It's been nearly 30 years since Batman and Spawn crossed universes, but in December they'll be back together again. Spawn creator Todd McFarlane has teamed up with seminal Batman and Spawn artist Greg Capullo for Batman/Spawn #1, a brand new adventure in which the Court of Owls enlists Spawn to destroy the Dark Knight.
Batman/Spawn #1 is a 48-page one-shot crossover (though McFarlane tells Newsarama there may be room for a sequel) with colors by Dave McCraig. And ahead of the issue's release in December, Newsarama spoke with McFarlane and Capullo about re-teaming on a comic for the first time in decades, why the Court of Owls is involved, and what fans can expect from the new crossover that's been almost 20 years in the making.
Samantha Puc for Newsarama: Todd, Greg, diving right in, what do fans need to know going into this new Batman/Spawn crossover?
Greg Capullo: I would say that they should have a pair of Depends handy because when they read it, they're gonna shit themselves because it's so awesome. That was the tongue-in-cheek answer. I'm sure Todd has an articulate answer for you.
Todd McFarlane: Greg's working hard on it. I've got to ink it, so I'm working hard, but that's because he did all the hard work to start with. Visually, I don't think anybody's going to be disappointed.
For people who are obviously big fans of Batman and Spawn - and more importantly, Greg Capullo, even when he's inked by myself - all of those are known entities. I think there's a comfort level here. People are going, 'How far off the rails can these two guys get? They're a tried and true brand, the characters and the creative people.' So the question is, 'Can we tell an entertaining story in 48 pages?'
Capullo: The answer is yes!
McFarlane: The goal wasn't to do a story that would be so mind-numbing and sophisticated and whatever, that it would be like, 'Oh my God, that's it.' The goal was to deliver a very, very, very entertaining comic book with two major characters and some top-flight talent. Just like what Greg and I used to like when we were kids, right? We would've been on board to a project like this.
Will it be super awesome? Of course. It will be super awesome. It's hard for me to imagine somebody that collects comic books going, 'Eh. Batman, Spawn, Capullo, McFarlane, whatever. I'll go get my latest issue of Plastic Man or Cloak and Dagger or whatever.'
Nrama: What can you tell us about the story?
McFarlane: The story to some extent is a combination of what I had in my head and what Greg had in his. When I asked them what he wanted to draw - which I like to ask every artist, so they usually give me their answer and I try to come up with this story - Greg said, 'Hey, you know what, those Court of Owls guys are pretty popular. We get lots of email. People really dig them.'
So I went, 'Done. Court of Owls.' I did my homework and when Greg explained to me some of their background, and when I read some of the stuff he had done with Scott Snyder, then I went, 'Oh man, it's going to be fairly easy to make this bridge across time because the Court of Owls have been around for multi centuries and so has Spawn.' I have an easy bridge to get from one side, which is sort of the Spawn universe, over into the Batman-DC Universe.
Capullo: We've seen Joker done to death and the only other cool one would've been maybe the Batman Who Laughs. I just thought Court of Owls has those cool Talons, and as Todd pointed out, their history of being underneath Gotham for 400 years could make for an interesting story. I knew that if I gave Todd the pieces, he would put together a cool little picture, which he has.
I got to create a brand new Talon for this story that we still haven't named, so Todd in his script has been calling him 'Greggy.'
Capullo: I think it's a really cool thing because we're taking those elements of which I'm most proud of on Batman, which was the Court of Owls line, and I think we've got a really cool, fun tale with just lots of bombastic action and wall-to-wall fun. Todd crammed so much fun stuff into this thing. It's not real cerebral, but it's a cool story and it's a fun ride.
McFarlane: It's got a lot of nice visuals. We've got winks and we've got flashbacks, so you're going to see a nice smattering of what's behind each one of these universes without it getting bogged down into being the Crisis on Infinite Earths and Image Earth. It still has to be Batman/Spawn, right? That still has to be at the core, but it doesn't mean that we can't devote a page here or there just to have a little bit of fun. We're touching on some key points and potentially even sort of setting stuff up for a sequel. So, who knows?
Nrama: The first time we saw Batman and Spawn team up was in the '90s, so what's it like working with these characters again after so long?
McFarlane: Greg's built a career, right? There are plenty of people that know Greg as the Batman artist and [don't know he drew Spawn]. But for some of us that have been around a little bit longer, obviously Greg made a career with both those characters and is the preeminent artist on both of them.
Part of the story, without getting heavy-handed, is showing some of the comparisons between these two characters. What's common about them, right? Oh, boom, boom, boom, boom. But what's different about them? I would argue that's actually a little bit more interesting. I could do a 40-page book with Batman on one side of the room and Spawn on the other, and they both give their view of the world and have this really fascinating debate of what the world is to them, how they define it, and how they've figured out how to survive. But you have to tamper it down because the reason we buy comic books is because we like the cool stuff.
I'll be skirting on those edges to just say, 'Hey, here's why these guys sort of team up, and here's where they just agree to disagree.' They understand that it's not whether they agree with each other. It matters that there's a bigger threat to innocent people. Who cares about their M.O.s?
I wouldn't have done the book if Greg had said no. I didn't have a second name on my list. That's not to undercut that there are hundreds of other brilliant artists. Greg and I marvel at them every time we see them at shows and we walk down Artist Alley. It's more that there aren't any of them who made an impact with either character, let alone both. That's the magic. That's the 800-pound gorilla that Greg is. I'd argue he's one of the top - if not the top - guys in our industry.
