It’s one thing to set a record for the longest-running creator-owned comic book series in the North American industry — something that Image Comics founder Todd McFarlane managed in 2019 with the publication of Spawn #301 — but what happens afterwards? How long do you keep going after setting a new standard?
That’s a topic that McFarlane discussed during his recent interview with Popverse, initially framing the subject in terms of his relationship with his wife. “Is it fair to ask her to just watch me go to the grave doing it?” McFarlane wondered aloud. “There's only two sort of possibilities, because I know I'm an extremist. It's only going to be one extreme or the other. Either I just do that and I just go, and then I just hand it over to my family or employees or whatever and let them figure it out, cross my fingers and hope that it all works… Or at some point, I cash in the chips. I would want to do that early enough in the game, not because I want to buy a fancy car or a house – because I already got those – but because, could I make a big enough score that I would have enough money to make impacts in people's lives?”
It turns out, McFarlane was thinking big about potential post-Spawn plans, with an unlikely figure as inspiration: Microsoft founder, Bill Gates.
“Bill Gates did all that sophisticated stuff that most people don't even understand with Microsoft and whatever else, and worked hard and did whatever. Then, at some point, he just went, ‘I’m good,’ and took his billions of dollars and asked, ‘Hey, can I cure malaria in Africa?’ Not bad. If you have to put in 20, 30 years of being in the corporate teat, if you will, so you can get your payoff so that you can go cure malaria or put fresh water in places that God should have done in the first place, then you go, ‘Not bad.’”
For those who aren’t aware, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent two decades funding research and intervention into the spread of malaria globally, estimating that its efforts have saved somewhere in the region of 10 billion lives. Of course, the Gates Foundation works on a scale that most individuals — including McFarlane, even with the prospect of a Spawn sale — can’t compare with; as of 2020, it was the second largest charitable foundation in the world, with close to $50 billion in assets.
“I know I've been having those sort of conversations,” McFarlane nonetheless teased. “Be philanthropic instead of being creative and you take all your creative juices and convert it into ways where you can just be philanthropic.”
This was far from the only topic that McFarlane touched on during the wide-ranging interview; he also talked about keeping Spawn viable after three decades, his mission to keep Image alive no matter what, and his feelings on blimps. No, really; go and read the whole thing for yourself.
In addition to his New York Comic Con panel next week, McFarlane has something else big in the works: a crossover between Spawn and Batman, published by DC in December. Go and find out the details.