Costume changes aside (man, I wish people got that upset and excited about when I wore pants…), let’s take a moment to talk about the other news this week: Marvel announced that they have an executive vice president in charge of television. An exciting new position to be sure, as this means the Marvel Universe should be getting some small-screen attention.
Considering how many of the customers at the comic shop where I work have perked up at any news from AMC’s Walking Dead series in production, something from the House of Ideas would be sure to turn heads and keep Marvel heroes on the tips of our tongues. Marvel Animation has been working hard at making animated direct-to-DVD features and a few animated series, but that’s as much as we’ve seen. Sometimes not even that much: Australia got to see the animated Black Panther, but not the US as it has yet to be broadcast in the States (and none of us without iTunes would ever think of finding another way to watch it). The Spectacular Spider-Man was a fun show that never saw enough praise and advertising as far as I’m concerned; perhaps having a more public face to boost these kinds of shows might turn more heads toward the TV than constant repeats on Disney XD.
Plus, if Smallville can make it to their 10th season, it’s about time Marvel got up and did something. We have a way better track record for animation and keeping things in the mix for cartoons than we do for live action. The less said about Blade: The Series, the better, and before that? Mutant X, contractually obligated not to be the X-Men and miserably defeated in a blaze of lawsuits. That was from about six years ago, and before that? Yeah. We go all the way back to 1982 when the last episode of the Incredible Hulk aired. Smallville, despite being absolutely ridiculous a lot of the time, has had some pretty good episodes that refer back to continuity and, fingers crossed, have hopefully lured some viewers in to grab a copy of Superman from the shelves. It’s just another access point for new readers to connect into and if it’s going into season 10 and hasn’t been canceled, they have to be doing something right.
Which leads us to the bad news: Jeph Loeb is in charge.
Jeph Loeb is the guy who gets the title of Executive Vice President in charge of Television for Marvel Entertainment. A man distinguished amongst his peers with awards, plus he’s written enough great works to get some serious credibility behind his name. If it’s by Jeph Loeb, it’s by award-winning Jeph Loeb. It’s by Eisner Award-winning Jeph Loeb. That’s a name with class.
It’s a shame that his name just means Hulk Lifting Mjolnir in Space these days among fans. He’s been tarnished with bad books and, more dangerous for our conversation here, some bad TV and movies. Previous screen credits you’d recognize are Teen Wolf, Commando and the Whoopi Goldberg comedy Burglar (though ‘recognize’ is kind of an iffy term). Meanwhile, he’s been a part of Heroes, Smallville and Lost, all shows that started out incredibly strong and garnered a great many fans. Heroes sunk under their own weight, Lost went through a strange love/hate relationship with the fans and Smallville… well. Tenth season. As successful as they’ve been, there is so much more they could be doing that would not only promote Superman, but also could lead to branching out into the comics and movies.
Since the announcement earlier this week, fan buzz has been less than kind. While I believe that Marvel could do well with some live-action shows and some more press for their animation team, it’s the man they’re putting in charge that gives me pause. With a very hands-off approach, Jeph Loeb could do very well with the position; he has enough experience in TV to grease the wheels on a lot of interesting projects. We need a man who’s got the ins and outs of the TV biz under his belt and who honestly loves comics. Love him or hate him, Jeph Loeb really does love comics.
Ultimatum really makes it hard for me to remember that. The man has been writing some huge blockbuster comics that are light on subtlety and heavy on the outrageous factor. This does not make good television; according to Variety, Loeb was let go from Heroes due to “hefty budget overruns” that were “going well beyond its already sizable $4 million per-seg pricetag.” Big crazy storylines that take Hulk soldiers to the White House door or drown New York City are one thing in comics, but they do nothing for the longevity of the small screen. Loeb has been of late a bigger picture kind of guy and that might catch people’s attention for awhile, but will become ridiculous quite quickly.
It’s kind of depressing how badly this could all go and just think, he hasn’t even done anything yet. He’s done interviews, sure. He’s talked about what he can’t talk about and definitely cited Disney as major force in getting Marvel characters on television in a live-action format. And there’s the silver lining: Disney. Who’d have thunk, right? The Mouse Eared Empire has been this terrifying thought in regards to Marvel’s future for some fans, but in ventures like this, Disney can be a comforting thought in new territory. It’s one of the benefits of the Marvel-Disney partnership, the safety net that goes under big projects like this by having the bankroll of such a huge company. Sure, Jeph Loeb may be in charge and his track record is kind of so-so, but with more money behind him, there’s a certain amount of leeway that Loeb could thrive under. Heroes needed too big a budget to keep him, so why not put him under the Disney cash? The worst case scenario is that some sort of failure occurs and they hire a new person to helm their television projects.
I know I get psyched up for Marvel’s movies, so getting a weekly TV series could be phenomenal for fans and families. The tools are there, we have the characters, the stories and the interest of the public to have a hit show. What we need is direction and the support structure in place to make all of those things work, and Jeph Loeb is the man for that job. Maybe not the creative direction element, but certainly the man to get the ball rolling.