Haunted by Comics: Todd McFarlane on Spawn

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In part 2 of BF’s discussion with comics legend Todd McFarlane, the topic changes from Haunt to the long-awaited Spawn movie. McFarlane talks about his plans and goals for what he wants from the movie.

Part One: Haunted by Comics: Todd McFarlane on Haunt

BROKEN FRONTIER: The big question is what are your plans for Haunt in more of the long term.  Do you plan to ink it for an extended period of time?  Is this book in your long term plans?

That's the theory.  I've been having conversations with everybody.  People knocking at the door pretty aggressively asking me when we can start doing a movie version of this.  They're waiting on me to say "Now."  But when I say "Now”, that means that the people who I'd be saying “Now” to are also the ones I told I would need to write and direct it.  So it's not just a matter of producing and just going in to help with that.  What writing and directing that movie would mean for my comic book schedule, I don't know. 

My intent would be to keep involved with the artwork as much as possible.  Maybe I'm being naive, but I don't see any reason why I can't be at a shoot for 3 hours and go back to my trailer to ink when they're doing makeup, changing the set, resetting the lighting, etc. People could talk to me about what we're doing for the next shot while I'm inking, because that wouldn’t differ much from how it is nowadays: because of time constraints I have to draw in meetings. 

So, instead of just sitting there waiting around, why can't I be doing some comic book work? 

BF: I guess it's one of those things you won't know until you get around to doing it.  Maybe sometimes you'll find you do have time and sometimes you might not.

Is that the only thing that's holding you from starting the Spawn movie right now then?  Finding the time to start?

Yeah.  I mean, I have my other companies too.  And the thing with those other companies is we're still in the midst of the world turning on its side, with an economic correction.  People use thick words, meltdown and such, but I won't go there, since I think all it is is a correction from our past greed for all North America...

BF: Hey did you just count yourself as an American?

North American I said.

BF: [laughs]  Not that you're not welcome. You just always seemed so proud of being Canadian.

Canadians again, we sort of act in step with the way Americans do.  We're consumers up there too at a big level.

Anyway, we're at a correction.  But there were times when I thought I could step away from the company and do something like the Spawn movie, but the economic situation hit and I realized I needed to pay more attention to my individual companies to get through the tough patch, which means time, which means I have less time to work on writing a comic, drawing a comic, pitching an idea, writing a screenplay, and directing a movie…

If I go and direct, I'd have to walk away from a lot of things for an extended period of time, so I need to be sure that when I come back things haven't burnt to the ground in a sense.


BF: Well, it is a nice foundation that you have set up with everything and all your businesses.  You do have your hand in a lot of different places, so I can understand the apprehension to drop certain things.

We'll have to see.  My goal is to find that all clear by the end of this year.  I told people I would have had it started at the beginning of this year but then the world went all crazy on me.  My wife is telling me, "Don't take too long, because the interest might not be there anymore."

BF: Was there any thought on your part to do Spawn as an animated movie instead?


BF: Because, I always thought the HBO animated series was a really good representation of the character and the concept.

You’re right, but then the idea now is what's the live action equivalent of that?  Which is basically what my thoughts on it are.  And I've talked to some people and have ideas in my head about that.  It would be an R-rated movie that is not a superhero movie but more of a creepy, suspense thriller film.  More in the vein of the movies I liked to watch when I was a kid: The Omen, Exorcist, and the like.  Even recently movies like The Ring and The Grudge and movies like that where things are moving in the shadows and scare you from time to time. 

That’s the direction I want to go in, instead of the whole "Da-Da-Da-Dum! Here I am!  And where's the super villain I have to fight?" – because [Hollywood] always has to have a super villain.  I've had those offers; they are still standing offers from the big studios, but they become even bigger with bigger studios and bigger budgets and then you have to get a bigger star, which would mean I'd be simply producing at that point. 

I've got a real itchy finger to get behind the camera at some point.  This is an idea I've been living with for a long time, so if I keep the budget low then the companies will say, "That's great, now we can just go get a schmuck director..." to which I reply "Can I be that schmuck?", which makes it way easier to negotiate. [Laughs]

As soon as you go to huge production values, there's no way I would be allowed to do it, nor would I even want to do it.  Because from a producer standpoint there's much better guys than me.  But if we keep it at a low number and we're just going to use a schmuck, then I say "I can schmuck this as good as anybody."  And there are the backers who think that idea is really cool. We’ve reached the point that whenever I want to go they're ready, so I have no one to blame but myself now.

BF: Do you have a script ready?

Well, I've got a deep, deep, deep detailed outline of it that really just needs some dialogue and a couple scenes to spruce things up a bit.  I say I'm going to put the screenplay together and I've begun writing it; so some of it is sitting there.  To finalize the screenplay, actually if I just went into a room and told everyone to stop bugging me I think I could come out in 10 days with a script.

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  • Kris Bather

    Kris Bather Sep 3, 2009 at 10:26am

    Great interview Sam. McFarlane has always been an intriguing creator.

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