Interview: Jeph Loeb

 

This interview was started at the Album comics shop in Paris  in May 2003 and finished through emails in August 2004 . Thanks to Jeph for his patience. 

 

Matthieu-David: Who and what are your influences ?

Jeph Loeb: First and foremost : My father. He loves to tell stories. He is not a writer but he is a great story teller.  Then Iíll say that Iím like a sponge : Iím influenced by movies, magazines, the news, and by people like Ford, Coppola, Howard Hawks, Michael CorteseÖ

A lot of my influences come from Life. If i hear something, something funny for exemple, iíll ask myself what makes it funny and iíll try to recreate it.

 

M-D : On which comic book would you like to work or with which artist that you havenít worked yet ?

J.L.:Iím getting to the point where my list is growing shorter!  I donít know about any characters since Iím often excited by the team Iím working with.  There are still a few out there -- The Kuberts, Andy in particular, JRJR, Neal Adams on something small, Alex Ross would be fun -- Cassiday and I have sniffed around each other, kicked the tires.  J. Scott Campbell and I will work together as soon as he gets freed up.  Iím sure there are more -- but Iím very happy right now.  

 

M-D: What type of script do you write ? Highly detailed ones or very short ?

J.L.: Because of my background as a screenwriter, I only know how to do a very detailed, panel by panel breakdown of the physical action and the rhythm of the story. 
The dialogue is mostly there for the artist to be able to know what to do with the expression on the characters and while I like to use most of that, when I see the artwork, it's usually weeks later, so I will go over the dialogue again before it goes to my good luck charm, Richard Starkings who letters everything I do.  He's magic!

 

M-D: I feel that writers in comics are more recognised now than ever. I think that people pay more attention to writers, and they follow their carreer like they used to do 10 or 15 years ago only for drawing artists. Itís not really a question but if you want to comment it would be great J

J.L.: I think folks are more aware of the writerís role, but Iím not sure if they are the stars.  This is still a visually driven media.  Iím very glad that people got caught up in the story of HUSH for example, but Iím not foolish enough to think that without Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair and Richard Starkings my story wouldnít have had nearly the impact.

Remember, more people probably know Stan Lee more than anybody else in the business, so the role of the writer has always been out front.  

M-D: Have you noticed any storytelling changes  since you started writing  ?

J.L.: Sure.  Mostly, it has to do with the folks I work with.  I wouldn't tell the same story with Jim Lee that I would with Tim Sale or Ed McGuinness or Mike Turner or Carlos Pacheco.... So each time I start a new project, it's a new challenge.  Sometimes it's tone, sometimes it's how the story lays out, sometime's it's the subject matter.  What it really is is a helluva lot of fun!

M-D: What do you think of the increase of length of a story to make it more suitable for a trade paperback release ? It seems to happen more and more lately.  

J.L.: 
I've always thought a story takes as long as it needs. I've done one shots, I've done 2, 3, 4 issue arcs.  The nice part about doing 6 parters is that you have a very clean three acts.  1 & 2 are the set-up; 3 & 4 are the complications and 5 & 6 are the conclusions.  It's often harder to tell a story in 22 pages then in 44 anyway.

And remember, I did The Long Halloween in 13 parts before anybody was thinking about trades.  But, I welcome trades into the market.  Like DVD and Movies, they allow for an even larger audience to get to enjoy the material.

 

M-D: If you hadnít worked in comics, what would you have done for a living ?

J.L.: I would continue writing for movies and TV.  And I would have liked to have a restaurant.

 

M-D: If you were a comic book character, who would you be ? and why ?

J.L.: Pa Kent

 

 

M-D: Whatís your favourite movie ?

J.L.: It really dependsÖ ę Godfather Ľ part 1 and 2, ę Once upon a time in the West Ľ, ę Once upon a time in america Ľ, ę Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Ľ, ę To have and have not Ľ, and anything with the Marx Brothers.

 

M-D: Who should play your role in a movie ?

J.L.: Robert Duvall or John Malkovich. And to play a younger me it would be Kevin Kline.  

 

M-D : youíre working for comics but also for TV and for movies. Could you explain to us the similitudes and the differences in writing for those different medias ?

J.L.: Theyíre cousins.  Both are stories telling driven media.  All of it works best with stories that are filled with heart, humor and emotion.  Budget, obviously effects the film and TV work -- you have to write what CAN be filmed, where as Comics you can let your imagination really go. Although you canít write ďThen, TEN THOUSAND AMAZON WARRIORS attack all of New YorkĒ and expect anybody to actually DRAW that!

 

M-D:  what do you think of the scripts of some of the recent comic book adaptations ?

