REFLECTIONS: Talking With Jeph Loeb

Reflections, Volume 3, Number 1

"It's unfortunate that books ship late, but they are not gum." -- Jeph Loeb

Welcome back, dear reader, to yet another the newest volume of "Reflections." For four years, I've been providing readers with weekly interviews with the best and brightest in the industry, whether you like it or not.

Are we at volume 3 already? Longtime readers will remember that the second volume of Reflections ended in June when I took two months off to intern at Wizard Entertainment.

My internship was phenomenal. I learned a lot about the industry, about writing and about myself as a writer. I have nothing but good things to say about the staff of Wizard Entertainment.

But now I'm back, and more determined than ever to provide you guys with the best and most in-depth interviews on the 'net. To celebrate my return, CBR's head honcho Jonah Weiland has been forced at gunpoint kindly consented to publish five (5!) installments of Reflections this week. Check out upcoming installments daily leading up to Reflections' regular timeslot, now on Sundays.

Since we are starting anew, let's begin with a bang, shall we? More precisely, let's begin this volume with my all-time favorite comic book writer, Mr. Jeph Loeb. In addition to writing the first comic I ever read, Loeb has also written more than one comic that profoundly touched my life, including one which helped me get over the death of my grandfather.

Loeb has had a phenomenal career as a film and TV producer and writer. On your television you might recognize him as the producer/writer of "Lost," "Smallville" and the hit NBC series "Heroes," which was just picked up for a full season. On the comic scene he's penned the masterpieces "Batman: The Long Halloween," "Batman: Dark Victory," "Superman For All Seasons" and "Catwoman When In Rome," in addition to his uber-popular runs on "Superman," "Superman/Batman" and "Supergirl."

The past year has held many changes for Loeb. His son, the up-and-coming comic writer Sam Loeb, passed away. Loeb ended his phenomenally successful run with DC Comics and signed an exclusive with Marvel, bringing along with him several superstar artists in the process. After just half a season as a supervising producer on "Lost," Loeb left the show to become a co-executive producer on the aforementioned "Heroes."

And, most importantly, Loeb took his son's unfinished script to an upcoming issue of "Superman/Batman" and vowed to see it finished and published. He got 26 of the industry's biggest names together to finish the book, and numbers on the issue skyrocketed. He auctioned off the artwork for the book at this year's Wizard World Chicago and raised over $70,000 for his son's scholarship fund.

Loeb took some time out of his busy schedule to look back at "Superman/Batman," look forward to his work at Marvel and much, much more.

RT: Before we get started with what you are doing right now, let's look back for a moment. What was your favorite arc of "Superman/Batman?"

JL: It all pales in comparison to #26 for emotional reasons and being able to bring Sam's story to life was and still is fantastic. This was capped by the excitement of the auction and the money being raised and the generosity of people. It is just as good as it is going to get.

In terms of the arc, I don't have a favorite. They all have their own special wonderment to them. They were the stories I set out to tell. I knew what the shape of the 25 issues was going to be. There was the initial excitement of the book exploding and I had just come off of "Hush" and we all agreed that nothing was going to top that, and it did.

At the beginning it was me and McGuinness. We had been working on "Superman" for three years, and people liked it, but it didn't explode. I always liked the one issue I did with Pat Lee, and if I didn't do that one issue then there wouldn't be a 26. And then we got to bring back Supergirl and work with Turner on his first DC work, which is about as much fun as you can have.

We followed that with Carlos in what was the most challenging of the stories.

RT: And my personal favorite, even though I normally hate time-travel stories.

JL: Time travel is a very tricky thing, but there were moments in it I really loved. I loved Bruce going back and having to see his parents shot again. That was the great thing about the book: anything was possible. That's why people responded to it as well: because they just did not know what was going to be in the next issue.

Carlos drew it beautifully. If I have anything negative to say at all about those 26 issues it's that DC unfairly thought that Carlos was not going to finish the last issue and took three pages away from him and gave it to Ivan Reis. And I like Ivan and I like his artwork, but he had no business being in the arc. It bothers me enormously when I see in the collection that it says "penciled by Carlos Pacheco with Ivan Reis." Ivan did three pages, I don't think that's a "with." That's a choice DC made, and that's a choice I was very uncomfortable with. That arc will always be, for me, tainted by that little thing.

