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A Super-Scribe's Super-Projects

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Calling Jeph Loeb a super-scribe shouldn't come as a surprise. The California-based writer been one of the Top 10 mainstream writers for years, which forms a nice indication that he knows a thing or two about sequential storytelling. Yet, that's not the only reason Loeb merits to be called a super-scribe -- the writer's past (Superman), current (Superman/Batman) and upcoming (Supergirl) projects all sport a big "S" on their covers.

BF caught up with Loeb to discuss his final arc of Superman/Batman and look ahead at his Supergirl relaunch debuting later this year... all at DC Comics, of course.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Your final arc on Superman/Batman starts in April, called “With a Vengeance,” deals with a squad of revenge-seeking superheroes. Why are these heroes no longer big buds with DC’s big two all of a sudden?

JEPH LOEB: You have to read the story.  The heroes in question are a group that has never met the World’s Finest.  They’re a government sponsored mighty super team.  Superman and Batman will have their hands full.

BF: One of the major players in the story is Lex Luthor. Does he have anything to do with the attack on Superman and Batman?

JL: It’s a puzzle.  You need all the pieces.  Lex has a role in it, but I can’t really go much further into it.  As you can tell from what’s going on in some of the other major books -- from JSA to DC Countdown -- you can tell that Lex is going to play a major in what’s going on in a post-Identity Crisis DCU.  After all, Lex promised there would be a reckoning… (In Superman/Batman #6).

BF: Reportedly, you will also seek to define what makes these top characters into who and what they are. How will that come about?

JL: No, I think what I said (or meant) was that each arc has looked at them from a different perspective.  The first, Public Enemies, was in terms of how the public sees them. The Supergirl arc was how they are seen by the Superhero community.  The third one, Absolute Power, was how the world sees them and this last arc is the natural progression of what is their role in the Universe?  In Absolute Power,  they kept saying “History holds tightly to her truths,” and Batman and Superman continually bounced back to a single true timeline.  Their fates, their destinies are intrinsic to the DCU and we’ll see how that plays out…

BF: After “With a Vengeance” concludes this summer, you’ll start writing a new Supergirl ongoing series. Was introducing a Supergirl for the next generation your defining moment of the series?

JL: I certainly was thrilled to bring Kara Zor-El into the DCU.  She’s a great character and she deserves her role and her own title.  And what I’ve seen of Ian Churchill’s artwork, there’s much to be excited about.  But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that each moment of the issue I’m writing is the defining moment for me.  It has to be that way. If I’m writing an issue that I don’t think is as strong as the previous one, I’ve let down the reader and I refuse to do that. I have to try and tell the best story I can and see where that takes me.  Although, I do smile every time I see Kal -- the Superman from the Future -- lift up the Batmobile over Batman’s head.

BF: What exactly made you decide to leave the title? I can’t imagine it’s a lack of inspiration, since writing Superman and Batman – at any point during their careers – seems to come naturally to you.

JL: It was time.  I’ve never stayed on anything for more than three years.  I left Superman at 32 issues and I think CABLE was around that much, but I could tell I should have left sooner.  Twenty-five issues of anything is a lot of work and it’s been a great run. I so admire every artist we had -- McGuinness, Pat Lee, Mike Turner, Ian Churchill and Carlos Pacheco -- it was a real murderers row of talent.  And I’d do it all over in a second, just not right now. 

And there are some things that DC and I have hatched up that are very, very exciting… so I’ll be kept busy!

BF: Having written their adventures for two years, what are the key ingredients to a good Superman/Batman story in your opinion?

JL: The juxtaposition of the two characters.  The light and the dark. How they both admire each other and don’t trust each other. How they are trying to do the same job, but do it so differently.  They are just great characters to bounce off each other.

