Todd McFarlane's Spawn is going from big to bigger this year, as the long-running pillar of Image Comics is expanding into a line of Spawn titles. The 'Spawn's Universe' line will see four ongoing Spawn-related titles to begin this fall, precipitated by a special one-shot to kick it all off called Spawn's Universe #1.
McFarlane is writing Spawn's Universe #1, with in-demand Marvel and DC artist Jim Cheung drawing the core of the book, with former Spawn colorist FCO Plascencia returning for this kick-off event.
In addition to the main story, there will be additional stories that set-up the new ongoing series: Gunslinger (drawn by Brett Booth), Medieval Spawn (Stephen Segovia), and She-Spawn (Marcio Takara). Details on the lead-in story to the fourth new title, the team book The Scorched, are being kept under wraps for now.
Newsarama spoke with McFarlane about these artists he's recruited, the plans behind the Spawn's Universe expansion, and why he thinks Spawn is back in the conversation once again.
Newsarama: Todd, this is the first time we've talked since 'Spawn Universe' was announced. Fans seemed excited about what's coming, but at the time you were secretive about who is working on which titles.
But I hear you're now ready to talk. Who do you have for each book?
Todd McFarlane: Okay, so some of these will be rolled out closer to the launch but Spawn's Universe, which to me, is the catalyst book and part of the reason that we're spinning off into these new books. I wanted to put a strong foot forward, at least artistically, and so months ago I started to make some calls and one of the earliest ones was to Jim Cheung.
I've always been a fan of his stuff and he's got this classic, awesome superhero look. It's perfect. We were originally going to do a limited series, but eventually, I got him on Spawn's Universe. I knew from then he was going to be the anchor and do most of the pages of that book. Then, he wanted to ink it as well and I even offered to ink him, but he wanted to do it himself. It's cool though because you get full-on Jimmy at that point.
I wanted to make sure he had a great colorist, so we nabbed FCO Plascencia -who did a lot of the early Spawn stuff and later did a lot of the Batman books. I called him and asked him when those were winding down as 'I've got some goofy stuff coming down the pipeline.'
Nrama: [Laughs] Goofy?
McFarlane: Yeah, goofy. It was pretty much the same conversation I was having with everybody and didn't want to give away too much at the start. So he came on and he'll be coloring Spawn's Universe and Gunslinger.
Then, I'm going to backfill it with Brett Booth, who is going to do six pages of Gunslinger. They're phenomenal. And those, those I get to ink. He did that cover, too and I had fun with that.
One of the things going forward are these little vignettes at the end of the books. I want to go old school comics here with something like at the end of Spawn's Universe, it'll say "to continue this, go read King Spawn #1.". All the things that used to work for me as a kid.
So when you get to King Spawn, there's going to be one for Gunslinger. They're like small reminders and if you want to see more go to this book. I don't know, those were fun things when I was a kid.
Marcio Takara is going to do the She-Spawn, and that's sort of the person who glues some of this all together which leads into our team book, The Scorched. Then Stephen Segovia will have a small Medieval Spawn story that explains why these people are coming together and joining forces.
So we'll have that and a few variants and incentive covers for the retailers and they're going to drop at $5.99. I was just reading, that's what the regular Batman book is going to cost? My intent is to make these books $2.99 afterward so at some point if DC follows through with that kind of pricing, or Marvel, they'll be giving you 20 pages for that or you can pick up my book for $3. Now again, if you like the character, I can't beat that, but if I deliver with the quality... it shouldn't matter. I want new fans and lapsed readers alike to jump in.
Nrama: Okay, so you've named four folks coming onto books but we know others like writer Donny Cates and artist Frank Quitely are coming on board. Where are you putting them?
McFarlane: Those are still surprises to come.
Not to be overly coy but one of the things I have to be aware of is that there is a long ramp here. It can be tough to keep fans' interests and you have to hold back a little bit. Some of the new information and details are coming later, and I just want to keep building on it as each new title comes out.