One of the things I love about Marvel is that, despite whatever you can say about the delays of "Civil War," I know what those issues would look like with another artist. And I don't care whether you got Mike Turner to finish them, I'm not interested in seeing it.

It's unfortunate that books ship late, but they are not gum. You don't buy them in a pack and it doesn't matter what you buy. They are meant to tell stories. I just can't imagine what anyone would think if they are watching a movie with Tom Hanks, and for 80% of the movie it's Tom Hanks and then in three scenes it was Tom Cruise, and then Tom Hanks came back and finished the movie. And there was a note at the beginning of the movie that said "Tom wasn't available for those weeks so we used Tom Cruise. Hope you don't mind!"

It demeans what we are trying to do. We are trying to raise comics up beyond the place where you buy them for a dime, roll them up in your pocket and throw them away when you are done reading them. Publishers know this because they know the values of the trades. When you buy a hardcover collection, it would bother me enormously if the ninth issue of "The Long Halloween" trade was drawn by Joe Blow.

Ooh, sorry. Minor rant.

RT: It's okay.

JL: Anyway, we did #19, which would be "Supergirl" #0, and let us know that there was a marketplace for Supergirl. And then the last arc was just fun. Me and McGuinness saying goodbye. I wanted to tie up loose threads all the way back to "Emperor Joker" and yet I still felt people could read the story and not have to know that story. Plus, having fun with the Maximums. I heard that DC now wants to do a Maximums book.

RT: Are you serious!?

JL: Yeah. Go with it guys. Have a great day because the Elite worked out so well for you. [Ed Note: Jeph speaks of the DC Universe characters that began as a send-up of 'The Authority.'] But the arc is really good fun. I like the fact that the people that we were tweaking thought it was funny.

RT: You weren't doing it in a mean way at all.

JL: It wasn't a Dan Slott story. It was not intended to say "look how clever I'm being." It was intended to say that all of comicdom comes from those two heroes and in the end - it does!

We can all sit around and say that all these characters are wonderful, but it means something to be first. And Superman was the first superhero. And Batman was the first normal guy dressed in a superhero comic, and together they have changed comics. There wouldn't be an industry without the two of them.

Take a look at Spider-Man, and as original and unique and fun as he is, he's an orphan. Raised by two kindly older people. Who works for a great Metropolitan newspaper. Who has a gruff boss. Who has a blue and red costume. You either acknowledge that we are all the children of these two parents, or pretend that we are not.

One of the things that I think is important with most of my work is that there are things that go on in comics that are forgotten. One of the reasons I did "Spider-Man: Blue" is because people were forgetting who Gwen Stacey was. And now Gwen Stacey is going to be in the third "Spider-Man" movie and everyone will know who she is. She is a great character, and I hated it when she died.

RT: How do you like the choice of Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen in "Spider-Man 3?"

JL: I reserve my judgment until I see the movie. The "Spider-Man" films haven't missed yet in terms of casting.

RT: Did you know all about the arc format for "Superman/Batman" when you set out to launch it?

JL: As complicated as it was, no one had ever done it before. There had never been a series that got out of the gate with the idea that there would be a series of arcs with three artists. The only things that we kept from arc to arc was me and Richard Starkings, who is my good luck charm and letterer and designer. It all fell to the story.

If comics have taught us anything, it's that consistency keeps an audience happy. So we had no idea what was going to happen, to be honest. We could have taken a left-turn with Pat Lee and crashed and burned. We could have hopped on the Michael Turner train and said goodnight.

When you look at how "Superman/Batman" and "Supergirl" are faring now, you can make that kind of turn and wind up completely off. I think the world of the people involved, but we caught fire in a bottle. I knew it was time for me to go, and by the same token I'll be delighted when the books soar again.

RT: With "Smallville," you were a producer for the biggest show on The WB. Then you were a producer for one of the most popular phenomenons on TV in "Lost." Now, with "Heroes," you are a producer on one of the most-anticipated shows on the fall season. Which begs the question, why stick with comics?

