As the saying goes, records are made to be broken and with Spawn #300 and #301, Todd McFarlane does exactly that. With the current record of Dave Sim’s Cerebus as the longest running American creator-owned comic at 300 issues, Spawn will tie that on August 28 with #300 and then break it come September 25 with #301.
McFarlane is writing (and drawing some of) Spawn now, but in addition to that is in development on a rebooted Spawn film with Blumhouse and beginning a three-year deal with DC to produce action figures through McFarlane Toys.
So yeah, Todd's busy. But that's how he likes it.
Newsarama spoke with McFarlane about the #300 milestone and the record-breaking #301, how the title has ebbed and flowed over the years after its million-plus-copy launch in 1992, the current resurgence, and what is his ultimate goal with Spawn.
Newsarama: Todd, Spawn #300 will tie the record for the longest-running American creator-owned comic with Cerebus, but with #301, it breaks it. What do you think has been the biggest contribution to Spawn’s longevity?
Todd McFarlane: Well, for the first couple of years, it was the momentum of us leaving Marvel, but shortly thereafter we had the Spawn movie and the HBO series, the video game and a few other driving forces that kept at it. Then you know, I started my own toy company, but for the first four or five years, there was a lot of portals into if you will. At some point, though, you just have to put on good quality comics.
Greg Capullo came on a nice run and then by issue #100, you’ve established yourself as part the of the books you’d see at a comic book store. Now as it heads toward the record, the buzz about me getting into production with a movie, it sort of reinvigorates it.
Any book that’s been around 20 or 30 years has its high points and low points. I don’t think I had expectations of being a top ten book forever, but you have your ebbs and flows. Spawn looks like he’s getting his glory back, even for a little while.
Nrama: Taking a look at the credits for #300, you have folks like Scott Snyder, Jerome Opeña, and of course, the returning Greg Capullo. What led to getting these creators involved?
McFarlane: You know, I’m a creator so I remember what it was like being at Marvel wanting to get my name attached to big projects, stuff that’s going to get highlights. So I told them I didn’t want just a cover out of them, so when you have a guy like J. Scott Campbell who does primarily covers, I say “C’mon, it would be way cooler news that you’re doing interior art than just another pretty cover." I’m sure his Spawn #300 cover will be fantastic, but I think the bigger news is that he’s taking the time to do pages in continuity so that’s going to be awesome.
So, no, it wasn’t hard to twist everybody’s arm.
Nrama: Well, speaking of covers, one of the covers you have to Spawn #300 is an homage to Amazing Spider-Man #300 that you also did. It’s a famous cover and constantly recognizable, but why was that cover so important to bring back for Spawn?
McFarlane: Well it’s not the A cover, which still hasn’t been shown yet, and it’s still mine but I was trying to tell this story with an image they’ve seen before, well at least I think they’ve seen before. So I used this parody cover, and people recognize it almost instantly and it’s a good eye catcher.
Nrama: Okay breaking Cerebus’ record aside, why is Spawn reaching this number so important to you even without constantly at the helm of writing or illustrating?
McFarlane: I’ve written the vast majority of it, though, maybe 80-85% of it. The #301 is really the record, right? And these two books make up one story, but those two books going into the tie and then breaking it is, both of those were important because it was something for a retailer to turn to their customers and give them a reason to read again. Issues #296 and #297 essentially recap the first 300 issues so if somebody comes in and says they haven’t kept up, they can get these and get caught up; it’s a primer.
Then #298 and #299 are the setup for #300, and #301 completes it. So in the end, that’s six months of Spawn instead of buying the anniversary special and leaving. You can have people on and hopefully keep them.
Nrama: For #300, you have 72 pages for $8. Who decided on that kind of price-point?
McFarlane: The 15-year-old Todd McFarlane that resides in my brain every time I make a decision. I think it’s better if you hook people with something like this, keep giving them quality, and they’ll come back for more. So in the long run, you’ll make your money. You can engage people longer and getting them in the front door because they like the product.
And to go back to your prior question, the big importance to me to #300 and #301, is that you can still read about people in this industry that happens to be in comic books, but you read about people from time to time that decided they wanted to take on the giants, put out their own ideas, and 27 years later, they’re still doing it. That to me should be the inspiration to anybody, whether you can draw or write or not. It’s about taking on the giants, living to tell about it, and still in charge of their idea almost 30 years later.
That’s the fight right there. It’s doable.
Nrama: That sort of leads into my next question because in Spawn’s almost thirty years, what has been the most prominent thing you’ve learned in your creating process?
McFarlane: If you’re going to do a monthly comic book, you’re going to have to grind it. Every time I bring in a new artist, I remind them that it’s not fun every day. It’s work at times. The thing that I learned that you don’t have to be the best person in the room, or have the most skill or talent, but if you have the most drive or the most enthusiasm, you’ll be surprised at how far you can get.
The only reason Spawn is breaking this is because nobody has done 302, so they let me have the record now, so that’s cool. A few years ago, there was a movie, Shrek, and there’s this scene where Shrek was looking for a partner on a quest to find the princess and out of all those fairy tale characters to volunteer was Donkey. Now, do we think that Donkey was the smartest or the best? Nope, but Donkey was the one that raised his hand and got the job done.
Nrama: Spawn has faced the forces of Hell, corrupt cops, and everything in between, so who is he going up against in #300 and #301? He has to step his game up at some point, right?
McFarlane: He’s set up the chess board so for about 250+ issues, Al Simmons has been saying “hey, leave me alone” and now he’s figured out that they’ll never leave him alone. So instead of asking and lamenting to be left alone, he’s accepted the fact that will never happen. He’s learned the game they’re playing now will turn the tables on them and do them the favor of going after them so they don’t have to look for him.
Nrama: With you back in the driver’s seat, do you feel like that affects the other hats you have to wear as part of the McFarlane brand?
McFarlane: I don’t know it if does now. I’ve been at this for 30 years, so I know how to balance myself now. When I was younger, I wasn’t very good at it, but now I know how to do all of this. I tell people that balancing all the things I do, as well as balance life, you just have to discover what kind of juggler you are and I’m a five-ball juggler. So if a sixth ball comes into play, I have to put one other ball down. Everybody has a maximum number.
I thought I could just keep adding them when I was younger, but I had to learn that if there are too many, then they all fall eventually and the whole acts suffers. I’ve got everything all scheduled out now.
Nrama: Lastly, do you think you have another 300 in you?
McFarlane: Oh, shit! I got 600 in me. I plan on hanging out a lot longer. Here’s why I got 600, maybe not me personally, I might be dead by then who knows, but the goal all the way back in 1992 when this started was to create something that will outlive me. Ultimately, when I look at some of my heroes like Walt Disney or Stan Lee, they might not be on this earth any longer, but their ideas are, their characters are...and in some cases, they’re thriving. Leaving a legacy behind is all that matters.