Among the numerous distinctions that Todd McFarlane’s Spawn has accumulated over the years is how so many new comics creators have made their name in the pages of the series or its ancillary titles. Ever heard of Brian Bendis? He got one of his first big breaks on Spawn sister series Sam & Twitch before jumping to Marvel years ago. Other names you can add to that list are Alex Maleev and Ashley Wood, who both contributed to Spawn’s ouvre and went on to their own great heights.
And now, another up & coming artist is joining Spawn and primed to make an impact. Polish artist Szymon Kudranski is set to become the regular series artist following the milestrone 200th issue later this summer, and he’s bringing with him years of skill and talent – going all the way back to his first discovery of Spawn back at age 11. Although Kudranski has done work on some miniseries and back-ups for DC and other publishers, his new assignment as Spawn’s regular artist is his biggest work to date.
And he’s loving every minute of it.
Newsarama: Spawn¹s been many things from straight up superhero, going to horror and even some medieval elements and an animated look at some point. For your
work, what are you drawing inspiration from and aiming for?
Szymon Kudranksi: First, let me give you a quick overview how the ART of Spawn influenced me.
Nrama: School me, Szymon.
Kudranski: In the past 20 years, Spawn racked up almost 200 issues. Month after month creators had to keep people interested in art and story, and Spawn is still here. I think Todd made great decisions over those years. He takes risk with new people, like he has this sixth sense for creators. The first time I heard about Brian Bendis, Alex Maleev, Ashley Wood, Steve Niles, David Hine, Ben Templesmith was because they worked on Spawn, and these guys are classic creators. I think it's good that Todd doesn't view Spawn as one dimensional. He’s always moving forward with creators he finds, its process, and doesn’t stay in one place doing the same stuff year after year.
In Poland, Spawn started coming out in 1997. And people in the U.S. were angry Spawn #196 was delayed for 4 months?! Imagine 5 years! Anyway, when I was 11 I was in church with my class and my buddy said he bought Spawn. My teacher threw me out from church I was so loud, and mad my friend bought it before I had! After school, I went to every store looking for Spawn but they were all sold out. I found one store in some shit hole and there it was - Spawn. When you’re 11, it was pretty exiting to see McFarlane’s art style. Back then I bought Spawn only because of Todd’s art. His style was a perfect fit for me. I understand how big of a role ART plays in the series.
Then it become more dark and terrifying. The art become more gritty with Greg Capullo. The next big step for me was Spawn #100, Hellspawn with Ashley Wood, and Sam & Twitch with Alex Maleev. That changed my view on comics as art form. That kind of art and Bendis’ storytelling kept me on the series.
Now, is another step for Spawn. I plan to showcase him in a different style that wasn't on regular series. I think as Todd gets older, Spawn gets more mature in art matter, too.
Nrama: And now the artistic torch is being passed on to you – where are you going to take it?
Kudranski: What I will be working on is more realistic approach to art, but very, very dark and moody. I will be doing pencil, ink and grayscale. I never worked in clean or animated styles. Don't get me wrong, I love art by McFarlane, Capullo, Medina, and Tan, but I feel much more comfortable working they way I feel is more me. I should also point out that art will be very cinematic. I love comics where art fits to the story, whatever it may be -- superhero, horror, sci-fi. Like I said, this is another risk Todd’s taking on the regular series. How will it turn out? Time will tell.
Nrama: Any butterflies in your stomach from following up from these artists you mentioned?
Kudrankski: I get asked a lot if I was afraid to take over the art on Spawn since the regular series was mostly "cartoony" art style. So what? Bob Kane drew Batman in 1939, do you see Batman these days drawn like Bob Kane? No. It's a process. If people were afraid to put extra lines on the characters they draw, there would never be a Todd McFarlane, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave McKean, or Ashley Wood.
If I was afraid of people reactions on my art, I probably would never have gotten this job.
