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Todd McFarlane

Exclusive interview: Todd McFarlane talks Venom, Spider-Man and Spawn

Famed comic book creator Todd McFarlane talks to We Got This Covered about 'Venom,' 'Spider-Man,' 'Spawn,' and much more.
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If you’re a comic book fan, then you’ll be more than familiar with creator, artist, writer, filmmaker and overseer of his own self-branded business empire Todd McFarlane.

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One of the biggest stars in the industry throughout the 1990s, McFarlane is famed for drawing the first-ever appearance of Venom, before he went on to steer his run on Spider-Man to millions of sales and massive popularity. As the co-founder of Image Comics, he also introduced Spawn to the masses, and helped spark a huge shift in the popularity of creator-owned comic books.

These days, he can be found as the head of McFarlane Entertainment, which deals in toys, collectibles, NFTs, comics, live-action, and animated projects for film and television, to name but a few of the company’s many ventures.

Ahead of Venom: Let There Be Carnage‘s release on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD next week (on Dec. 14), We Got This Covered had the chance to speak to the comic book legend to hear his thoughts on Tom Hardy’s franchise, the inevitable Spider-Man crossover, the status of his Spawn reboot and plenty more, which you can check out below.

Sony had been trying to make a movie starring Venom since the 1990s, but it took almost 20 years for the first movie to arrive. Did you ever think during that time we’d ever get to where we are now with a multi-billion dollar franchise?

Todd McFarlane: Let me just say that I tip my hat to Marvel and to Sony for pulling off. A pretty big trick; which is taking a character who was brought into the world as a supervillain, right? He’s a bad guy. He’s a guy you’re not supposed to like. And somehow over time, twisting and turning and making these maneuvers so that at some point, you can put them into his own movie, he becomes an anti-hero. He can bite people’s heads off, and a bunch of 8- to 10-year-old kids love him!.

It’s quite an accomplishment, let me tell you that. They were able to figure that out over the course of those 30 years, right? Because usually, Magneto is the bad guy. Joker’s the bad guy, you know? Lex Luthor’s the bad guy, right? They don’t usually work their way up to having their own franchises, and kids wanting to basically collect their action figures. So good, good, good, good job on both of them on that track.

A lot of fans rejected Spider-Man 3’s version of Venom because it wasn’t particularly true to the comic books and felt forced into the movie. In your knowledgeable opinion, what is it that’s made Tom Hardy’s films connect with audiences in such a major way?

Todd McFarlane: Why? Well, to be fair, I think we’re talking a little bit of apples and oranges. I don’t think it’s a direct comparison. And here’s why I say that. The first movie was a Spider-Man movie, in which he was a villain, and you’re not supposed to root for the villain, right? And in that case, the villain, the bad guy, if you will, was that visually, I thought he could have been way more imposing… way more impressive.

So he was the bad guy. And to me, I didn’t think he came across as the sort of badass as you could have. Fast forward to now, and what they’re trying to accomplish with the Tom Hardy character. Eddie Brock, is… he’s not the bad guy anymore. He’s the guy you’re rooting for. And he gets his two hours of screen time, instead of being the guy that you hope gets sort of beat up at the end. And you get to develop him a little bit more.

And oh, by the way, he’s way more imposing, visually, up on the screen. And so I think it’s, I think it’s way in Tom’s favor, because you go ahead, you’re the lead, you’re a good guy, and you look super badass, right? So I think they were trying to accomplish two different things on both of them. It’s not a straight comparison of them being the same character, per se.

‘Let There Be Carnage’ has fared much better than the first film with both fans and critics — would you agree that it might have a lot to do with Tom Hardy taking a bigger role by co-writing the story and producing second time around? Because he clearly loves the character.

Todd McFarlane: Well, obviously, Tom is…you know, sort of invested himself heavily into the franchise, and the character. I also think a big part of it is for any superhero movie, whether it’s an anti-hero or a true sort of, you know, good guy, superhero. Your first movie is usually your origin movie, so you have to devote at least half your movie, if not more, to doing the origin.

