Artist Spotlight: Todd McFarlane

Artist Spotlight: Todd McFarlane

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Film director, artist, writer, and producer Todd McFarlane is widely recognized as one of the most influential comic book creators of the last two decades, McFarlane is best known as the creator of Spawn.


In the early 1980s, McFarlane sought to play baseball professionally, but suffered a career-ending ankle injury in his junior year. He subsequently focused on drawing, working in a comic book store to pay for the rest of his education, and sharing a trailer with his then-girlfriend, Wanda.

McFarlane sent out dozens of submissions each month to editors, totaling over 700 submissions in total, most of which were in the form of pinups. Half resulted in no response, while the other half resulted in rejection letters.  After  breaking through his first published work was a 1984 backup story in Epic Comics’ Coyote.

McFarlane soon began drawing for both DC and Marvel, with his first major body of work being a two-year run (1985–1987) on DC’s Infinity, Inc. In 1987.  McFarlane also illustrated the latter three issues of Detective Comics’ four-issue “Batman: Year Two” storyline. From there, he moved to Marvel’s Incredible Hulk, which he drew from 1987 to 1988.



In 1987, McFarlane joined writer David Michelinie on Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man. McFarlane changed the character’s appearance, making him more spider-like with wiry limbs and large eyes. His interpretation would influence those of many subsequent Spider-Man artists.

McFarlane’s work on The Amazing Spider-Man turned him into an industry superstar. In 1990, Marvel launched a new monthly Spider-Man series, simply called Spider-Man, which McFarlane both wrote and illustrated. Spider-Man #1 sold 2.5 million copies, partially thanks to the variant covers that were used to encourage collectors into buying more than one edition.  Spider-Man #1 is seen by many as the beginning of the comic speculation boom that lasted through the first years of the 1990s.

In December 1991, a group of several freelance illustrators doing popular work for Marvel Comics were growing frustrated with the company’s work for hire policies and practices.  These illustrators approached Marvel president Terry Stewart and demanded that the company give them ownership and creative control over their work. Marvel did not meet their demands.

In response, eight creators announced the founding of Image Comics: illustrators Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio, and longtime Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont. This development was nicknamed the “X-odus”, because several of the creators involved (Claremont, Liefeld, Lee, Silvestri, and Portacio) were famous for their work on the X-Men franchise.

In May 1992, Spawn, debuted. McFarlane created the character Spawn when he was 16, and spent “countless hours” perfecting the appearance of each component of the character’s visual design.  The book sold 1.7 million copies, a still unsurpassed record for an “independent” comic book series.

In 1995, McFarlane introduced McFarlane Toys, an international award-winning company and one of America’s top action figure manufacturers. He reshaped the collectibles market with highly detailed and realistic action figures based on pop culture and cult horror icons from movies, TV, music, comic books and video games.


In 1996, McFarlane founded Todd McFarlane Entertainment, a film and animation studio. In collaboration with New Line Cinema, it produced the 1997 Spawn film which was a modest box office success earning a little over $69 million worldwide. It also produced the animated series Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, which aired on HBO from 1997 until 1999.

The studio has produced acclaimed music videos for Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution” (1998), KoЯn’s “Freak on a Leash” (1999) and Disturbed’s “Land of Confusion” (2006). They also produced an animated segment of the film The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002).


In 1998, McFarlane won an auction for record-breaking home-run balls from Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, and after every ball was purchased, sports writers and connoisseurs deemed each ball virtually worthless.

The McFarlane Collection includes McGwire’s #1, 63, 67, 68, 69 and 70 Homerun Balls, along with Sosa’s #33, 61 and 66 Homerun Balls. All of these items, with the exception of McGwire’s #1 and 69 Homerun balls, were purchased on January 12 at Guernsey’s Baseball Auction.

McFarlane Baseball

“Right now I’m the guy who paid $2.7 million for a piece of History. If the record is ever broken I’ll be the guy who paid $2.7 million for a $2.70 baseball ball.”

From Time Magazine:

The Man With the Million Dollar Balls

Back in 1998, It seemed crazy when Todd McFarlane — a brilliant but eccentric comic-book artist turned action-figure mogul — paid $3 million for the ball Mark McGwire hit for his then record-breaking 70th home run.It seemed even crazier when he paid about $500,000 for Barry Bonds’s record-breaking 73rd home run ball in 2003. Steroids scandals were by
then casting shadows over home run records, and McFarlane was riding the memorabilia market down. But it doesn’t seem so crazy now that McFarlane Toys is the official distributor of action figures for all four major American sports. McFarlane also has individual deals with Bonds as well as outspoken Bonds critic Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox. And he credits his baseball collection with opening the doors that helped him
land those deals.

TIME: At your press conference in New York after the McGwire auction, you said you were the guy with more money than sense. I guess you had a bit more sense than you were letting on.

McFarlane: Well, the McGwire ball bought me some meetings. People tend to equate money with success: Hey, that guy spent $3 million for a baseball! Bring him in! It’s like buying into a poker table. But then it’s what you do once you’re at the table. Anyway, I could have spent the money on a couple of Super Bowl commercials, but you think anybody would still be asking about them years later?


On July 21, 2011 at San Diego Comic-Con International, McFarlane and Stan Lee debuted their new comic, Blood Red Dragon. The series is a collaboration with musician Yoshiki and stars a fictionalized version of him.