JL: The thing that is funny to me is that whenever there is a story written about Hollywood people working in comics, people tend to gloss by me. I actually was one of the first. It was very daunting because I had written "Teen Wolf" and "Commando" and was well on my way at that point. I had a very successful career when I was asked to do "The Flash" movie, which we never actually did, but it put me in touch with DC Comics. That got me "Challengers of the Unknown," but when I turned in my treatment, there wasn't an editor who wanted to touch it!

From their point of view I was a Hollywood guy, and what did I know about comics? It was even worse because I was introduced by the publisher, so it was a lose-lose situation. If I screwed it up the publisher was going to be angry at the editor, and if it was a success the publisher was going to take credit for it.

We went through editors the way most books go through artists. We had four editors! The team remained the same though. It was me and Tim and Lovern, who did the color.

Fast forward to now and there are all these Hollywood guys working in comics, and I have always been there. So the short answer is that this is a medium that I love. It's a medium I found an enormous amount of success in, and I'm very grateful for the success. I like the people.

When I look at any project going in, I ask myself three questions: Do I like the material? Do I like the people? Do I like the money? If I can get two of the three, then I'm set. In comics, there is no money, so I'm down to if I like the material and if I like the people. This is why the artists I work with are so important.

Some people think that the reason I pick the artists I pick are so they can carry my stories. That is just silly to me. It's like writing a television series and not wanting someone who can act because you think your writing is going to be better than the actor. I'm very proud that I've worked my way up in the business to the point where Jim Lee and Mike Turner and those guys want to work with me. They can work with anyone they want to and they choose me.

My worst work is the stuff that fill-in artists do. It had nothing to do with who they were. I simply wasn't writing a story for them and did not know who they were. I don't think those are my best work, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the artist. I just don't know how to write for that. And…

…what was the question?

RT: Uh…

JL: Oh yeah, why do I work in comics, right?

RT: Yeah!

JL: Because it's fun. When it stops being fun I'm going to leave. And there was this big part of me that, when "Superman/Batman" #26 was done, I felt like I should have.

But, in a way, I did.

I left DC.

That was a very huge decision and not an easy one. The work that we are doing at Marvel is pretty awesome and makes me smile. I hope that people are going to be delighted by it, in particular because the mentality at Marvel is so driven by putting out quality books instead of putting the books out. That is different in my mind. I don't know whether it matters to anyone else, but it matters to me.

At the same time, McDonalds is very popular. It's there all the time and has a particular flavor. I'd rather wait for my steak.

RT: What inspires artists to be so dedicated to you and your work? Ed McGuinness pretty much left DC for Marvel to work with you, for example.

JL: I'm not sure that people understand that when I came to DC I brought a lot of those artists with me. Everyone was somewhere else, and all I could do was create an environment where they thought they could do their best work. It's a combination of how hard I fight for production values, after all one of my biggest battles at DC was getting the material on better paper and having covers on different cardstock. It was never discussed at Marvel, they just did it. But at DC it was a big deal. If you look at those first few issues of "Superman" before we got them to switch over to better paper stock, the work that Tonya and Richard Horie did with the color was completely lost and looks just like mud.

I think the audience is sophisticated enough that they know the difference between DVD and VHS, and they want their DVD.

It's really hard to get a comic book done, so when there is a guy there whining about the paper, I'm just a big pain in the ass who is clogging up the process, but it's important to me. And the artist knows that I'm going to do that. When the artist says that they want something, they know that they have an ally in me who is going to make that happen. I'm not just interested in telling a story and having my artist telling me how bad the issues look, I want my artists to be inspired. I'm writing a script toward that artist's strength. I make my artist my partner.

Mike Turner and I spent the last two months talking about "Ultimate Wolverine" and we haven't even gotten around to the story yet. We are thinking about what he wants to draw and where his mind is and how big…what it's going to be. I want to craft a story where they read their 22 pages and then get excited and jump up and down.

Doing "Onslaught Reborn" with Rob was so much fun. He makes me laugh and is such a kid because he enjoys it so much. He said it had been such a long time since he worked with a writer because much of the stuff he had done he had plotted himself. To have somebody take than anvil off this shoulders was a blessing for him.

