Todd McFarlane Productions’ self-proclaimed “Year of the Appearance” comes to a close with the release on Wednesday January 12 of Burns # 1, the very first Spawn Universe team book and what Image Comics president, co-founder and namesake of his production studio Todd McFarlane sees as the culmination of his year-long effort to relaunch Spawn .
Written by Sean Lewis with illustrations by Stephen Segovia and Paulo Sequeria, The Scorched “assembles” some of Spawn’s best-known characters from over three decades of comics into one title.
Catching up with McFarlane at his home in Arizona, Newsarama spoke to the creator of it all as he reflected on the “Year of the Appearance” and if the publishing / marketing push has met his expectations, and we’re talking about this. that is The Scorched, and gets some updates on their plans for a Spawn sequel to the big screen.
Newsarama: Well, Todd, we’re at the end of what you defined as your “Year of the Appearance” with the release of The Scorched. Now it’s been delayed a bit, but it’s coming out this week, and for those who might not know, who is The Scorched? What is their business?
Todd McFarlane: Yes, the delay was part of this big hiccup called the pandemic which was more than a little disappointing as I wanted to end the year in a burst of glory. But like you said, here we are. Another record holder so that’s four for four.
Now, the initial Scorched lineup doesn’t have any big surprises, per se, but we have Spawn, She-Spawn, Gunslinger, Redeemer, with you know, characters like Reaper and Haunt and Monolith, and a few more in the background. . We will therefore see how the rotation takes place. In my mind, She-Spawn is the leader, although she might not be considered as such. Appear in the larger Patton figure with advice and strategy. All cranky and considered the wise old man.
Talk to Sean Lewis, the author of the book, about the rationale for each member’s role and why they are there, and once you have that you can understand their dynamics. Who is the Medieval Spawn? Who would he tell his oldest secret to? And why? These aren’t exactly questions for everyone, but they help keep your dialogue consistent.
Nrama: Tell us about those sales numbers you projected. 270,000 copies printed? Is it just for The Scorched # 1?
McFarlane: Yeah! So it’s interesting because it plays out as I thought it would. If you had asked me at the beginning, and I think you actually quoted me about it, but when Spawn Universe # 1 came out, I knew King Spawn # 1 would do better than that because it’s a known amount and would kind 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 his sales would be slightly higher. And that’s what ended up happening.
The numbers are more surprising than I thought. When Spawn’s Universe came out, if this book had hit 150,000 I would have been thrilled, but when it hit 220,000 it was a big “wow” moment. That’s a significant number, just ask anyone at Marvel or DC.
So my “weak” book ended up being stronger than I thought. Now we’ve had these conversations about each other, Lan. Going out the door, getting a # 1 book is a lot easier than trying to keep sales up to # 12. So we’ll see! The goal now is, can I maintain about 50,000 for each of those four pounds. If I can do it, then it’s largely successful. Just a few years ago, before the pandemic, we didn’t even have number one in launches with 50,000. Over the past year and a half, however, we’ve had a dozen launches making those numbers. So that’s very cool.
If we even do 25,000… for an independent book? It’s a hell of a life.
Nrama: So looking back on the past year, did your “Year of Appearance” live up to your expectations or …
McFarlane: Yeah! At least out of the gate, but now the question for me is if we can keep the momentum we have and for how long. But what is the hard ground of these books? If I can find that and build from that, I can be sure there will be a strong enough audience for it. Maybe I can get up to eight pounds a month. We will see.
Nrama: Why do you think it took you so long to make a team book of your characters?
McFarlane: Probably for the same reason it took me so long to make a second title for Spawn. I try not to bite more than I can chew if I can help myself, but I guess I could have made it up ten years ago, but I just didn’t. I was just never motivated or had no reason to.
When I started planning I was there Appearance # 300 so i 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 point of contact to find out where it’s all coming from. Cool. Good. I had the opportunity to pull the trigger after almost 27 years, so why now, I don’t really know. Yet we are there. The Year of Spawn is behind us, especially when readers have this one in their hands.
Nrama: Writer Sean Lewis and artists Stephen Segovia and Paulo Sequeria make up The Scorched’s creative team. Sean already writes King Spawn, and Stephen has worked here and there with Spawn’s Universe and Appearance # 315 Last year. So how involved are you with this particular team? Looks like you kinda trust them.
McFarlane: I wanted to be there at the start with some of the plot, so when we started going from solo to team book, there was kind of a continuity, and so you can imagine the one guy driving the IP for 30 years, I haven’t let a lot of people find out 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 discussing these things. If we run into a problem, how do we overcome it? If the story is Character A, and Character B has always been a hero and villain for each other, how do we make allies of them? Also, if it’s an interesting story, what’s the story of how you get there? Why would two enemies suddenly find themselves teammates? Or vice versa. What should happen for two friends to become enemies like this?
Nrama: Going through your whole idea for “The Year of Spawn”, you always have the new Spawn movie you want to make. You said if it doesn’t happen soon then you don’t want to happen.
McFarlane: Well, no, I’m saying if something big has to happen, it has to happen this year. Otherwise, I’ll go back to my original plan of doing something with a budget of $ 12 million. But it’s different from what we’re talking about now with the big studios. When Spider-Man makes a billion dollars, that’s not a bad thing 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 people reach out to Twitter or whatever and say, hey, I didn’t know this was a thing or am I seeing this for the first time? Is this something you would ever see again?
McFarlane: Oh yes. Constantly! Since it was no longer broadcast. It’s the thing more people ask me about more than anything and that’s when the animation comes back, probably even more so than when I’m doing a sequel to the movie. I think it holds because it was avant-garde at the time. Very hard, very mature. I think a new Spawn animated series would crush him right now.
I’ve told a few people in Hollywood about it, but it’s a handy fruit, man. But since, there is so much going on now with this expanding universe, what would that be like? I think it’s a complicated conversation sometimes, so we have to watch this at around 5,000 feet first before we start talking about the movie, period, but I have everyone’s attention right now.
Nrama: So I guess we won’t be seeing The Scorched on the small screen anytime soon.
McFarlane: I didn’t say that either. It’s about the brand, what they have to offer me, what is for sale and what goes with it. This is the biggest conversation I’m talking about. We can’t do this backwards, Lan. I can’t sell Spawn and then tell myself, oh I have this Spawn universe, so I have to cut back. You can push towards the movie, and that’s good, but I want to push the mythology, the brand, and if there’s any value in that. This is the question I keep asking.
Nrama: So let’s talk about the brand, so do me a favor, now I’m sure you’ve seen the Taco Bell commercial with the cosplayers as Marko from Saga. If you were to, for some reason, have Spawn in a fast food commercial, who would it be?
McFarlane: [laughs] Dude, I love Taco Bell. It is one of my favorite places. God. Who else do I love? Who would I be worthy? Chipotle? Not bad. I do not know! That’s a good question, but my palette isn’t too fancy. I eat like an idiot. It would certainly not be a place of French cuisine.
Last year we sat down with McFarlane for a conversation reflecting his career spanning nearly four decades, and what he considered to be his successes and regrets.