SUPER-Stars (Part 3): Jeph Loeb talks "Superman/Batman"

So when you write the number one comic book in the industry, essentially for one year and break current records, what's left to do?

Do it again of course.

DC Comics' "Superman/Batman" may not be selling at the same levels of "Batman," despite being one of the most consistently high selling comics in North America, but writer Jeph Loeb isn't worried. As he explained to CBR News in the third part of CBR's Superman celebration, Loeb approaches the book with a singular focus.

"I would hope that people would think that this book is about having fun," says Loeb of the series that brings together the two most popular superheroes in the world. "We set out to create something that showed the relationship between the two greatest heroes in the DCU and quite possibly all of comicdom. What grew out of that was a chance to tell really big stories like they did in the first 100 issues of the 'Fantastic Four' and Morrison did in the 'JLA.' Our first arc dealt with the end of the Luthor Presidency and our next arc, with Michael Turner is called 'The Supergirl From Krypton' -- so evidently we're reaching for some fairly high water marks."

Having written both Superman and Batman extensively, Loeb has a unique understanding of both characters and when asked if he feels if there can ever be another character like Superman or Batman- using the "multi powered alien" or "vengeful detective." "I don't know that we can't -- in fact I don't know if we can't do anything," contends the fan favorite scribe. "That's just how my mind works. But, Superman and Batman aren't just a 'multi-powered alien' and a 'vengeful detective' -- but you knew that or you wouldn't have asked the question! [laughs] These characters have transcended being comic book icons, however, they've achieved the status of Pop Culture Icons -- and if I knew how to do that, I'd be making my own. That only happens with magic and timing and nobody can just set out to create it. George Lucas certainly had the passion for 'Star Wars' -- but 8 studios passed on the project and Fox took it as a lark. I think there's something to be said for being first. Nobody had ever seen anything like Superman before 1938 and the next year when Batman arrived, it was in many ways the antithesis to Superman. I imagine it was the same when Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four first hit the scene -- they each brought something new to the medium."

The obvious question when talking to Loeb about the upcoming Supergirl story in "Superman/Batman" is why create a new Supergirl? From Peter David's Linda, to the Silver age Supergirl who David temporarily returned to the DCU and even Steven Seagle's Cir-El, it would seem there were other options for Loeb. "I'd feel more comfortable having that conversation after the story comes out -- and comes out in its entirety. Suffice to say that I had a story I wanted to tell, DC and specifically Dan Didio and Eddie Berganza championed it -- we got Michael Turner and the rest is 'S/B #8-13!' I do think longtime fans will be happy -- and hope that those folks just joining us will see how much fun this book is and stick around for the next arc!"

Also appearing in the story is Wonder Woman, who plays a prominent role and as Loeb explains, add a very unique presence to the "World's Finest." "She's the other one in the Big Three. There aren't any others in the Big Three. In fact, there aren't a lot of characters who can look Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman in the eye and not have some reaction, usually starting with awe. But, they don't see each other that way. They're each the best at what they do, each seek to find Justice, but each has their own way of going about it. The circumstances of the story bring them together and apart on this issue and we'll see how that winds up."

Following the invaluable artistic contributions of Ed McGuiness and Pat Lee, super hot penciller Mike Turner will be illustrating the new storyline. Loeb isn't just a fan of Turner's art- he's also a fan of the man himself. "First off, Mike and I are friends and have wanted to work together for a long time. He invited me into his world of Aspen Comics and 'Soulfire,' and I invited him into the DC Universe and 'S/B.' Michael is an incredible storyteller and knows his strengths. I value his opinion, so as we're discussing the story, there are things he wants to do with it that I try and incorporate. As with any artist, if I can get him involved in the story it'll show in the work and in Michael's case -- it shows in spades. I can't put an actual finger on what makes him different from a Jim Lee or a Tim Sale -- he's certainly in their league and I would argue draws the most beautiful women in comics. There, I said it. Now I've got Tim and Jim fans mad at me! [laughs]"

No one's about to complain about the sales on "Superman/Batman," as it is DC's top selling comic book, but regardless of the buzz the series has generated, some online personalities have deemed the series too "light" or "silver age," referring to comics from the sixties and seventies that were skewed to younger audiences. "They're great characters and I'm very lucky that folks are responding. I think the sales speak for themselves. I'm not buying all those comics and I've told my Mom to stop doing that, so somebody must be enjoying the show. [laughs] Have I made an effort to tell a certain kind of story that will appeal to a larger audience? Yes. Will that skew younger for some? Sure. But, I just got tired -- and Eddie agreed -- with reading comics where the hero takes off his mask and talks about something for 5 issues until they finally hit something in the sixth so it can be collected as a trade! I like the trades -- I like our five or six issue arcs -- but I'm hoping that if you miss an issue you are saying to yourself -- Damn! I missed a good time. I like secret identities. I like knock down drag out fights. I also like a good mystery and a good misdirect."

Having worked on Superman and his mythos since the late nineties, Jeph Loeb has told some very important and well-received tales of the Man of Steel. Some fans even consider Loeb the current caretaker of the Last Son of Krypton. But Loeb, humble about his accomplishments, says, "Gosh... you make it sound like I've been working on it from another era!" he laughs. "All the way back to the nineties, huh! Superman then, and still does, amaze me. He teaches me to be the best at what I can do and that's about all anybody can ask of you."

Loeb's ambition is well-known in the industry and he's extended his influence on the "S" to the small screen, where he's been for the last two seasons and returns next season as Supervising Producer and Writer for the hit television series "Smallville," chronicling the journey of young Lex Luthor and Clark Kent. "What's that like? Do we have time for another interview?" he laughs. "I work with the best writing staff in one hour television and with two guys, Al Gough and Miles Millar (the co-creators and Executive Producers) who are unbelievably talented and funny. The challenge, as it is with any series, is keeping it fresh, but after 66 episodes we're doing all right for ourselves! It's like anything I get to do that involves this childhood hobby of mine -- I sometimes can't believe that I get paid to tell Superman stories all day long. It's magic. This year, I got to write the episode that features the return of Christopher Reeve's character and hearing him say the lines, watching those scenes -- pretty damn great."

If you do see Jeph Loeb at one of the big conventions this summer, be warned- there is a dress code in effect! "With Jim Lee coming on board, more 'Smallville,' a movie in the works -- and the success of 'Superman/Batman,' I look forward to the convention season where folks will be wearing their 'S' with pride!"

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