At Comic-Con International in San Diego, CBR TV's Jonah Weiland welcomed his pal Jeph Loeb, better known as the head of Marvel Television, to the world famous CBR Yacht. The man in charge of Marvel's small screen efforts in both live-action and animation commented on his latest comic book project -- the eight-years-in-the-making "Captain America: White" with artist Tim Sale -- before revisiting his TV history on shows like "Heroes," "Lost" and "Smallville." Loeb then explains what's next for Marvel TV following the success of "Daredevil" and how that extends both to new seasons of ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Agent Carter" as well as Netflix with "Daredevil" Season Two and the upcoming "Jessica Jones."
It's been nearly a decade in the making, but the latest installment in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Marvel "Colors" line of books is finally headed to stores this September, and Loeb explained that "Captain America: White" is completely done. He comments on what took so long, whether the story needed to change to reflect current continuity -- like Sam Wilson serving as the current Captain America -- and exactly why he and Sale embarked on the "Colors" journey in the first place.
On what needed to be adjusted between the book's genesis and completion to make it relevant for an audience in 2015:
The good part is, and just sort of luck has it, it's a period piece. ... This takes place during World War II, so in itself there wasn't a lot we needed to change in order to make it relevant to that time. It really was always intended to feel like something that came out in the 1940s. We had really hoped that it was gonna come out when "Captain America: The First Avenger" came out -- that's how much it dates us -- and so the fact that that movie worked showed people that you could do a movie that took place in 1941, which is when this takes place. But look, there are gonna be things that are a little bumpy. As people know from reading the #0 [issue], this is not a spoiler, if you go back and get it -- each of the stories are about loss. ... I think people will either accept the fact that Steve is talking about Bucky without knowing about the Winter Soldier program as a function of the story as opposed to the continuity of the world.
On what the Marvel's "Colors" series of books are designed to do for each character and readers:
This isn't the first one of these that we've done. I think that the people that are going to come to it, obviously we'd like everyone to read it, but we think the people that are going to come to it understand what "Daredevil: Yellow" and "Spider-Man: Blue" and "Hulk: Grey" were. They were love letters to characters Tim and I were very much worried that they were gonna vanish forever. It really started with the idea -- the very first time that we started talking about it, oddly enough, was about Gwen [Stacy], the fact that Gwen had been forgotten and it was just a story about the world had moved on. At the time I think Peter was married to Mary Jane, again dating the storyline. And then when Karen [Page] died, we did the Daredevil one first and we realized these are gonna be stories about characters who have suffered great loss and how they've managed to move on beyond that. But really also celebrating who the characters were at the beginning of their journey and [this one is about] how important Bucky was to Steve and how that relationship grew in this very short amount of time in 1951.
The other part that's so much fun, and I think had more fun drawing than even Captain America, was Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos are running around in it. So it's the classic guys. It's Dum Dum [Dugan] and it's Percy [Pinkerton] and it's Dino [Manelli] and it's Reb[el Ralston] -- and again, part of the reason why we tell these stories is because we know that there's a huge fanbase out there who wishes these characters were still running around. And then there's a whole new fanbase who doesn't know who any of these people are. For a lot of them, Nick Fury is Samuel L. Jackson. So they're gonna meet a guy who's gruff and runs the unit and-- I think the only other thing that I probably would have done differently is, had I know when we started that there was gonna be an "Agent Carter" television show, Peggy would have been in the story. Peggy hadn't popped, and it really is a story about Steve meeting somebody else, so there's that going on as well.
Turning to television, Loeb considers whether "Heroes" paved the way for the mainstream success of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Agent Carter." He also looks at the growth of Marvel Studios, from self-financing "Iron Man" to starting up its TV and animation arms and what each move has allowed them to do. Following the massive success of "Daredevil" with both audiences and critics, Marvel's head of TV looks at what's next for that series and the company as a whole, from primetime TV to Netflix and beyond, as well as which upcoming show viewers are still not yet prepared for.
