EXCLUSIVE: “When we start thinking about our shows, it’s how do we do better than we did the last time,” declares Marvel Television’s chief Jeph Loeb as the small screen arm of the comic cyclopean heads into a new hydra (no pun totally intended) of offerings. “We will never be a factory. We don’t know how to be a factory. There is no Marvel prototype.”
Certainly, as the last year has seen the end of Daredevil, Iron Fist, Punisher, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones on Netflix, the series finale of Legion tonight and the conclusion of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the next year or so, as Deadline exclusively reported last month, Marvel TV is looking for new worlds to conquer – or more like galaxies according to the EVP and multi-Eisner Awards winner.
With a live action Ghost Rider, an animated Howard The Duck and a more adult-intended series and genres coming to the now Disney-controlled Hulu, plus the launch of the Disney+ streaming service this fall, Marvel TV has, to paraphrase Loeb, risen like a phoenix from what some were assuming to be ashes. Then there’s hushed talk of a “brand new” Marvel series on broadcast too, as we heard at the TCA last week
Coming off a Comic-Con last month that saw S.H.L.E.L.D. make its Hall H debut for a long goodbye, Loeb sat down with me to talk all things Marvel TV, clear up some misconceptions, lay down some expectations and reveal how this installment of the masterplan really works.
DEADLINE: So, S.H.I.E.L.D. is coming to an end after Season 7, several new shows are coming on Hulu, crossovers, Legion ending on FX and more. So, where is Marvel TV now and going forward?
LOEB: Well, the most exciting thing right now is finding the new corners. When we start talking about Marvel Television, we like to look at the different families.
DEADLINE: What are those clans?
LOEB: So the Marvel heroes are the ones that are most closely associated with the movies, so that would be S.H.I.E.L.D., and that would be Agent Carter. They came from the movies, our two leads were actually in the movies.
Then the next group is the Marvel Street-Level Heroes, or the Marvel Knights, as we sometimes call them here. So, if the Marvel heroes are here to save the universe, the Marvel Street-Level Heroes, the Marvel Knights, often they are just to save themselves, to save the neighborhood.
Some of those appeared on Netflix, but there are others that live in that category, which are still to come.
Then we took a look at the Marvel Universe that was upcoming and we knew that Tom Holland was going to be playing the role of Peter Parker in Spider-man, so the idea of YA, the idea of young heroes was something that got us very excited because it works really well on television.
DEADLINE: If has become one of the major streams for you in a very short time with Cloak & Dagger on Freeform and Runaways on Hulu, both now Disney controlled units …
LOEB: … and great casts and really completely different shows in terms of tone, and yet, you can see how those kids would mix well together
DEADLINE: The much-rumored Cloak & Dagger and Runaways crossover has become official, is this going to be just a one-off even though the two outlets have shared corporate parenthood?
LOEB: This is something we’ve wanted to do since Season 1on both shows. We hope it’s the first of many. It’s one of the many benefits of having all our shows on Disney-based platforms. It is a shared universe. #itsallconnected!
DEADLINE: In that vein, ABC’s Karey Burke revealed at TCA that you guys are in active talks on a new project for them that will be a female focus character. What can you tell us about that project and is it intended to air while S.H.I.E.L.D is still on ABC or afterwards?
LOEB: That’s classified. Sorry!
DEADLINE: What’s open information is that Legion wraps up its three-season run on FX tonight. The Noah Hawley helmed series was a very different type of show for Marvel in some people’s mind and very much indicative of your scope at the same time. I know you’ve talked about this a bit before, but looking back over the three seasons of Legion, what is your perspective on the series, Noah and maybe even more Legion down the line?
LOEB: It’s a remarkable show created and visualized by an extraordinary filmmaker. Noah carried this from the start — told us how he wanted the show to begin and how he wanted it to end — and we’ve respected that. Having FX as our partner made it very exciting as well from both a creative and marketing stand point.
As to the future, that world and those characters will always be there. It’s our hope that Noah will want to return to them is any capacity he thinks is worth telling. FX remains a huge priority for us because we can tell those unexpected stories there and John Landgraf is something of a visionary himself. They “get” us and we “get” them. We like all of that.
DEADLINE: On the flip-side, under the same corporate umbrella, there’s going to be all these Disney+ shows, Scarlet Witch and Vision, Winter Soldier and Falcon, there’s a number of them, do you feel that there is a potential of too much Marvel?
LOEB: Well, first of all, I have to make something very clear, which is those are shows that are created and run and the responsibility of the motion picture studio. Secondly, Marvel Television will be doing shows with Disney+, we just haven’t announced what we’re going to do there.
DEADLINE: And when do you think we’re going to hear what Marvel TV’s Disney+ offerings are?
LOEB: When we’re ready.
DEADLINE: OK, but let’s shift a bit to the Fox assets and some of the Marvel properties that they had licenses to – does that raise new opportunities in terms of what you guys are looking at what you want to go forward with?
LOEB: Too soon to tell.
DEADLINE: C’mon, really?
LOEB: Honestly, it’s just too soon
DEADLINE: What you do know now that you like with a new affection is animation, which of course was Marvel TV’s primary pillar before S.H.I.E.L.D. debuted in the fall of 2013. What turned the spotlight back on the ‘toons, so to speak for you?
LOEB: I’m a huge Archer fan, and Dan Buckley, who’s the president of all things other than the studio here at Marvel, and I started talking about how we have this mutual love of animation and also pushing that wall. The idea of doing something that was more adult, some of which was started with the idea of doing Deadpool animated. What we really liked was the notion of putting together a group of titles that could then be a group, as we had done with Defenders.
DEADLINE: How did you construct your band of misfits?
