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Tue, 6 Dec ’11

Todd McFarlane Re-Spawns

Image’s iconoclast is bringing scary back to his empire.

Today’s the day that Todd McFarlane revamps his McFarlane Toys Collector’s Club, kicking things off with a Spawn resin statue and a few more surprises. For toy fans, this could be great news. McFarlane revolutionized the industry with new standards of detail, and pushed the envelope on sexiness and gore in action figures. The marketplace has changed, and Halo and sports have become the company’s main focus in recent years, but when we caught up with him it sounded like he was looking forward to raising a little Hell once more.

GeekChicDaily: Though the new Walking Dead figures are a notable exception, do you miss doing the more gory horror figures and scantly clad females, and do you plan on getting back into that?

Todd McFarlane: The simple answer is yes. We’re going to be starting up a new preorder website where we’re going to be able to go back and do some of that crazy stuff that we used to sort of cut our teeth on. The reason for the shift in it wasn’t for lack of interest or that I don’t like it. I’d love to be doing a hundred monster figures a year. The biggest one is that the stores that used to support it and buy it just disappeared. They either disappeared, went bankrupt, amalgamated or their business agenda sort of shifted. The accounts that I used to call my B accounts. The A accounts are the big stores, your Walmart, Target and Toys R Us. Then they were all those side stores that we all sort of frequented that were cool. Then the C stores were the comic shops and the mom and pop shops. And the middle is what disappeared during economic downturn. We’re going to be doing statues too for the first time. Resin statues. on a regular basis. We’ll do a couple sports figures but most of it will be centered around non-sports stuff like The Walking Dead and Spawn.

GCD: Are there any Movie Maniacs you regret not being able to do while the market for those was still strong?

TMF: Wow. Maybe there was one or two. We were able to actually get our chops on most of the ones that we went after. The reason I stopped doing it was because other companies started doing the same program that I was. They started chasing it so instead of it being me bundling four or five of these movies together, you had three of four toy makers trying to grab five or six of these and all of a sudden I was acutely aware when I was at a meeting and we were having a discussion on whether we want to do Gremlins 3 because all the other ones on our list from 1 to 100 we’ve either done or somebody else has the license. So we were bottom feeding at that point. So I go, “before I start putting out those kind of products I’d rather shut it down.”

GCD: Is the giant Halo Falcon vehicle shown at Toy Fair actually going to come out?

TMF: We did actually show it and their eyes got pretty big going “Wow. How big is that box going to be? Where are we going to put it?” We just presented it to them at the Dallas Toy Fair, our new set of toys outside of our regular scale that will allow us to start doing the vehicles at a price that won’t be outrageous. We’ll be making a big announcement on that once we get final approval. It’s just a scale problem. We’d like to have the figures but as you know some of the figures in the Halo video game are gi-normous. The question is how do you ever make them and not have to charge $300 to get the scale? And even if you buy it as a fan, where are you going to put it in your house because it’s so big? But we’ve come up with an idea that will solve that piece of the puzzle and Microsoft is pretty excited about what we’re showing them so far.

GCD: What’s the status of the independent Spawn movie?

TMF: We had an Academy Award winning actor come up to the office the other day who’s interested being involved with it. He gave me his pitch on what he wanted to do with it and I sort of walked him through what I wanted to do. They could see that the guy who created it knows the audience better than they do. They know how it goes. They left even more interested then when they came.  So they’re just waiting going “Todd, give me the script and let’s rock and roll.” He was saying the exact same thing as everyone else. “Get that damn script in my hand and let’s go.”

GCD: So you’re still working on the script?

TMF: Yeah, sadly I keep getting distracted with stuff. I’m going to have to set time aside to nail this thing down because I have too many people waiting for the script.

GCD: What about the Twisted Land of Oz film? Is that still happening?

TMF: Yeah, sadly that one got bought; they got excited about it, but they didn’t really quite get it from the very getgo. You had things like Alice in Wonderland come out that sort of worked and they wanted to go PG-13, a little Harry Potter-esque to me. It should’ve been this cool R-rated thing. Or at least push the PG-13 version of it as much as you can so there’s some dark creepy stuff like in Lord of the Rings that would actually scare people. Now I hear there are a couple other things floating around that are sort of Oz-esque but nobody has made a big effort other than us getting that first script done. Nobody’s pushed it up the hill.

GCD: You’re a huge sports fan. Traditionally, jocks and comic book kids are two very opposing cliques. What was your experience growing up with an interest steeped in both worlds?