About how superhero movies changed what people thought audiences wanted to see on TV:
I think you really have to give credit to the movies more than anything else. The success of the films -- and when I say the success of the films, the success of the films to be able to reach -- now I'm gonna get technical for you -- a four-quadrant audience: men, women, teens kids. I think because television is such a family-oriented device, particularly broadcast, and broadcast is looking to reach as large an audience as it possibly can, I think what happened was movies proved -- and when I talk about the movies I'm talking about like the Tobey Maguire "Spider-Man," proved that it wasn't just geeks that were going to the movies. There were people who didn't know who Spider-Man was, or had an idea about what it was, and so by the time you get to "Iron Man" -- which, I know, we could throw a rock at Comic-Con and everyone would tell you chapter and verse about who Iron Man is and who Tony Stark is and all of those things. When Marvel set out to make that movie it was the "Who is Iron Man?" show. It was a combination of an actor that, at the time, nobody thought could pull it off; a studio that had never made a movie before. People, again, they look at the Spider-Man movies and the X-Men movies and they go, "Those are Marvel films." This is different. We put our own money -- and now I get to say we -- we put our own money in order to make that movie. It was a little independent film, that happened to be a hundred million-dollar movie that then went on to make a half a billion dollars. That changed the way that people perceived, will people come and watch this thing.
On the mission statement for Marvel Television and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.":
We set out five years ago and there was nothing called Marvel Television. It didn't exist. And then we set up an animation studio that was our own, and "Ultimate Spider-Man" is in its fourth season; "Marvel's Avengers Assemble" is headed into its third season. Those are substantial things to do for animated programming. We, three years ago, stepped into the water of live-action television -- for the first time. ... I admit, we cheated, we went and got Joss Whedon the day after he won the Super Bowl and said, "Where do you want to go?" and he said, "I'm gonna go back to television and do a pilot. And we got a gift in Clark Gregg because Phil Coulson was this universally loved character and Clark is an extraordinarily gifted actor and team leader. And we went out to make a television show. Some people kept asking us, "Is Iron Man gonna be on the show? Is Hulk gonna be on the show?" And that's how the show began.
At the beginning of the second season when we went out and did press people asked us, "What's with Coulson and the alien writing? Is Ward really a bad guy? Are we gonna find out who Skye's parents are?" And to us... job done. That's the victory march. We could be able to say, "We told 22 hours of television" -- we've now told 44 hours of television, which, there are only 11 Marvel movies, so we've told more story than the movies have, and that's a gigantic challenge to be able to do that on broadcast television.
On "Agent Carter":
"Agent Carter" we took a big swing. We had a female lead in a period drama that did not have superheroes or costumes or super powers, and yet people fell in love with it and I think it's the quality of the writing. We were very lucky to get [Stephen] Markus and [Christopher] McFeely who had written [Peggy] in "The First Avenger" and also in "The Winter Soldier." When we first sat down with them, I love what they said which was by establishing that Peggy was still alive in "The Winter Soldier," we can tell stories from 1946 to yesterday and still be able to tell Peggy Carter stories.
When we set out to do "Daredevil," I told people that we were doing a crime drama first and a superhero show second. I think, at best, they were hoping that we were going to do "Winter Soldier," meaning a grounded, violent show that had cool action in it. I think they were concerned that it was going to be the Ben Affleck movie. ... We took a completely different road. We kept saying that the kinds of shows that we were looking at were like "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" and we were looking at movies like "Taxi Driver" and "The French Connection." It wasn't until people saw it that they went, "Oh! That is what you were doing."
On the goal for upcoming Netflix series "Jessica Jones" and "Luke Cage" and what's next for Marvel TV:
When "Jessica Jones" comes out, and it has the look and feel of Brian [Michael Bendis]' comic, I think people will go, "This is different, this stuff that they're doing over here." Much like Marvel Comics, and much like the movies -- because, I say this often, I can't think of two more different films than "Winter Soldier" and "Guardians of the Galaxy." One is a grounded political thriller, the other is a cosmic comedy. Both came out from the studio, both came out in the same year, and yet they both somehow feel like Marvel. And yet if you're a Marvel fan, it's a no brainer. ... We need the television division to be the same way. We need there to be a "Daredevil" and a "Carter" and, like I said, they ain't ready for "Luke Cage." And by the same token we're not done in broadcast. We're just very lucky that we've got a great fanbase that loves the shows and they're gonna continue to grow. I think the real victory lap is ["Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."] Season Three where we got the Inhumans, and they're coming, and it's super cool.