I also remember Jim Lee once telling me his favorite thing about "Hush" was that he didn't have to think. I know what that sounds like, but it's not what he meant. When Jim writes, as an artist, you know that Ra's Al Ghul and Batman are going to have a five-page fight sequence. That's a lot of thinking and laying it out. Will they use guns or knives? What city? Where at? Right hand punch or left hand punch? All that stuff is tough to figure out. When you are handed a script that says exactly what needs to be said, you still have to draw it, but he doesn't have the process the artist needs to go through when he is drawing his own material.

I can't draw, so I can't pretend to know which way certain things should work. All I can ask for is that it looks as good or better, and in most cases it's better.

RT: Let's talk "Onslaught Reborn." Can you understand why Rob is such a lightning-rod for controversy and is hated so much by some people?

JL: I can't. I was there when Rob popped. We can sit here and say whatever, but "X-Force" is the second most popular comic ever sold, and the first is Jim Lee's "X-Men." There was a time when Rob's touch was gold. Someone bought those comics, it wasn't just his mom.

RT: Why decide to revisit the project now, ten years later?

JL: We have to go back to what it meant to me ten years ago. I was still toiling in relative obscurity. I was on "Cable" and "X-Force" and they were high-selling books, but in those days it wasn't your name that sold the book, it was the "X." I was at a convention and it was the first time I had heard about "Heroes Reborn" and I knew it would be huge. It was the biggest story of the year. There is nothing to compare it to now. Here was this situation where I wanted to get involved, and Rob introduced himself. Much to my surprise, he knew all my work. It didn't occur to me that I had been tending his garden while he was gone. Rob created "X-Force" and "Cable" and those were his books even though he hadn't been there for several years when I took them over. I tend to leave a book when I leave a book. I couldn't tell you what happened in "X-Man" if you paid me. I know that it made it 75 issues. I know Warren Ellis was there in the end. But I left at issue 8.5. I don't even know where that character is.

But Rob was very happy with what I was doing. And the writer who was going to write "Captain America" left before the first issue came out. Rob asked if I would script it.

I took the job because the book I really wanted was "The Avengers" and I needed my foot in the door. I knew that my skills would be at use as a scripter, not a plotter. It was the first of many collaborations where I would help him realize his vision. In return, after an issue and a half, Rob gave me "The Avengers" so that I could realize it using some of his story ideas but more of my vision.

We were having a blast. So much fun.

Too much fun.

It's like when you are having a party and your parents come home and you are standing there with beer and cigarettes. Marvel Editorial in New York couldn't handle it. You have to remember, from the beginning of Marvel Comics, they were published out of New York. You give four titles to two guys in California who answered to no one was completely unheard of. Now they outsource all the time, but at the time it was a real threat to Bob Harras in particular, who was editor-in-chief.

No matter what we did, it was wrong. Rob was a lightning-rod for controversy in the first place, so all it took was a little bit of fanning of the flames.

RT: I did not know that.

JL: We never missed a ship date. The books never fell out of the top 10. They wanted to renegotiate after six issues. More than anything, they wanted to take back control, so Rob left. Since Rob was controversial, rumors swirled, but it wasn't anything. If someone just said to you we want you to do the same job for half the money and want to be able to muddle with it more than we have been, why would you stay with that job? They wanted Rob to quit because they couldn't control him. Jim is much more of a get along guy. He knew how to work the politics and he kept all four books and finished the contract - for considerably less money. Rob chose not to go that way.

Even though we left in the middle, it was something we had to do even though I never like unfinished business. Now I stayed on "Iron Man" because I promised Scott Lobdell at the very beginning that I would do it. To Jim's credit, he asked me to stay on "Captain America" and "The Avengers," but there was no way I was going to do that. Rob gave me those jobs. Even though Rob told me I should stay. I couldn't do that. It's just the way I am.

They brought in Walt Simonson and James Robinson. It's not like they didn't bring in people who weren't capable, but no one knew what we had planned. It skidded off the road and was what it was.

