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Spawning a Legend

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This week, Todd touches upon his most famous creation and what his plans are to catch up on Spawn. Oh, and there's that milestone issue (Spawn #200) right around the corner.

McFarlane’s Mark is produced by Sam Moyerman and Frederik Hautain.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Spawning (if you’ll pardon the pun) from our discussion of Wolverine and how the mysteries behind the character kept him going for so long, it seems like a good time to switch over to the character you are most famous for creating, one whose next release will be issue #196. 

Was that building of a mystery behind the character something you have been going for all along with that character to keep the readers asking questions about Spawn?

TODD MCFARLANE: Well, as of issue #185 we made a change and now there’s a new Spawn.  So it allows me to put him into positions that are dramatically different from the first Spawn.  We’ll see whether that’s good or bad to the readers, as they will ultimately make the choice there.  I thought some of the stories (with Al Simmons as Spawn) were getting a bit repetitive.  And since you can’t change a character’s personality… well, maybe you can, this is comic books after all, and you can do whatever you want.  It was more of a decision to bring someone new in, give them the same powers and situation and see how they would react.

You and I, in the exact same situation, would function differently.  Why?  Because we are bringing the baggage of our life and our history, experiences, and whatever else we have to that moment.  We would problem solve the same thing in completely different ways. 

For Spawn, this meant I could bring back old characters (i.e. The Clown) and it will still feel new because The Clown will know and/or realize that this isn’t the same guy.  He can say, “Instead of being a bad guy, maybe I’ll try and act nice and convince this new Spawn that I’m a good guy and get him to be my pal.”  So now The Clown starts to act differently than what we’ve seen for 185 issues.  Having a new main character also allows me to bring in new villains and a brand new supporting cast to the series as well.

BF: Did you have an idea in mind to make this change at some point along in the series or was this something that was organically grown out of the series and the direction it took?

MCFARLANE: It grew organically.  I felt the book was in a little bit of a rut and needed to be kick started.  People were asking me why I didn’t reboot with the change, but since I own the character I get to make the decisions that I want.  I was never inclined to reboot and do a new issue #1 when we made the change.  I know it’s all the rage with the corporate companies but I never bought into that.  I was always a fan of having an issue #400 of a series.  I never liked that trend as a collector so I wouldn’t do it as a creator.  So you just have to reinvigorate the book somehow. 

This isn’t new to the industry either.  New creators and teams are brought onto books all the time to change things up and reinvigorate a book.  I could easily argue, and I’d win the debate, that more big things happen when new creators are brought in than during straight reboots.  Frank Miller came onto Daredevil around issue #165.  You didn’t need a reboot, you just needed someone to come in and kick the book in the pants and try something a little bit different. 

That was also the thought process when we went into issue #185 of Spawn, to literally start things off with a bang and have Al Simmons kill himself.  And now he’s gone.  Not even comic book gone where he’ll be back in 12 issues or something but really gone.   In my mind he’s completely off the table.  Sure, its comic books so eventually he could be brought back, but I have no intention of bringing Al Simmons doing so.

BF: He is back in another book Image is publishing right now…

MCFARLANE: Well… yes and no.  We are calling the Image United Villain the Anti-Spawn and have named him Al Simmons, but it’s not quite that simple.  Robert Kirkman is going to write a few pages in Spawn #200 to explain that situation.  It’s not that black and white.  Anyone can take anyone’s identity.  Identity theft at the demonic level if you will. (Laughs)

BF: Demonic identity theft!  I like it.  I’m sure that sort of this would happen all the time, those demons can’t be trusted. [Laughs] With Spawn #185 you also brought on a new creative team.  Whilce Portacio was brought on to handle the art chores, but he is now no longer on the book...

MCFARLANE: His last issue will be #197.  Issue #196 is Rob Liefeld and myself doing the pencils.

BF: Did you just grab Rob for this and ask him to jump in for a book?  Or was that something that came about because you were working on Image United together…

MCFARLANE: We were working on Image United and I talked to Rob and told him I needed some help to catch back up on the book.  Whilce had the opportunity to do Hulk and didn’t have time for the issue, so I asked Rob to help out on a few pages.  I told him I’d get Greg Capullo to do the layouts so it would be a weird hybrid (just like with Ryan on Haunt) with Rob over Greg’s layouts and myself over Rob’s pencils.  I got a lot heavier on Rob than then I did on Ryan, not in terms of changing his artwork.  Rob and I have worked with each other before and our stuff is very compatible.  So I can do stuff on his artwork that is more fun and makes sense to do that I wouldn’t do when inking Ryan. 

