Spawn creator Todd McFarlane walked into the San Diego Convention Center’s crowded room 6DE six minutes before his panel was due to begin. He calmly walked right past the front of the crowd and went to the curtained backstage area set up closer to the exits.
An announcement by the convention staff asked fans to not rush the stage after the panel, and McFarlane took to the stage shortly after that with still two minutes left before things were due to begin. McFarlane said, “They didn’t say anything about me rushing the fans!” He then leapt nimbly down from the stage and ran, high fiving fans and shaking hands down the center aisle to loud applause. Asking how much time was left since Kirkman hadn’t arrived, McFarlane started to tell a story. Kirkman came out at that moment, and sat on the table as McFarlane began.
McFarlane said that Kirkman came to visit the Image founder in Phoenix, and while they had some time before McFarlane’s son had to be picked up, Kirkman asked to go to the batting cage in the yard, despite hundred degree temperatures. McFarlane mockingly imitated what he said Kirkman’s swing was like.
“I just want to point out he only tells these stories so he can say he played Pac-10 baseball,” Kirkman interjected. “I often go to batting cages, because I played as a kid and I wasn’t very good. I miss a lot. I’m hitting three out of every four. I’m awesome! What happened?”
McFarlane said, “You always throw it to the bat. I treated him like a six-year-old.” Kirkman continued swinging far beyond 30 pitches, using a lot of strength. The next day at breakfast, Kirkman’s manager comes asking, “What did you do to him?” Apparently, after the exertion, Kirkman was unable to get out of bed and said it hurt to breathe.
Next McFarlane showed pictures from a photo shoot they took together including one that had Kirkman holding McFarlane aloft. “One of us is Batman and one of us is Robin,” McFarlane said. “I don’t know which one …”
“Batman’s head is usually higher,” Kirkman said. “I think you’re definitely Robin.”
McFarlane joked that they’d do a contest where the winner gets to get physically hoisted by Kirkman, recreating the pose.
McFarlane thanked the crowd for coming and said they’d have a casual conversation while the audience eavesdropped.
He talked about why Kirkman is the only writer who is a partner at Image: “Robert figured out on his own that the way to get people to come and buy your book is it just not do work for the competitor. It’s a formula I’ve been talking about for years. Artists can only do one book. I’m not foolish enough to think that you bought Spawn #1 because you liked Spawn. You didn’t know what the hell it was. You guys go, “I liked Todd’s Spider-Man, maybe that might be cool.’ You were forced to go over and get Spawn, then the pressure’s on me. Most writers can do three to five books in a month. Robert figured it out, if I keep doing my stuff for Marvel and DC and Image, if you guys have a limited amount of money in your pocket, you’re gonna go, ‘Do I want Robert Kirkman’s X-Men … Spider-Man Robert Kirkman’s Batman … Flash and then whatever book he’s doing as an independent?’ You guys can’t buy everything, so you’re gonna start with the known quantity. Because of that, I figured it was worth us tipping our hat and making him a partner.”
“You’re doing your Marvel and DC work,” Kirkman said, “and your faucet is running. If you bottle up a bottle of water and cross the street and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a bottle of water,’ they’re just gonna go to the faucet. Turn that faucet off to make them cross the street to buy your stuff.”
McFarlane began breaking down and evangelizing the Image model for aspiring creators. “If you’ve built a fan base,” Kirkman said, “and you’ve been doing comic books for a number of years, you still wanna work for Marvel or DC, you should get your head checked.”
“Here’s what drives me on Spawn,” McFarlane said, changing topics. “Issue #276 just came out,” he declared, pointing out that it meant more than 20 years of working on a single series. “There’s no short way to get to #276. When people ask me, ‘Are you gonna renumber?’ Hell no ,and never. Ever. I don’t know why anybody would spend 25 years of their life to get to a number, then go, ‘let’s just start all over with eight other companies.’ I can count on fingers the number of books that are at #276. We’re cool.”
NEXT PAGE: McFarlane on Criticism of the Original Image Revolution
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