Nova: Building a Human Rocket Pt. 1

Jeph Loeb talks about developing Sam Alexander from the comics page to the small screen and back again!
Posted Feb 20, 2013 2:59 pm
Updated Feb 20, 2013 3:02 pm
Nova #1 cover by Ed McGuinness

By Marc Strom

For the past year, fans have gotten to know Sam Alexander through his animated adventures in “Ultimate Spider-Man” as well as his first appearance in 2011’s POINT ONE #1. Now, with NOVA #1 by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness on sale today, Sam steps into his very own ongoing series that goes right back to the beginning of his story.

Loeb has helped shepherd the newest Nova from the comic page to the TV screen and back again through his role not only as Sam’s writer and co-creator, but also as Head of Marvel Television. Sam’s story, however, began even before Loeb took the job leading Marvel’s small screen initiatives.

“This all started a couple years ago in New York at a [Marvel creative] retreat,” recounts Loeb. “They let us know what they were going to do with the so called cosmic books. I was always a huge Nova fan and when I heard that [former NOVA writers] Dan [Abnett] and Andy [Lanning] were wrapping up Richard Rider’s story, I reacted the way that most fans would, which was, ‘Yeah, but Nova is going to go on right?’”

From there, Loeb began developing the character of Sam Alexander and laying out his story, and in doing so went back to the basic components of Marvel’s DNA.

Nova #2 preview inks by Ed McGuinness

“What I really liked was starting out and talking about the way that I got into comics, which was this sense of wonder,” he explains. “The Marvel Universe is a place where extraordinary things suddenly happen to ordinary people, whether it’s Peter Parker, average high school kid who gets bitten by a radioactive spider, or it’s Tony Stark who suddenly finds himself with shrapnel in his heart and builds an iron casing around himself to become a hero.

“Finding that person, and being invested in him, is what’s important [and] is really what makes [a] Marvel [comic] different from every other comic book. You’re first and foremost invested in the person underneath the mask and, in this case, underneath the helmet. We started talking about who Sam Alexander is and where he came from. The idea that a kid who came from a small town and never thought that his life was going to get any further than his own back yard would suddenly discover that his back yard was then going to [expand] beyond the furthest galaxy is really interesting, and not a story that I’ve ever told before.”

Given that production on “Ultimate Spider-Man” began before Sam Alexander had appeared in many comics, Loeb had to lay out many of his thoughts on the character long before he would write the script to NOVA #1.

Nova #2 preview inks by Ed McGuinness

“I was not yet the Head of Marvel TV and they were just starting development on [‘Ultimate Spider-Man’], so [Marvel Publisher] Dan [Buckley] and [Chief Creative Officer] Joe Quesada had me talk to our VP of Animation Development, Cort Lane,” Loeb recalls. “So I had this surreal conversation with Cort where I was talking to him about Sam and where we were going to go and I had to write a bible for Sam’s story with the idea that I would, a month later, actually be one of the producers of the show. But at the time I was just this freelance writer who was writing a comic book that was going to come out that had this character in it. When they were coming up with the bible for the show and putting together the early visuals, Ed McGuiness and I were essentially helping the television series learn about who Sam was before I became one for the principle people involved with the show.

“I thought Cort had a great sense of humor about it, because when I wound up becoming Head of Television, he looked at me and said, ‘Well if there’s one thing, we’ll know that we got Nova right.’ In many ways it helped, and it’s not very often that you get to be in at the ground floor of the creation of a character, not only on the publishing side, but then also on the television side. It’s really very exciting.”

Come back tomorrow as we continue to chat with writer Jeph Loeb about Sam Alexander’s role in “Ultimate Spider-Man.” Get NOVA #1 now, and catch “Ultimate Spider-Man” “every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. ET inside Marvel Universe on Disney XD.

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