Jeph Loeb has been on the job as Executive Vice President, Head of Television for Marvel Studios all of one week, but to hear the writer of such comic projects as “The Hulk” and “New Ultimates” tell it, his transition has been as smooth as possible.
“It’s been amazing. Everyone at Marvel and at Disney have been incredibly supportive,” Loeb told CBR News, adding that after catching the first flight from Los Angeles to New York Monday morning to meet with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, the job has so far involved finding a way to make Marvel’s independent publishing identity work with Disney’s broader broadcast division. “We (Marvel and Disney) all want the same thing: to make the best shows with the best talent. Marvel Television will approach each project the way publishing does with the comics and Marvel Studios does with the movies — get the right people who understand and love the characters.”
The writer acknowledged that while superhero TV has grown outside the occasional kitsch attempt drama over the past decade, Marvel hasn’t had as strong a hand in that growing genre in the same way it has in other media. All the while, genre-driven shows as varied as “Battlestar Galactica” and “Burn Notice” each have considerable followings and big budgets without the backing of network TV, and in part, that paradigm shift helped the newly merged Marvel/Disney company bring him into his new role.
“Marvel waited for the right situation to present itself before getting into live series,” he said. “With Disney the opportunity is perfect. Between ABC Studios and ABC Family combined with the networks ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, Disney XD, ESPN – who could ask for anything more? When we look at the best of ‘genre’ television, the stuff that sticks out for me is what’s been driven by the vision of a super talented creator/show runner. Damon Lindelof on ‘Lost.’ Joss Whedon on ‘Buffy.’ Al Gough and Miles Millar on ‘Smallville.’ And as it happens, these guys are also big Marvel fans. What we will be looking for is that kind of energy for Marvel Television. People who understand and love both mediums.”
Of course, talent management isn’t the only arena where Loeb will be looking as EVP of TV. Picking properties that work on television is of equal importance. While the Marvel TV head couldn’t say exactly which franchises will be up for TV transition considering the specific of deals on film rights for some characters, he did say that he’s watching the web for what fans are looking for on cable. “Way to early to say [what shows will be greenlit.] But, we are curious as to who our fanbase would like to see on television. So far, there’s been some terrific suggestions!” he explained. “This is the challenge of finding the right property. There are somethings that are best done on a big budget. Marvel has a vast library, and we’re confident that there are characters and stories that lend themselves better to iive television. ‘Smallville’ is a great example of how to do a Superman television show that doesn’t rely on being a big budget movie.”
Along with that live action arena, Loeb will also oversee the TV animation and direct-to-DVD division of Marvel, although he was quick to point out that those areas have already shaped up well under current creative management and that in his view the watchword for animation is “More.”
“We’ve got ‘Super-Hero Squad’ on Cartoon Network, ‘Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ on Disney XD for the fall 2010 and we’ve just started developing ‘Ultimate Spider-Man.’ We’d like to build off that base and make it possible to tell the most exciting stories with the best people.” He added of the differences between Marvel’s incoming output and past cartoon projects “It’s too soon to tell. They’ve done terrific shows in the past. Our hope now is to expand on that to build up animation with the added responsibility of being part of the incredible Disney legacy in animation.
“It’s too early to tell what our game plan will be in DVD. That said, I’m personally a huge fan of what’s been done so far and would love to continue in that tradition.”
One other area Loeb knows he’ll be watching is how his former office-mate and current DC Comics CCO Geoff Johns will do with his hopes to turn DC’s “Blue Beetle” into a live action show. Asked whether there was a little friendly competition between the pair to see who could get a show on air first, Loeb simply laughed and said, “Let’s just say that the Empath Magic Treehouse is rocking like never before!”
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