It’s been months since Todd McFarlane announced Batman/Spawn at San Diego Comic-Con, and it remains one of the most anticipated books of the year — as well as a comic that McFarlane hopes is going to be the top-selling comic of the century, as he announced during his spotlight panel at New York Comic Con 2022 on Friday evening.
Reuniting McFarlane with penciler Greg Capullo for the first time in more than a decade (and with McFarlane also inking the 48-page book), Batman/Spawn is undoubtedly an event… and that’s very much by design. Popverse talked to the two creators at NYCC to get their take on how the title has excited people, and a tease or two about what to expect when the issue is released December 13.
(Artwork accompanying this article are variant covers for the special issue, released during McFarlane’s spotlight panel Friday.)
Graeme McMillan: Tell me about what you both think of the reaction to the announcement of Batman/Spawn. It feels as if people are really excited about it; was that something you expected people to just lose their minds over as much as they have been?
Greg Capullo: We wouldn't want to do it if we thought it would be a bomb. I think that we knew ahead of the curve that people would love it. I mean, not only these two characters together, but Todd and I reuniting to work together. For a lot of people who collected Spawn over the years, it's nostalgia. The team that they loved so much is back together working, and they love both those characters. So I think we thought, yeah, we'd generate some excitement.
Todd McFarlane: And there's just some elements that are no-brainers, right? In all honesty, I don't read comments on social media and stuff, so I assume people will like what we're doing, but you know. We knew when we went up there in San Diego and I stepped up to the floor and they were going to sort get a little complicated with the announcement that I just go, 'No, I'm going to step up there and I want say five words real quick, and then we're going to start talking.' I think in all honestly, you say 'Batman, Capullo, Spawn, McFarlane, December,' 85% of your sales are already done. As a collector, if it was my favorite guys, if they said, 'Batman, Miller, X-Men, Byrne,' I'm in. I wouldn't have said, 'What's the price? Who's the bad guy?' I would, like, 'I'm in. You had me at hello.'
We're preaching to the choir a little bit. We know that superhero people like the same things that Greg and I liked when we were younger and we were collectors. So why is this any different? I would've liked this book if I was a collector, going, 'two of my favorite creators. Oh, and by the way, the guy, the artist is the guy who's my favorite Batman artist and my favorite Spawn artist? The same dude is doing both of them at the same time?' This is about as low hanging fruit as you can get.
What's it like for the two of you working together again?
Capullo: Being familiar and comfortable. It's totally like we never missed a beat. And the thing, I've never had more fun in working in comics than working with Todd. And when I say that in panels sitting next to Scott Snyder, that signature eyebrow just really starts going mad. But it's really true. And I don't know, part of the mix is because he's a fellow artist.
McFarlane: Yes. I think that's a good part [of it].
Capullo: Personality wise, we gel well together like that. So, I mean, it's comfortable. It's like we never stopped doing it together. It's just like going back in a time machine and we're still doing like we did and we never missed a day.
McFarlane: Greg and I sort of both broke in roughly about the same time. So we sort of grew up together, and we grew up in the industry together, and our careers were together, right?
Capullo: Yeah, yeah.
McFarlane: So we've been sort of brothers for a long time, sort of going there. So we were experiencing the world at the same time, and having conversations all the time, given that we working together, about what we were seeing that was out there, what we enjoyed, what we didn't enjoy, dealing with each other's personal lives and all those other things.
This is just us wanting to do a book that will be memorable. I mean, we want it to be memorable, obviously, but not overthink it. It doesn't need to be heavy handed. It doesn't need to be waxing philosophical. It needs to just be a hell of a 48-page read with a solid story that has got some stunning visuals in it, at a fair price. And people will go, 'Wow, I was there when that book came out.'
It's hard for me to imagine that somebody who collects superhero comic books — I don't care whether it's Marvel, DC, Image, BOOM!, whoever, I don't care — won't have a curiosity. Whether you're a DC fan, a Greg fan, a Todd fan, Spawn, whatever, you're going to go, 'I may not buy all the covers or whatever, but I'm going to buy at least one just so I can have an opinion myself when people are talking about it.' I would've. It's just an easy, fun book to remind people why we collect superhero comic books. I wish there was a few more of these from time to time.
How do you two work together? Because at this point, you have worked together so much, you know each other so well. Is this literally a case of like, you're saying, "Greg, what do you want to draw?" Or do you just both come in and both know?
Capullo: No, it's a very loose and easy relationship. He gives me things in a loose guideline. Obviously, he has to ask for specific things at times. It's part of the story. And everything's subject to change. We come to scenes and I go, 'Well, this doesn't work because Quarter bowels never used firearms, but only blades' and you know, 'Okay, no problem.' So I rewrite the scene so that it'll work without it, and I'll come up with devices so that I can say the same thing. And it's just always like that with us.
McFarlane: I'm not afraid of any art changes and I don't do full scripts. I defy those. I like to give the artists as much fun as possible. I volley it over the net and go, 'Hey, here's something. Go.' And then you do your thing, hit it back. My job should be to be able to write around anything. If I'm a skilled enough writer, there's nothing he could give me that I shouldn't be able to accommodate.
The reason I want the artist, and in this case Greg, who's magnificent with storytelling, to have that freedom is because I know he's going to give me magic in panels and do things that I wouldn't have thought of myself: 'Here, Greg, you have as much fun, do whatever you want, and I'll just play with whatever you've basically given me.' That was really the joy of working with Greg all those years, was him surprising me. Every time I see a page, I go, 'Oh my gosh, I wouldn't have thought of that. I wouldn't have thought of that. I wouldn't have thought of that.'
It feels very much like the two of you are just going with it. Just 'Whatever feels right in the moment, we're doing.'
Capullo: That's it.
McFarlane: That's exactly it. He knows the process. I don't want to say we're winging it. We're half a step back from that, though, which is way different than knowing exactly what you're going to do up front. You've got a full script, it's all figured out. The blueprint is written, and now you're just building a building, right? To replicate what's on the blueprint. I don't know, it doesn't seem like there's a lot of fun in that process. When the contract got done, I said, 'Greg, what do you want to draw?' I didn't know who the bad guy was going to be. I go, 'I'll let Greg decide who the bad guys would be.' So if you like the Court of Owls, that was Greg. If you don't, that was Greg.
When you hear those old stories of how Stan used to work with Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby and stuff, we are way closer to that. Not in terms of our status, but in terms of that process. We just trust each other's instincts. And it's like, 'Do it, do it. This will work. Don't worry about it. This will work. We'll have fun.' Some turn out better than others, but at the end the whole is going to be better than the parts. And it will just be a comic book that I would've wanted to buy when I was 15. So if you're 55 and you're a philosopher, might not live up to your standards. But if you're just a comic collector at heart, this has got to be in your collection. This book has got to be in your collection.
It sounds like a fun read. That's what you want from a superhero comic, especially.
McFarlane: I haven't written it yet, but I'm going to get serious at some moments because one of the pieces of this puzzle is, what are the similarities of Batman and Spawn, and what are the differences? And I think that those are important because they reflect how they have survived all these battles against evil for so long.
Their MOs are completely different. I didn't want to wax poetic with it, but there's a couple moments where they sort of say who they are. And really, at the end of the day, it's 'You do you, Greg. I'll do me. And let's just agree to disagree. We both figured it out. We don't have to do each other's MO, let's just go and get the bad guys.' Right? Like, 'Who cares whether we're simpatico or not? Let's just go get the bad guys. We'll worry about that another day.'
You're making the two of you sound like Batman and Spawn. Are you Batman, Greg, and Todd is Spawn? Is that the deal?
Capullo: I think we're interchangeable.
McFarlane: Greg and I probably are projecting a little bit of ourselves, right? Because we're both confident. Very confident. Maybe overconfident at times. And we just try, as much as we like each other, try not to give each other too much of an inch, a way to just go, 'Can't let him get too big on his heels, because I got to do something to make it...' And then Greg would do something. And then we're always, in a friendly, competitive way, going, 'I'm good.' 'Well, so am I.' Right? 'What are you doing? Oh, that's great, Greg. I'm happy for you.' Not really, because as soon as he tells me he's doing something, I'm going, 'What can I do to get right up even with him?'
I think friendly competition amongst your friends and peers is good for you. I think it keeps you on your toes. And then, not only do we have to compete with each other, but there is a whole generation of young kids that are willing to stay up 20 hours a day like Greg and I used to, and they draw their ass off, and they're stunning. And so, us old men can't relax because there's too much youth coming up that is very talented. So I think we're now at the point where we're actually sort of helping each other along.
Capullo: Well, this is the strategy of the young. They're pushing us into our grave. 'These motherfuckers are going to have to work real hard to keep on pace with us, and eventually die of heart attacks.' [Laughs]
Okay, last question. What are you most looking forward to in this book? What is the most fun thing for both of you working on this? Is it the collaboration? Is it just getting to work together again? Or is there something in the book itself that you want to really get out there, and for people to see?
McFarlane: For me, getting to work with Greg again. It's always a joy. And then, I would say it's just taking it across the finish line. I mean, when you're doing the process, you're so entrenched with it, you don't get to sit there and go, 'Oh my God, look at this.' What you do is you finally give birth to the book, and then you step back and you let them, the audience, make their reactions, good, bad, or indifferent. And that's sort of it. We're talking about it and there's a lot of theory, but the only thing that's going to matter is that final printed book in the hands of the consumers. And then we'll really know whether we pulled off some of the theory that we were hoping for, emotionally, in terms of the fun factor to the readers.
Capullo: For me, it's just so easy to work with all three characters, of which I'm so familiar. With this character next to me, Todd McFarlane, Batman, and Spawn. I'm equally familiar with all three of those characters, very intimately, and so it's very comfortable and easy for me.
Throughout all of New York Comic Con 2022, Popverse is going to be keeping up with everything that happens, from panels and breaking news to interviews and the best cosplay on the show floor. We’ll be sharing everything as it happens — including exclusive livestreams from the biggest panels at the show — so let us keep you in the loop all weekend.
If you’ve enjoyed this coverage, please give Popverse a shoutout by tagging us on @PopverseSays on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, or linking to us at www.thepopverse.com.