Jim McLauchlin's PANEL DISCUSSIONS: TODD McFARLANE is the Most Un/Reasonable Man Ever
CREDIT: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Let me make no bones about this: I love Todd McFarlane.
Todd is one of those (unfortunately) rare people whose word you can take to the bank. He says what he means, and he means what he says. And when you ask him a question, you get a straightforward, honest, thoughtful answer. There’s no PR-speak about the man. He’ll give you the unvarnished truth.
Todd has always had a bit of thumb-in-the-eye quality to him as well. Rather famously, back in 1994, his Spawn book was running late enough that issues #19 and #20 were going to be returnable per distributor rules by the time they finally came out. It was a box; there was no way out. Todd was going to have to take returns on a non-returnable product.
His solution? He just jumped ahead to Spawn #21, finally getting around to re-soliciting and shipping #19 and #20 four months later.
Brilliant. Ballsy. And a thumb in the eye.
I worked for Wizard magazine for about 12 years circa 1994 through 2006. My interactions with Todd (ever notice he’s also one of the VERY few people in the comics biz who’s universally identifiable by first name?) were scarce in the early days, but grew as time went on. I came to really enjoy our conversations, exactly for all those unvarnished and thumb-in-the-eye reasons.
But one of the earlier conversations I had with him had a genuine element of confrontation to it. One day circa 1995 (yeah, I had to go back and look up the date), I’m at my desk at Wizard magazine, and the phone rings. It’s the receptionist. She says, “I have Todd McFarlane for you.”
“Okay,” I say. She punches him through, and I say, “Hey, Todd. How are ya?”
I immediately get hit by the 90-mile-an-hour freight train that is Todd McFarlane. In his very Toddlike, staccato way, and with a great deal of gravel in his guts, he lays in:
“Hey, I got one question for you,” he says. “And the question is: What the fck? Every fcking month, I pick up the Wizard magazine, and I see your letters column and you’re saying something bad about me. You say Spawny-guy sucks, you’re saying I can’t count, whatever. Every fcking month. Now I don’t know what the fck is going on here. I don’t know what your fcking problem is, or if I did something to piss you off, or what the fck. But fck! What the fck is going on here, and why the fck are you doing this?”
Without missing a beat, I give him my thoughts. “Well, Todd,” I say, “Every month, we run this full-page column in the magazine, ‘E.G.O.’ as in ‘Everyone’s Got Opinions.’ But it’s not everyone’s that got opinions. It’s just you. You get to ramble on about whatever you want, and you get a full page to do it. If I’m taking three column inches in the magazine to counter-balance that, I think it goes to equal time. And you know what? At a full page versus three column inches, you’re still coming out way ahead on the exchange.”
Were there a pin, you could have heard it drop. There were about four seconds of dead silence. I thought the call might have dropped. “Todd, you still there?” I asked?
Another second of silence. Then: “Yeah, I’m here. Okay, I get it. That sounds reasonable. Thanks!”
And Todd hung up.
And we never spoke of it again.
Todd’s feisty manner was certainly on display in 2000, when the NHL’s Tony Twist sued McFarlane, claiming that the “Tony Twist” character in Spawn was named after him, and McFarlane misappropriated his name and likeness for profit. The battle went back and forth in the courts, with Twist at one point winning a $24.5 million (!) judgment, and McFarlane continually appealing.
At one point, I was lucky enough to get a copy of a faxed letter (yup, there were faxes in them days!) that Todd sent to Twist’s lawyer, Bob Blitz (great name, huh?). The distinct dialect that is Todd-ese, well…it’s unvarnished. And this letter jabs two thumbs in the eye.
I’ve largely fallen out of touch with Todd McFarlane. But I doubt he’s changed. I hope he never does. The one-of-a-kinds should stay just that way.