McFarlane was one of several artists to illustrate a variant cover for Kirkman’s The Walking Dead No. 100, which was released July 11, 2012 at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Walking Dead 100 McFarlane Variant

2015 marked the 20th year anniversary for McFarlane Toys which has become the fifth largest action figure manufacturer in the United States and the Spawn comic title has surpassed the 250 issue milestone a monumental feat for an independent comic book.




Todd McFarlane was born on March 16, 1961 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has been married to Wanda McFarlane since July 27, 1985. They have three children.





The 3-Minute Sketchbook (2007)

Acts of Vengeance (2011)

Alan Moore: Storyteller (2011)

All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z (2006)

All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z: Update (2007)

All-Star Companion (2004)

All-Star Squadron (1981)

Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection (2013)

The Amazing Spider-Man (1963)

Archie: 50 Times An American Icon (2011)

The Art of Neil Gaiman (2014)

The Art of Todd McFarlane (2012)

The Art of Todd McFarlane (2013)

Back Issue (2003)

Batman [FIN] (1987)

Batman Album (1989)

The Batman Gallery (1992)

Born to be Wild (1991)

Classic G.I. Joe (2009)

Comics Buyer’s Guide Presents 100 Sexiest Women in Comics (2011)

Comics Buyer’s Guide Presents The Greatest Comic Book Covers of AllTime! (2012)

The Complete Spider-Man (1990)

Coyote (1983)

Coyote (2005)

Cyberforce (1993)

Daredevil (1964)

Dark Tower Omnibus (2011)

The DC Comics Encyclopedia (2004)

Der Unglaubliche Hulk Comic-Taschenbuch (1980)

Detective Comics (1937)

Die Offizielle Marvel-Comic-Sammlung (2013)

Die Spinne (1980)

Die Spinne Comic-Album (1979)

Die Spinne Comic-Taschenbuch (1979)

Edderkoppen (1984)

Elephantmen: The Pilot (2007)

Essential Wolverine (2005)

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1982)

Ghost Rider Poster Magazine (1992)

Guest of Honor-Neil Gaiman (1993)

Haunt (2009)

Heavy Metal (1977)

Hellspawn (2000)

Heroes (2001)

History of the Marvel Universe (2012)

Hulk Custom Comic (2009)

Hulk Visionaries: Peter David (2005)

Hulk vs. The Marvel Universe (2008)

Image Comics (2005)

Image Firsts: Spawn (2010)

Image Plus (1993)

Image Poster-Book (1995)

Image United (2009)

Image Zero (1993)

The Incredible Hulk Megazine (1996)

The Incredible Hulk (1968)

Infinity Inc. (1984)

Invasion (1988)

Madman 20th Anniversary Monster! (2011)

Madman Picture Exhibition (2002)

Marvel 70th Anniversary Collection (2009)

Marvel Collectible Classics: Spider-Man (1998)

Marvel Exklusiv (1998)

Marvel Omnibus (2010)

Marvel Spotlight: Dark Tower (2007)

Mega Marvel (1993)

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z (2008)

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A To Z Update (2010)

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition (1985)

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Book of the Dead 2004 (2004)

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Spider-Man: Back In Black Handbook (2007)

The Sandman (1989)

Spawn (1992)

Spawn (1994)

Spawn (1996)

Spawn (1997)

Spawn (2003)

Spawn [FIN] (1996)

Spawn vs. Batman (1997)

Spawn-Batman (1994)

Spawn: Violator – Besuch aus der Hölle (2015)

The Spectacular Spider-Man (1976)

Spider-Man (1990)

Spider-Man (1999)

Spider-Man (French edition) (1991)

Spider-Man Poster Book (2007)

Spider-Man Saga (1991)

Spider-Man Special (1991)

Spider-Man Visionaries (2001)

Spider-Man vs. Venom (1990)

Spider-Man, Peter Parker: Back in Black (2007)

Spider-Man: Birth of Venom (2007)

Spider-Man: Brand New Day Yearbook (2009)

Spider-Man: Son of the Goblin (2004)

Spider-Man: The Cosmic Adventures (1993)

Spider-Man:Masques (1995)

Spider-Man/Mary Jane: You Just Hit The Jackpot (2009)

Spitfire and the Troubleshooters (1986)

Splitting Image (1993)

SPX: Small Press Expo (1997)

The Superman Gallery (1993)

Superman Special (1992)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1984)

True North (1988)

The Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection (2011)

Venom (2007)

Venom Poster Book (2006)

Venom: Birth of a Monster (2007)

The Very Best of Spider-Man (1994)

What The–?! (1988)

Who’s Who in Star Trek (1987)

Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe (1985)

Who’s Who: Update ’87 (1987)

Wizard How to Draw (2005)

Wizard Wolverine Masterpiece Edition (2004)

Wizard: Big Covers Book (2003)

Wizard’s PosterMania! (1996)

Wolverine (1988)

Wolverine (1992)

Wolverine Omnibus (2009)

Wolverine Saga (2009)

World War Hulk: Gamma Files (2007)

X-Force and Spider-Man (1992)

X-Force Omnibus (2013)

X-Men: Fall of the Mutants (2002)

X-Men: Inferno (1996)






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