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Marvel shakes up TV biz, targets live-action realm

After spending the past few years putting together a strong animation slate, Marvel Entertainment is delving further into the TV market with the creation of Marvel Television. Animation that caters to its core-boys audience will continue as a focus for the new unit, especially with its Disney XD connection, but veteran producer and writer Jeph Loeb has been tapped as EVP to lead the charge.
July 23, 2010

After spending the past few years putting together a strong animation slate, Marvel Entertainment is delving further into the TV market with the creation of Marvel Television. Animation that caters to its core-boys audience will continue as a focus for the new unit, especially with its Disney XD connection, but veteran producer and writer Jeph Loeb has been tapped as EVP to lead the charge.

Just a few weeks into his appointment, Loeb is busy sorting through Marvel’s vast catalogue of more than 5,000 characters to see which ones, besides the heavy hitters like Spider-Man, will get to take a turn in the TV spotlight. He’s also overseeing the development and distribution of live-action, animated and direct-to-DVD series.

Loeb says Marvel has been talking about moving into live-action television for quite a while. ‘The situation then presented itself with Marvel becoming part of the Disney family, which gave us immediate access to ABC Studios and ABC Family Studios,’ he says.

In his new role, Loeb’s first priority is to look after animated projects already in production, including The Super Hero Squad Show (Cartoon Network), The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (premiering this fall on Disney XD), Ultimate Spider-Man (set to bow on Disney XD in fall 2011) and a handful of co-productions still in development. As such Marvel Animation now operates under the Marvel Television umbrella and Loeb assures that he’ll be very hands-on in its operation. Eric Rollman, who used to lead the toon unit, has since parted ways with Marvel.

The newest and most challenging aspect of the job for Loeb will be bringing Marvel characters into the realm of live-action TV. ‘Our goal right now is to be very careful and select the right property and right character,’ he says.

It’s too soon to say whether Loeb and his team will be working with third-party producers to co-produce new series – the first project has yet to be selected. The TV division is planning to follow the lead of Marvel’s motion picture arm, which Loeb explains didn’t rush into filmmaking, but instead carefully selected projects, ramping up slowly. Working closely with ABC and ABC Family will give the division a step up in terms of developing what’s best for the networks in the Disney family.

For his part, Loeb brings an extensive repertoire of superhero experience. He’s no stranger to comic books. In fact, he’s penned stories featuring the likes of Marvel staples Iron Man, Spider-Man and the X-men. Loeb has also served as a writer and producer on long-running Warner Bros. TV series Smallville, worked as a writer and co-executive producer on NBC’s Heroes, and helped write several feature films, including 1980s flicks Commando and Teen Wolf.

‘My experience has always been on both sides of the creative element, not only writing the material but also understanding how to bring it through production,’ notes Loeb.

Reporting to Dan Buckley, publisher and president of the print, animation and digital divisions of Marvel Worldwide, Loeb says he will be working closely with the publishing arm as well as the feature film division, Marvel Studios. ‘The television department, the feature department and the publishing department are all doing what’s best for the characters and have a unified vision as to what they think that is,’ he says.

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