BF: When all is said and done, you’ll have worked with 5 different artists on the series in Ed McGuinness, Pat Lee, Michael Turner, Carlos Pacheco and Ian Churchill. Since it’s undoubtedly hard to pick your favorite penciller of the bunch, let me ask you to name the top quality of their styles that made them a joy to work with.

JL: Good question, not an easy one.  McGuinness I had already worked with on Superman, so I knew a lot of what we were doing -- we had a shorthand.  He draws BIG, like in the Kirby tradition, and I love catering to that. It gives his work a certain POWER.

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Pat has tremendous skills in mood and setting.  It’s a very stylized look, but with the right story, he just soars.  We just had a ball doing all the machinery versus Superboy and Robin.  It was a great break from the book since I was already writing Turner and Pacheco’s arcs at that point.

Turner draws elegantly.  That may sound simple, but it’s a skill -- a very valuable skill.  He can make a page with Darkseid or Doomsday just POP in your face and he does it with such style and flair.  And his women… hommina, hommina, hommina…

Ian has this daring swiftness to his work -- it’s hard to describe -- but his eye catches things in such a way that it feels like there’s movement even when there isn’t.  Like McGuinness, he flourishes in the BIG, but he can do the small too.

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Carlos is the easiest to answer.  Carlos can draw anything.  He just can.  I’ve said that Jim Lee could do that, but Jim would be the first to say, no, he (JIM) can’t draw a kitchen like Tim Sale, or this piece of machinery isn’t quite right -- I think he’s wrong, but if Jim feels that way, who am I to tell him otherwise?!   Carlos, on the other hand, can draw kitchens, people,
women, big, little, quiet, loud -- it’s hard to keep up with him!

BF: We’ve already touched briefly upon your Supergirl assignment, a title on which you’ll be collaborating with the aforementioned Ian Churchill. What are your plans for the book?

JL: It’s pretty huge in scope.  I like taking a lot of the BIG elements from Superman/Batman so, hopefully, the book will feel like that.  This is going to be very different from any other Supergirl title. This isn’t a little girl who looks up to her Super Cousin.  This is a young woman who has tremendous power and is learning to deal with it in a SuperHero community.  The first six issues are Kara meets the DCU.  She is going to see what it’s like to be a hero in the DCU -- the good and the bad.  Beyond that, I’d be telling -- but if you learn how one half lives, you can imagine what Kara has in store for the second arc!

BF: Since it’s anything but a secret that you love Krypto, does that imply you’ll be creating a super-cat as an animal sidekick for Kara? [Laughs]

JL: The only cat you’d see in this book might be Krypto BBQ one with his heat vision… I got enough cats running around in CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME! [Laughs]

BF: DC seems to be making a habit out of using second or even third-tier characters as major players in reshaping its universe. Is Supergirl set to play a big role in the DCU in 2005?

JL: I think Kara might take you to task for referring to her as a second or third tier character.  She can look Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman right in the eye and has nothing to apologize for.  This is a kick-ass, take names, extremely curious young lady who is out to make a name for herself.  And if she’s going to try it, believe me, she’ll succeed!

BF: You’re not exactly unfamiliar with Ian, having worked with him on Marvel’s Cable in the Nineties and the now defunct Awesome Entertainment’s The Coven. The Cable gig was one of the breakthrough moments of both of your careers. Do you have any fond memories or anecdotes to share about that collaboration, or is that more like ancient history to you? [Laughs]

JL: My favorite memory was that Ian drew my first “big” X-Men issue, Cable #20. This was the last issue before Age of Apocalypse and its where they all know they are going to die and they say good bye.  It was called “An Hour of Last Things”.  And he drew the hell out of it.  I was already working with Steve Skroce and I felt a little like I was cheating on my wife, but I knew that Ian was a star and didn’t want to lose him.  Fate took a hand in that X-MAN -- who I co-created with Skroce -- took off as a huge hit and Steve wanted to stay on that book.  I got two of the best guys in the X-Office on two hit books. It was really, really sweet.

- Frederik Hautain

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