Jeph Loeb Interview

Jeph Loeb is the writer of such comics as DC's Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Superman For All Seasons, Marvel’s Daredevil: Yellow, and he is the current scribe of DC's Superman. This month he re-teams with artist Tim Sale for Marvel's Spider-Man: Blue mini-series. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently contacted Loeb about Spider-Man: Blue

color:blue'>Westfield: What can you tell us about the Spider-Man: Blue mini-series? What can you say about the story?

Jeph Loeb: It's a six part story done in the same style (better paper, cardboard stock cover) as Daredevil: Yellow. We're very grateful to the Marvel Knights who continue to show us ways of presenting Tim's artwork that just shines.

In terms of the story, this is a very specific time in Peter Parker's life. He was just making the transition from "Peter Parker, Bookworm" to "Pete's an okay guy." First year of college. The gang was Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn and... Gwen Stacy. Peter and Gwen were starting to get to know each other when the unpredictable happened... Mary Jane Watson. Now, Peter goes from having no one in his life to having two bright, outgoing, spectacular gals! We should all have this problem!

And that is sort of the trick of Peter's life. It is only through something very bad happening that something very good happens. It all tracks down his origin. There would be no Spider-Man without the death of Uncle Ben. It is a terrible price, the world got a great hero in return. From there, Tim and I set out to spin a story that shows how Peter's life works -- that see-saw.

So... we begin with the Death of The Green Goblin. That would be a very good thing that happened to a very bad man. But, the Goblin's death set off a chain reaction of villains who had dealings with the Goblin, led by one specific villain who remains in the shadows for the first few issues. Long time readers will know who it is, but from Peter's point of view, he has no idea that these seemingly unrelated incidents actually had one point of entry.

Westfield: What is the significance of the "Blue" in the title?

Loeb: It is meant to capture the feeling of being "blue" - like in jazz music. Peter's life never is anything other than a roller-coaster. When great joy comes to him, it is only as a result of great loss. If he doesn't know blue, who does?

Westfield: What attracted you to Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and why this specific time of his life?

Loeb: That would be Tim. This was not only Tim's favorite point in Spider-Man's life, this is his favorite time in all of comics. We didn't want to do Year One (that's been monkeed around with enough, don't you think?); but we did want to explore his early years. At this point, Spider-Man is established and Peter is starting to get his life together. John Romita, Sr. had just come on the book and his shadow looms large throughout the series. We love JR!

Westfield: Spider-Man has a rich supporting cast. Are there characters other than Peter/Spidey you're enjoying writing?

Loeb: Aunt May is a hoot. I really like the relationship she and Peter have since he's always teasing her and she is always so understanding. It's very different from the Clark Kent/Ma Kent relationship which is much more traditional. And, of course, I can't get enough of J. Jonah Jameson. He just says whatever comes out of his mouth. One of Stan Lee's truly great inventions. But, as with any supporting cast, what is important is how they react and interact with Peter. It's Peter's story, so they become reflections of things that Peter needs in his life or doesn't need in his life. That's why the Gwen Stacy/Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson triangle is so powerful.

Westfield: Spider-Man: Blue will hit the stands around the same time that the Spider-Man movie is in the theatres. Do you think this would be a good book for people to pick up who are trying a Spider-Man comic for the first time?

Loeb: We try and tell stories that folks can pick up as stand alones in any case. Going back to the Batman Halloween specials, through The Long Halloween, Superman For All Seasons, Dark Victory and Daredevil: Yellow, these are all self-contained stories that give you a sense of the character. We don't tell origins, so maybe that will be a little off putting, but you can pretty much pick up along the way who the character is and how he came to be. The important thing is the emotion of the story. If we can show our hero in a light that the reader cares about him, then we've succeed. So, short answer, is - sure! Come out of the movie and buy the comic!

Westfield: Both you and Tim Sale have done work independently of each other, yet your collaborations have proved to be some of your most popular work. Why do you think this is?

Loeb: I try and work toward an artist's strengths. I have been lucky to work with some of the best people in comics. Chris Bachalo, Ian Churchill, Adam Pollina, Ed McGuinness, J. Scott Campbell - the list goes on and on and I'd like to think it's because I write the work for them. It is a collaboration - they become my partner and often, a very good friend.

That is never truer with Tim. We are very different people, but we have similar interests in certain very important things - music, New York City, women, that sort of thing. It makes my scripting very much a shorthand for what we know is in each of us. We also push each other very hard to get out the best work. Hopefully, it shows. But, mainly, it's just a certain kind of magic and I don't want to have magic explained to me. It ruins the trick!

Westfield: In your work with Tim Sale, you've tackled some pretty major characters. Who has been the hardest and easiest to write and why?

Loeb: Well, the hardest is usually the character I'm currently working on. Since we haven't gone back to do anyone other than Batman, the first few issues of any new character is still about feeling it out, for both of us. So, right now, it's Spidey. I grow more comfortable with each page and Tim's visuals are such a great help that I don't really have to worry about very much.

While Batman is probably the easiest (and I tend to think that based on having had so much work with him), I learn the most from Superman. It's just something about that character who inspires you to do good work. And when I see elements of Superman For All Seasons working on the television show Smallville, I'm really very proud.

The reality is that I'm still, at heart, a fan. If I can write something that gets another fan excited - that's a smile. And that's why I do this wonderful job.

Westfield: Do you have any other collaborations with Tim Sale planned for the future?

Loeb: Sure! But, I'm not really the sort to talk about things that haven't happened yet. The Marvel Knights, and Joe Quesada in particular, have been very aggressive about letting us know we can continue doing these "color" books (Daredevil: Yellow and Spider-Man: Blue). We're very comfortable working with them. We can't wait to see the DDY hardcover since the DC hardcovers have been something to be really proud of. There are two story arcs that we've discussed with them, both big icons, both stories from the early days that have us excited.

But, we miss our pals at DC and so there is something very specific that we hope to announce very soon that we want to do there. It is... quite unexpected.

Westfield: Are there other projects you're working on you'd like to mention?

Loeb: Well, of course, I'm hoping folks are picking up Superman every month. Ed McGuinness is one of the, if not the most talented young artist I've worked with and he has defined and re-defined Superman for the 21st Century. The stories are fun, the characters strong, and the issues compelling. It's very rewarding working with the greatest hero the world has ever known.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Loeb: Nope. It's a great time to be a comic book fan! JMS and JR, JR. on Spider-Man. Kevin Smith on Green Arrow. Frank Miller back on Batman. Joe Kelly on JLA. Geoff Johns on anything. Bendis' Alias. It's such a wide selection of great stuff. How can you not want to read comics!