ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.04 - JULY 2000

Spawning A Super Hero - An interview with Spawn's Todd McFarlane
(continued from page 4)

How about comic book heroes? He didn't have any. By his own admission, McFarlane was a "late bloomer" and didn't start reading comic books until he was sixteen. But, if you held a gun to his head, he would reluctantly concede that Spawn is closer to Batmanthan Superman.Still, both of those archetypes are far from McFarlane's Spawn,which some detractors have accused of being too dark and much too violent. McFarlane takes exception.

TM: Have you seen the movie Rambo, First Blood?His thing was, "They pushed me first." So, then it sort of comes back to me. I don't consider myself violent, but fuck, if you touch me, I'll touch you hard. But will I ever touch you first? Never. But will I back down from a fight? I will never let you see fear in my eyes. And so, if you actually look at Spawn, if you analyze Spawn, very rarely does he make the first move or does he go after anybody without being provoked. They come, and they push, and they tease, and they kick and they swing at him. And finally he goes: "I gave you a warning, I told you to back off, and now fuck you." Does that make him extremely violent? No, I think it makes him like most of us. I think most of us would stand up.

A scene for the highly successful HBO series Todd McFarlanes Spawn. © 1996 Home Box Office.

Pick A Voice — Your Own
McFarlane has enjoyed success in film and video as well as comic books and action figures. Spawn,the movie, grossed $100 million. He won two Emmys for Todd McFarlane's Spawn,his HBO animated series. In its first season the series became HBO Home Video's top-selling original programming video of all time, with combined sales topping 1 million units for three seasons. In February, McFarlane won a Grammy in the Best Short Form Video category as well as two MTV Video Music Awards for Korn's Freak on a Leash.In 1999, he received a Grammy nomination for Pearl Jam's Do the Evolution.Both music videos were animated. In fact, Eddy Vetter of Pearl Jam picked McFarlane to do their video after watching a Spawnepisode on HBO.

What does McFarlane see as the future trend of animation? More CG? More special effects?

TM: I'm not a big fan of CG animation when you can see it. But they're getting smarter and smarter with it because they're starting to hide it now. They're actually starting to make the CGI look like animation...

Unlike typical superhero yarns, comic titles from McFarlane, like Sam and Twitch, feature very developed characters. Todd McFarlane Productions.

They're going to have this movie coming out, Titan A.E.,that's going to try to integrate the both of them. I'm betting it doesn't do what they're hoping for. I go into Hollywood now and I say, "Somebody needs to do a balls out, animated theatrical release." And they go, "Oh, Titan A.E."

No! If Tarzan is a one in terms of cuteness, then Titan A.E. is maybe a three. I'm talking about a fucking twelve! I'm talking about an R-rated show that's like Armageddon animated, The Matrix animated, Blade Runner,animated. I'm not saying animate those movies. I'm saying like those. Why couldn't you have taken the idea of Blade Runnerand animated it? The answer is you could, but nobody wants to do it.

A young artist comes to him hoping to land a spot on his staff. What kind of skills does McFarlane look for?

The darker side of Todd McFarlane comics. © Todd McFarlane Productions.

TM: If I look at his work, and I go, "Oh, he draws a cool Superman!," then I'm not interested. I'm looking at guys that have a sort of style and uniqueness in terms of their storytelling and the way they write tales. I'm trying to do a lot of what I call anti-comics. There are a million super-hero comic books. Why would I want to do another one? I want to do other kinds of things...I don't care about some alien invasion and Doctor Doomtries to beat up the Fantastic Fourfor the fiftieth time. I've seen it, and I'm bored of it.

I just hired a new kid who has sort of a film noirkind of look...but it wouldn't work on The X-Menor Spider-Man,but for some of the stuff that we're doing, it's perfect.

An enigma, an artist, an entrepreneur who deals mainly in fantasy, yet he doesn't waste his time fantasizing, does McFarlane have a secret passion? When he played baseball at EWSU, he had attracted the attention of several big league scouts. Then he injured his ankle, and the dream vanished. Would he have preferred a career in the Big Show over what he is doing now?

TM: Even today. Yeah, Id trade it today. Are you kidding me? To get up there with the bases loaded with fifty thousand people and the game on the line. Whew! That'd be pretty good. The wise man now. I'm not so young anymore. I see that being a pro athlete sort of has its limits. I'd be retired at 37, right? Where, if you have a real job, you can actually do it til you're 65. That intellectual part of me says, "Give it up." Still, sports were what I lived and breathed as a kid and through college. Other than me and my wife, that was it. It's [making the Major Leagues] the only thing that I have in my resume that I tried and wasn't good enough.

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