LOEB: We just started looking through things that made us laugh, and you know Patton Oswalt playing M.O.D.O.K., Will and Josh, who had this take on Hit-Monkey, the idea of a monkey assassin just made us smile. When Chelsea Handler and Erica Rivinoja came in, and we started talking about how do we do what we sort of refer to as Laverne and Shirley in the Marvel Universe…
DEADLINE: It’s a very good way of putting it, by the way …
LOEB: When you put Tigra and Dazzler together and you know that Chelsea’s going to voice Tigra, you just know that’s going to be just fun, and then it was just inevitable that we were going to do Howard the Duck, and we just knew that the kind of Howard the Duck we wanted to do was not going to be a live action guy in a suit or a CG creature, or whatever, we just wanted to do it as a straight ahead, smart, funny, political…
DEADLINE: Is he going to run for president like in the comics?
LOEB: (LAUGHS) We’ll see what happens.
DEADLINE: Still the best issue of that whole series …
LOEB: One of them for sure, it is absolutely wonderful. But when you have voices like Kevin Smith and Dave Willis, you just know how smart that show’s going to be.
Then we’re going to put them all together in this thing called the Offenders, which makes me smile. You know in the original pitch it was, the team that nobody asked for. It was just such the perfect marriage of tone and network with Hulu
DEADLINE: You like that relationship, clearly…
LOEB: Oh Yes! And I have to give real credit to the people at Hulu for that.
DEADLINE: That’s just good corporate politics …
LOEB: Yes, but a lot of times the reason why Marvel lands on a platform is because of the people. When they get it, when they want us. I’ve been on the other side of that, I’ve been the writer producer, who’s tried to work with the network, and there’s a whole agenda that’s going on that you don’t know anything about, you’re just making your show. We try to tell people that when a network invites Marvel in, they’re getting Marvel.
DEADLINE: What does that mean to you?
LOEB: That they’re getting this brand that’s known throughout the world. It’s just a different kind of strategizing, which is what’s the best way that we can tell the world that Marvel adult animation is on Hulu, for example.
We were talking to them, and they started scratching because when you look at the success that they’ve had with Castle Rock and the world of terror. Something that really interested us and interested them, and we always knew that we were going to do something with Ghost Rider, we were just waiting for the right place to put it.
Then we started having the same conversation, which was there is in the comic book world the Spirit of Vengeance, and they are this sort of unusual group of characters, which involve Ghost Rider, which involve Helstrom, which involve Helstrom’s sister, Anna. We suddenly saw that there were three or four shows that we could put together that we now refer to as Adventure into Fear.
DEADLINE: Is that Marvel Horror under another name?
LOEB: No, it’s terror, because when you say horror, it means so many different things. There’s everything from Saw, which is the last thing that we want to do, gore-fest kind of thing to there’s a monster running around. What we love is the notion of how we can present a Marvel hero who was truly feared and truly believed that they were a monster, but that, as the stories go on, they realize, oh, I’m the hero of the story, I’m not the villain of the story. That’s not something we’ve ever done before. So we started with Ghost Rider, we went out and managed to get Gabriel Luna to come back and reproduce the role he played on S.H.I.E.L.D. Then we’re going to do Helstrom, and then there’s a couple more that we haven’t yet revealed to the world.
DEADLINE: It’s a new twist after the Netflix situation, which started on such a high and end almost as a case of death by a thousand streaming cuts, didn’t it?
LOEB: The hardest part was while the situation at Netflix of which I really can’t go into other than to say that we were blindsided and the things that were to come weren’t finished yet. We weren’t ready to announce that, so there was this space in between it, so it did look like maybe we were going to go out Then suddenly, we were arising again like the Phoenix.
DEADLINE: Which is a good narrative in hindsight, no?
LOEB: Yes but not while you’re in it. The truth of the matter is, we were on this thing where we said, oh wait, the bumper fell off the car, but the car’s still going, but we couldn’t discuss any of that. So, in the end, however history’s going to remember the story, all that’s important to us is that we had an opportunity to change television by putting together four heroes, who then joined together in a group, and people have talked about it like this is unprecedented.
Now, we’re going to do it again with the animated series, and then we’re going to do it again with the fear-based series. It’s now become, for us, our model. We would rather try to find ways of putting together a group of characters so that when a platform meets with us to talk about what we want to do, we’re trying to create a family on that platform.
DEADLINE: On the topic of platforms, there were rumors for at least a year of a Ghost Rider series on ABC?
LOEB: (LAUGHS) I know, you bugged us about it. But no, we never intended for it to be on ABC because we wanted to do a show that was more mature. Look, it has the weight in the best way that there had been a Daredevil movie, so that when there was a Daredevil television show, people knew the name. There was a lot of weight that came with the Daredevil movie that we had to shake off and prove ourselves that we could make a television show that became what it was. The good news is people love Gabe, people love the way that character works, the feature film levels special effects – and the part that’s really exciting is we’ll push it further. It will have a little fun that folks will really dig.
DEADLINE: So, what is it that you dig?
LOEB: When we start thinking about our shows, it’s how do we do better than we did the last time. That’s partially why I could not be prouder of the people who work here because they all have that same ethic. We will never be a factory. We don’t know how to be a factory. There is no Marvel prototype.
LOEB: No. Trust me, we don’t know how to do that and tell the stories that we’re telling.
That’s why going back to the beginning, that’s why we can do a Legion, a Daredevil, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a Ghost Rider. I don’t know any kind of corporation that makes a product that could do that kind of thing unless it’s at its core a storytelling machine. We have all different kinds of voices and genders and people who want to tell stories through the Marvel library, and when that happens, you get Marvel.
We believe that anyone can be a hero and that that enables you to tell stories about every single person on this planet, that’s our real secret.