Jeph Loeb's claim to fame in the comic industry is icons. Not the ones he's created, but the classic characters, especially at DC Comics, that he's written, and in the opinion of critics and fans, written right. He leaves "Superman" with issue #183, and the writer of "The Long Halloween" picks up the monthly chores on "Batman" later this year. And in the interim, he's splitting the difference, with the aptly titled "Superman and Batman."
"It's funny. I don't see myself as 'leaving' anything," Loeb told CBR News when asked why he was leaving "Superman." "I feel like I'm changing rooms at the same great hotel. Keep in mind, what we have planned isn't just for me. It's the entire Superman team -- Ed McGuinness (MC2), Cam Smith (inks), Tanya and Richard Horie (colors) and Hip Flask Creator Richard Starkings (lettering and design) -- and we're all going to what is currently being called 'Superman & Batman.' The timing felt very right -- I had actually contemplated this at "Superman #175," but there were still a few tales that MC2 and I wanted to tell and they're getting done. That's got as much to do with Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza as anything. He's been an amazing part of the team -- certainly the best editor I've worked with in this kind of environment where there are so many factors -- different books and writers on the same single character."
Rumors have been running wild on the Internet as to who will take Loeb's place on the book, including that current "Flash" and "JSA" writer Geoff Johns will be taking over from where Loeb leaves off. We asked if Loeb had any thoughts on who he felt should take over in his absence.
"I have my own personal choices in mind, but that's all they are. This is a DC decision that will affect not only me (remember, 'Superman & Batman' is an in continuity book, so we are part of this squad), but Joe Casey, Joe Kelly and Mark Schultz all of whom I've grown very close to in the past three years. Would I like it to be Geoff Johns? I would love it. Is Geoff a very busy boy? Very. Let's leave it at that."
While Loeb will be leaving the series with this June's issue, his effect on the series, in fact the entire Superman line of comics, will have his fingerprints all over them.
"Everything we have planned for the rest of the year and up until the launch of 'Superman & Batman' is outlined, not just by me, but by the entire group. It's very loose in terms of HOW to tell the story, but in terms of what we intend for the characters to do, we've all discussed with Eddie and Mike Carlin. Nothing happens EVER in the group without a plan (although it may seem like organized chaos at times)!"
During most of Loeb's run the story in "Superman" was directly linked to the other four titles in the line, with the story ending one week in one title and picking up next week in another. As a result there might have been stories Loeb couldn't write due to this intermingling, but with "Superman & Batman" not being directly linked to either line, you might see some of those stories showing up in this new book.
"There will always be other tales," said Loeb. "That's the nature of the serialized storytelling game. It's not called a never-ending battle for nothing! But, many of those stories will be told in the pages of 'Superman & Batman.' And some stories I never intended to tell with MC2. There are a handful of guys who I've talked about doing Superman projects with, and obviously, the first who comes to mind is Tim Sale. So, there's stuff out there or in my head, and when it becomes more real, we can talk about it."
The genesis of this new series lies in the pages of "Superman" #168. In that issue the Superman and Detective Comics series crossed over, which meant the Dark Knight Detective appeared in the pages of Superman for McGuiness to draw. The response to that crossover was very positive.
"People just loved the way that MC2 drew Batman," said Loeb. "The more we talked with Eddie the more fun it seemed like having the Batman cast in a Superman book. That doesn't mean that we won't have Perry and Jimmy -- but now we get to use Alfred and Robin. Those make for interesting dynamics. Gotham City and Metropolis are very different cities and we hope to highlight the differences in the men and the missions."
While Marvel's Mutants and a certain Web slinging super-hero have always been amongst the most popular and 'hip' characters in comics, both Superman and Batman have gone through various ups and downs in popularity. But trendiness is not what drives Loeb to these characters; it's his obvious affection for them.
"I don't think in terms of hip or popular," said Loeb. "I've worked on the X-Men when they were selling millions of copies and I've worked on Superman when he is selling less that that -- but the books themselves were only as good as the stories -- not the characters. Some characters have a larger base and that's fine -- but for good stories and folks with passion about their work, I honestly don't think there is a better group of books than in the Superman office. Sorry, I'm biased, but I can't believe what a talented bunch of guys and gals work on those stories. If it's not 'hip' to buy Superman -- then, I'd argue you don't have a very good sense of hip. 'Smallville' is the hottest show on television right now and that's for one reason. Superman is beyond hip. He is part of the culture. Batman, too. And Spider-Man. There aren't many others."
A launch date or actual title for this new book has not been decided on yet. Loeb and MC2 have some ideas, but nothing firm has been decided yet. How the book will fit in the Superman and Batman line of titles also hasn't been entirely decided yet, but Loeb indicated that is being discussed very carefully.
So, now we have a book that stars both Superman and Batman, but which office will be in charge of the production?
"We're just going to tell the best stories we can. If we need support from one group more than the other, we'll be in their corner. But, it's pretty safe to say this is a Doctor Berganza operation with Doctor Idelson messing with the nurses."
As for story specifics, Loeb was characteristically mum when it came to specifics in "Batman & Superman," but he was quick to mention the effort that's being put into this new book and noted exactly what it won't be.
"This has taken enormous coordination with the Batman office (Major Props to Bob Schreck and Matt Idelson!) and we know it will be worth the wait. We have some wild stuff planned. It WON'T be a team up book in the traditional sense. There will be stories where both characters appear, but they may not interact with each other. There may be stories where they are working against each other. But, it will definitely be about the working methods of Superman and Batman (and that doesn't always require Superman OR Batman to be in the tale)."
One question that immediately comes to mind is, what role will Lex Luthor play in "Superman & Batman?"
"Ah, that would be telling -- but what I CAN say is that both of our leads have a long and sordid history with the current President of the United States and that's can't be a good thing for any of them."
Now that Luthor has been named President of the United States (in the DC Universe, of course), what can be next for him? He's hit his peak and has a maximum of 8 years he could possibly spend in the White House, right?
"Well, comic book time and real time CAN be two different things," said Loeb. "Not to say they will, but you are talking to a guy who has written more Halloween stories for Batman than there are Batmans! But, as you've hopefully been reading in the Superman titles, thinks are moving very fast and loose in the world of Superman and Lex. That's not to say Batman doesn't have his own set of problems to work out right now, too! So, when the dust is settled, we'll see who is left standing. And we'd hardly say that Lex has hit his peak. Certainly not in LEX'S mind!"
Loeb indicated he'll be taking a new approach to how he tells stories in "Superman & Batman."
"I can't get into specifics -- and I'm not being coy -- but we want to have a book that feels different from the current core titles and DC is giving us the materials to do just that. I'm not going to make any grandiose predictions, but I think folks will be happy."
One of the pleasures Loeb will enjoy when embarking on this new title is an entirely new set of characters to play with, and Loeb has some favorites.
"It's so rich and it's hard to say depending on who I'm working with. Tim Sale does a great Jim Gordon and Two-Face, so I'm drawn to that. I'd like to see MC2's version of Robin. I know there are a lot of folks clamoring for Superman/Nightwing stuff, and we're very respectful of that. It's the pairings that make me get all fanboy-y. Jimmy and Robin. Lois and Catwoman. Alfred and Jonathan Kent. Martha and Leslie Thompkins. Krypto and... nah, not going to go there!"
Beau Yarbrough and Matt Povey contributed to this story.