TMF: I never really ran into it until I first broke into comic books. I remember going to my first few comic book conventions when they were much much smaller. I was either a fan and/or just breaking into the business and there would be a baseball game on or something of importance and I’d be asking people “Hey did you see the game?” and they’d look at me glassy eyed.  And we’d have the Marvel vs DC pro softball game and you’d go “Wow. There’s not a lot of athletic ability out here.” I was the ringer that was out there every year. A couple guys could play. Tim Sale – I remember one time I went with him and he was pretty good at it.

I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what the disconnect is. I remember wanting to watch sports and they’d say “Hey we’re going to see Alien 3.” They wanted to see more of what it was that they did for a living. I was an odd guy in that I wasn’t a big fan of action movies. Still to this day I’m not. I draw fantasy all day long. At the end of that I just wanted to see reality. I like watching sports and my favorite movies are R-rated dramas that are real movies. I didn’t want to go from drawing aliens and bazookas and space invasion to seeing a movie about aliens, bazookas and space invasion. A bunch of my other buddies could do it, especially the writers. I couldn’t do it. I needed to start it and stop it so I was fresh the next day.

GCD: This is a fan question from our Facebook page. Would you ever do the art for Spider-Man again if given the chance?

TMF: I don’t know. I broke away 20 years ago. I’m making a good living at it. Never say never. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head is if some day we decided to do a Spawn/Spidey crossover and then that way I can do my guy and go back and revisit Spider-Man. Maybe I’d do the odd cover or something like that. Not on any regular basis I wouldn’t do it.

GCD: Are you a gamer?

TMF: Not in a huge way.

GCD: But did you have to play Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning to figure out if everything fit with your vision?

TMF: No, we have too many guys who are too smart. I can direct a movie and I don’t have to be the lighting guy or the actor or know how to build props. I just have to know what it is I want when the camera turns on. With the executive art director position, it’s the same thing. I don’t know the technology of how it works per say, but I’m going to keep asking questions and if you’re not doing it right then the answer should be because the technology won’t allow us, we don’t have the budget to do it right or we don’t have enough time to do it right. But short of those three answers on every question I ask, then it’s just us not pushing ourselves artistically and doing as much as we can. The goal on Reckoning is to take role playing games and adding the level of everyone who’s working on it is a gamer. Every game you play, every comic book you read and every movie you watch, if it didn’t give you 100% satisfaction you go “I don’t understand why they didn’t do that.” When we started the game we made our list of all the things that are missing in a role playing game. We had about 20 of them. We go “Let’s see if we can get at least one of these in and shoot for the moon and see if we can get 14 or 15 in,” so at least we’re raising the bar of what an RPG should be when you’re playing it.

GCD: If, like the main character in Reckoning, you could wake up with a blank slate and rework your destiny, would you be a baseball player right now?

TMF: Well, since it takes place so far in the past, I’d guess you’d have to be a gladiator. There are a lot of different characters and races. I think the coolest in the video game are the big dudes. The Hulk-sized guys. I always had a bias to those even when I was making the toys. Those ones never sat on the shelf. But if you’re going to be doing cool stuff in a video game, why wouldn’t you want to be the guy who’s 7 feet tall and a thousand pounds instead of the little nimble ninja guy? I mean I understand why people would want to be that, but not me. I just want to be the big fat slob.

GCD: But we mean if you woke up tomorrow and could start over from the beginning.

TMF: Oh. Would I be playing baseball?

GCD: Yeah.

TMF: Oh absolutely.

GCD: You’d give up Spawn? You’d give up everything?
TMF: For one at bat. Just one at bat in the Majors, I’d give it all up. Just for the roar of 40,000 people. If I get to do it once. It’s not gonna happen. The scouts are long past knocking on my door. Maybe someday I’ll get involved in some ownership or something like that. That might be the only way.

GCD: Do you have any teasers for upcoming Haunt issues?

TMF: We got a new team coming out with Joe Casey and Nathan Fox. It’s a visual story departure from what Robert Kirkman and Greg Capullo were doing. Even the new team I have on Spawn, Will Carlton, Jon Goff and a new artist Szymon Kudranski who I found on Twitter from Poland, they’re going to do 15 issues, but the look of Spawn with that team is dramatically different than the way I draw and the look of the Haunt team that’s coming on is dramatically different from what Greg Capullo was doing. Artistically as I get older, I’m not interested in seeing people do knock off version of what was there before. Why would I want to see the poor man’s Walking Dead zombie movie or the watered down Twilight if I’m a 15-year-old girl; I’ll just go Twilight. Greg Capullo is the best artist in comics right now. I  would’ve been foolish to even try to get someone to do a knock off of it. I shut that look down and am going for something that’s more eclectic and independent. The story is going to get crazier, and people will either go for the ride or begrudge me going “how come it doesn’t look like it looked before?”

To keep tabs on everything Todd McFarlane-related, keep those glowing eyes pin-pointed to Spawn.com for the latest announcements and updates.