Nrama: Will any women be a part of these announcements? Because it seems to me -
McFarlane: I reached out to some! I reached out to a few these past weeks and there's definitely a positive response. So, yeah, I'm looking for both writers and artists.
Nrama: So will these teams be in for the long haul or just the initial launch? Do you have rotating teams on stand-by here?
McFarlane: The frustrating answer is 'yes and no.' The reason I say that is I'm answering you at a macro level. I have to plan for some contingencies. The books will differ slightly - different from who the artist is. Somebody will tell me they can do a book in five weeks, others will tell me seven. So I have to plan accordingly to that.
It's not quite that easy anymore. The Greg Capullos are few and far between.
Nrama: So in addition to the Spawn's Universe comics, you're going to make new Spawn toys of new characters for the first time in years. Since these are based on your designs are you more hands-on with production?
McFarlane: There seems to be, on the toy side, a parallel interest compared to the uptick of the comic book. After Spawn #300, it seems to be just have gotten bigger from there so I had people ask me about new toys, even some of the big retailers.
I want to come out with some of the new characters that are coming out in the comic book, maybe even some that aren't that prominent but they look good and make a cool toy.
Then, prepping for our next Kickstarter that I can really go that extra mile and knock it out of the park. From there, we'll have our ears on the ground and listen to the fans on who they want for their collection.
Nrama: What was it like seeing the reaction from the fans for new Spawn material and Spawn's Universe?
McFarlane: It's interesting because for what I wanted to do, I had to have the plans already formulated so I wasn't going to be able to deviate too much depending on what the fans were expecting. So it's more of you sometimes throwing your ideas out to the public and you hope it's more positive than negative response so you can keep driving in that direction, creatively. To me, it's more of that.
Once I open up Spawn's Universe in a meaningful way and that's going to happen by December, people will be able to weigh-in to say 'Hey, when will we see this character or that character?' and I'll actually be able to do something about it. I have to plant my seeds and let the fans eventually what kind of fruit they want on the branches.
Nrama: Are you still surprised by...I'm trying to word this right.
McFarlane: You mean that people still give a s--- about Spawn?
Nrama: [Laughs] That'll do, yeah.
McFarlane: I think because at times there's a misconception that what I do is unique, and it's not. What I do is a creator-owned book and there's this sort of single-minded creator that has stuck with it for so long, yeah that's kinda unique. Although, we saw versions of it with Dave Sim and Cerebus, and not too far behind me is Erik Larsen and Savage Dragon so there are other examples.
Where you normally see long runs are usually in Batman, Superman, or Captain America and you just assume they're going to be there month after month. What you don't add to that equation is that there's a creator behind it for the last 30 years. I think what's surprising is that they are part of the fabric of comics.
I think more of the surprise is that it's in the top ten now. It wasn't even in the top 50 for years, and now it's back up. Why is it relevant to be in the top ten? So I don't think it's more of 'Why is there still a Spawn book?' but 'How is it back in that spot after so long?'
Nrama: Okay so why do you think that is?
McFarlane: I don't know. Part of it just maybe some of the basics like I put out a quality book at a fair price. I think those comics do well. It's never late and you can set your calendar to it. It's never going to jump around and be in and out of new creative teams every three months.
I think all of that matters.
My guess is we picked up some new readers with Spawn #300 and that was a lot of re-engagement since then. We're going to see if that's still the thing because there's going to be new Spawn #1s, and spin-off books. That's the big experiment that's about to happen but I still have to deliver on those basics. If I can deliver a steady diet of those, it's fair game.
I'm hoping that we'll get a bit of a response with Gunslinger. I think it's going to surprise people. Then the pressure is really on me and the teams to keep that delivery coming.
But you can see all these characters in the course of their lifetime like Batman and Spider-Man, they all have highs and lows. You can map that through the decades. Spawn is no different.
Spawn is, without doubt, one of the best non-Marvel or DC comic book superheroes.