Part of doing "Onslaught: Reborn" was to get Marvel to reprint all that material, which they haven't done in 10 years. Now it's all going to be collected and you've got such cool stuff in there.

People can have all their Rob Liefeld issues that they want, but there is not a con I go to where people don't bring up "Captain America" #1.

You can't look at the Ultimate universe and not see inspiration. Mark Millar makes no secret about it.

This was an opportunity to go back and say thank you to the people that stood by us with "Heroes Reborn" and it was an opportunity to say thank you to Rob who gave me a break on those books.

There is a huge difference in the life of a writer in comics when you go from a book that sells 100,000 copies to a book that sells 400,000 copies. In today's terms, that's going from a book that sells 30,000 copies to a book that sells 100,000 copies. You suddenly become the lightning-rod for both the good and the bad. I've seen it happen to a lot of my friends who are beloved on their low-selling book and get a ton of flack on their 100,000 copy selling book because now people are actually reading their book. You get caught up in all of that.

RT: What has your collaboration been like with Rob this time?

JL: Everything is always a partnership, but our roles have now changed. He not only was working from a full script, but wanted to work from a full script.

He's working from characters we both love, and our first issue is the Fantastic Four verses the Fantastic Four. How cool is that? We get to do a Torch vs. Thing story. Anybody can fight anybody because the best thing about Onslaught is that he can take over your mind.

The part that really hits home was that the character that defeated Onslaught by Franklin Richards.

RT: Now I've only read a few random issues of the four series because they are hard to track down from my comic store. Can you clear this up for me? Franklin Richards created this other earth on the opposite side of the sun and filled it with the characters, right?

JL: No. That's counter-Earth. What a lot of people mistake is that they think the characters in "Heroes Reborn" are like the heroes in the Ultimate Universe. He took the Marvel characters and put them in another universe, and for a year the Marvel Universe didn't have those characters. That Cap, that's there, is the 616 Cap, just younger and with a different backstory. But he doesn't know that because they are all reimagined. It fascinated me to go back and look at the fact that these characters were reimagined by the genius son of Reed Richards and Sue Storm. It gives you a different way of looking at all those stories. It gives you a teenager's perspective of how the Marvel Universe should work.

So when I realized that Onslaught was going to come back and would want the one thing out of his way that stopped him before, and that was Franklin Richards, I knew what the first issue was. And then we would return to the "Heroes Reborn" universe and pick it up at roughly the time Rob and I left.

We get to tell a story that will fit into that continuity and say that maybe this isn't the way we would have originally gone, but it's the way we are going ten years later.

RT: I've seen the preview pages and they definitely have a lot of energy to them.

JL: Rob has a style. I don't understand when people say "oh, his anatomy is off and the feet are wrong!" Have they looked at anybody lately? I love Tim Sale, but he's an acquired taste. Not everybody loves Tim Sale. Not everybody loves Jim Lee. The people who grew up on Curt Swan hate anything that looks like art from an Image Comic.

All I can say is that when Rob came onto the scene and characters popped out of panel boxes and splashes turned sideways and there was a visceral excitement to what was going on, you can understand why he became the superstar he was.

He has talent. It may not be a talent you agree to, but it's…interesting to me that people have the problems they have. And it all comes back to the Internet chatter. It has died down significantly, by the way. Sometimes I wonder if the people making those criticisms about Rob even know who Rob is! It's become "Oh look, there's Rob's name. Now I can go say something cool and bag on him." But it has died down.

RT: Even before I read a Rob Liefeld comic I knew he was one of the most hated comic creators, and it's like the guy can't get a break because people are going in expecting something atrocious.

JL: When you look at the guys I am working with in the next year: Joe Madureira, Simone Bianchi, Michael Turner, Jeff Scott Campbell, Ed McGuinness. These are arguably the top talents in our business. Every one of them has a unique dynamic style that is far from the ordinary, far from accurate anatomy, and any other "criminal charges" (laughs) people so easily bring up to Rob. You can say to me, "Yeah, but Turner is good!" and I go online and see there are just as many people who want to bash Mike, but it falls on deaf ears because there aren't many sure things in this business except for Turner. Mike is the only artist who, if you create a second cover for a book, that you'll move units. Other people will, but not the way that Mike does. That is a huge, well-earned fanbase.

