Comic Books Go Hollywood, Part 1


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After a brief hiatus, McFarlane’s Mark returns just in time to catch Todd before he jets off to the Hollywood premiere of Iron Man 2!

McFarlane's Mark is produced by Jason Wilkins and Frederik Hautain.

BROKEN FRONTIER: I was looking at the last time you talked with Sam and I realize you were talking about a bit about movies but I was also told you were shooting out to the Iron Man 2 premiere so I was wondering if you’d like to comment on what you expect to see in the movie or your ideas about comic book movies in general.

  I’m heading out there. I got an invite from Stan Lee. I’ve known Stan for a while. I can do a little bit of business out there and there are a couple of other people out there I can run into and go and support Stan on his movie.

What do I expect to see in the movie? I’m guessing a lot of the same cool stuff we saw in the first movie, so I don’t expect this thing to be significantly different than the first go around because they had such a huge success.

They usually have a tendency, moviemakers, not to mess with the formula when it’s working. They’re not about to revamp it like they did Batman from a couple of movies ago. All of the things people cheered about in the first movie, they’re maybe just going to do more of it. If anything, I think that’s the biggest danger with sequels is that they take stuff that you liked, that was surprising, that was fresh and new and they do it to death a little bit but we’ll see.

The second part of that, which is comic book movies in general, it seems like there’s been a pretty decent run of those here over the last the last seven or eight years, between your Batmans and Supermans and X-Mens and Fantastic Fours and now stuff like Iron Man. And then you can start to mix in some of the odd stuff now, with things like Kick Ass and Ghost World, History of Violence and Wanted. So there’s been enough mainstream and less popular titles as movies. Collectively it’s a very positive sign for those of us who make a living at it, that there’s an appetite to mainstream America and globally, to consume some of the story ideas we try to bang out every single month. You know, Robert Kirkman just got his Walking Dead picked up. So comic book stuff comes in a lot of different forms now.

BF: Do you look for something different in comic book movies than in other movies? Do you look for something different in the story or do you try to treat them pretty much the same as any other movie?

TM:  In a perfect world I treat it all the same because I treat myself like I’m someone from North Dakota. I’m just coming in because I like going to movies and it needs to entertain me right? I might not even know who Iron Man was before, you know just sort of a peripheral knowledge of the name but I never had a deep knowledge. I wasn’t a comic book collector. Know why? Because I’m a twenty-one year old female. So what do I know about it? So I think you still have to deliver a quality story that’s there. I usually go to a movie sort of going, “Who do I think the target audience is?” And within the confines of that answer, I sort of make my final judgment.

I think it’s one of the mistakes some movie critics make. They think every movie is aimed at them and it’s like, no this is supposed to be a dumb, sort of silly co-ed comedy that’s supposed to be up in the zone of 17-21 year olds who can all giggle at it, at all the burping and farting jokes and stuff. It’s not meant for you, who is 42 years old and has a master’s degree. That wasn’t the intended target. So that you don’t get doesn’t mean the movie failed. It means arguably it actually did hit its target. You’re just not in that bull’s eye.

I’ve had this conversation plenty of times with people about the products I do. Just because you, a church-going mom, doesn’t like my product, doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. I never wanted you to like it. I didn’t want you to dislike it. I never even wanted you to consume it because you weren’t part of the demographic. So, I look at the demographics of any movie and then I go backwards from it.
I’ve got a little boy now, who’s ten years old and if he walks out of there and he goes “Oh my Gosh!”, then I know it succeeded. When I took him out of Transformers, him and his buddies, I took three 10 year olds, they didn’t say one word and then they got in the car it was like “Oh my God, oh my God!” And they just started talking about it.

And when he walked out of Avatar, he went “That is my best, favorite movie of all time!” So, ok somebody’s making a huge impact on this youthful group. And I think most comic book movies for the most part are aimed at that younger audience a little bit. I mean we enjoy it, you and I, as adults but just think about it, if you or I enjoy it as adults, just think about how much a ten or eleven year old loves it. If I was ten or eleven and that movie [Avatar] came out when I was a kid, oh my gosh, I would havebeen just crazy.

BF: You’ve had your own experiences with Hollywood making Spawn into a movie. I know some people may know or understand this already but let’s remind them. How involved were you in the making of the Spawn movie?

TM: My involvement at the beginning was a little more like a big cheerleader, if you will, but as the process got going more and more, I started inserting myself a little bit more and getting a little more aggressive dealing with the executives and saying “I think we’re doing this wrong and this wrong.” and trying to get the support going on there. I also had guys producing and directing it who were friends of mine and were first time filmmakers. So we were all trying to do the best we could.

We ended up putting a product out there and what I learned is the moment you do something, you want to redo it. So, I’d take that thing into the editing bay and re-edit it and I would do some re-writing of scenes or whatever else. And like I said, that’s with hindsight on your side.

What happens with making movies is no different than with making comic books. You should get better with each one and you should take the pros and the cons of what worked for you and what didn’t work for you and apply it to your next issue if you’re doing a comic book. The biggest hold up with making movies compared to when you’re doing a comic book, is you can do twelve in a year, which means you’re drawing 200-300 pages in a year or if you’re a writer and you’re writing three or four different titles, you’re writing 1000 pages. So you can start honing that ability. In Hollywood, you know, you can make three movies and drop dead and they call you prolific. You don’t get to hone that ability as much as you would’ve hoped for because it’s a long, arduous process of getting a movie from the beginning of acquisition to people coming into the theater.

For me, what I learned the most post- all-of-this, is that the audience is still hungry for Spawn products but they’re getting older and I think I have to modify the story content for that older audience. I can’t assume there’s a bunch of twelve-year old kids that are collecting the books. I have to assume that all the twelve-year old kids are now ten years older and they’re twenty-two and they’re going to want something impressive on a level that speaks to them as a twenty-two-year old or thirty-two-year old, instead of trying to aim it at a fourteen-year old. I don’t think Iron Man is trying to impress a thirty-two-year old per se.

BF: No, I wouldn’t say so either. You mentioned in the future you would do things a little bit differently. Are there any future plans for movies of Spawn or Haunt?

TM: Yeah, my agent’s been phoning me. She’s been getting a lot of requests for Haunt, so we’re going through a process right now of combing through some writers. Instead of going and pitching it to the production houses, we’re going to see if we can’t get a writer to come on who can pitch to me and impress me and Robert [Kirkman] and get us to sign off. Then when we go into pitch meetings it would be, “Here’s the story we want to tell.”

And again to me, the biggest hurdle with any comic book movie is the costume. Do you accept it and go with it or do you modify it and go on? If you’ve read any of the Haunt, you’re going to see that other than the two brothers and the Haunt costume, almost everything else in there, within reason, is grounded in reality a lot more than a typical comic book. We haven’t had three different supervillains and stuff like that. There’s a lot of espionage and a lot of suspense and a lot of the stuff that Robert’s good at, which is character development. So for me, I’d be curious, because I’ve got my ideas, about how you’d get that across, because you can’t do a serious movie and have a guy go, “Now I’m in spandex.” You can’t get there. 

The question would be, once we get to the quote-unquote “look” of Haunt, what is that look going to be? I think those conversations can be pretty wide-sweeping given that Haunt is still in it’s infancy right? Unlike Superman or Batman where you’ve got decades that people have been entrenched with a look, you can actually start messing around with stuff early because Haunt is still sort of trying to find its sea legs, if you will.


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