the people at Netflix who came up with the ad campaign, which is a sign that the world learned her name. Albert, you and I have actually talked about this before. Every time you start any property, whether it’s in comics or in movies or in television or in animation, everyone’s always looking for, “Tell us a little something about the next one, so we can get the jump on that story.”
There was a lot of speculation about what was going on with “Iron Fist,” because [fans] hadn’t heard anything about it, but there’s never been any change at all. We knew exactly what we were doing at Marvel and at Netflix. Let’s get “Jess” out there, everybody knows that “Luke Cage” is up and going. What I can say right now is, we’re very excited about “Iron Fist,” and the short answer is, yes there’ll be news.
The entire 13-episode first season of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” is now streaming on Netflix.