Image Expo 2012 Oakland, CA. After months of waiting and days without sleep our interview with the mega legend himself Todd McFarlane was upon me. With hands shaking and paramedics standing by I pressed on in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Make sure to stay tuned until the very end for a special giveaway.
Katie: Hi Todd, I’m Katie from Following the Nerd. So outside of Spawn your very unique style of art is best known for Spider-man and Batman. How did you end up drawing two of comics’s most iconic characters and who rocks the most? Batman or Spider-man?
Todd: I think Batman’s cooler because Batman is more of a shape. So he’s geometry, for a guy like me that’s more of a designer than a true artist ya know? Jim Lee and Mark Sylvester know the anatomy way better than I do. I was more of a designer. Spider-man was arms and legs so I couldn’t hide him behind anything, but the guys with the capes? It’s no accident Spawn’s got a cape, the guys with capes and stuff you can create these cool silhouettes with them that look pretty imposing. And I gotta tell ya anyone who’s got a million bucks and doesn’t want to spend it and doesn’t want to date pretty girls and just sits in his house and waits and waits until 3 o’clock in the morning and says “get me the black suit I’m going to go scare the s@#t out of the bad guys” I kinda like that guy. Right?
He’s just like, “I don’t want all the normal stuff I just want to get rid of the scum of the earth.” I kinda dig that guy.
I wish he’d kill somebody every now and then though…
Katie: Hey, maybe he will.
Todd: No. That’s why I created Spawn. *smiles*
Katie: Since we’re speaking of Spawn, he is your greatest body of work. Tell me how you came up with the character and how you feel about having such creative control?
Todd: I created him when I was about sixteen in high-school. I just started collecting comic-books at the age and feel in love with the medium. I started training myself on how to do comic books and, you might imagine, almost anybody who wants to break into comics does the same thing: you start creating your own characters. So I started creating dozens of them but the guy that I sort of liked the most was this guy that I called Spawn.
At sixteen I was going to do a comic book about him. It was originally set in the future because Star Wars was kinda popular at that point but the concept was still there. A guy who’s in love with his wife… to me it’s a romantic story. A guy who wants to get rid of all the white noise in the world, good or bad, and just wants that one last moment to say goodbye to his loved one.
I have to believe in spite of all that people say that – and I don’t care what your religious background is - most people would do the same thing. If they got into a fight with their wife, and left, got hit by a bus and somebody said ‘you can say goodbye one last time to them’ , well, you don’t want to end it on a bad note ’cause you had a fight.
I think people would because we’re just humans and we would want that. So he takes that deal. Then again, you get into the fantasy part of it, who made the deal? He didn’t look at the details of it which makes for a good comic book with all the back-story. But at its core is a guy that says I don’t want to serve Hell or Heaven, I don’t want to serve either of you guys. I’m my own man, I just want to live my own life. It’s all metaphors for me. That’s who I am too.
Katie: Recently you worked with the man, the myth, the legend Stan Lee on Red Dragon. How was that?
Todd: I met Stan, I think I was seventeen, I was accidentally at a hotel that had a comic convention in Miami. I meet him for the first time and I thought he was the most energetic guy I ever saw. We now fast forward over thirty years later and he’s STILL the most energetic guy. I mean, he’s like a machine! I think he’s like that movie ‘Dave’, there’s something inside him – little people or something - because I see him and go “If I could have half the energy that man has when I’m his age I would be happy.”
He’s awesome. He really knows how to make the people and the fans feel good after they’ve meet him. And he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He brings so much.
Katie: Superhero movies have finally come into their own over the past decade, why has it taken films so long to finally come up with the right recipe for summer blockbusters?
Todd: I don’t know. I don’t know why it took until 1945 before we let minorities step onto a baseball field. Sometimes we, as humans, can’t figure the obvious stuff out. I always thought it was weird that at sixteen, when I started collecting, I was a geek. I was the classic closet collector. I literally had my comics in my closet, and a couple of people found out and they rolled their eyes. They would say “oh he’s mentally arrested”, because they would say that’s sorta childish. But the odd thing was I would say “well what are you doing this weekend?” and they would say going to the movies to see Star Wars and James Bond and Indiana Jones and its ALL comic book stuff! Just because they aren’t wearing spandex. It was some big sort of divide.
Fast forward: Batman comes out and it and breaks down the wall, we now have a dozen-plus movies out there. Now we’re not geeks anymore because regular folks have accepted us. The Geeks have inherited the world now, all those things we’ve been doing for years? Well now we’re saying you guys are the ones that are late for the party!
Katie: Do you think the iPad is going to be a game changer for comics?
Todd: Depends what your definition of “game changer” is.
Well, taking a step back, the definition of a comic book in its simplest form is words and pictures. A novel is words. So you can sort of break it down. Movies are moving images and sound. Comics are words and pictures. Words and pictures are never going away. They’ve been there since the hieroglyphics, so the question then becomes what’s the delivery mechanism of the words and pictures? Maybe a thousand years from now they’ll go “They used to put it on paper!”
I don’t care if words and pictures are now on the sides of blimps and that’s how everybody gets them, we still have to tell good stories with good characters. All those things will remain the same, but how people get it? I don’t know.
If there is an easier way to get it into your hand sitting at home in pajamas, hit a button versus going out getting dressed and walking in the rain to the comic store, well, that might change.
Katie: Right, and then there’s what happens to the comic stores and the chain effect that takes place.
Todd: We saw it a lot with music. The world evolves and you just go with it, we can’t fight it. With us we’re just going to go with it. Not fight the delivery mechanism.
Katie: Would like to do some fun questions?
Todd: It’s your interview, you do what you damn well please. *smiles*
Katie: Awesome! So, I’m going to ask you some rapid fire questions and just answer with the first thing that pops up.
Katie: Spongebob or Patrick?
Katie: Coke or Pepsi?
Todd: Coke (people in background hiss YESSS, including myself)
Todd: My wife likes Pepsi.
Katie: No, no. YOU said Coke.
Todd: Well, I’m just saying…
Katie: Super strength or super brains?
Todd: Super brains. Because super brains would hire the super strength guy to work for him. Every time.
Katie: Serenity or Enterprise?
Katie: Shaken or Stirred?
Katie: Lucky Charms or Trix?~
Todd: D’oh. Captain Crunch
Katie: Vampires or werewolves?
Katie: Which fictional character would you want watching your back in a zombie apocalypse?
Todd: Godzilla. He would just *stomps feet* he would see them coming from a mile away, that would be too easy. Wouldn’t even be fun.
Katie: If you could pick a theme song when you walked into a room what would it be?
Todd: Born Free. That’s it. That’s what I want on my grave. ” Here lies Todd, he died a free man”. That’s all I want, I don’t want anybody to tell me what to do in my life. That’s why I do what I do. It’s not like I want to do anything crazy, I just want to do art.
A big thanks to Todd for taking the time out of his busy schedule to interview with us and to Image Expo for granting us the media access. Truly an incredible time hosted by a classy venue.
If you like Katie’s stuff then check out her blogspot, I Smell Sheep