And I think that the value the sequels have, especially number two, is that you’re past that. So now you can just get into the character. You know why he’s super cool, why he’s a badass, and you enjoy that character. And you’re not bogged down by having to do the setup, the setup, the setup, the setup all the time. So I’ve never been a big fan of origin movies on any front, especially on superheroes. Because, you know, Fantastic Four? There’s three of them!

Now, I don’t know why we’ve got to keep telling the same story over. So I think that probably plays a part. So I’m sure that Tom and the crew, they were able to basically sit down and go, “Alright, now we’re past the hard part. Let’s still have some fun. Let’s get to get to the reasons why this character is valuable.”

The post-credits scene also set things up nicely for a crossover with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, so speaking as both a fan and creator that’s more than familiar with both, are there any comic book storylines you’d like to see used as the inspiration for the inevitable meeting?

Todd McFarlane: Yeah, it’s gonna have to come. Because we know that the people at Marvel and Sony are at least as smart as you and I, and we know that we would do it. So eventually we’re going to get there. I think what they’ve done, which is smart, is plant Venom in his own movie, make him stand on his own. Before going to the obvious, which is the Spider-Man trick, right? Because if you right out of the gate had Spidey in that first movie, you could argue that it becomes a bit of a crutch for the character.

And, it’s like to me, it’s too easy. So instead, you go, “No, we’re gonna plant Venom once, we’re gonna plant Venom twice. Oh, by the way, we’re going to grow the symbiote world sort of around them, obviously, in the second movie. And we’re going to just get people sort of more and more hungry for the inevitable.” Which is, you know, Spider-Man/Venom. But at that point, when they get to it, then Venom will be a fully formed character of his own. So if somebody was to say, “Hey, we’re gonna do Venom and Hulk, everybody would go, ‘Yeah, yeah. Okay, I’ll go for that ride.'”

Because Venom now has value completely on his own. And he’s not tethered to anybody. So I think they, whether it was intentional or not, I think they’ve done a smart job in sort of biding their time, getting to what all of us thought was going to happen at the beginning.

It’s been a minute since we’ve heard any updates on your Spawn reboot, can you tell us where you are with that currently?

Todd McFarlane: Yeah, we’ve got… Everybody is all hands on deck right now. We’ve added a couple new people to it. And so if we all do our job, there’s… You know, I mean it has to happen now, in the first half of next year. There’s got to be the announcement. The announcement isn’t, “We’ve added another talent;” whatever else, we’ve done a couple of those. I don’t think that’s gonna move the needle.

It has to be that we found our studio, we’ve got our funding, and we have a production date to begin filming. That has to be the next big announcement. And so everybody, I just had two calls last week, and everybody’s pushing in that direction. So we’ll see. But Hollywood moves at its own pace, much different than toys and comic books.

Venom vs. Spawn, biggest news of the day! I was bugging the head of Sony a while back, Tom Rathman. I go, “Come on, man.” I go, “You got Venom.” I go, “I hope that we bring Spawn there.” We make Spawn a success, and then all we gotta do is do one press conference, where we even just tease it; the two of them are going to come together, and we never have to do it, but the internet is wide open for 10 years, we get lots of value out of it. Come on, man! Sony’s the spot for Spawn. But anyway, we’ll see. I don’t know if it sunk in or not.

Let’s hope that happens!

Todd McFarlane: Yeah, and then maybe I’ll direct it. The guy who created the two characters and directing the show. Anyway, but I’m just being wish fulfillment now. Maybe nobody else on the planet cares about it, but me my momma. If I get half of it, I’ll be happy. If I get half of Venom I’ll be happy. So, the right half; the success of Venom on anything I do in Hollywood is gonna put a giant smile on my face.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is available on digital now, and the movie comes to 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021 via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, while you can follow the comic book creator on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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