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Todd McFarlane celebrates Spawn’s 30th Anniversary with a SDCC '22 panel

Popverse brings you live coverage from SDCC's Spawn 30th Anniversary Panel
Cropped image of Spawn cover
Cates/MacFarlane, Image

30 years after his debut in one of the earliest Image Comics ever published, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn is arguably more popular than ever before – something that McFarlane is primed to enjoy during this 30th anniversary panel at San Diego Comic-Con.

In the wake of the recent launches of King Spawn, Gunslinger Spawn, and The Scorched all becoming Image’s best-selling comics of the 21st century, McFarlane rolls into Comic-Con for what could justifiably be considered a victory lap. The official description of the panel promises that he’ll talk about “comics, toys, Oddkey NFTs, and Hollywood,” but anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of attending a McFarlane panel knows that all bets are off, and everything’s on the table. Buckle in and prepare for a wild ride.

Popverse will be holding on as best we can to liveblog the entire panel from start to finish, so bookmark this page for all the latest, or come back when it’s done to read the whole thing in one sitting.

Keep track of this and ALL the news from this weekend with our San Diego Comic-Con 2022 coverage round-up.

Our live coverage of this event has finished.

Coverage

After some connectivity issues, we're finally here with the Todd McFarlane panel!
What we've missed in the two minutes of the panel so far: Todd is talking about the pandemic and how it shows the power of geekdom.
By this, he's describing the financial success of comic book movies as theaters opened up after 2020's lockdown. "Comic book geek stuff, it works, right?" he says.
"We're going to write about this in the history books at some point, right? What did the world do when the pandemic came?" he asks. People didn't talk about how to help others, he says. "We bought ass wipes. Toilet paper was the thing! I don't know, I would've worked on something else medical personally, but it was ass wipes." This is a bold start to the panel. "I would've bought food first, and then worried about what happened afterwards."
"We're just going to chitchat and keep ourselves safe," is how Todd describes what he's going to do across the next hour. He's also suggesting that fans wanting his signature should go and buy pre-signed comics at the Image booth. "That's the back door." He describes waiting in line for a signature is "waiting an hour for me to go, 'hey dude.'"
Talking about McFarlane Toys' DC license, he says that he was given the "collectors license," but he doesn't like that name. "Collectors? I don't care about collectors. I'll sell to anyone," he says. The McFarlane DC Multiverse line was the best-selling toyline in 2021, he says, outselling Marvel and Star Wars. "How did that happen? I don't know."
"Give them a lot of plastic," is how he describes his approach to toymaking. He'll make toys of characters who have appeared in just one panel. "I'm not selling comic books, I'm selling cool action figures," he says. "I have to remind [people] what it was like when they were eight years old," he says. "Here's why plastic matters; it's like a Hershey bar. You've got two choices - you can go the store and you can get two Hershey bars. Which one are you gonna get? The big one!" She says that people will go towards the toy with the most plastic for the same price.
"Do yourself a favor if you finish your Christmas shopping early. Go to a toy store on Christmas Eve. It's a lot of fun. You get to see the parents who haven't bought their kids anything, and they have to buy something," he says. "They don't give a crap what's in the box. They just know that the kid's gonna get up and see a big box under the tree. Mom and Dad understand value. The more plastic I give them, the better it sells."
"Always make your toys bigger," he says. "My toys are gonna kick the ass of your toys."
"I wanted to have a sign that said, 'My toys shit bigger than your toys eat,'" he says, continuing to talk about the value of going bigger.
Talking about the upcoming Black Adam action figures, he says that Dwayne Johnson only has one comment about his likenesses: "I'm not ripped enough."
Todd says that he's also producing toys based on the upcoming Avatar movie, which they'll unveil visuals for soon.
Todd says that he got "a little bit lax on the trade paperback program" for Spawn, which impacted retailers.
"People say to me, you know Todd, when are you going to renumber Spawn? Never ever, ever, ever," Todd says to applause. Talks about how, in the wake of the New 52 and Marvel relaunches, Spawn was temporarily the series with the highest issue number, and how that worked in his favor. "They were going to let me walk into rooms and say I had the highest number? Here's why that matters, it looks like I've lasted the longest."
In terms of Spawn collected editions, there are going to be hardcovers, paperbacks, and compendiums. "I like heavy stuff; it's something that if your brother acts up, you can whack him with," he says, explaining the value of the multi-issue compendiums.
"It's the 30th year of Spawn," Todd says to crowd applause. Says that the reason the series has survived is, simply, that he's kept publishing continuously. "Now we're in a world where, if you're 30 or younger, you've never lived in a world where the word Spawn didn't exist," he says. "Soon it will be 40 years, 50 years, whatever."
"I'm an overnight success that took 30 years to get here," Todd says. Now he's talking about his trip to the show, and telling the audience to never travel with dogs; whenever he travels, he works, is his point. "I'm not going to give an inch," he says. "I am the pig that built the brick house. You go off and play, and build your straw house. I'm gonna make the brick one." Recommends that people work hard when they're younger, to scattered applause presumably from people who bought the first issue when it was released back in 1992.
Todd says that he's been "frustrated" by Image Comics creators who abandoned their work early. "Why am I, at the age of 60, relevant?" he asks. "I don't get it. When we were younger, we were trying to knock off guys who were just 8 to 10 years ahead of us. When I was 25, if you think I'm energetic now, shit, you should have seen me at 25. If you'd told me to take down a 60 year old, I would have done that in a week. Why is no-one trying to knock us off our pedestals at 60?"
Todd is currently bemoaning that he's still creatively relevant, and that others haven't replaced him by now. "Shame on the prior generation," he says.
