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Todd McFarlane Comics Origin Interview by Alex Grand & Mike Alderman

Alex Grand: Welcome back to the Comic Book Historians Podcast. I’m Alex Grand, joined by my friend and Patriot Comics owner Mike alderman. Mike, how are you doing?

Mike Alderman: Hey, Alex, how are you?

Alex Grand: Good. And don’t forget. And I repeat, do not forget to pick up my book Understanding Superhero Comic Books The Definitive Guide to the History of Superhero Comics. Check it out. Now then we’re joined here by the godfather of the 90s comic action Revolution, as well as the architect of spawn. 350. Todd, how are you doing?

Todd McFarlane: Good. How are you guys doing? Thanks for having me today.

Mike Alderman: Doing well. Thanks.


Alex Grand: I’ve watched a lot of your interviews, you know, just throughout the years. I find you to be a really fascinating figure. And I loved your stuff. Um, going back to the Hulk and, uh, the your initial Spidey issues, and I followed you into spawn, so this is a big treat for me. So thank you for being here. Sure. You grew up in Calgary, born in 1961. Your father was in the printing business. And from what I understand that you kind of doodled a lot. You played baseball, and somehow that evolved into a passion for comics in the 70s and 80s, with some excitement over a fellow Canadian comic artist, John Byrne. How did you kind of get into comics, and what was kind of those initial years that you started reading?

Todd McFarlane: I yeah, I got into comic books late when I was about 16, uh, living in Calgary, Alberta, which is Alberta is right above, uh, Montana. And I saw on a public. Broadcast like again, there’s only the three channels ABC, NBC, CBS, if you will, the equivalent in Canada. And then you had your public channel and and I was flipping through the channels and John Byrne, who was doing the X-Men, which was the biggest book at that time, uh, was on TV. And and it was it blew my mind because I’m like, why is John Byrne like the most famous comic book guy on? And he started talking. He was on local. Tv because he said he lived in Calgary while he was drawing the X-Men, at least at that point. Um, and and that was a shocking moment because a, it was like, what, only a few miles from John Byrne? I could go stalk him if I wanted. Uh, but but even more importantly, I thought you had to live in New York. But, you know, my naivete, I mean, you didn’t have the internet, that you could search all these answers. And I thought. I thought you had to be in New York. When I found out on that broadcast. You didn’t. Then that was a magic moment. I go, dun, I’m going to try and train myself because I was a comic. I just started collecting comic books. I was 16, I go, I’m going to teach myself this style of Americana superhero and and see where it takes me. And you don’t have to. I guess you can live in Calgary and still do it. So thank you, John Byrne and PBS.

Alex Grand: So what were those first comics you started reading? Just like as you were getting into the habit.

Todd McFarlane: I could tell you the very first ones I bought, but then it very quickly, just so you know, it became I became it was a it was my cocaine. It was I got addicted. I ended up then buying almost every marvel and then eventually every DC. And the way I was able to sustain that was that I had a friend whose dad worked in the newsstand industry, so he had all the magazines and all. And so at the end of it, he’d always come home with like extra comic books. And his and his friend was his son, which was my friend. He was a big comic book collector. But then eventually he started waning. Uh, and then the dad was like, well, Todd, you can take whatever you want. So it was like, I’ll take one of each. What are you talking about? I’ll take everything. Yeah. Uh, and then and then later when I went to college, I wasn’t I wasn’t able to technically work because I was a Canadian living in America. Uh, so I got paid in comic books, and so I just was going, uh, I’ll take one of each. Uh, so I consumed I consumed almost everything during those years.

Alex Grand: So, so, like X-Men, Avengers, stuff like that.

Todd McFarlane: Dude, everything. I’m like, you’re you’re going. You’re going to the easy end. I was like, the easy, the middle and the hard. I was Sergeant Rock, I was on, uh, I was, uh, ghost, like, all the DC horror stuff, right? You name it. If it was obscure, I had it. And did I have the X-Men and Iron Man and Avengers and all the cool stuff? Of course I did, right. But I had it all. I just got addicted to the medium.

Alex Grand: Were they like back issues, like older comics, or were they kind of current ones?

Todd McFarlane: No, they were all the current ones.

Alex Grand: Current ones.

Todd McFarlane: Okay, again, I’m going back. I’m going to age myself. I’m going back to one comic book you had to buy him either at, like the grocery store drugstores or, or you pick them up off spinner racks. Yeah, right. You know, you just spun and you went, oh man, the latest Hulk man. What? So that was sort of how I got my comic books. And then and then eventually a few years later, I found out there was a thing called this new thing called Comic Store. Right. Those didn’t exist when I first started. And it was like, what you can go to a store that’s nothing but comic books, and there’s comic book people on it. That was like a nirvana to a guy like me. So when did.

Alex Grand: You first see comics by Stan and Jack?

Todd McFarlane: That probably came a little bit later, because, um. Me being 16, we’re talking about like the mid 70s. Right? So Stan and Jack had sort of moved on, uh, in any significant way. Not completely. Jack was still around. Right. Jack was still doing at that time, uh, like the bimonthly Black Panther, uh, that he was writing and drawing, and he was also doing, like, Devil Dinosaur and a couple of these things. He had just come over from DC, where he had done the New Gods and stuff. So I was I was way more familiar with his work. Got to tell you, at that early age, I, I had no appreciation for what he was doing. I was like, what big fat, squiggly knees? Like what? This is ridiculous, right? I was like, man, why can’t he draw more like Neal Adams if you’re going to look at some of the old guys. But at that point, John Byrne and and George Perez were sort of my, my go to guys. Uh, and Jack Kirby was like, I don’t get it, I don’t understand it. And then as I got older, I understood that the the brilliance of Jack Kirby wasn’t his anatomy. It was this storytelling. And and as I get older, storytelling is way more important than whether you can draw good or not. Right? So I’d rather have somebody with great storytelling, mediocre drawing than somebody with great drawing and mediocre storytelling.

Alex Grand: That makes sense. And now this next question, I’m going to kind of say some names and then from 1 to 10, kind of if you can in some way rate there that your enjoyment of them and their influence on you in a number from 1 to 10, ten being.

Todd McFarlane: But let’s just put some criteria, the number maybe I’ll give you two numbers on some of them, the number that I had for them when I first started collecting and the number that I have for them now.

Alex Grand: Yeah, I like that. All right. So let’s like.

Todd McFarlane: Jack Kirby was like a one. And now Jack Kirby out of one out of ten he’s a 12 right. So yeah I ended up growing to appreciate what it was that he had put on paper. So yes.

Alex Grand: Okay. Next name Steve Ditko.

Todd McFarlane: Uh, Steve Ditko probably, uh, probably, uh, seven because his quirkiness rubbed off on me when I went and did Spider-Man. So, uh, John Romita senior did the perfect one. Ditko was the quirky, and I try to use quirky when I did Spider-Man, so I like what he did.

Alex Grand: Now. John Romita senior, what number would you give him?

Todd McFarlane: Wow, I put him at eight nine because he was he was he was like the Norman Rockwell. I always call him the Norman Rockwell artist. He was, especially on Spider-Man. He was perfect, right. Which is why I ended up doing what I did on Spider-Man, because I. I thought it would be a fool. I’d be a fool to try and emulate his look, of which every other artist tried to. Right. Everybody else, to me, was just a poor man’s version of John Romita senior. Right. I’ve told people before, look it, if you’re going to be a painter, don’t paint like Norman Rockwell, because even if you’re great at it, the best you’re going to be is the best Norman Rockwell imitator, right? You got to come up with your own styles. But, uh, story wise, uh, art wise, he, he also was an art director. Gave me some tips when I went to Marvel at a young age that elevated my game. So, yeah, he’s a he’s an 8 or 9. He’s one of the he’s one of the masters.

Alex Grand: George Perez.

Todd McFarlane: Yeah. Uh, I’m biased with him. I’m gonna give him a ten because he, he he was the one that lit my one. He was one of the few that lit my fire of like. I wanted to be in comic book because of him, and the detail and the amount of work he did with that detail is staggering. Staggering.

Alex Grand: That’s great. Um, I like that Light My Fire because that’s totally the way to describe that feeling. Um. Walt Simonson.

Todd McFarlane: I’d put him at, like a seven and a half. Eight. Eight and a half. He’s. He’s big and bombastic. He had a lot of that Kirby. Right. He. Yeah. He had energy. So and he’s a great man. So a nice kind gentleman too on top.

Alex Grand: Now, you’ve mentioned before spaghetti webbing and Michael Golden being an influence. What number would you give him?

Todd McFarlane: Oh my Michael Golden give. He’d be pushing close to ten to on his on his a day. He his artwork is just I could just stare at it all day long. Right. So and it didn’t really matter where he was, where he was going. So every time he did something, whether it was Micronauts or whether it was Nam or whether it was Avengers Annual or something like that, Doctor Strange portfolio, like every time I saw it, I just went, oh my gosh, right. Like like it can be that polish and that sophisticated. So he’s he’s right there close to the 10th. He was he was the, he was part of the three burn burn burn burn and golden. They were sort of in my bucket.

Alex Grand: Yeah. So then John Burn you’d give a ten then.

Todd McFarlane: Yeah. He was just again he did things differently that inspired me that George Perez did with, with in terms of like capes and, and sort of power because he didn’t use as many panel. George Perez would have like 12 panels on a page, which is in hindsight, like crazy. Good to be able to pull that off. John Byrne just was just straight forward, classic superhero, but he had a more modern look to it than some of the older guys. But and then you put, uh, Terry Austin on them and mix them up and you call it the X-Men. Poof. That’s still at the top.

Alex Grand: Two more names and we’re move forward. Jim Steranko and Neal Adams.

Todd McFarlane: Steranko. Uh, I, I didn’t really have a lot of his work, and he sort of was a tweener guy, but as I saw it later, um, he grew in stature because he was sort of that art teacher. He was trying to break the mold. He wasn’t trying to. He found his own path. And I admire anybody good, bad or indifferent. Whether you like their art that tries to find their own path. So I’d put him up at at eight. And then who was the last one? Neal Adams of the old guys. Neal Adams when I first broke in, was like the best of it because his anatomy was and his realism was. There was nobody that was close to him. Right? I mean. You know, all the other ones that I would put in sort of the that that generation, none of them had. Niels, look. And once you saw Niels look, you sort of went, man, I wish everybody drew like Neil. Um, but, uh, another name. Let me throw another name. And another name that had a big influence on me was, uh, Gil Kane.

Alex Grand: Oh, great.

Todd McFarlane: I got a lot of Gil Kane in in in my stuff, too.

Alex Grand: So you were drawing spawn since you were a teenager? From what I from what I understand, yeah.

Todd McFarlane: Created when I was 16.

Alex Grand: When you’re 16, was there any. Did you ever follow the the character Hobie Brown, the prowler? Was that an influence at all in any of this? Um, was it more based on the horror comics you were reading? How would you kind of look at that?

Todd McFarlane: Well, people people get it mixed up. People get it mixed up. Right? I didn’t know who the prowler was when I created spawn. Okay. Never never heard of him. Right. So I create spawn, and I go, yeah, I’ll make a big cape and stuff, because John Byrne had big capes and Marshall Rogers had big capes. And I just created this character and then and then later on I ended up becoming a pro and I go, oh man, I get to do a guy with a big cape. Oh that’s fun. I like doing guys with big cape, like my character, I create. It’s fun. So I was just doing some of the same stuff to it. And then I even on Infinity Incorporated there was a character called uh, uh, Mister Bones, right? People say the same thing, like, oh, you like? No, I invented Mister Bolt and I invented Mister Bones. Years later, after I invented spawn, like people were mixing up how it went. I’m 16. I discover comic books. I fall in love with comic books real quick, and then I start creating a bunch of my own characters. Yeah, completely ignorant of all the characters that are in Marvel DC, uh, mythological lore, right? And a little bit later I got to draw some of them and I go, oh, guys with big capes, and they got masks and whatever else. So was there some similarities that were there? Yeah, because the same guy, uh, drawing it. So was I taken from it? No, I, I my, my I was ignorant of those, those things. But yeah people, people can speculate all day long.

Alex Grand: No, no it’s great. No it’s great to hear that from you. That’s that’s where you the information comes from. I’m going to show you.

Todd McFarlane: The toys coming up. Right. This is, uh, spawn toys, a two pack, right. It’s got you get a you get a toy of me. Who cares about me? I don’t give a shit what’s interesting. You get spawn now again, you look at it, you go, that’s kind of goofy. Look at that little spawn. But the reason is because it’s based on my drawing.

Alex Grand: That’s awesome, I love that.

Todd McFarlane: So this is on when I was 16 years old. This is what I was drawing 16, 17 years old. I even had a story, the one where he’s blue. I colored him over there. So we’re making the toy based on my my Todd teenager drawing here. Uh. That’s it. So that’s that’s what he looked like. And then I just went from there. I never knew I was going to break into the pros and and get to do those other guys that had capes and masks and all those other thing.

Mike Alderman: How fun. You know, I’m a big McFarlane toys fan. I just ordered your three new figures today. So, Todd, you tried baseball, it didn’t work out for you, and suddenly you were sending pages to DC, Marvel, First Comics and Pacific, a lot of pages and unfortunately with rejections. And I wanted to ask you how you handled that and what do you think now, the work that you submitted then?

Todd McFarlane: I didn’t fail at baseball and start sending in samples. I was I was constantly sending in samples the whole time I was, I was in college, right. So I played, I played and went to college for four years, and I was constantly sending in samples, uh, trying to get a degree, trying to be a baseball player and trying to break into comic books. I gave myself a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C because I didn’t know how any of it was going to turn out. Um, it, it it worked out. I got my degree, and I ended up getting my first job from Marvel about three weeks before I graduated. Uh, and so the only piece that was left was after graduating, I went to my last tryout in baseball, and got about as close as I got. You know, the the the Toronto Blue Jays. Uh, I went and did a tryout for one of their minor league teams, and they had an opening and they I went and tried out, and I got to tell you guys, I had the best day I ever had. I wasn’t really as good as I showed that day. I was playing way over my head. Uh, but they I didn’t tell them, like, I’m not this good.

Todd McFarlane: Um, so they said, hey, come back tomorrow, we’re going to talk to Toronto and see if we can’t do something for you. And when I came back reading, they had an opening was somebody had got drafted and didn’t like the the money they were offering, uh, him and his family. And so they said no. And the next day they said, uh, that family changed their mind. They took the money. So, uh, I ended up being the 26th man on a 25 man roster. Never a good spot. That means you’re not on the team. Uh, the the upside of it was that then I was able then to go. Well, I do have the job that I just started at. Marvel a couple of weeks ago, so I guess I’ll put all my energy into comic books where I thought I might. I might, in a perfect world, play baseball by night and draw by day. Write. I thought that would have been it. That would have been my. I could wave a wand. Uh, but, uh, did I send off hundreds of, uh, samples and get hundreds of rejections? Yes. How did I handle it? I don’t know personalities, right? I like I I’m just I’m just delusional, stubborn and, uh, uh, like all those other things. I just was like, oh, yeah, I’ll show you.

Todd McFarlane: Oh, yeah, I’ll show you. It’s the same thing you do when you’re on when you’re in a competitive sport, right? You never think that the other team is better than you. So I go, I’ll show you. In hindsight, they were right. It wasn’t very good. I have all the pages, I have all the pages. I sent them, and it’s like, I wouldn’t have hired me either. So they were right. The the value I got out of it was that they kept critiquing my artwork. Those that sent the response back, which was only about half of them. And and I took every one of those criticisms to heart and try to improve it. So that I’m going to assume that at the beginning, when I was sending off samples, I was making 20 mistakes, and by the time they hired me, I was probably down to 5 or 6 mistakes. I still was far from perfect, but at least they go, oh, the kid’s improving. Maybe if we give him a job, he might he might continue to improve. And if we give him a job, we’re only going to get one package a month from him. Because right now we get 20 packages every single month from this kid. He’s relentless.

Alex Grand: Driven. Tell us about, uh, one of your first comic jobs. For what? What I understand, 1984. You’re working with Steve Englehart, who saw some work of yours. Uh, tell us about that job. And was that, like, Marvel style method? Was that full script? How’d that whole process go? And how’d you like working with him?

Todd McFarlane: Yeah, so so I as I said, I was sending off 20 packages to marvel every company, not just Marvel, every company that existed, Marvel, DC and every independent company. And I sent it to every editor because the editor is the one to give the job. So I send it to every editor I sent it to an ascent and descent at that time was the editor of the X-Men, has the editor of the X-Men. She was sharing an office with Archie Goodwin and she handed an Archie had just started this sort of new wave. There was a line at Marvel that time called epic Illustrated in the epic line, and and she handed it to Archie, and Archie looked at it and by coincidence, some of the pages were pages from a book called coyote, which was under Archie Goodwin’s editorial purview. So he thought they were pretty good. So he sent them to Steve Englehart because the book was called Steve Englehart’s Coyote Who and Who Created coyote, and he sent him to Steve Englehart. And Steve Englehart is the one that phoned me, uh, and said, hey, I don’t need you to draw coyote. I’ve got somebody drawing coyote, but I’ve got a ten page backup in it. And, uh, I’m looking for somebody to do the ten pages in the back you want to jump on. And that was it. That was. That was the. That was the phone call, right? The the the lucky break phone call that started my career and and gives it to Archie Goodwin and Archie gives it to Steve. And Steve just happened to have lost his backup artist and says, hey, I got these pages. It’s weird. If I hadn’t drawn coyote, would I have ever gotten that phone call? Maybe not, I don’t know, but I drew coyote pages by by fluke, and, uh, and I got in and that was it. And I’ve been in sort of ever since.

Alex Grand: And was that like Marvel method? Was that a full script you did?

Todd McFarlane: No, no, no. Back then everybody just worked from rough outlines and plot.

Alex Grand: Rough outline plots.

Todd McFarlane: Yeah, I don’t get it. I mean, to this day, that’s all I give my artist, right? I don’t I don’t let any of my writers write full scripts like no, I it’s, it’s I’ve only done I think once, twice have I ever drawn something that was a full script. I’ll show you the scars because I still have them. Right. It was the worst experience I ever had. It’s horrible. Right. So it’s I just go, no. And here’s the problem that when I bring on new artists now and I say, hey, I’m not giving you a full script, they’ve lost the muscle of storytelling. Because they’ve been relying on the they’ve been relying on the the writer to give them how many panels. What are they saying. All the emotion like what are you talking about? Right. Like, guys has the artist. You should think of yourself as the director of a movie. Yes. Somebody wrote the novel. Yes, somebody wrote the screenplay. But over your dead body, do they get to tell you where to put the camera and how to move it, and what lens to use? Come on, man. Right. Take a little bit of pride here. So, um, so it takes a couple of months now for some of them to, like, go.

Todd McFarlane: So you’re saying I got to come up with it myself? Yes. Yes. And you think that’s a you think that’s a bad thing right now? I’m telling you, it would be one of the great joys of your life, because you’re going to find out that you get to then put on paper what you want to draw, not what I want you to draw. What you want to draw? Yes. Draw the fun stuff. Put stuff in, design it the way you want to. Why do you think all my pages look the way they look like? And when I was doing Infinity and Spawn and Spider-Man and Hulk, I was just going. What would be fun to draw today, this scene, I’m going to get the scene from the writer. I’m not going to not change the scene. The scene is going to be there, but I’m going to basically decide how big the panels are and what the characters look like and what I I’m just going to have fun. Why not? If you’re going to be drawn for ten hours today, why not have fun.

Mike Alderman: With exposure you got from working with Steve Englehart gets you DC’s Infinity Incorporated. Yeah, after Don Newton’s death and follow up question, will you consider doing figures based on your version of Infinity Incorporated?

Todd McFarlane: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. You know, I probably could do, I don’t know, I could sell them individually. I should try it, but I could probably do like a five pack infinity incorporated drawings.

Mike Alderman: I’d be first in line.

Todd McFarlane: Drawings by Todd. Dut dut dut dut dut dut. Uh, yeah, so I did. So let’s just go back to see how it worked. I, I my first ten page job was a character called Scorpio Rose. And then I did it and they liked it, and they said, hey, Todd, can you redraw the previous issues? Ten pages hadn’t been published yet. So then I went and did it ten pages called slash. Slash, although it was my second job, was the first one they printed just one of those weird quirks of scheduling. Um, and then I went back to doing Scorpio Rose as the backup in coyote, but I think I only did like 3 or 4 issues of the backup stories in coyote. And then they canceled the book and I was unemployed. And so I immediately had to scramble and send off samples to everybody again, except for the big demarcation was and remember, guys, I don’t have been in the business for years, so then my art get much better in four four or excuse me, four months. I was only in the business for four months. Did my art get any better in those four months? Of course it didn’t. It was four months. The difference was, I was able to now send a letter saying I am an artist who is just previously worked at Marvel. I was a pro, so it didn’t go into the amateur stack. It went into the pros looking for work stack. Uh, and so I sent it off to the people who were always kind and sent me responses back when I was sending off my samples for years in college. And one of them was Roy Thomas. And I sent it off to him and he said, hey, uh, I just lost my to, you know, to Mike’s point, I just lost my artist because he passed away.

Todd McFarlane: He died right? Again. Again, these are the these are these odd moments that if Don Newton doesn’t die. And I’m unemployed at that point because they canceled the coyote book. Does Todd McFarlane ever get back into the comic book business? Don’t know. It’s one of those sliding sliding doors sort of questions. Maybe I might have got in, maybe might have taken 4 or 5 more months. Maybe. But my path then is completely different. Do I still rise and get to the same spot that I’m at am now? Don’t know, don’t know. But that break for me that got me my first monthly comic book. Because remember, I was only doing the backup. My break and my life meant, unfortunately, the death of another human being. So, uh, I spend that in my head from time to time going, man, if Don and he died in a in a in a very preventable way. He was a health nut and he drank unpasteurized milk, had an allergic reaction, and died by the time they got him to the hospital. If he doesn’t drink that glass of milk, it’s not like he got hit by a bus. Not like he had cancer. He drank a glass of milk. If he doesn’t drink that glass of milk, then maybe my career is completely different. Or maybe I don’t even have a career. I just after 7 or 8 months, I just go, ah, I’m just going to use my degree, which was in graphic designs, and I’m just going to basically be doing ads in newspapers. I don’t know, may.

Mike Alderman: I suggest the Infinity Incorporated Build-a-figure is nuklon.

Todd McFarlane: Nuklon yeah, we like Nuklon. That’s it.

Alex Grand: How’d you like working with Roy Thomas?

Todd McFarlane: Roy Thomas is crazy prolific and knows almost everything. For people who don’t know Roy Thomas, Stanley sort of comes in and sort of sets the, the, the sort of dominoes falling called Marvel comic books, right? Creates all that stuff, but within 4 or 5 years then needs help because there’s too many books and or he’s getting a little bit tired on some of the titles. Who do you think the first hire was? Roy Thomas. Roy Thomas is the guy who came in right after Stan Lee and kept it all going. And Roy Thomas. Essentially wrote, especially when I was there, wrote like every issue of Conan. If you think of Conan, that’s Roy Thomas equals Conan. Um, but he also did you name a book he at some point wrote it, right? Spider-man, Avengers, Hulk, Iron Man like you, like you can come up with the character of Roy Thomas did it. And then he jumped over to to DC and basically did the same thing over there. And he had his own books. And so Infinity Incorporated was him basically redoing some of the before the Justice League, there was the Justice Society and and he was doing a bunch of stuff with the Justice Society. And their kids became infinity with the book I was on. But Roy Thomas was he. He would have kept me employed forever, and it was one of the reasons I left DC was only with one question. Am I only in comic books now? Because Roy Thomas likes me? I mean, does anybody else? Because I haven’t shown anybody. Nobody’s really said anything. Uh, and so I sort of took the plunge and said, hey, Roy, I got to get out of here. I got to see if anybody else likes me other than you.

Alex Grand: You mentioned on the DC end, but on the Marvel end, what kind of triggers you to work there and then in your overall experience there? You worked under editors Tom DeFalco, Jim Salicrup, Danny Fingeroth. You’re doing big, clashing, innovative pages, almost kind of like a Neo Kirby as far as the the excitement and the explosion of it. But there was also, from what I understand, some editorial interference on on Hulk and Spider-Man. Would you say your overall experience doing that was enjoyable, or did the editorial stuff just kind of make it a little more negative of an experience? Tell us about that time period

Todd McFarlane: Uh, no, my time at Marvel, uh, was was a good time, right? I mean, it led to where I’m at right now. Um, it just when I got to. When I got to Marvel, when I left, uh, after infinity incorporated, DC and I went to Marvel and I said, hey, I’ll come back if you got any Batman stuff, because it’d be cool to draw Batman. Um, and I left. Marvel was in an, I thought, a bit of an artistic lull that that they were really using a lot of, like, grid pages. It was really I thought it was kind of vanilla stuff. Right. When I came over there, they just said, my first editor over there was Bob Harris. I really sort of only had two main editors when I was at Marvel, Bob Harris, who ended up becoming the head editor editor in chief over at DC years later. Um, but Bob Harris was there and he was like, hey, Todd, can you do this story called Spitfire or whatever? Uh, and The Troubleshooters. I think that’s what it’s called. Uh, for the they had the New Universe books or something, and. Uh, I’m going to give it to you, but, uh, you get 30 days. Uh, but you can, you gotta you gotta hand this in in 20 days, uh, instead. Sorry about that. And but you can’t be flamboyant. All that stuff you were doing on Infinity Incorporated that had at that point got me to like number five in the favorite artist ranking in The Wizard or something like that one.

Todd McFarlane: One of the things. So it wasn’t like at that point I was completely unknown. And so I was like, so you want me to make them boring? I mean, what are you talking about? That’s that’s like that’s like telling somebody who’s running 20 miles an hour to run eight miles. Okay, this is easy. I don’t have to do anything interesting. I don’t have to think about it. I can just bore it out. So I gave him that issue. And eight days, he he he thought he was putting pressure on me giving it in 20 because normally you’ve got 30 days to put it in. And I did it in the eight. And he was like, oh my gosh, the fastest I’ve ever had anybody hand it in. Well, because it was like I didn’t have to do any thinking because it’s all just boring. I just basically did standard storytelling. Um, and so from there he said, hey, I got an opening on The Hulk. You want to do the Hulk? And I jumped on the Hulk real quickly and it was like, yeah, that was, uh, Peter David was the writer, and they had just turned the Hulk gray. So I was I never really drew the the green Hulk. I only drew the gray Hulk.

Todd McFarlane: And, uh, that was sort of, you could argue, my first big character. Right? Uh, of doing the Hulk, the monthly Hulk comic book. And my mom and dad had heard of the Hulk. So at that point, they thought I’d finally made it, even though I’d been in the industry for a couple of years at that point. Uh, but that was it. Uh, and then from the Hulk, uh, there’s a couple stops. I did an issue or two of G.I. Joe got fired off that one, which is a silly story, because I clashed with the writer and then. And then was kicked off G.I. Joe. 12 minutes later, I ended up getting a phone call, and it was like, hey, Todd, you want to take over a Batman Year two? By coincidence, I’m free because I just got fired. Uh, my only time I’ve ever been fired. I just got fired 12 minutes ago. Yeah. And so I finished up Batman Year two, because at that point, I was getting fast enough. I could do two books. I was doing Hulk and G.I. Joe, and then Hulk and Batman, and then I go, hey, I’ll do Hulk and Spider-Man. Um, and so once I was done with Batman Year Two, then I had to go look for another book, and all the editors at Marvel said, stay away from the Spidey office. It’s in shambles. And, uh, you don’t say stuff like that to me and my personality, right? So here’s.

