We are comic book fans. Like sports fans, or music fans, we know that sometimes a creative team creates something wonderful, then never reach such heights again. A comic book can be greater than the sum of its parts. Sometimes a book is incredible despite a writer not really having anything to say, or an artist whose work is derivative. But sometimes, it’s the parts that go on to be something far more. The latter is certainly the case with this week’s creator spotlight: Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale.
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have been working together for 28 years. The two worked together on Loeb’s first foray into writing comics and have been frequent collaborators ever since. While the two don’t work together exclusively, they always find ways to create incredible stories as a team. Spanning almost three decades, multiple publishers, and crossing between mediums, this team has seen it all. In their time together they’ve created a lot, so we wanted to focus on a few of their most popular titles.
The Connecticut born writer first started collecting comics at 12 years old. After graduating with his master’s degree in film, Loeb went on to write the scripts for several Hollywood movies, including such classics as Teen Wolf (1985), and Commando (1985). He then turned his attentions to bringing one of his childhood favorites, The Flash, to the big screen. Although this movie never ended up getting the green light, it was during this time that he was first approached by DC Comics.
Tim Sale was born in upstate New York, but was primarily raised in the Pacific Northwest. He went to college in New York City, pursuing an arts degree. He moved back to Seattle, Washington before completing his formal education, and worked a series of odd jobs before finding his way into illustrating some independent comics. He soon took his art to San Diego ComicCon where he was first introduced to Jeph Loeb.
DC Comics Series
Sale and Loeb first worked together for DC comics. While they have both worked with other writers and artists on stories for all sorts of characters in the Multiverse, their most famous contributions were done with each other.
Challengers of the Unknown Volume 2 (1991)
The first story that the team created was a revival of a Jack Kirby series from 1957. Kirby conceived of a team consisting of 4 adventurers who faced down paranormal events, and extraterrestrial menaces. If that sounds familiar it’s because Kirby took the idea with him, and along with Stan Lee, created the Fantastic Four at Marvel Comics. Loeb and Sale’s revival saw the team in middle age, getting back together after a tragic event caused them to go their separate ways.
It wasn’t the most popular series and was cancelled after its initial 8 issue run, though the creative team had hoped to keep it going. Even though the series never saw its second story arc, Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb were just getting started.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials
The writer and artist’s next collaboration was a series of stories set in the “Year One” universe that spun out of Frank Millers Batman: Year One. First off the two created three extremely popular Halloween specials which saw the Dark Knight facing off against The Scarecrow, and Mad Hatter. They then moved on to one of the most beloved Batman stories of all time.
The Long Halloween
One of the most influential storylines in Batman history sees the Caped Crusader working with Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon to bring down the mob in Gotham City. The story sheds a specific focus on the character of Harvey Dent as he becomes Gotham’s District Attorney. Dent becomes a target for the Mob, due to his interference with their business. All the while Batman tracks a mysterious killer who only strikes on holidays, and is only killing members of the Gotham crime families. The story has earned wide critical praise, and has been used as inspiration for Television Shows, Video Games, and Movies. Christopher Nolan has said that this story was one of the main inspirations for The Dark Knight.
Dark Victory picks up right after the events of The Long Halloween. Batman searches for Two Face following a massive breakout from Arkham Asylum. In the background, a new serial killer is hanging police officers all over Gotham, and leaving clues that all point to Harvey Dent. The story features a siege led by The Joker, a game of riddles with The Riddler, Calendar Man at his most frightening, Catwoman, and a new origin for Dick Graysons Robin. Christian Bale has said that Dark Victory was the main inspiration for his Take on Batman and Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight Trilogy.
Marvel Comics Limited Series
While the team had several other runs with popular characters at DC, including Superman For All Seasons, their work on the so-called “Color” series for Marvel is some of their fan-favorite storylines.
The story finds Peter Parker retelling one of his earliest stories. He recounts the events which led to Gwen Stacy’s death. The story is told by Peter, remembering Gwen on Valentine’s Day, as he expresses his remorse over her death, and proclaims that he still misses her.
The team shifted their focus over to the Angriest Man on Earth. The story retells the events of Bruce Banners first years after being hit with the Gamma Radiation that turned him into the Incredible Hulk. The series was unique in its focus on the emotional vulnerability of the character and his relationship with his longtime love, Betty Ross, the daughter of his great enemy.
Daredevil has been in his red suit for years now, but Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale took this story back to a more colorful time for the character. The story takes place after the death of Karen Page at the hands of Bullseye. It begins with Daredevil questioning if it was his involvement in her life that ultimately led to her fate. The story examines grief and its role in pushing people’s lives in different directions.
Captain America: White
This comic is known as much for its moving story as it is for its production delays. It took seven years between Issue #1 and Issue #2, because of the creators lack of availability. The story is an homage to the golden age stories of Captain America and casts a specific focus on his relationship with his young sidekick, Bucky Barnes.
Loeb went back to his screen writing roots in the early 2000’s and wrote several episodes for the hit Television Show, Lost. After this stint he developed the superhero based television show, Heroes. He served as the executive producer, and was one of the head writers. He brought his frequent collaborator Tim Sale along with him to help create the world of the show. In addition to contributing to storyboards for the show, Sale’s art takes center stage in the series, appearing in several episodes as the precognitive paintings of Isaac Mendez.
Until Next Time
It is always incredible when two creative people find each other and produce art together. Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb have been creating incredible pieces of fiction together for the better part of 3 decades and have shown no sign of stopping their collaborations. Odds are they have plans to do another story together in the near future, and we simply cannot wait.