Joseph “Jeph” Loeb III (/loʊb/) is an American film and television writer, producer and comic book writer. Loeb was a producer/writer on the TV series Smallville and Lost, writer for the films Commando and Teen Wolf, and a writer and co-executive producer on the NBC TV show Heroes from its premiere in 2006 to November 2008. In 2010, Loeb became Executive Vice President of Marvel Television.
A four-time Eisner Award winner and five-time Wizard Fan Awards winner, Loeb’s comic book work, which has appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list, includes work on many major characters, including Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Hulk, Captain America, Cable, Iron Man, Daredevil, Supergirl, the Avengers, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, much of which he has produced in collaboration with artist Tim Sale.
Jeph Loeb was raised in a Jewish family in Stamford, Connecticut. He began collecting comic books during the summer of 1970.
His stepfather was a vice-president at Brandeis University, where Jeph met one of his mentors and greatest influences in comic book writing, the writer Elliot Maggin. Jeph attended Columbia University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s degree in Film. His instructors included Paul Schrader.
Film and television
Loeb’s debut in filmmaking was his collaboration with Matthew Weisman in authoring the script of Teen Wolf. The film was released on August 23, 1985 and was a notable starring role for Michael J. Fox. Loeb and Weisman then collaborated in writing the script of Commando. The film was released on October 4, 1985 and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. His next screen credit was the film Burglar, released on March 20, 1987. The plot was based on the novels of Lawrence Block about fictional burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr. His collaborators were Weisman and Hugh Wilson.
The film was atypical for the time, featuring a female comedic role for starring actress Whoopi Goldberg. His second film that year was Teen Wolf Too, a sequel of Teen Wolf, which was co-written by Weisman and Tim Kring. The film was released on November 20, 1987. The film featured teen idol Jason Bateman and veteran actor John Astin. Loeb would re-team with Kring almost two decades later for the TV series Heroes. Four years later, Loeb was working on a script for The Flash as a feature with Warner Bros. While the script deal fell through, Loeb met then publisher Jenette Kahn who asked Loeb to write a comic book for DC Comics.
In 2002, Jeph Loeb wrote the script for the episode of Smallville, entitled “Red”, which introduced Red kryptonite into the series. He became a supervising producer and has written many episodes since then. He signed a three-year contract, and although producers Miles Millar and Alfred Gough offered to keep him on for future seasons, Loeb left to care for his son, who had cancer (See Comics career below).
Loeb later became a writer/producer on the ABC TV series Lost during that show’s second season. Leaving Lost, Loeb went on to become Co-Executive Producer and writer on the NBC drama Heroes, which his colleague Tim Kring had created. Loeb wrote the teleplay for the first-season episodes “One Giant Leap” and “Unexpected”. The show prominently features the artwork of Tim Sale, Loeb’s longtime comics collaborator.
The series was nominated for the 2007 Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, and a Writers Guild of America award for Best New Series. It won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama, as well the Saturn Award for Best Network Television Series. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Dramatic Television Series.
Loeb and Tim Kring were presented with the Jules Verne Award for Artistic Achievement at the Jules Verne Festival in Paris, France, on April 22, 2007, for their work on Heroes. Loeb himself was also presented with a belated 2005 Jules Verne Award for Best Writing for his work on Smallville, which he had not previously been given because his trip to the Festival that year had been cancelled due to his son’s ill health.
On November 2, 2008, Daily Variety reported that Loeb and fellow Heroes co-executive producer, Jesse Alexander, were no longer employed on the series. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Loeb stated, “As of today, Jesse Alexander and I have left Heroes. I’m incredibly proud to have been a big part of the success a show with eight Emmy nods and a win this year for NBC.com. I will miss the superb cast and writing staff and wish everyone the best.” At the time, Loeb had completed writing and producing the third-season episode, “Dual”.
On June 28, 2010, Marvel Entertainment, as part of its expansion into television, appointed Loeb to the position of Executive Vice President, Head of Television of the newly created Marvel Television, in which Loeb would work with publisher Dan Buckley, to create both live-action and animated shows based on Marvel’s catalog of characters.
In October 2019, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was promoted to Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment, which includes Marvel Television, prompting Loeb to leave the company after nearly a decade. Loeb had been planning his departure, however, before Feige’s promotion.
Loeb is known for his extensive use of narration boxes as monologues to reveal the inner thoughts of characters, though the character interactions he writes are sparse in terms of dialogue.
