Todd McFarlane Productions' self-proclaimed 'Year of Spawn' is coming to a close with Wednesday, January 12's release of The Scorched #1, the Spawn Universe's first-ever team book and what Image Comics president, co-founder, and namesake of his production studio Todd McFarlane considers the culmination of his year-long Spawn revival effort.
Written by Sean Lewis with art by Stephen Segovia and Paulo Sequeria, The Scorched 'assembles' some of Spawn's most well-known characters from over three decades of comics in one title.
Catching up with McFarlane at his home in Arizona, Newsarama spoke with the creator of it all reflecting on the 'Year of Spawn' and if the publishing/marketing push met his expectations, and we talk about what The Scorched is all about, and gets some updates about his plans for a Spawn sequel on the big screen.
Newsarama: Well, Todd, we're at the finale of what you had laid out as your 'Year of Spawn' with the release of The Scorched. Now, it was delayed somewhat, but it's coming out this week, and for those who might not know, who are The Scorched? What's their deal?
Todd McFarlane: Yeah, the delay was part of that big hiccup called the pandemic which was more than a bit of a bummer as I wanted to end the year in a blaze of glory. But as you said, here we are. Another record-setter so that's four for four.
Now the initial lineup for the Scorched doesn't have any big surprises, per se, but we got Spawn, She-Spawn, Gunslinger, Redeemer, with you know, characters like Reaper and Haunt and Monolith, and a couple of others in the background. So we'll see how the rotation goes. In my mind, She-Spawn is the leader, though she might not be seen as such. Spawn in the more General Patton figure with advice and strategy. All crotchety and seen as the wise old man.
Talking to Sean Lewis, the writer for the book, on the rationale on each member's role and why they're there, and once you have that, you can figure out their dynamic. Who is Medieval Spawn? Who would he tell his oldest secret to? And why? Those aren't exactly questions for everybody else, but it helps with the consistency for your dialogue.
Nrama: Tell us about these sales numbers you've projected. 270,000 print copies ? That's just for The Scorched #1?
McFarlane: Yeah! So it's interesting as it's playing out how I thought it would. If you had asked me at the beginning, and I think you actually have me quoted on this, but when Spawn's Universe #1 came out, I knew King Spawn #1 would do better than that because it's a known quantity and would sort of raise the bar. Gunslinger #1 and The Scorched #1 were going to be somewhere between Spawn's Universe and King Spawn with Gunslinger being a little more popular, so its sales would be slightly more. And that's what ended up happening.
The numbers are more surprising than I thought. When Spawn's Universe came out, if that book had hit 150,000, I would have been ecstatic, but when it hit 220,000, that was a big 'wow' moment. That's a significant number, just ask anybody at Marvel or DC.
So my 'weak' book ended up being stronger than I thought. Now, we've had these conversations about the other ones, Lan. Getting out of the gate, getting a #1 book is a lot easier than trying to sustain sales all the way up to issue #12. So we'll see! The goal is now, can I maintain roughly about 50,000 for each of those four books. If I can do that, then it's widely successful. Just a few years ago, pre-pandemic, we weren't even getting number one launches with 50,000. In the past year and a half though, we've had a dozen launches doing those numbers. So, it's very cool.
If we even do 25,000 … for an indie book? That's a hell of a life.
Nrama: So looking back at the past year, did your 'Year of Spawn' meet your expectations or…
McFarlane: Yep! At least out of the gate, but now the question is on me if we can keep the momentum that we have and for how long. What's the hard floor of these books though? If I can find that and build from that, I can feel secure that there's going to be a strong enough audience for it. Maybe I can get up to eight monthly books. We'll see.
Nrama: Why do you think it's taken you so long to do a team book of your characters?
McFarlane: Probably the same reason it took me such a long time to do a second title for Spawn. I try not to bite off more than I can chew if I can help it, but I guess I could have come up with it ten years ago, but I just didn't. I was just never motivated or had a reason to.
When I started planning towards it I was around Spawn #300 so I just kept telling myself if I'm going to do it, now is the time. There's a moment here that I can use as a touchpoint as to where it all springs from. Cool. Alright. I had an opportunity to pull the trigger after almost 27 years so why now, I don't really know. Here we are though. The 'Year of Spawn' is behind us, especially when readers get this one in their hands.
Nrama: So writer Sean Lewis and artists Stephen Segovia and Paulo Sequeria are the creative team for The Scorched. Sean already writes King Spawn, and Stephen has done some work here and there with Spawn's Universe and Spawn #315 last year. So how hands-on are you with this particular team? Seems like you trust them pretty well.
McFarlane: I wanted to be there at the beginning with some of the plotting so when we started to transition from the solo to the team book, it had some sort of continuity to it, and so you can imagine the only guy driving the IP for 30 years, I haven't let a lot of people in on what this Spawn mythology really is.
With Sean jumping on board with King Spawn and The Scorched, and two other people writing Spawn books, there are sometimes four of us chatting about let's throw these things back and forth. If we hit a snag, how do we get past it? If the story is character A and character B have always been hero and villain to each other, how do we make them allies? Also if that's an interesting story, what is the story in how you get there? Why would two enemies suddenly find themselves as teammates? Or vice versa. What would have to happen for two friends to become enemies like this?
Nrama: Going through your whole idea for the 'Year of Spawn,' you still have the new Spawn movie you want to make. You've said that if it doesn't happen soon, then you don't want to make it.
McFarlane: Well, no, I'm saying if something big is going to happen, it's got to happen this year. Otherwise, I'll go back to my original plan of doing something with a $12 million budget. But that's different than what we're talking about now with the big studios. When Spider-Man makes a billion dollars, it's not a negative in the equation.
Nrama: When I think of a 'Year of Spawn,' I think of 1997 because you had a movie and an animated show on HBO. Do folks reach out on Twitter or whatever and say, hey I didn't know this was a thing or I'm rewatching this for the first time? Is that something you'd ever revisit?
McFarlane: Oh yeah. Constantly! Ever since it went off the air. It's the thing I've had more people ask me more than anything and it's when is the animation coming back, probably even more than when I'm doing a sequel to the movie. I think it holds up because it was trendsetting at the time. Very hard, very adult. I think a new Spawn animated series would crush it right now.
I've been talking to a few people over in Hollywood about it, but it's low-hanging fruit, man. But like, there's so much now with this expanding universe, what would that look like? I think it's a complicated conversation sometimes, so we have to look at this from about 5000ft first before we start talking about the movie, period, but I have everybody's attention right now.
Nrama: So I guess we're not seeing The Scorched on the small screen anytime soon.
McFarlane: I didn't say that either. It's about the brand, it's about what they have to offer me and what's for sale and what goes with it. That's the bigger conversation I'm talking about. We can't do this in reverse, Lan. I can't sell Spawn and then be like, oh I have this Spawn universe, so I have to whittle down. You can push towards the movie, and that's fine, but I'm about pushing the mythology, the brand, and if there's a value to it. That's the question I keep asking.
Nrama: So let's talk about the brand then, so just humor me here, by now I'm sure you've seen the Taco Bell commercial with the cosplayers as Marko from Saga. If you were to, for whatever reason, have Spawn in a fast-food commercial, who would it be for?
McFarlane: [laughs] Man, I love Taco Bell. It's one of my go-to places. God. Who else do I like? Who would I deem worthy? Chipotle? That's not bad. I don't know! That's a good question, but my palette isn't too sophisticated. I eat like a simpleton. It wouldn't be a French cuisine place for sure.
Speaking the 2021 'Year of Spawn,' last year we sat down with McFarlane for a conversation reflecting on his nearly four-decade career, and what he considered his successes and his regrets.