With the news of Erik Larsen joining the “Spawn” creative team still fresh, Todd McFarlane talked the latest in his comic books, toys and more midday Thursday at the “Toddfather Talks Toys, Comics, Spawn and Insight to Being an Independent Creator,” on the opening day of New York Comic Con.
In lieu of sitting down at a podium, McFarlane, with no moderator, started the panel by taking the microphone and standing in front of the crowd, addressing his fans directly in a combination of promotional presentation, motivational speech and Q&A. McFarlane recapped his motivation for getting into the toy business — he wanted action figures that looked cooler.
Discussing the strong likenesses in his sports toys compared to previous manufacturers’ attempts, McFarlane said the answer was simple — using photo reference. “The questions isn’t how did I get it so accurate, the question is, how did they not? The plastic is like Jell-O. It will go into any shape you tell it.”
“I have invented nothing in my life,” McFarlane continued. “What I have done is try to make things cooler, a little sexier and a little prettier. You could even argue a guy like Steve Jobs did the exact same thing. There were cell phones [before the iPhone]. He just made it cooler. If there’s anything out there that you see, in your life, and you go, ‘I don’t know why they don’t do that?’ I would think about doing it. Don’t undersell yourself when you come up with an idea. You don’t have to invent anything new, you just have to make it more efficient for other people.”
Turning to the upcoming “Game of Thrones” construction sets, McFarlane said the appeal to McFarlane Toys was similar to that of “The Waling Dead.” “There are very few shows in which the environment is equally as important as character,” McFarlane said. “Both these brands have a big environment that are completely in the wheelhouse of doing the construction sets, because construction is about environment and cable. I get to do the top two cable shows of all time.”
“It looks cool when it’s done,” McFarlane said of the Iron Throne Room construction set. “When you put it together, I think we did stuff that’s a little sexier,” he said, comparing it to competitors like LEGO. The “Game of Thrones” construction sets are scheduled to debut next month.
McFarlane said the Medieval Spawn resin statute, also slated for release next month, has the most detail of anything his company has produced.
Turning to comics, McFarlane said Image has been “almost non-stop No. 3” in the industry for 23 years. “We started with seven dudes who quit, we wanted to do superhero comics, now we do all of this eclectic stuff.” Once again looking to inspire the crowd, McFarlane said right now is the best time to do an independent comic, especially at Image: “You own everything. We take a fixed amount, you just do the book, and the rest is yours. Not like Apple, who takes 30 percent off from iTunes. We take a sliver, and the rest is yours.”
Pointing to further evidence of the strength of independent comics, McFarlane said that a strong independent comic is lucrative to non-Warner Bros./Disney movie studios looking to adapt comic book properties, since they don’t have access to DC Comics or marvel properties.
McFarlane discussed the longevity of “Spawn,” and why he intends to never renumber the series, despite the notion that high numbers may scare away new readers. “You can go buy the [older] stuff,” McFarlane said. “We’re going to give you a starting point within the numbering.”
He called renumbering books a “short-term” solution. “If renumbering books worked, we would be selling more books than we were 20 years ago, and we are selling a fraction [of what we were 20 years ago]. Back then, they were cancelling books that were selling less than 130,000. The number doesn’t really matter. It’s short-term.”
McFarlane called “Spawn” #259, the start of “Satan Saga Wars,” a jumping-on point for the series,. “He’s going up against Satan for the very first time,” McFarlane said of the story.
When discussing his reasons for bringing Erik Larsen to “Spawn,” McFarlane said he know an artist who could do “big, giant, goofy, amazing, thousand-people stuff.” He called the final product an “amalgamation between the both of us.”
“I can guarantee you, the books are coming, because we do monthly comics,” McFarlane said. “That’s what we do.”
After “Satan Saga Wars,” Spawn will be more vulnerable than ever before. “It’s going to change the dynamic of how he has to act and move as a hero,” McFarlane said.
McFarlane gave an update on the long-mused new “Spawn” film. “I finished writing the script, about 165 pages,” McFarlane said. “I put if off to the shelf, in 20-30 days, I’ll go back and have to cut it down.” He said Spawn is like “a ghost” in the new project. “You never got to see the full shark in ‘Jaws,'” McFarlane said. “It’s not going to be a PG-13, typical superhero [movie]. I’m going to scare you.”
After recounting portions of the founding of Image Comics, McFarlane disclosed some advice on how to be an entrepreneur: 1) always assume the answer is no, so you’ll never be disappointed; 2) “ask for a raise every day;” 3) not to worry about detractors. “There’s nothing that anybody that can do, during my business day, that takes away anything that is of any value to me,” McFarlane said, speaking enthusiastically of his family life.
During the brief audience Q&A, a fan asked McFarlane for further advice: “Here’s what age gives you — we don’t know where the answers lie, but we know where they don’t.” To illustrate this, he said a parent may not be able to tell their child how to become president, but they can tell them what not to do.
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