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Todd McFarlane Gets Political With “Spawn”

by  in Comic News Comment
Todd McFarlane Gets Political With “Spawn”

Politics and entertainment don’t always mix, but Todd McFarlane thinks he’s found a way to incorporate them in the pages of “Spawn.” Months ago when “Spawn” #225 by McFarlane and longtime artist Szymon Kudranksi was solicited, readers noted that there were two versions of the “Watchmen” #1 homage cover, one with “Romney Wins” on the top and another with “Obama Wins.” The original plan was to have two versions of the Image comic drop the day after the election, but some production issues got in the way.

Spoilers follow for “Spawn” #225. The issue, which came out this week, finds longtime Spawn adversary Jason Wynn explaining to Jim Downing, the man currently inside the ectoplasmic suit from hell that, years ago, the two of them put a plan in motion that would decide the 2012 presidential election, which took place on Tuesday, November 6. With President Obama’s re-election, the final piece of their puzzle is in place and their plans will start to come to fruition, plans that will play out in the coming issues.

With the issue on stands and the idea of the President — or more accurately his people — involved in some supervillian-level dealings, CBR News spoke with McFarlane for details about the book’s two week delay, if things would have been different if Mitt Romney had won and why it was the perfect time to tie “Spawn” into real world political events.

CBR News: Todd, how did the idea to tie the story of “Spawn” into the presidential election come about?

Todd McFarlane: The book’s been around for a long time, 20 years now, and there’s always been that sort of corrupt government piece of the puzzle, if you will. Jason Wynn — the government op who offed the original Spawn, Al Simmons — and Al Simmons worked for the government. Now you have a huge government election and we’ve said off and on that there’s huge government corruption among the whole rank and file. We just thought, “We’ve never done anything that’s tied to tie into real time.”

The issue was originally supposed to come out the day after the election, what lead to the delay?

It was all set. It was perfect. It was going to be election Tuesday, pick up your comic books on Wednesday, which is why we had to do both versions. Then at the 11th hour something got put in the book in the editorial that was for something completely unrelated to the comic book. They said, “We don’t want you showing that,” and so they gave us a date we could show it and we had to hold the book. Any other issue, I go, “Okay, it’s just another book, you lose a week, we’ll just pick it up on the next one, no big deal,” but we were going to look like magic men having this book out 24 hours after the election, it would have been awesome. The punchline won’t be quite as strong because it will be like, “What took you so long, Todd?”

How will President Obama’s re-election change how “Spawn” rolls out this year into next and how would it have been different if Romney won?

I didn’t want to get too into the politics in the book, per se. I’m Canadian and I don’t vote, but I’m a political junkie. I feel like I’m in the middle and just watch both warriors battle each other, so I know way more about this than I should as the Canadian kid. The way it would have mattered if Romney had gone on is that both sides have agendas that are important to them in terms of moving America forward and we would have played on some of those riffs differently if the other party had done it. If I got to a line about policy, I would have made it specific to that party whether it was the GOP or the Democrats.

Moving forward it would be a lot easier for them to say, “We did this and this and gave them this on Obamacare.” Now I’ve got something big that’s more important to the Democrats and Obama. I would have substituted in something else if it had been Romney. I had to be a little flexible.

You work on these plot details months and months in advance, was it difficult planning the next few issues after #225 without knowing who the winner of the election would be?

Not really. Like I said, I don’t expect people to be as involved in politics as I am in terms of caring about it. It’s going to be more peripheral stuff. Just to be clear, it’s not going to be Obama and/or Romney were going to be corrupt, it’s more going to be the people who are climbers who work for them who are willing to corrupt themselves to keep their guy in power. It’s like that movie “The Ides of March” with Ryan Gosling and George Clooney. What will you do to keep your power when keeping your power means keeping the guy you’re advocating for to stay in power? In other words, if Romney is in power and he employs me, I want to keep him in power so I stay employed. This isn’t about caring about the boss’s agenda per se, but about personally wanting to keep my power. At the end of the day, I think a lot of people are concerned about wants and needs and you can exploit that, just ask General Petraeus. There is a moment of human weakness that someone can exploit and say, “Ha, we’ve got the goods on you, now what? You have to come clean or you have to quit because we’ve got photos.” At some point you say you’re doing this for the betterment of your country, but then you want it to end the best way for you personally.

You mentioned being a political junkie, are there any specific political issues you’re looking to explore in the pages of “Spawn?”

Let’s go all the way back to “Spawn” #1. I knew I was doing a story about a minority character, but I never wanted that to be a heavy topic because I thought at its core, people still want to enjoy the story. When I watch a movie with Will Smith or Denzel Washington, rarely do any of those movies draw attention to skin color. It’s just a great story and a good actor and you move forward. That’s always been my M.O. on the book.

I don’t want to get myopic in what it is I’m saying, I don’t want to get too tied down to a detail, especially with politics. I don’t want to upset someone for the sake of telling a story either, so I’m not going to sit there and do three or four issues about women’s contraceptives which seems to be something the Democrats were able to win on over what the Republicans, because that’s not that interesting of a topic for superhero comic books per se.

What’s more important isn’t that the Republicans have these three things that are important to them or the Democrats, it’s just that, at its core, both parties would like to maintain power. The bigger question is: what will they do to maintain that power? Now you’re getting not into party conversations, but you’re getting into what I think makes all great stories: the human id and how humans act in moments of duress or pressure. Some people have grace under fire while others completely collapse in those same moments because they can’t take it. For me it’s more of looking at that. In both parties there are people who are scummy, people who would torture themselves going back and forth and people who would be complete Mother Teresas who don’t care if it will hurt them personally. That’s just a slice of life and humanity.

You’ve been doing different homage covers to celebrate Spawn’s 20th anniversary, with #225 being politically based, did it make the perfect place to do a politically themed “Watchmen” riff?

I had the idea where instead of the button being the smiley face, I wanted the button to be “I Like Ike,” “I Heart Obama” or “I Heart Romney,” that the variation would be in the button. Then I go, “Where’s the Spawn element in there.” Instead of making it blood, what if I make it green goo like Spawn’s ectoplasm? I actually did a few roughs of it but all of a sudden I felt like I was getting a little bit too far away from the original parody and it wasn’t quite there. I knew in the back of my head that the Spawn orb was sitting right there. I thought maybe I’d put a little sticker on there that said “I Voted.” I just left it and decided not to date it because the imagery has to hold up. I just did two banners, one red, one blue to give people the two options and just walk away from it. Then the two endings are different depending on which book you buy.

Spawn #225 by Todd McFarlane and Szymon Kudranksi is on sale now with #226 scheduled to hit December 5

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