J.L.: I think it's fantastic.  Comic Book Movies ARE a genre and with the success of Spidey and the X-Men we really have stories that are well done and good movies and are true to the material. I've seen some of BATMAN BEGINS and it ROCKS!

M-D: Could you describe your typical day ?

J.L.: It depends.... But if I'm on deadline, I'll get up at about 4:00 AM and write until 8:00 and then I have to take my kids to school.  I show up at SMALLVILLE at  9:00 AM and we're there until 7:00 PM every day ( Jeph is Supervising Producer on the show ). There's a break for lunch, but other than that it's working on the scripts and checking out the other aspects of the show, casting, editing, looking at dailies (the footage from the previous day) and coming up with the next story!  I try and get home for dinner and get to bed by midnight and then it starts all over again!

 

M-D: Whatís your favourite song ?  

J.L..: a song by Frank Sinatra probably

 

M-D: Whatís your favourite book ?

J.L.: Oh, thatís a tough oneÖ I read so much.  Iíd be an idiot not say itís something that Iím working on because Iím such a huge fan of the artists I work with -- Tim Sale, Ed McGuinnnes, Jim Lee, Mike Turner, Carlos Pacheco -- who died and made me lucky?!

 

M-D: Whoís is your favourite comic book character ?  

J.L.: Superman or BatmanÖ depends on the day.

M-D: Is there a comic book character that you wouldnít want to write ? and why ?

J.L.: Team books.  Except for the Avengers, I donít think Iíd like to spread the story that thin.  I remember on the X-Men I always wound up either keeping certain characters out of the story or having some of them doing nothing and that bothered me.  With team books you have to have team villains so now youíre servicings a LOT more characters.  I leave all that to Geoff Johns.  Heís the king of the group books now!

 

M-D: What is your best achievement so far ?  

J.L.: My children. I got two.  One is starting to learn french by the way. 

Honestly, Iím very lucky to have had the career Iíve had in movies, television, animation and especially comics.  Comics have been part of my life since I was a kid and to be able to give back to that is a real thrill.

 

M-D: did you have some hard times in your career ? which ones and how did you deal with those ?

J.L.:Actually, I've been very lucky.  Yes, it was hard at first getting into the film
business, but looking back, it happened very quickly out of Film School. I've never stopped working since graduation and that's really something.  What I never take for granted is that now, more than ever, I'm doing what I love between comics and Smallville, and hopefully it shows in the work.

 

M-D: Any funny or emotionnal memory from a convention ?

J.L.: Just a lot of thrills meeting both fans and other pros who Iíve gotten to know through their work over the years.  Everybody is pretty nice.  Like I said, Iím very lucky.

 

M-D: What surprised you the most when you arrived in Paris ?  

J.L.: Honestly?  My friendship with Olivier Jalabert.  I never would have met this man without coming to France to sign at Album ( Olivier is the owner of a Parisian comicshop called ďAlbumĒ ;) ) and I'm usually very shy around the people who organize these sorts of things.  It's  often just a business relationship, even though I've met some very nice people. But, Olivier and I just hit it off on the way back from the airport!  He's been a close friend to me and my family (and his family and I) since then!

 

M-D : What can you tell us about your future projects ? Comics, TV and Movies ( i heard you were writing a movie called ę Herobear and the Kid Ľ ) 

Catwoman: When in Rome.

 

J.L.: Iíve written a screenplay with Mike Kunkel on Herobear and The Kid.  I return to SMALLVILLE for its fourth season as the Supervising Producer.  And with all my free time (ha!) I still have to get in CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME and the new Carlos Pacheco arc in Superman/Batman called ABSOLUTE POWER.  When folks see Carlosí artwork they are going to be floored.

Superman/Batman #14

 

M-D: Is there a question you wish people ask you in interviews and never do ?  Which one, and what would be the answer ?

J.L.: Never been asked that one!  And I guess thatís my answer! 

 

M-D: And since My website is on Dr Doom mainly and that you wrote him, i wanted to know how do you see Dr Doom ?

J.L.: Well i didnít got to really write the character in Heroes Reborn, Scott ( Lobdell ) did. I just did the dialogue.

I love that he is a very tragic and brilliant manÖVery much like Bruce Wayne. But unlike Bruce who is trying to make something of his life, he is destroyed by it.

Victor von Doom is the smartest man in the Marvel Universe but he is corrupted

 

M-D : What about a mini-serie ę  Dr Doom Green Ľ with Tim Sale? J

J.L.: Tim and I are HUGE fans of Dr. Doom.  I doubt weíd do an entire series on him, but more than once weíve talked about doing some kind of long one shot, like the Halloween specials with him. 

 

M-D: Thanks a lot Jeph  !

J.L.: Thanks for taking the time to talk -- and enjoy the tales!