For Todd McFarlane, his biggest achievements of all time were launching Image Comics and launching his creator-owned title Spawn - both happened in 1992. Now, 29 years later he has a plan for something he feels will be just as big - or possibly bigger.
"As I've been formulating this for months and months, I didn't want to bring her in until we were ready to pull the trigger, but we're here and I'm dropping it," he tells Newsarama.
McFarlane's long-running Spawn title will now be the flagship title in a line of multiple ongoing titles in this character's corner of the Image Comics - with its own interconnected continuity, storylines, team-ups, and more. It'll all work under the banner name of 'Spawn's Universe,' which will also be the name of the one-shot event book to kick it all off later this year.
The first wave of Spawn's Universe titles is three books: King Spawn, The Gunslinger, and The Scorched. It all begins in June with Spawn's Universe #1, followed by King Spawn beginning in August, The Gunslinger in October, and The Scorched in December.
For this ambitious undertaking, McFarlane has recruited an all-star list of talent for the series. Confirmed so far are Donny Cates, Frank Quitely, Greg Capullo, Marc Silvestri, Jim Cheung, Sean Gordon Murphy, Arthur Adams, J. Scott Campbell, Mike Del Mundo, Aleš Kot, Jason Shawn Alexander, Carlo Barberi, Brett Booth, Javier Fernandez, David Finch, Jonathan Glapion, Kevin Keane, Puppeteer Lee, Sean Lewis, Ben Oliver, Paulo Siqueira, Stephen Segovia, and Marcio Takara.
"There should be five or six names on there that should get the retailers' attention," he said. McFarlane is also open to working with new creators and helping create new talent.
"I know a lot of the top guys and vets I want are going to be busy at some point. I'm sometimes scouring Instagram for new talent. I've got a keen eye and want to coach them up and grow their name recognition." He joked about not creating just one new Todd McFarlane but a dozen in the near future.
McFarlane will serve as creative consultant and more on the editorial side than actively participating in these new titles. He said he had to get realistic in what he can and couldn't do as a singular person and wanted to bring in some of the top names in comics to help take the first step.
He also says he's more of a guide than telling people what to write or draw, but also encouraging them to take what's been established and to go wild with it. The big rule is to not paint over his brushstrokes, but to add to them. McFarlane added that he would come in and only say no to things that he felt broke the rules of the Spawn Universe, but there's no one true way to get a story made.
"Come to me with your biggest idea and I'll tell you if it breaks anything I have planned or in store," McFarlane says. "If it does, I'll give you options on how to make your story work. If it doesn't, that's awesome, too. Let's say you want X character to get married to this other character, but they're already married. Well, okay, I guess we have to divorce them to make it happen, but we'll get there."
Getting here has been a 37-year journey, from his debut back in 1984. Along the way, he's co-created Venom, launched a solo Spider-Man title that remains the highest-selling of all time for the character, launched Image Comics with six other artists, created Spawn, and launched a toy company that has grown to be one of the giants in the industry. With all those achievements, however, McFarlane sees Spawn's Universe at the same level - above even most of those mentioned (sorry, Venom).
"From my perspective and my professional career, this is the third biggest thing I've announced. Behind the founding of Image with my partners and Spawn #1, so if I do my job right, this is number three," McFarlane says. "By the end of this year, I will have gone from one monthly comic book to four monthly comic books. I'm taking on a big task here."
McFarlane isn't the type to name his favorite child but calls the Gunslinger to be his own Punisher or Lobo.
"He's going to make Spawn look like a Boy Scout. This is the guy that looks at Spawn and says 'shit, dude, you're playing this way too conservative,'" says McFarlane. "This guy is going to show Spawn how to up his game and march to his own drummer. At some point though, I want Spawn removed from his title and he's just called Gunslinger."
The Scorched will be McFarlane's team book, designed for readers who "want to look at a handful of characters and how they interact with a top-flight rogue roster." The team will consist of Spawn, Gunslinger, She-Spawn, and the Redeemer, with a few others that will come and go.
"If you want your books more gritty, check out Gunslinger or King Spawn or even the ongoing Spawn book. You can now get your fix multiple times a month now," says the Image Comics' co-founder. "You don't have to go out and buy all of them because the continuity will be so tight. I'm not going to do that to the readers. It will be a shared universe and if you're inclined to, you can walk into your store and get your fix now weekly."
Most of McFarlane's fellow Image Comics' founders launched lines for their corners of the company quickly in the '90s, and while McFarlane did do spin-off titles from time to time, considers Spawn's Universe to be his first real attempt at making a formal world for his characters. Why now? We asked him and got a surprising answer.
"At some point, I have to make myself obsolete," McFarlane says. "That should be the goal in comics, right? I can't be the epicenter at all of this. I should be like Frank Sinatra, who had his time in the sun, by my kids don't care. Do they like music? Yeah. Do they have their favorites? Yeah. Does not caring about Sinatra affect their life one iota? Not one second."
"This is the next evolution and the question shouldn't be 'why do this now?', but more 'what took you so long?'. I'm hoping 30 years from now will have an equally huge impact. So why not?"
Spawn's Universe will be available simultaneously in comic book shops and on digital platforms - and over 300 issues of Spawn are already there, at your fingertips.
For the best digital comics reading experience, however, check out Newsarama's list of the best digital comics readers for Android and iOS devices.