March 26, 2006

Spirit of young superhero lives on in comic, fund

By Cynthia Littleton

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Sam Loeb was a
superhero. He accomplished things in his 17 years that most
comic book- and TV-loving teenagers only dream of. And he faced
things that no kid should ever have to deal with during his
three-year struggle with a rare form of bone cancer.

"Sam always taught us that life was all about 'finding the
funny' in any situation," says his father, Jeph Loeb, a veteran
comic book, film and TV writer.

The elder Loeb is known for writing contemporary Superman
and Batman comics, including the "Superman for All Seasons"
graphic novel that influenced the tone of WB Network's
"Smallville" series centering on Clark Kent in his high school
days. Now a supervising producer on "Lost," Jeph Loeb spent
three seasons on "Smallville," where his son was a frequent
visitor to the writers' room. "Smallville's" fifth-season
opener in September was dedicated to Sam. So was a recent
episode of "Adult Swim's" "Robot Chicken."

Sam had befriended a lot of comic book and TV writers
during the time spent hanging out with his dad. And Sam was a
comer in his own right, having collaborated with "Buffy the
Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon on a comic, "Tales of the
Vampires #5," for Dark Horse Comics. (Whedon had been impressed
with the younger Loeb's story sensibilities while working with
Jeph on the "Buffy" animated series that never got off the

Sam was ready to follow up that debut by writing his own
issue of DC Comics' popular "Superman/Batman" series, one that
appropriately enough would revolve around teenage apprentices
Robin and Superboy. He finished the story for the issue, but he
ran out of time before he could see it through to comic book
stores. Sam died June 17, two months and four days after his
17th birthday.

His ordeal had started three years earlier with a little
bit of numbness in his left leg. It was diagnosed as
osteosarcoma, and pretty soon Sam had 14 inches of bone removed
from his leg. He went through an intense chemotherapy regimen.
His doctors believed that they had licked it, but six months
later the cancer turned up in his jaw. They took more bone out
of his other leg to build Sam a new jaw. And then they found
small growths on his lungs that required periodic surgeries to
remove them.

Sam's funeral last year drew an overflow crowd that ranged
from top comic book creatives to "Smallville" staffers to his
many friends at North Hollywood High School, the magnet school
where Sam was a high achiever in the gifted-student program.

Out of shared grief at the funeral came the idea to
assemble an all-star roster of comic writers and artists to
finish Sam's issue. Jeph also found some solace in writing a
companion piece, "Sam's Story," about a friend of Clark Kent's
in Smallville who gets cancer and dies. It's lovingly
illustrated by Jeph's longtime collaborator, Tim Sale.

"Superman/Batman #26" is due out April 19. The
contributors, who happen to number 26 and include Whedon and
novelist Brad Meltzer, have waived their fees and royalties,
and those funds are to be directed to the Sam Loeb College
Scholarship Fund, established by his family at North Hollywood
High. The plan is to award $10,000 a year to the student who
most embodies Sam's zany-artistic-brilliant spirit, as selected
by the faculty members who will never forget him. That spirit
shines through in a note, reprinted in "Sam's Story," that he
wrote four months before his death.

"Your destiny does not lie in a hospital bed," Sam wrote.
"Far greater achievements are to come."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter