The line ran all the way out of the building for Todd McFarlane’s Saturday appearance at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International. As is his custom, McFarlane removed the microphone from its stand and moved amongst his people, showcasing new toys, hyping up his new Web sites, and taunting the crowd for their pitiful defeat under the San Diego sun (McFarlane lives in Phoenix, and laughs at 100 degree heat). And, of course, making excuses for not drawing comics anymore.
During the Q&A, McFarlane was taken by surprise by the remarks of a particular fan.
“I don’t really buy toys and stuff, but I’m a big fan of your comics,” the fan began. “You were really successful with Spawn, but what’s next? When are you going to do another comic? You’ve got to have other ideas, right?”
When the laughter and hissing subsided, McFarlane replied.
“I always sort of felt if you could create your own Mickey Mouse, it’s a pretty good living. You don’t need to do a Donald Duck and a Goofy and a Minnie Mouse. Arguably, [I’ve done that] with Spawn …” McFarlane stuttered on for a moment about having introduced numerous new characters within the confines of the Spawn series before finally stating, “My life is very complicated. I have three kids. [I make] the toys you don’t buy. I mean, yeah, I do have some ideas, but I can only spread myself so thin.”
At that point, Brian Haberlin outed the rabble-rousing audience member as none other than Robert Kirkman, writer of Image’s “Walking Dead” and “Invincible” comics.
There is but one word to describe the look on Todd McFarlane’s face: pwn3d.
“I know Marvel has tried to get you to do stuff and other people have tried to get you to do stuff,” Kirkman continued. “You’re here because of the comics. I don’t want to say you ‘owe’ it, but why can’t you help on a comic book? Why can’t you do a new comic book? I think everybody here will agree they’d love to see you work on a new comic!”
Everybody did agree, and when the applause died down, McFarlane answered Kirkman, “You write comic books. You should try drawing one some day, pal.”
“I can do layouts!” Kirkman declared.
“Yeah,” McFarlane responded. “You and my mom.”
Even behind the “ooohs” and applause, a lone voice was heard in the crowd. A single fan stood up in his seat, held his hands in the air and screamed, “SHAKE HANDS! YOU ARE BOTH MY HEROES! SHAKE HANDS! HUG!”
McFarlane approached Kirkman.
“You wanna do stuff? You wanna do a book with me? How good is Robert Kirkman’s stuff?” The crowd went wild, including members of McFarlane’s panel.
“How cool would it be for Todd and Bob to do something?” Haberlin yelled.
“OK,” McFarlane relented. “If you convince Haberlin, [and if] he convinces me … me and you.”
Cue thunderous applause as the pair of creators shook hands.
“And I’ll give you some free toys,” McFarlane added.
Speaking of toys …
First on the block were McFarlane Toys’ new line of sports figures, the first of those being, appropriately enough, the San Diego Padres. Figures of players Manny Ramierez and Jake Pevey were featured, as well as the Yankees’ Gary Sheffield.
“I personally hate the Yankees,” McFarlane admitted, to thunderous applause, “But there’s too many damn Yankee fans, so I gotta keep making [figures]! I have a guy in my office who’s always reminding me, we’ve made more of the Yankees than any other team.”
Figures of NBA legends Walt Frazer and Irving “Magic” Johnson were shown next.
“Can I say I hate the Lakers?” McFarlane laughed. “I am a giant sports fan, but as a kid, I gotta tell ya I never liked the teams that won. It was too easy. So I like the Padres.”
McFarlane explained that he really enjoys the classic players, but that making their figures is considerably more complicated than those of current teams, or even entertainment properties. In order to make a figure of a retired star, “you have to do a contract with that person; with all the different players individually. With movies and shows and [sports] unions, you get all the characters [in one licensing deal].”
Figures of NBA player Clyde Drexler, Oscar Robertson and Isaiah Thomas were also displayed, as were hockey greats Henrik Lundqvist and Alexander Overchkin, and NFL stars Teddy Bruschi, Carson Palmer, Drew Bledsoe and Eli Manning.
Fans reacted very favorably to McFarlane’s next wave of toys based on motion picture characters, starting with the second series of the company’s popular “Corpse Bride” toys. Also shown were new “Napoleon Dynamite” figures, including Kip, Uncle Rico, and a deluxe set of Napoleon feeding Tina the Llama. All the Napoleon Dynamite toys will come with sound chips featuring dialogue from the cult film.
“Sometimes, actually a lot of times,” McFarlane explained, “We ask [actors and musicians for the license to make toys in their image] and they just won’t let us. People think they’re selling themselves out and they think it’s cheap and they don’t like it.”
McFarlane then unveiled one way to circumvent this problem: Use the poster and album art!
Three-dimensional versions of the following posters and albums were displayed to great reaction:
- Metallica: Master of Puppets
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced
- Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks
- Friday The 13th
McFarlane then displayed images of figures based on the popular Hanna-Barbara properties Tom & Jerry and Hong Kong Phooey. McFarlane’s core audience are young men with an affinity for nu metal and violent comics, so he was sure to explain that making toys like the Hanna-Barabara line helps in funding the more traditional McFarlane fare.
And there was plenty of that fare to see. The Spawn line of toys has reached series 30, trade paperbacks of out of print Spawn material are forthcoming, and Spawn and Batman are due to team up once again.
Fans were further appeased with the screening of Disturbd’s newest music video, a cover of the Genesis hit “Land Of Confusion,” directed by McFarlane’s company. The video depicts a chained, hooded figure breaking out of a dungeon intercut with 3D shots of planes and tanks. Black-clad soldiers reminiscent of Hitler’s SS march through the streets, politicians argue, and a fat grinning man looks on, hands wringing. Just by raising his fists in the air, the hooded figure inspires the populace to rise up against their Nazi-like oppressors before he finds the fat man hiding in a small room in the UN building. The fat man grows to a massive size, but the hooded man and the newly liberated populace bind him a la “Gulliver’s Travels.” The hooded man leaps into outer space and falls back down on top of the fat man, causing him to explode into millions of dollars.
“Obviously, it’s a very political song,” McFarlane said, matter-of-factly.