Capullo: Years ago when I got off Spawn, I was still working for Todd, but it was a lot of the stuff that wasn't comic-related. I'd had my fill of Spawn, and one day he said to me, 'I need you to come back to Spawn.' I was on the payroll and so I had to say, 'Yes, boss.' But I was dying inside.
But after so much distance between then and now, coming back to Spawn has been a real joy. I've been well rested from Spawn. I've done 10 years or more Batman. Coming back to Spawn has been like visiting my old neighborhood and the house I grew up with and playing with my old friends, which I am with Todd and the character. It's been a blast. I know both of these characters intimately, so it's been a lot of fun.
Nrama: How long has this crossover actually been in the works?
Capullo: Todd and I announced it in 2006 at San Diego Comic-Con and it never materialized. So I got a call from Marie Javins, the editor-in-chief at DC - and actually, trivia point - she used to color my work on X-Force all those years ago - and she said, 'Would you be interested in doing a Spawn/Batman crossover?' And I'm like, 'I've heard this all before, you know?' And she says, 'No, I think we're at a place we can actually get it done.'
I was like, yawn. 'If you can get it together, then, of course, I'd be happy to sign onto that,' but I said to my wife, 'I'm not holding my breath.' I was quite shocked when they actually put this deal together. The reason Todd and I are having to crunch like this - we're working hard to get this book done on time - is because the corporate suits dragged their feet so long. They've got to move the pieces just right before you can get a contract signed.
They said to me, 'Greg, it'll be a real leisurely schedule. You only have to turn in two pages a week.' I'm like, 'That's a breeze. I'm in.' And now I'm like, 'Christ! 16 hours a day, seven days a week, getting it done!'
McFarlane: After I'm done with these interviews, I'm heading camping. My wife had committed us, but I've got to bring the pages. I've got to ink them. So I can be around the campfire, but I've got to ink while we're all chit-chatting. You gotta do it. Greg and I are old vets that have been around deadlines and although they're not necessarily the fun thing in our lives, they're a necessary evil to get work done. We'll get it done.
Nrama: What's been your favorite aspect of working on this?
McFarlane: Getting to work with Greg again, because he's a dear friend anyway, and getting to collaborate with him and see the pages again. When those pages used to come in on a regular basis, I was the first guy to be able to open up the gift of his art and go, 'Oh gosh, oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.'
That's fun because we do a very loose plot and so I don't really know specifically what Greg's going to put on the pages or how many panels or what camera angles or any of that, so the process of making comic books even after all these decades, as Greg and I are getting long in the tooth, is still thrilling when you're working with people whose art or creative skills you're jealous of.
On the DC front, they've given us a pretty wide berth, so I tip my hat to them. As Greg was saying, they're a corporation. They have different rules and obligations than I do with my small, private company, or Greg as a freelancer. So we've been able to mesh all of those needs in a way that doesn't seem like they're butting heads or counter to each other.
Capullo: My answer is very similar. Scott Snyder's eyebrow twitches like mad when I say this on panels with him, but the most fun I've ever had working in comics is working with Todd. That remains true to this day. We have similar vision and we definitely work in the same kind of manner as he mentioned - very loose, Marvel-style - and we're very close friends, like brothers, like family. It is family. We bond, we have fun, and we're like two stupid kids doing this stuff together. And there's never a mistake. No matter what we do, Todd knows how to roll with it and make it all work. There's a lot of adventure when we work together. There's nothing beating it, you know?
McFarlane: Neither one of us has ever gotten overly rigid at any time on what we wanted to put on paper. My goal should be that if Greg's got an idea or an inspiration, I should be able to conform to that because he's - if nothing else, whether I agree with it or not - he's enthusiastic about it. And I should support that enthusiasm and should be able to figure it out creatively.
I know Greg does it every time he reads even one line in my plot. He's going, 'Well, Todd wants three people on here. I would've only put two, would've been easier to draw, but I'll do what he asks.' Greg's always sending me texts. I send him some pages and he goes, 'Hey, I'm thinking of doing this instead of this.' And I'm like, 'Love it, love it, love it.' I'll figure it out if it's good storytelling, which is not to be taken lightly because everybody doesn't know how to do it, but Greg's a master.
I'm just saying, 'We're driving from New York to LA, Greg. You tell me how many pit stops you want to make along the way. You tell me what highway you want to take. You tell me what time of year you want to go. I know the story is that I've got to get these people from New York to LA and as long as we get them from New York to LA, then we will have serviced the story.' I've got the big chunks that have to be there and then the rest of it is like, how many more chunks can we have in between?
Nrama: Is there anything you'd like to add?
McFarlane: Hopefully at the end of it, people will be satisfied that the book as a whole was worth the read and worth the hype and the excitement of it. The visuals are sort of a no-brainer. Greg's on it. Hopefully, we can deliver enough meat in the story to say, 'Yeah, that was kind of cool. Right? Oh, and by the way, are they gonna do another one?'
Capullo: I just want the fans to know that I'm doing what I always do, which is keeping them in mind - not as far as my choices, but in delivering the best quality that I can possibly deliver to them. After 30 years, I've never lost sight of the fans. They are my family and my life's blood and they're the ones who've helped me to realize my dream, continue to live my dream and support me and my family. So I'll make sure to give you every penny's worth on the page.
Batman/Spawn #1 will go on sale December 13.
Spawn is one of the best non-Marvel or DC comic book superheroes.