Todd has now moved onto crowdfunding, which he started during the pandemic. "I just went, what are we waiting for? If I wait, what if everybody's pissed off at the end of it? What if everybody's dead? I want to sell a lot." The first project set a new record for Kickstarter-funded toys.
Todd's saying that the pandemic shutdown of production offered a special chance for companies to release work. "When the gorilla's asleep, that's when we have to move," he argues. "That's the time to go, when nobody's going. Why? When you're in a one man race, you're going to win. Every time."
In about a month, there will be a second Spawn Kickstarter project, with a Medieval Spawn toy. "You should see the sculpt on this one," he says, promising "different weapons and lots of cool stuff. Different helmets."
"Is there anybody in this room who has a copy of Scorched #1?" he asks. "I have never signed one of those. Whoever brings one up, will have the first one on the planet." Prior to Comic-Con, he's saying that he has never signed a copy of The Scorched or Gunslinger Spawn, because of the pandemic.
"Someone brought me a copy of Gunslinger Spawn #1 today, and I even wrote on it that it was the first copy I'd ever signed," he says. "I said that they should put it on eBay."
In December, Todd is doing another CCG signing, his first in three years. "There's a lot of books I haven't signed." Invites people to send their copies in to get signed.
Someone in the audience offers up a copy of The Scorched #6 to be signed, and tells Todd that his name is Paul. "I'm not putting your name on it, then you can't sell it on eBay," he says, while signing it. "Now you can sell it for twice that amount!"
Spawn's Universe #1 set a sales record for the best-selling Image Comics issue in 35 years. "That book came out and sold 220,000 copies. Boom." King Spawn #1 sold over half a million titles, he says, becoming the best-selling new title of the 21st century. Gunslinger Spawn #1 set a record for the highest-selling title featuring a character who'd never had a solo title before, and The Scorched was the best-selling title featuring a new team, he adds, all of which he'd expected. "Here's what I didn't project, and I'm pretty good: the numbers were pretty good."
"We're going to continue to expand that universe," Todd says, pointing out that in he has over 350 characters from the 30 years of publishing Spawn comics. Says that he's just come from meeting with Walmart and Target about expanding the Spawn toyline with some of these characters.
For those curious, Todd says that while the Walmart toy guys aren't geeks, the Target guy is definitely a geek.
Telling a story about launching his toyline decades earlier, Todd is now talking about the Toys-R-Us buyer as simultaneously God and the Pope. "He'd walk this way, and people behind him were collapsing," he says. "He stopped at my booth. Do I think for one second that that buyer knew anything about me, about Spawn, about my drawings? Of course not. But here's who did. His assistant, the geek. He said, 'Boss, this is the guy I was talking to you about.' [The boss] asked me two questions: "One, can you deliver it to me by November?' Yes! Did I have any clue? Fuck no. Let me just tell you, the answer is always yes. Figure it out later. The answer is yes. The other question was, can you deliver it to me at that price? Yes. He said, if you can do that, I'll give it to you storewide." That was what allowed him to sell other stores on the line. "Toys-R-Us is in? We want that Prawn toy! Pawn? Whatever it's called!"
We're back to the comics again. There will be new characters, new creators, and new mini-series, all set in the Spawn universe.
Todd is boasting about his longevity on Spawn. "I have complete confidence that record will never be broken. Know how I know that? Because that will take 30 years. Saying that means that, if you're 20, you're saying you're going to be doing that in your 50s." Picks on one young creator called Joshua. "Here's why you're never going to catch up, Joshua. I'm going to go 30 more years, so you'll have to do 60. You're fucked. What if you do it for 58 years and get hit by a bus? You came in second!"
Todd is now telling Joshua to make the biggest burger instead. "Make the biggest burger. That's a one day event! If you do this for 60 years, you're predetermined to be a serial killer, Joshua."
There are six TV shows in development based on Spawn properties, says Todd, but he doesn't take anything for granted until the show is made, he says. "Development is development."
Todd says that he'd rather work with "a douchebag who says yes" than a nice guy who says no. "I don't care the why behind the yes." This has led to him talking about why he hates social media; he doesn't need to know anyone's inner thoughts, he says.
"Here's my answer to every critic: Spend your money on something you enjoy personally. I don't know why you're spending your time telling me why. I don't care why you don't like it. I'm telling you ladies and gentleman, I don't like brussel sprouts. I'll tell you what I've never done: I've never gone to BrusselSprouts.com and tell them I don't like them. I just don't eat them!"
Todd is promising an announcement about a comic book being made tomorrow around 2:30 that will be the single best-selling comic book of the year. "If done right, it could be the single best-selling comic book of the century of any kind. Done. Finito." Note that timing, everyone.
Now he's talking about the Spawn movie, and he's telling everyone that an announcement will be made at New York Comic Con. It'll be a "huge announcement," if not multiple announcements. "Mark my calendar, hold me to my word," he promises the audience. "We're going to make an announcement on October 8th or whatever," he says. "Is anything happening? Yes. How do we know? Because I'm going to make an announcement that will knock your socks off."
"If you want to make a couple extra bucks, buy some Spawn back issues right now," Todd says, telling people to resell issues when the movie news breaks.
Todd is done, but he's promising tomorrow's announcement is going to be massive. "A hurricane is coming," he said; judging by the last hour, I think one has already arrived. Thank you all for reading along! This was quite a thing, and likely to be a highlight of the entire show this year.

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About the Author

Graeme McMillan avatar

Graeme McMillan

Staff Writer

Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. His work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Wired, Polygon, Inverse, Time Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times, and he also co-hosts the Wait What podcast three times a month and writes the Comics, FYI newsletter. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.

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