The big news this week is that Marvel is making a significant investment into the television industry by forming a new department and putting Jeph Loeb at the forefront, as Executive Vice President, Head of Television.
Despite Marvel’s forays into television, ranging from the live-action success of The Incredible Hulk in the late ’70s, to the animation gems of X-Men and Spider-Man from the ’90s, the truth is that in comparison to DC, with the longevity of the Batman animated series that later transitioned into the Justice League, and Smallville, which Jeph Loeb was also attached to as producer and writer, Marvel falls short.
The appointment of Loeb may be seen as a coup by Marvel – his curriculum vitae speaks for itself. In addition to the earlier mentioned Smallville, he can also count Heroes and Lost among shows that he has participated in as writer and/or producer. Yet, this is the same man who was fired from the Heroes creative team once the show began its downward spiral back in 2008.
Which begs the question on everyone’s mind – is Loeb the man to spearhead Marvel’s new era of television?
In an interview with Newsarama, Loeb confirmed that this move was in part due to Marvel’s parent company Disney and the fact that the latter already owns multiple television networks, such as ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, XD, ESPN, as well as initiatives within Marvel itself to bring its television reputation up to the standard that Marvel Studios had set with films like Iron Man. The new division would effectively be able to tap on the vast resources of Disney and Marvel “wanted to do it carefully and selectively”.
The truth is, Marvel has not been a pushover in the animation arena, and continue to assert themselves with Super Hero Squad, and the upcoming Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for Cartoon Network and Disney XD respectively. However, with the appointment of Loeb in the driver’s seat, it is clear that they also want hour-long live-action runaway hits in the same vein as Smallville. Loeb himself is not unaware of this intention:
And then there’s a brand new division that we’ll do with live action, where we’re working in partnership with ABC and ABC Family to find the right properties, the right characters and develop them. To start, we will be exploring the one-hour drama field similar to the shows that I mentioned that I’ve worked on, like Smallvillle and Lost.
The truth is, this is the right direction for Marvel to take. Despite all the bad press that Jeph Loeb has been getting with his work on Ultimatum, his meandering, draggy exposition during the Red Hulk saga, when it comes to television, writing is only one aspect of the larger picture. Experience is cumulative, and more often than not, quality is a result of quantity. Loeb brings a certain quality, as writer and producer of bringing superheroes to the screen, in great quantities, and Marvel could definitely not do very much better.
It will be interesting, however, to see if ABC’s upcoming superhero show No Ordinary Family, starring Fantastic Four’s Michael Chiklis, will have any repercussions on Marvel’s hope to use the ABC network to promote Marvel live-action stories. Indeed, No Ordinary Family may very well be ABC’s way of testing the waters to see if their viewers will take to watching more superhero fare in the near future.