Todd McFarlane: Here’s. Here’s who I’m not. Hey, Todd. There’s the easy path over there. Right, I don’t hear. I don’t like the Yankees. New York Yankee. You know, I don’t like the Yankees because it’s too fucking easy. They’ve won the most. It’s too easy. I if I was born in New York, maybe, and whatever else, but I wasn’t. I lived on the other side of the country. So I actually asked this question when I do interviews, who’s your favorite team? Because you’re not allowed to ask certain questions because it’s like you can’t. But one question I do ask, who’s your favorite team sometime? And if somebody tells me a front running team. Oh, I’m a Chiefs fan. Oh, I’m a Yankees fan. Oh, I’m whatever fan. And they’re the front running team. I asked them the follow up question. Why? If they say why you still live there and my uncle took me or whatever. Oh, but if they don’t have any goddamn good reason, my mind says they just took the easy path, right? I don’t need that worker. I don’t want that employee who takes the easy path. You tell me you’re a Cleveland Browns fan. Who? I’m hiring you on the spot. That means you can take pain. And you’ve been taking pain for decades. So when they said, don’t go into Spider-Man office, why? Because it’s it’s not easy.

Todd McFarlane: Shit, dude, you guys don’t know me in my personality, right? I never when I played sports, never wanted to play for the best team ever. I wanted to beat the best team. Way more satisfaction. Being on the best team. Whatever. There’s 12 superstars. Who cares? Right. If I was a free agent, I wouldn’t sign with the Dodgers. I’d want to beat the Dodger. I’d sign with the Diamondbacks, or I’d sign with the Colorado Rockies and go. Now let’s go play them. Let’s go take them down. Right. So. But that’s my personality. Which is why I went into the Spider-Man office. And they were right. It was in shambles. Um, but because it was in shambles, I was able to get offered the The Amazing Spider-Man. They had I think they had three books at that time. They had the Peter Parker Spider-Man, they had the web of Spider-Man, and they had, um, uh, amazing Spider-Man. And so he said, yeah, I want you to do one of the books, and I go, cool. And then he goes, I’m going to give you amazing and amazing. That’s the grandfathered book. I’m like, what are you going to give me? The original, the OG shoot? That’s cool man. And all I asked him was, uh, two things. One, can I ink the ball? And two can get rid of that black costume because the black costume was on it.

Todd McFarlane: I don’t really feel like drawing Spider-Man again. I’m being cocky at this point, right? Usually somebody gives you a job, you say thank you and you walk out. I was like, yeah, I’ll take the job. But I got a couple conditions. Um, let’s get rid of the black costume. Right. And so because I didn’t want to draw the black costume, we now have a character called venom merely because I just was too stubborn to basically go. Yeah, he’s in the black costume. Okay, I’ll draw it. I was like, no, let’s get it. Let’s get rid of it. And they didn’t want to get rid of it. So it was like, well, let’s just create another character who’s wearing the black costume. Done. And that was the initial drawing that became venom. I go here, here’s the character. Right? We didn’t have a name at that point. David Michelini gave him the name and added all the persona and all the character stuff, but I handed them the drawing, they signed off on the drawing, and then David came up with the backstory and it was like, cool, now we got this character. We didn’t know venom was going to be venom. We just to me it was like, good, now I got the black costume off Peter Parker. I get to draw Spider-Man red and blue with webs. Cool. Super awesome. And that was it.

Alex Grand: Amazing. Did you like working with, uh, Peter David and David Michelinie?

Todd McFarlane: Peter. Peter. David. Was an interesting man. I’ll leave it at that. Um, David Michelinie was a lot. Was a lot. Sort of kinder, uh, about it. Here’s here’s what. Here’s what neither of them ever said, though. Hey, Todd. Whew. I gotta come up with a story this month. Uh, is there is there any. Is there any villain you’d like to draw? Do you have do you have a favorite? Not once.

Alex Grand: That’s a good that’s. I love that answer, by the way.

Todd McFarlane: Not out of malice because they were just excited. They had their 50 stories and they had their 50 favorites and they were doing it. And they were excited, and they were excited and they were excited. I get it, God, God bless them. That was good. That was good. That was good. I don’t know, at some point I, you just you just you’re, you’re you’re on a team, you’re on a team and one team players is the guy who actually has to draw it. And I don’t know from time. I mean, every artist I hire, the first question I ask them, if they say yes, they they’ll come do work for me. What do you want to draw? Tell me what you want to draw. I’ll come up with a story.

Alex Grand: Yeah, right. Yeah. Archie Goodwin is famous for doing that.

Todd McFarlane: I’ll get there. I don’t have to bend any rules. I can get you there. So. But, uh. Which is why over time, I just, you know, I had bad anchors, I thought. And so I go, I’m going to learn how to ink. And then it wasn’t that I had bad writers. Both David and and Peter were both really good writers. I just wanted to be able to draw the characters. I wanted to draw. And it you look at my run on Spider-Man, the Spider-Man book they created, um, you’re going to see there’s one thing that I like monsters. There is a monster in every one of those stories, right? So the lizard. Right. And then after that Wendigo and then Morbius and the people in the subsidy and stuff. And it was only the last one where it was like a crossover, I think, with X factor or whatever, but everything else was like, there’s at least one monster in each one of them. Right. I go, woo hoo! I get to do stories. I like drawing monsters. There’s a monster in every one of them. Oh, I think Ghost Rider. I think I did Ghost Rider and Hobgoblin too, right? Monster. Monster. Cool.

Mike Alderman: Those were awesome books. You could get more graphic and adult themed and spawn. And it was your childhood character, your baby. Did you enjoy that more? And did you miss doing Spidey?

Todd McFarlane: No, not really, not I my my mentality is whatever character is in front of you, you just you learn to make that your favorite. So if somebody had said in the middle of Spider-Man, hey, we’re moving you over onto Iron Man, I within three issues, I would have I would have figured out how to make Iron Man the coolest thing in my head. Way cooler than Hulk and way cooler and Spider-Man. Right? Like, because again, you got to draw it. You got to draw it ten hours a day, every day. So you’ve got to figure out ways to do stuff that you enjoy. So, um, yeah, once once I don’t, I don’t I never look back. I, I, I’m not a, I’m not a, I’m not a yesterday guy on any, on any level yesterday. Can be used to you because it gives you data. But for the most part, I’m disinterested in what happened yesterday. I’m disinterested. I’m I’m way, way more excited about what might happen tomorrow. That’s way cooler.

Alex Grand: As the image revolution is happening. And you guys, you know, essentially are setting a new artistic standard. It’s just way more fun for readers like me at the time. But at the same time, then some of the older guys, the previous guys, you know, John Byrne, Peter, David, people that were celebrated kind of in a prior, I guess you could say prior generation. They were somewhat critical. What was the source of that? Do you feel it was jealousy? Sure. Did you take it personally and professionally? How did you process all that and what was your take on the whole thing?

Todd McFarlane: Okay, I don’t care. Look, I and again there’s personalities, right? There’s personalities. I’ll just give you my personal I don’t give a fuck what a stranger thinks. And I say that with all sincerity. So I’ve said it before. I’ve gone on stage. If I put up that this book is this toy. It’s coming up. I’m putting that up there. I’m not putting it up there to ask whether you like it. I don’t care whether you like it or not or whether you hate it. I’m just saying that’s the toy. That’s what it looks like. It’s coming out on this date. And here’s the price. That’s it. And if you dislike it, I, I care, I don’t care, I’m disinterested. If you love it, I’m disinterested. I don’t care why you consume it or why you don’t. My job is you guys think I’m putting that stuff up to get approval. No, it’s already done. It’s already done. If you guys all like what I just did. I’m not changing a line, I can’t change. I can’t undo this toy. This toy is baked. If you all love it, I love it, I love it, I love it, I’m not changing it. And if you all hate it, it’s already made. I’m not changing it. I’m not changing it. So your opinion of it is not relevant to me today. So what’s why tomorrow I got to go create something else, right? So like I’m glad that people support my stuff and I’m happy that they support it. And I’m glad that they enjoy what I, what they get out of it. And I like to meet people at shows, and I like to have a good time with people. But but if you like it, then I guess go buy it.

Todd McFarlane: I don’t really know. I don’t really need to know the reasons why. And if you dislike it, this is fucking easy. Don’t buy it. Problem solved. Problem solved. Why you want to type, why you don’t like it? Go ahead. Because I don’t read any of my comments. So how do I get through it? Because I just got to get work done because I know there’s enough people that enjoy it, that what their expectation is out of me is to get and deliver work. And I’m just in work mode all the time. I’m not in. Whether you like me personally, or how many likes I get or how many clicks I get, that’s that’s not part of it. It’s like, and I know whether you like me or not because of the sale, it’s like, this is easy. If I put something out and it sells out in two minutes, I got to assume that what we did, people liked. And if I put something out and they have to discount it three months from now, then I’m going to assume that people didn’t like it. I mean, it’s easy every time you sort of buy or don’t buy something, you’re voting. You’re you don’t have to write an email. You don’t have to write a comment. So I don’t. Once I look at, I say the same thing to people. I’ve got maybe a million followers, 2 million maybe on the world and the 2 million divided by 8 billion. And you do the math of that. Take two. 2 million divided by 8 billion. And you take that fraction and you round it to the whole, the closest whole number. It’s zero.

Alex Grand: That’s cool. Yeah.

Todd McFarlane: Which means that if all 2 million people like me today. Um, I’m a zero. And if all 2 million people hate me, I’m a zero. And here’s why that’s important. Because once I realized that no matter what I do, good, good or bad, I’m still a zero. It doesn’t matter. I’m not. I’m not popular enough to matter on the big scale of things. Then, Todd, why don’t you just do things that you enjoy? So I just do stuff that I enjoy, and I hope that I get enough people to join me. And I’ve been fortunate enough that for 40 years I’ve had enough people join me. So I get to keep doing it tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and I just go, man, this would be cool. This would be cool. Let’s do this. This would be fun. This would be fun. And there’s just an it’s fun for me to do, and hopefully it’s fun for the people helping me create. And then and then for the rest of the people, if we can get enough fans, then we get to keep doing it. Cool, cool, right? But but do I need I’m just I’m way too old to it might.

Todd McFarlane: Then my skin got way thick long time ago, right? Maybe I was, maybe I needed adulation and petting and all that. Maybe when I was in my 20s, I don’t know, I but I just, I like I it it’s sort of a boring topic to me. I’m way more excited about what’s the next toy, what’s the next comic, what’s the next story, what’s the next character? Instead of like, who liked you or who didn’t like you? And like I said, this, this. If you dislike something, my simple advice to any human being is spend your time and your money on things you enjoy. That is my. That is my answer to every critic. Spend your time and your money on things you enjoy. Don’t know why. Don’t know why. I want to spend 20 minutes writing a dissertation. While you don’t like something, right? Just don’t buy it. Spend that 20 minutes on something you enjoy. It’s weird. It’s weird to a guy like me. This is. This is an easy equation. But you guys do you. I’m going to do me.

Alex Grand: Yeah. No, that makes sense. But at the time, in real time, in the early in the 90s, you just thought they were being jealous and. And that was it. That was the main. Was that the main thing you were processing it as?

Todd McFarlane: Yeah. And most of it was coming. Most of it was coming from writers. And because we were a band of artists.

Alex Grand: Yeah, that’s a good point. I like that distinction.

Mike Alderman: Uh, before I start with the next question, Todd, I just wanted to congratulate you on your charity auction this week. I believe you raised over $87,000 in two hours, and that’s pretty amazing.

Todd McFarlane: Yeah, well, wow. I mean, we donate a lot of stuff, but, uh, we’re only as good as the people on the other side that are willing to open up their pocketbooks and buy it. So the the the true, true heroes of the night were the people who basically spent their hard earned money that we’re now able to give to 100% of those proceeds are going to go to the Children’s International, which helps feed children in ten different countries, including, uh, the US and North America.

Mike Alderman: That’s really great. Spawn open up merchandising opportunities. And I saw your videos in the 90s, some with Stan Lee. You were on a Home Shopping network selling merchandise. Was this like a Canadian really maximizing the American dream?

Todd McFarlane: Uh, I sometimes when you’re sort of in flux and you’re in your career, you just sort of take opportunities when they come because you think it’s there. And again, at that time, Stanley would end up his his star would get way bigger once the movies came out. But, um, Stanley was still to me like. One of the the the big forefathers of comic book because he had his name at the top of every single comic book. When you opened up page one of Marvel Stanley Presents Stan Lee Presents Stan Lee. So when I had an opportunity back then to do something with Stan Lee, then I did it. And then years later, it comes full circle. I ended up becoming good, good, good friends with Stan and and as I said, probably spent more time up on stage with Stan than any other human being. Right? You know, I sort of had our Batman Robin sort of relationship.

Alex Grand: Now you’re mentioning Stan. You’ve done presentations with him. Like you said, there’s a camaraderie. You also rank Kirby at a at a 12 on influence, you know, and you also said in the Image Revolution documentary, if Marvel could screw over Kirby, they could screw over anybody. Where do you stand on the Stan versus Jack debate, and should there be a debate on it?

Todd McFarlane: I don’t know. I’ll just give you my perspective. Right. Everybody’s going to have their point of view, I think. I think on some level, the thing that maybe hurt Stan and some of the critics point of view is that he just outlived them. I don’t think that. I don’t think the criticism, because once everybody started dying off, there was only Stan left to carry the torch. Right. And so. And I saw it happen over and over and over. I was around Stan a lot. And the people would go, oh, you created Iron Man. He would say, no, I co-created, but the headlines always said the creator of Iron Man, the creator of Fantastic Four, the creator. He wasn’t saying that I was there. I heard him correct them dozens of times, but they just want to hear. I mean, I’ve had people say, oh, Todd, the creator of venom, I didn’t create venom. I co-created them with David Michelinie. I created the visual of it. Yes. If you want to say that, then be specific. But I didn’t create venom, right. That’s not fair to David, right? But I can only correct them. And if they want to still write that headline and somebody can then say, oh, Todd’s taking credit for venom. What about David Michelinie? I like that I can’t do it. That wasn’t me. And Stan Lee, I think, got some of that on his side of the ledger because they all died. Don Heck and Gene Colan and Gil Kane and Jack Kirby, they all passed away, and he’s the last man standing to basically talk about those stories and those days. And people took it as he was taking their thunder away from them.

Todd McFarlane: And so and maybe in the process there’s validity of like where it starts and where it stopped. But I don’t know. I mean, like, everybody contributes, I don’t I don’t sit there and worry what I did with venom compared to what David Michelinie did. Maybe he does, I don’t I’m just like, we co-created it, for whatever that’s worth. Take that. For what it’s worth, we’re the co-creators of it. Good, bad or indifferent. So everything can’t be exactly 5050. Even Steven, all the time, right? I’ve been on both sides of the ledger. You’re just a team. You’re a team. And you and you and you don’t. You don’t keep score. You just put out good stuff. It’s only later that everybody wants to try to keep score on it. But, uh, I don’t know. I was around Jack enough. Jack never really bellyached about Stan, right? And any. I mean, maybe he did behind my back because I didn’t know. I didn’t know Jack nearly as well, but, uh, it was it was just a process, and. And here it is. So did Jack Kirby do more on? So I’m sure he did. I’m sure he did. But that doesn’t mean that Stan did nothing. Right. So anyways, it’s I think it’s a weird debate and it’s and maybe I just have a little more clarity because I’m on the creative side and I’ve done both art and writing and I just, I know, I know what collaboration means, and you just you can’t you can’t split everything right down the middle. You just have to go. Like a married couple. We’re we’re we’re we’re we’re we’re a team. Period. Let’s just get this done.

Alex Grand: Well thank you Todd. It was a real pleasure. I’ve loved your stuff for, like, 30 something years, and, you know, you’re an inspiration. You could be a motivational speaker to almost like a comics Tony Robbins or something. But, um, I love what you do. And thank you so much for being here. Thank you.

Todd McFarlane: Yeah. Look, I my speeches would be short. I’d just be like, Nike, just do it. Right. So that’s it. Thank you. Thank you for all showing up today.


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