I only care that my art looks the way I intended it to look like. Then I can feel honest about it. Whether people will like it or not, I’ll still feel happy because I did what I wanted to do, and I did it with pleasure.
Nrama: Can you describe for us your talks with Todd or the new series writer Will Carlton about what you¹re all aiming for together with the book?
Kudranski: Todd has a very clear vision for Spawn, and Will nails it perfectly. Sometimes I throw a couple ideas for characters, or small details that were missing in plots. We’re heading for a more realistic aspect in regards to our run on Spawn. My art will be a reflection of what he and Will have for the story.
I can tell you what I aiming for-- Todd told me to let him know every idea that I have in mind. I can't imagine people want to see Spawn sitting in Spawn alley thinking how the Devil lied to him, and how his buddy screwed his woman! We saw it already. You want to see that kind of Spawn and fight with bad guys? Go buy the trades. I saw it for 100 plus issues.
Nrama: What do you think people want to see in a Spawn comic these days then?
Kudranski: What I see in comics book stores are guys who are 20-40 years old, and I am sure they don't won't to see Spawn drinking with his toothless friends in the alleys for 200 issues. They probably want to see Jim getting it on with Sara! I don't see a problem. I don't know if Todd would get it, but it's worth a shot. If there was sex, blood, cursing, and violence in Spawn, would be that a problem? I don't think so. That's why we have Spawn comics-- to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. Spawn is Todd’s creation and he can do whatever he wants to do with him. If he did it just to sell and collect money he would never have killed Al, but he did.
For me, Spawn was always a title where I could find something I couldn't find in other comics. Sure it can be mature as hell, but I think teenagers would enjoy it, too. People said Dave McKean and Bill Sienkiewicz opened up their eyes for comics as art form. For me - it was Hellspawn #1 by Ashley Wood and Brian Bendis. These guys didn't hold back and they created a classic.
I don't know if Todd will be mad or not after reading this interview, but I am telling you this as a fan, and probably more people think the same way, I want to take Spawn beyond--where he curses and bring back the middle finger (Spawn #201) and nudity in future issues. Rock and roll… it’s 2010! We’ve got people dancing on TV shows and addicted celebrities going to rehab in front of millions of people, and someone would be offended by Spawn saying "fuck" in comics? Todd has the choice if he wants to use it or not. He gives me the same choices in art.
Nrama Todd McFarlane is one of the biggest figures in comics art What¹s it like to be working with him?
Kudranksi: So far, so good. It's nice when Todd calls you and treats you with respect. Todd is giving me the freedom that I need, and with that, work turns into pleasure, and my art work is much stronger. I think he knows how to treat his creative people to be at their best.
I also like the working process on Spawn. I get the plot from Will, then I talk about it with Will and Todd, I send Todd sketches, layouts, and a few ideas unique ideas I always throw out. Todd keeps telling me "Ok, you go ahead. You are the judge. Do whatever you want." That kind of process brings the best out of me.
And now I finally I know someone who was on the Howard Stern Show!
Nrama: How far are you into drawing Spawn right now in terms of pages and
Kudranski:I finished #201 last month and I’m working on issue #202.
Nrama: With Spawn #201 on schedule for October it looks like you’re building up a real head of steam. Before I let you get back to the drawing board, I have to ask about you getting this gig. I¹ve read that you came to be drawing this book by an interesting manner:
Twitter. Can you tell us about that?
Kudranski: Yeah, it was pretty funny. I had an account called "Bruce-Wayne02" or something like that. I sent three Sam & Twitch pages on Twitter, and that was it. But, I never posted my name or e-mail. So a week later, I get back on Twitter, and there it was--poor Todd had been trying to contact me for a week. The rest is history.
Nrama: How does that make you feel?
Kudranski: What I like about it, is that you don't need to speak English. You can live on Mars, you don't need to wear a tie, you can be man without a face and words - and your ART will speak for itself.