So Rob helped me with that book.  And I’m trying my best to catch back up with Spawn since we’ve been busy with Image United and Haunt that I almost have to start putting Spawn issues out bi-weekly to catch up heading into issue #200.  I’m trying to get Erik Larsen to help me out and come on board to work on issue #199.

BF: Really?

MCFARLANE: Yup.  And it will be pretty cool.  Anytime Erik and I do any type of “jam” art, if I even draw one line on his Dragon he notices it.  He’ll call me up and say “Todd, what are you doing?  How could you put that line on his knuckle?!?”  And I’ll humbly apologize [laughs].

So I thought it would be a cool experiment if Erik just did some fast penciling but then I had complete autonomy to go in and do my Todd inking style right on top of your work and just see what it looks like.  Well, it could be a stupid experiment but you’ll never know until you do it.  He was a little hesitant but the other day he agreed and asked me to send him the plot. 

It’s good to have friends like that to help out when you need them to catch up.  This way we can get back to schedule and put out issue #200, the bulk of which will be all my artwork, before we go into our new creative team.

BF: So to recap, issue #196 is Rob and you, #197 is Whilce.

MCFARLANE: With a couple pages from me.

BF: And Erik is doing #199.  So who is doing issue #198?

MCFARLANE: #198 is Khary Randolph.  He did the Adventures of Spawn comic.  He was really nervous because he has a more cartoony style.  But in a weird way it looks like Ottley’s stuff.  And to alleviate his worries, I was showing him the work I did with Ryan to show that that style works well for me.  I told him if he even gives me a little bit to work with, I’ll ink the crap out of it.  So that way he didn’t have to do it.

He was still a little nervous when I sent him the first scene.  It actually took a little while for him to get it to me.  But when I saw them I thought it was perfect.  It was exactly what I wanted so I could go in there and do my little Todd thing on top of it to sex it up a little bit.  So he gets Greg’s layouts and put his work down and I go ahead and finish it off.

BF: Does Greg do all the Spawn layouts, even for people like Rob and Erik as well?

MCFARLANE: Yeah. I feel it keeps the continuity good.

BF: It’s funny seeing your and Rob’s work together.  I remember back when I first started collecting and the first book I collected was X-Factor.  And I distinctly remember the first time I really noticed artists and art styles was I believe issue #50 of that book where you both worked on the cover.  I can’t remember whether or not you were both doing some interiors at the time or not but that cover stood out to me.

MCFARLANE: I think that was just Rob’s book.  He was doing some interiors for it and we had a run where we did a few covers for that book.  We did do the Spider-Man/X-Force crossover a few years later, but I don’t remember doing any X-Factor interiors.  But sometimes I don’t even remember my own work.

BF: Well, we are talking about X-Factor, which was almost 20 years ago so that’s understandable. Speaking of which, how much fun is it working with these guys again on both Image United and Spawn?  I mean, we mentioned X-Factor and Spider-Man being 20 years ago so to still be working with these guys has to have some real fun right?

MCFARLANE: Yes and no.  Yes, I like the guys and it is fun working on their pages.  The no part is that I look at my plate and I’ve got Spawn, Image United, and Haunt every month now and I’m struggling a little bit to keep it all up to date, which is why I had to get some help with the Spawn issues to catch up.

With inking, even with those guys, my job isn’t to change what is there but to sort of add and embellish onto it.  Then people will get something that they’re not used to seeing from that artist but it’ll be recognizable and hopefully a little cooler.

BF: It’s definitely something I noticed when reading Haunt.  Personally I really like it and I don’t think I’m breaking new territory to tell you that your artwork is popular.  And the matching of the artistic styles has been great.

MCFARLANE: And sometimes the best part is just the experiment of it.  With Erik and me making an attempt at it, this is going to the first time in my career that I’ve ever inked him.  There will be artwork there that looks different than anything either of us had done before.  The consumer will eventually decide if it’s good.  I’ve been lucky in that I’ve got good people who work with me.

And speaking of good people, you should see the kid I’ve got coming onto Spawn after #200.  Initially I was going to take the book into a darker direction and take over myself, but then I found him and it’s exactly what I was looking to do.  It’s funny because at first all I saw was his black and white work, but then he asked me if he could paint a couple things as well. So I figured why not, then it came in and it was incredibly impressive.   And this is someone I just found on Twitter!

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Comments

  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Feb 20, 2010 at 8:29am

    call me a fan, because this is what I love reading about!
    So Al Simmons remains dead...mmmm...closed that chapter. I loved Al and Cyan and Wanda but it indeed made sense to go further.
    Respect!

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