RT: Before we get more into your stable of artists, let's finish up "Onslaught: Reborn." Will it tie up the loose ends of the series?

JL: It will touch on things. I don't know that we are going to tie up everything. My job is to tell a story that is relevant to today. If, at the end of the story, you also find out who is underneath Hawkeye's mask and why Hellcat was the way she was, that's great. If we don't get to it, that's okay too. I just want people to get a fun ride.

RT: Do you want to revisit the universe again after this miniseries wraps?

JL: I never say never. Let's see how people respond to this. It's an opportunity to play with the entire Marvel universe without having to worry about where the heroes are and where Spidey is. I love the FF, and I love the Avengers, so if I can tell a big story without having to worry about what everyone else is going, sure!

RT: Let's talk artists. You've got arguably the biggest artists in the industry all working on Jeph Loeb books.

JL: And they are all going to be late (laughs). People ask me why I came to Marvel and I tell them it's because they understand what a deadline isn't. We are trying to deal with it and we'll deal with it the best we can.

That is an unfair statement for all my guys though. I was making a joke and realized they don't all have deadline issues and will read this and come for me in the night.

But we have a lot of lead time and are going to do our best. Some of that is me as well. I have a full-time job as the co-executive producer on "Heroes" which means I have to write at night and on the weekends. And I don't just write the books, I also look after my guys. I care about color and I care about lettering. I'm very lucky to have Dan Buckley as the publisher and Joe Quesada and a team at the top who will allow me to do what I consider to be my job.

If I need to talk to marketing or talk about the price of the book or need to talk about having two covers or not or whether or not we go out on this paper, I can weigh in on these things now. Just being included in this process is enormously rewarding for me.

RT: So you feel like the Marvel community is much more open to the community right now?

JL: I can't comment on it because I'm not at another company. I'm at Marvel and for me, the fact that company is run by an artist, not a businessman, all of these extras go through a man who is one of the best artists in the business, and a pretty damn good writer. With Quesada there, I have a partner in this. I don't have someone who is either annoyed by me, because I can be very annoying, or feeling crowded by me.

Archie Goodwin, who was the finest gentleman who ever worked in comics, told me, when I started to do this kind of behind the scenes stuff, "Jeph, I don't care what anybody says, I welcome another pair of eyes looking after a comic." A lot of it comes from my background in movies and television. I'm never just a writer. I'm a writer/producer. I need to go down on set and be involved in other elements and know that once the story leaves my hands, it will be in good hands.

And, coming back to the artists that work with me, they know that they have that kind of guy in their corner. Together we are telling a story, and that's how I like to work on my books.

RT: What artists at Marvel do you want to work with in the future?

JL: John Romita Jr., Dave Finch, Frank Cho and Jimmy Cheung. And maybe there is a way for me to do all of this before I move on.

RT: What was your first comic book?

JL: Ever? I can't tell you. I'm sure it was an Archie comic. I certainly remember the first time I ever had to have a comic. There was a two-part Superman "Action Comics" story where Superman dies and they put him in a glass coffin and sent him around the universe so people could come out and mourn him. What was so brilliant was the the Bizarros came out and threw White Kryptonite instead of flowers, which killed all the flowers, but it killed the bacteria that killed Superman and he got better. That's also why I have such affection for Bizarro, because it was my first Superman story.

The first comic that made me want to collect comics was in the summer of 1970. I've told this story so many times and every time I've said it was "Sub Mariner" #29 and I recently moved and found a copy of the comic, and it's actually "Sub Mariner" #30. It has Captain Marvel standing knee-high in water and yelling at the Sub Mariner on the beach and it almost looks like a "True Romance" comic. Anyway, Captain Marvel is yelling for Sub Mariner to get in the water and fight him there, and there is a huge thought balloon coming out of the Sub Mariner that says, "I dare not go in the water, and I dare not tell him why!"

It was the summer that my parents got divorced and it was a world where I didn't really understand what was going on. Things were out of control, and I wanted a world where the good guys won, and that's the world comic afforded me.

