Interview: Todd McFarlane on the State of Comics
Yesterday, the first part of my interview with Spawn creator Todd McFarlane focused on issue 185 of the long-running comic and the changes in store for readers as he returns to active creative duty with Whilce Portacio and Brian Holguin.
Since part one ran, it has been announced that the shipping date has slipped a week and the issue, complete with previously unannounced variant covers, will now be in stores on October 29.
In the second part of our discussion, we chatted about approaching the big 200 mark, the comics landscape overall today and what it might look like in the future, as well as a few Spawn-related surprises.
ComicMix: With issue 200 on the horizon and the “end of Spawn” being teased, will Spawn continue past issue 200?
Todd McFarlane: Yeah, [Issue] 200 we’re already planning for. We’ve thrown enough ripples out already and that people will sort of go ‘whoa’ and have to pay attention to keep pace with it. And 200 will allow us to get to one of the big notes and it’s all sort of a Pandora’s Box; you close one door and another one opens. We’ll have a nice compelling story for 200.
CMix: The comic landscape has changed and continues to change in a lot of ways with all kinds of different formats on the shelves and walking into bookstores now with full sections devoted to trades and original graphic novels, as well as the rise of webcomics and digital formats on the Internet. What are your thoughts in general on these trends and new directions in comics as a medium?
TM: The medium of comic books, which is a combination of words and pictures, I don’t think that medium is ever going to go away. I believe what will evolve over our lifetimes and it’s been a slow evolution, is the delivery mechanism. Is it possible that some day everybody who reads a comic book will turn on a computer? I guess, but it’ll still be words and pictures, it just happens to be in digital form. The basic form of what a comic is will never die. The delivery mechanism, to me, is less important. If people want them in trade paperback, in book form, on their computers, on the back of cereal boxes, I mean, whatever, but it’d still be a comic book. So I’ll let the consumer tell us where they want to get their fix on this medium and then we’ll hopefully not be too far behind the curve and we can give it to them.
CMix: Do you see the monthly pamphlet format headed for extinction at some point as some people have suggested?
TM: It’s possible as long as someone can offset it with another business model that gets it to the consumer. Again, as long as you give people an option as to where they can get it. Change for change’s sake doesn’t make much sense. At some point, there might be an economic tipping point where you look at sales and see you’re selling 51% or more doing something a new way rather than the old way so you start putting all of your resources behind the new way like the transition from VHS to DVD at Blockbuster where [DVD] was 5% and then 10% and then it took over. If we’re going to go in that direction, I sort of see it being the same as other business models where it’ll simply be a slow transition.
CMix: Where do you see webcomics fitting in? Adventures of Spawn was released as a webcomic but is also being collected in print, and a lot of popular webcomics are also being collected into print, so it doesn’t seem like digital is completely replacing print just yet.
TM: Yeah, I don’t think [digital formats] have become the primary piece of that puzzle yet but it may. It may take somebody doing some original X-Men, Spider-Man or Superman or something like that. I think you need to drag the old, standby brands into the new era and then everybody else will come behind them and follow suit.
CMix: Getting back to Spawn, will we see future projects in movies, games, etc?
TM: We’re always having those conversations as you can imagine with the success of super-hero movies and they keep phoning but I keep telling them that I think this is really just a low-budget creepy horror movie. So we keep sort of having those conversations and how to pull it off but there’s no definitive timeline right now other than that we keep talking to people who are interested.
CMix: And whatever happened to the Spawn/Batman crossover sequel that had been planned with DC? Is it officially dead? I remember seeing some artwork and a statue prototype a few years back.
TM: A while ago, I was just up at the DC offices and talking to Dan [DiDio] about it and fleshing out the plot and seeing whether they still wanted to do it. And they’re still up for it. I owe him an update on it and if we can get it signed off and make sure it’s not conflicting with anything they’re doing then we’ll put it back out there. Right now I’ve had to finish the Spawn bi-weeklies and just getting Spawn 185 finished, and just doing some digital inking right now as we’re talking, and trying to get this new book, Haunt, off the ground with [Robert] Kirkman, and once all that gets going then I’ll channel all my energies into that project again.
CMix: And Spawn 185 will have three covers by you, Whilce Portacio, and Greg Capullo?
TM: Right. And a couple of surprises snuck in there.
CMix: There’ll be some other variant covers? Are you saying there’ll be more than three?
TM: I’m saying there’ll be some surprises.
CMix: I guess I’ll leave it at that. Thank you for your time.
TM: Thank you.
Tyson Durst is a new contributor to ComicMix and a longtime comics enthusiast. He once defeated an entire army of helldemons and cyborg primates armed only with his wits and an oversized plasma cannon. Tyson currently resides in the same province of Alberta that Todd McFarlane originally hails from in the mysterious land of Canada.