Jeph Loeb’s first comic work was Challengers of the Unknown vol. 2 #1 – #8 (March -October 1991), which was the first of many collaborations with Tim Sale. Their later collaborations included the “Year 1”-centered Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials; Batman: The Long Halloween, a 13-issue limited series; and Batman: Dark Victory, a 14-issue limited series set in the first years of the hero’s career. The Long Halloween was one of three noted comics that influenced the 2005 feature film Batman Begins, the others being Batman: The Man Who Falls and Batman: Year One. Other Loeb-Sale collaborations at DC include the Superman for All Seasons limited series and Catwoman: When in Rome.
At Marvel Comics, Loeb worked on the “Age of Apocalypse” crossover storyline in 1995 and co-created the X-Man character with artist Steve Skroce. Loeb wrote the “Heroes Reborn” version of Captain America in 1996–1997 He and Tim Sale crafted several limited series for Marvel including Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue, and Hulk: Gray.
Loeb became the writer of Superman with issue #151 (Dec. 1999). His tenure on the title, largely drawn by Ed McGuinness, included the “Emperor Joker” and “Our Worlds at War” crossovers. He left Superman with issue #183 (August 2002). At the end of 2002, Loeb teamed with artist Jim Lee to create the year-long story arc “Batman: Hush”, which spawned three lines of toys, posters and calendars, and sat at the #1 spot for eleven of the twelve months it was in publication. The following year, Loeb and McGuinness launched Superman/Batman. Loeb’s run on the title spawned a new ongoing Supergirl series, and an animated film adapted from Loeb’s “Public Enemies” story arc.
After signing an exclusive contract with Marvel in September 2005, Loeb launched Hulk with artist Ed McGuinness, in which he introduced the Red Hulk.
In 2006, Loeb chose his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut to be subject to superhero destruction in the first issue of the 2006–2007 Marvel miniseries Civil War, the central title of the crossover storyline of the same name. That same year, Marvel announced an untitled Spider-Man series by Loeb and J. Scott Campbell, to be released “sometime in 2007”. The series was subsequently cancelled and then brought back on the schedule in 2010, with a 2011 article mentioning it’s “still being worked on”. In 2021, Campbell confirmed that the project has been cancelled despite having two fully pencilled issues.
In 2007, Jeph wrote the miniseries Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America, which used the five stages of grief as a motif to explore reactions of various characters of the Marvel Universe to the loss of the assassinated Captain America. The first issue ranked No. 1 in sales for April 2007, and the fifth and final issue, dated July 4, 2007, was the “Funeral for Captain America”, which was covered by the Associated Press and The Washington Post.
Loeb wrote two miniseries for the Ultimate Marvel Universe. His work on The Ultimates 3 in 2007, with artist Joe Madureira, was panned by critics for its use of transgressive sexual and violent content for shock value “without the political relevance or epic pacing of the first two volumes.” In 2008, Loeb returned to the Ultimate Universe with artist David Finch for the critically reviled five-issue miniseries Ultimatum. Described in a 2015 Vulture retrospective as “one of the biggest creative disasters in comics history”, Ultimatum’s gratuitous murder scenes permanently damaged sales across the entire Ultimate Universe and in the long run brought about its cancellation. “Over the course of just five issues, 34 different heroes and villains were murdered, often by gruesome means: Doctor Strange was squeezed until his head exploded; Magneto was decapitated; the Blob ate the Wasp and, while holding her half-devoured corpse, belched out, ‘Tastes like chicken’; and so on.” The review site Let’s Be Friends Again described Ultimatum as “a base and insulting comic book.” Critic Jason Kerouac wrote, “Ultimatum #5 could quite possibly be the single worst piece of writing in recorded history.”
A Captain America: White limited series was announced in 2008 but only a #0 issue was published. The long-delayed project was scheduled to finally see print in September 2015.
Loeb shares his writing studio, The Empath Magic Tree House, with Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg.
Loeb’s son, Sam, died on June 17, 2005 at the age of 17, after a three-year battle with bone cancer. In June 2006, Sam had a story published in Superman/Batman #26, which was nearly completed before his death. His father finished the work with the help of 25 other writers and artists, all of whom were friends of Sam, including Geoff Johns, John Cassaday, Ed McGuinness, Joe Madureira, Rob Liefeld, and Joss Whedon. The issue also featured a tale titled “Sam’s Story”, dedicated to Sam, in which a boy named Sam serves as the inspiration for Clark Kent to later become Superman.
[Latest Update: June 17, 2022]