For all those who complain about crossovers, that's how it got me into comics. In the middle of that comic there is a "See Iron Man # whatever it was." And I bought "Iron Man" and in the middle of that comic Tony had to go to an Avengers meeting and I didn't know who the Avengers were and the next thing I knew, I was buying 10 Marvel comics off of this issue of the "Sub Mariner." This is why, in my stories, why I like to have as many characters as possible stop by.

That's what is really fun. When you take characters that you know have real potential, and make them work again.

RT: It's great to be in a time in an industry where you can actually sell a D-list character by just putting a great creative team on the book.

JL: I share a studio with Geoff Johns and we were talking about that. Yes, that is the solution, but finding a good writer and artist isn't as easy as it sounds. It is a talent pool that is not the hugest, and it's a business where you have to put out a monthly product. And I've always wondered if just doing two really good "Superman" books would sell as good as four "Superman" books. During the year that Jim and I did "Hush," I wanted to get Grant Morrsion and Whilce on "Detective" so we could have a real horserace with the books. That's the hard part, putting together huge packages, and I'm lucky that I'm allowed to play in that field.

At the same time, there are certain things that are completely unexpected. I never expected to do an "Ultimate Wolverine" story and a "Wolverine" arc with an artist who is relatively unknown with Simone. But I have seen Simone's pages, and no one is ready for this stuff. It's just the next rocket to the moon. As a comic book fan, I've been dying for the next new voice. To me, the last new explosion came with Leinil Yu. In the post Michael Turner/J. Scott Campbell world, who would be the next big bright star? When he came on the scene he was so dynamic and so interesting. And I'm sure the record is skipping great songs, but I can't wait for people to see the first issue of Simone's stuff.

It's so beautiful that we have talked about doing both a color and black and white version because the way that he inks a story using wash is phenomenal. To be part of the beginning of his superstardom -- that is great for me. I've also told him that whatever he is doing after these six issues he is doing with me and I will kill anyone who tries to steal him.

RT: If you could only write one book for the rest of your career, what would it be?

JL: There was a time when I would say the FF. There would be two answers, unfortunately. One of them would be purely selfish, and that would be "Batman" with Tim Sale. I think Tim would be happiest on "Batman."

It has always been my plan that I would always get out of this business, hopefully before I become more of a laughing-stock, and Geoff Johns and I have a mutual suicide-pact, where if one of us begins to stink the other blows them away…so it's not really a suicide pact, is it? I have a note on my door that says, "When I stink, shoot me."

If I had to pick a Marvel book it would be "The Avengers" and that's just sheer practicality. Anyone could be an Avenger.

RT: What's the best comic book movie ever made?

JL: The obvious one is the first "Superman." It has ideas and is so amazing. They knew what they were doing. In terms of sheer enjoyment, "Kung Fu Hustle" is a fantastic comic book.

RT: What is your weirdest comic convention experience?

JL: I was working in the "X-Men" office. Scott Lobdell and I were what they would refer to as "Loebdell" because we would often write together. Anyway, we were at a convention and Scott somehow found this transvestite who dressed up like Emma Frost, but he's kind of pretty in a weird way. It wasn't like a man dressed as a woman. It's one of those moments where you are oddly disturbed to find out it's a man. And he/she sits with us, and started signing comics with us. Bob Harras came in, and he turned a shade of red I didn't think a man could turn without his head exploding. And he threw him/her out and scolded us. Then I think Bob was dating him/her for awhile [laughs].

RT: If you could be remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

JL: "Superman/Batman" #26.

RT: Thanks, Jeph.

For more information about the Sam Loeb Scholarship Fund please visit www.samloeb4.org.

What's coming up for the rest of the week in Reflections, you ask? Only the best for you, dear reader. First up, we've got the phenomenal Bryan Fuller, producer of "Heroes" and creator of "Dead Like Me" and "Wonderfalls." After that I've got the new big man on campus, Simone Bianchi, followed by the great Mike Carey and then we've got the tag team of Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo rounding out the premier week of the new Reflections. Won't you join me?

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