If Stan Lee is considered the “Godfather of Comics”, assuming Will Eisner is the creative God looking down above him, then at the base of Lee’s heel would be Todd McFarlane. As a man who has become a household name in modern comics, McFarlane has an entrepreneurial spirit, a young Hollywood appeal, and the personality of an everyman that makes him out to be a leading public figure in the world of comics. He has laid his creative seeds in major competing comic publishers such as DC, Marvel and Image where his high school drawing-turned-flagship title, Spawn, commercially took off and became a popular hero in the 1990s. In an interview with Stan Lee on Lee’s show, The Comic Book Greats, Todd McFarlane’s character and work ethic are put under a light scope for fanboys and fangirls alike to dissect the man that was a Comic Con superstar of the 90’s who now has a formidable creative empire underneath him today.
For those who have seen McFarlane’s words rather than heard them, a quick counsel. Todd McFarlane is a chatterbox. While certainly not an especially charismatic figure, he reveals himself as a passionate individual whose ideas need perpetual release. As someone who has the creative mind to match the business brain, Todd comes off as less of a savant and more like the next-door-neighbor who talks your ear off just a bit too much before you head inside. Until you remember that this neighbor of yours is highly successful who actually knows what he or she is going off about… and you tune in.
What makes the comic artist less Hollywood and more homely is that McFarlane knows his influences and he knows where he stands. Compared to most comic obsessives, McFarlane got late into comics; in his late teens. He was pursuing his interest in sports, mainly baseball, and sought to play professionally after graduation until a career-ending injury at Eastern Washington University put a stop to that. While he was at EWU, he worked at a comic book shop and sold his drawings of popular Marvel and DC heroes to other local shops. At this early stage in his artistic career, McFarlane dumped his wallet into collecting any and every issue of comics and absorbed his influences: Michael Golden, John Byrne, Alan Moore, Jack Kirby, Frank Miller, and Katsuhiro Otomo to name a few.
Instead of re-introducing the legacy of McFarlane, it is the subtleties of the Stan Lee interview that hold their worth. It is less biographical and more personally revealing. When Todd talks, he talks at length. Mostly, he speaks in advice-isms. Those advice-isms make the interview more of a McFarlane workshop or a stay-at-home comic con booth than what typical interviewees would offer. When a professional industry artist, such as McFarlane, encourages kids to act better than their idols, his words are calming rather than arresting. It gives hope to those out there who wish to express themselves but get overwhelmed at the massive detail that comic artists and writers put into their work. McFarlane touches upon this idea and is fully aware of that troubling view from a fan’s perspective, which saves his advice from becoming an empty well-wishing.
Paying respect to his wife, his extremely laborious craft and to his creative influences, Todd McFarlane reveals to the audience his blue jean authenticity. While Stan Lee, a character unto himself, proves to be quite the embellisher of a talk show host, his back-and-forth with McFarlane dips from mutual respect to “just a coupla’ guys talkin’ ‘bout comics”. The interview is as formal as the two let it be, which isn’t much, but these are not atypical celebrities. Their creations are. And after the interview, a fan can open up one a comic and let their creations speak for themselves.