Last year’s Joker became the most profitable comic book movie ever made, and the first R-rated film to gross a billion dollars, against a budget of just under $63 million. The unsettling character study has also been nominated for more Academy Awards than any comic book movie ever, all of which is cause for celebration for former Marvel Comics creator and Image Comics co-founder Todd McFarlane.
Joker is the latest in a recent wave of highly successful R-rated adaptations of comic book properties, along with 2016’s Deadpool and its 2018 sequel, and 2017’s final Wolverine solo film Logan. McFarlane sees the popularity of this particular batch of pics as indicative of an appetite among moviegoers for darker, more mature stories centered on characters originating from comics. And thanks to the success of Joker, he’s now feeling pretty hopeful about Spawn, as you can see below.
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This particular window of opportunity has McFarlane excited for his prospective cinematic reboot of his own supernatural character, Spawn. “You’ve seen it a dozen times,” the writer/artist told an audience at New York Comic Con: “Movie A with Topic A does great. There’s a mad rush to replicate it. TV Show A with Topic A is successful, there’s a mad rush for everyone to replicate it.” In the last half-decade, “Topic A” would seem to be specifically the kinds of stories that Image Comics has been telling in the pages of Spawn, a series that recently released its landmark 300th issue last September.
In particular, the success of Sony’s recent PG-13 adaptation of Venom, based on a character that McFarlane was instrumental in shaping, has the first-time director optimistic. “That adds a little bit of a checkmark next to the resume,” he explained, “Because I go, ‘Hey, the guy who co-created Venom has also got this character called Spawn’.”
The character of Al Simmons made his big screen debut in 1997 as played by Michael Jai White in a film directed by Mark Dippé, but the critical response to Spawn was underwhelming and the pic earned just under $88 million against a budget of $45 million. Now, McFarlane’s new vision for the project, which he calls “a little dark R movie,” will cost only $20 million to make, with marquee actors Jamie Foxx and Jeremy Renner already attached.
Financing the film, it seems, is the last significant hurdle since, as McFarlane says, “once you ask people for money, they get to have a say in it.” But he also told an audience at San Diego Comic-Con that he’s got other avenues of bankrolling the project, assuring them that “it’s going to get there one way or another. I promise you.”
Given the runaway success of Joker and films like it, that’s a promise he’s certain to keep.