Todd McFarlane's broad line of DC action figures are on shelves now, and at last weekend's Toy Fair in New York City McFarlane was out promoting that - as well as his own creator-owned projects.
One of the biggest announcements was that McFarlane Toys was entering the Kickstarter game with a campaign to remaster his original 1995 Spawn figure line, which included Spawn, Medieval Spawn, Clown, Violator, Overtkill, and Tremor. The initial campaign will be only for the original Spawn figure at first.
"What we’re going to do is come right out of the gate with Spawn from 1995...and hopefully all six of these. We’re going to take this and put him in retro packaging, but we’re going to do a modern day sculpt. We’ll have about five or six buy-levels you’ll be able to get to,” McFarlane said on Instagram. He went on to say that if that wave does well, he wants to experiment with his Masterworks series and remastering some of the older McFarlane Toys series.
“You’ll get a new McFarlane Dragons, a new Wizard of Oz, a new crazy Christmas toy, a new Movie Maniac...anything you collected of mine.”
Newsrama sat down with McFarlane at Toy Fair to talk about about the upcoming campaign, the licenses he’s just picked up, what he’s looking for in the next DC waves of toys, and of course, his nonstop pursuit of bringing back Spawn to the big screen once again.
Newsarama: So Todd, we’re here at Toy Fair, booth looks great, but before we dive into the future of McFarlane Toys, let’s talk about that Spawn Kickstarter, which is a complete retool of the 1995 series. What made you want to go back basically where it all started?
Todd McFarlane: Two things, one being I wanted to scratch an itch, just to see if Kickstarter is a place that I can just do some sort of cool stuff and bypass the normal system and go straight from me to the consumer. The other one was just that there seems to be a demand for “retro” stuff and I thought it would be sort of fun to say hey, we started off with our own thing in the mid-90s and that sort of woke people up in what we were doing and we’re way better now than we were then.
It’s been 25 years since we released that, so let’s go back and release it in the same style package but with the sculpting of today on it.
A lot of retro toys keep the same sculpting and I don’t know why people get a kick out of that. Maybe because it’s so bad it’s good, but I’m just like no no, let’s go retro but I might even redraw that art on [the box]. At first glance, it will look like the old one, but when you look at it, it’ll be new. Remember, when we started we were just Todd Toys, and now we’re McFarlane Toys so that logo will obviously change, too.
And if people want it, we can give them all of wave one.
Nrama: You’ve been really gung-ho on trying to get Spawn back in the collective cultural zeitgeist, do you think a redesigned toyline is the best way to go about that?
McFarlane: I think it’s one of the routes, yeah. I mean we just had Spawn #300 that was the number one selling book for that month and second biggest selling book of all of 2019. I think Detective Comics #1000 was the only thing that outsold us. Spawn was the only title that was in the top 11 that was listed twice in top sales, any month, any time of 2019. I thought I had my moment about a week ago and we were going to make a big announcement with the movie, but something fell through, but there’s still lots of momentum with Joker’s success and raking in billion dollars and all of the awards.
On the way back, I leave here Monday, but on Tuesday I have a meeting with another Hollywood person. I just lost an Academy Award-nominated person that the money was behind as their schedule didn’t quite meld when we needed to go, but there’s lots of interest still and Spawn is at the top of the list for a lot of people.
Nrama: So tell us about the Spawn figure that was announced last week, the new Spawn figure from the Mortal Kombat line. Mainly, how is this going to differ from the Kickstarter one.
McFarlane: This one is going to be sort of in our normal full articulation that we have on the marketplace right now. 25-30 points of articulation, same scale around 7”, where as the Kickstarter is going to go back down to our original scale that we did in ‘95 which was about 5”. When toys started going to 5, we went to 6”. The kickstarted one, is going to be more simplified in articulation, but still a heavily detailed sculpt. They won’t be competing with each other.
Nrama: You’ve got a few new movie licenses coming out this year, too. Bloodshot starring Vin Diesel is a prime example. Now the movie doesn’t come out til next month, so are there plans for expansion on that line or just doing this one and done?
McFarlane: With Bloodshot, it may be like we’ve done with other licenses and you do the main character and you’re done, but at this stage, we don’t know if it’s going to be a hit or not but if it is, we’ll go back and add two or three other characters. If there’s demand, we’ll make them, but sometimes you run into license where like- for example, we had the Shrek license years ago and we learned people wanted almost just Shrek and maybe a little Donkey and really nobody else. So we’ll see how Bloodshot performs and then we’ll see the demand.
Nrama: You’ve also expanded some of your video games. You have an expansive Doom wave now and Cyberpunk 77 is coming out soon. What was it like working with Keanu Reeves?
McFarlane: We worked with him directly, him and his company, but they were very particular but they’re artists so it’s cool! I get it! They would make notes and comments, but also, like, draw out and physically show us what they meant and wanted from us. So if somebody would say “make him a little more handsome.'" Well... what does that mean? But they would actually give specifics then show us what they’re looking for. They’re really attentive to the approval process so even if we had to make four or five alterations, they get them really fast.
I’ve been with other licenses where it’s been like pulling teeth to get any approval, especially when you’re up against deadlines, you can’t do what you want to do.
Nrama: You’re also grabbing the Warhammer license as well. You’ve got the Space Marines on display, but I’m guessing there are plans for a slew of characters in the works.
McFarlane: Well, I mean you know that brand’s got hundreds of things you can do. I would compare this to something like Halo in the past where we have the brand and maybe a few key characters that people like but hundreds of looks behind them. We’ll take it slow, but if people want more, we got them.
Nrama: Looking at your DC line, you’re adding the blue cape and cowl to Batman, dipping your toes in the Arkham video game series with Batman and Joker, and Azrael, this feels Bat-heavy. Any reason for that?
McFarlane: Go down the aisles here and ask the average consumer. Ask any random people to name as many DC characters as they can and Batman will be at the top of most people’s lists. So you can just sell Batman 365 different ways, but you don’t want to sell the same figure. We’re going to scale back after this though because we don’t want too much Batman and dive into some of the fun looking stuff I showed you with the prototypes.
Nrama: You have another My Hero Academia wave coming this year as well. You have a few anime licenses already, are you planning on expanding more in that direction?
McFarlane: Like most companies out there, we’re constantly looking. So whatever we think that has an appeal and get out there that may actually sell, we’ll take a look at it. Doesn’t mean we’re going to get it, but we’ll take a look at it.
Nrama: Going back to the Spawn figure Kickstarter, what sort of incentives do you have in mind?
McFarlane: Oh, dude, here’s the thing about Todd, Todd is not a one-trick pony! I can offer stuff like signatures, I can offer exclusive toys, paint jobs, comics, drawings. I can do stuff that has some meaning to people.
I just did a CGC signing and it was like a warehouse. Stan Lee had the previous record a couple of years ago, but that broke that record, then broke my own record recently. I’m saying that to brag, I’m saying as a fact because and in part because I don’t do a lot of signings, so when I do you might want to jump on it because it could be years when I return to the same spot again.
Nrama: Lastly, for fans like me who remember when the first Spawn figures hit shelves, Spawn was equipped with a certain, now infamous weapon. Are we ever going to learn the history of the board with the nail in it? Will it be included later because in that packaging you have displayed, it’s not there.
McFarlane: [Laughs] Yeah, we made it. We actually did make it for the display here! They sculpted it and it’s like a modern version, but it’s still so goofy. C’mon! We need something better than that. I don’t know, we’ll probably make a true retro one with it in there, but I haven’t decided yet.