Readers who have returned to Image's longest-running ongoing series with the recent "Spawn" creative relaunch headed by creator and co-writer/inker Todd McFarlane and artist Whilce Portacio are soon in store for another classic Image creator to return to the fold. As announced today at the Image Comics Show panel at San Francisco's WonderCon, longtime "Spawn" artist Greg Capullo returns to provide layouts for March's #190 as well as parts of April's #191, and the creator provides full pencil's for June's "Spawn" #193 – an issue that heavily features beat cops Sam & Twitch as well as series villain the Clown.
"I've been thinking about bringing Greg back since he left in issue #100," McFarlane told CBR of the move. "For 92 issues I've been lamenting for Greg, and so have a lot of other fans. It was more of a pragmatic matter where Whilce and I are trying to make sure we stay ahead of the books, but as you might imagine, you lose a day here or there on a book. All of the sudden, two days times ten books, and you've lost a comic. So as we're creating some momentum and a little bit of excitement with 'Spawn' again, what I don't want to do is give people some excuse and say, 'The book's not coming out.'
But having a master plan for the series remains part of McFarlane's repertoire, and even after a few small contributions to the regular book, Capullo is factoring heavily into the future of "Spawn." "In issue 190, Greg already did some scribbles, and we've been talking on and off now that the juices are flowing. He's not sure he wants to do a monthly book on a regular basis again because he knows how much hard work that is, but he's been going, 'Hey, Todd! Any way I can help out?' I could see as we were going through Whilce's schedule and mostly mine, we'd lose a little bit of time. So I thought, why not do double duty and give one book to Greg and one to Whilce? Then we can catch up lost time and get ahead of the curve. And my guess would be that I'll talk to Greg about helping out again...and oh, by the way, that happens to be our double-sized issue #200 or something."
Between the already completed layout gig on #190 and 191 and his upcoming stint with McFarlane and Kirkman's "Haunt" series, Capullo quickly got back into the swing of drawing sequential pages, according to Spawn's creator. "What I see, and maybe I'm biased, but I thought he was at the top of his game when he left the book. And what you're anxiety might be, which Greg would admit himself, is that once you get back, will your juices get flowing once you've come back to it? And what we're seeing is that the stuff is coming just as effortlessly as it did before he left, and all of a sudden, it's like, 'Maybe we can do some cool stuff from time to time.'"
Fans get a first taste of Capullo's take on the new Spawn – coma patient turned reluctant hero Jim Downing – in the form of his cover for #191. "Historically, what's happened, even though I love all Greg's covers, is that some people bellyache that they're just generic covers. They don't have any special meaning – they're poster pieces. And it's not that there's anything wrong with that, but I gave him an image that I knew was going to be part of the plot that he later on ended up doing the layouts on," McFarlane explained.
"And then as I was talking to him about #193, I got to telling him 'Here's this character and this one. Here's where this character is at. And oh, by the way...a couple of characters I need to start pushing up the hill are characters I think you draw the heck out of,' which are the Clown and Sam & Twitch. So I say, 'Would you like to draw Sam?' – 'Of course, Todd!' – 'Would you like to draw Twitch and the Clown too?' – 'OH YEAH!' And so there's an idea I've got which can get all three of those guys close together. All the characters we loved writing and penciling and inking when we were last together are back, and it's really cool."
But while the issue and the series in general will soon be revisiting certain elements that should be familiar to anyone who's read "Spawn" before, the creator quickly noted that mysteries still abound in the book moving forward, as do some more subversive elements. "The big key of all of this for me is still 'Who's this character?' and 'What's his origin?' We're pulling that curtain back slowly, but a lot of the origin of who Jim is has big, big roots in the Earth. It's human stuff, not cosmic stuff. The costume is obviously cosmic, but Jim himself and his origin isn't all that much. Those answers are fairly mundane. That's the story of guys in smoking parlors having clandestine meetings who had no idea that one day Jim would have these Spawn powers. There's a normality there that's layered into the big fantastic stuff, but to kick start the book we didn't feel like doing a lot of talking heads would be something to drive the book too much. Although, I think it's a hell of a debate to have because when I sit back and we do the big comic book action stuff and then sit back and do talking heads, we get way more responses to what was said during the talking heads than we do on whether the fight was that cool or not.
"I think the audiences are smarter than we give them credit for, because it doesn't always have to be guys in costumes with world-conquering goals all the time. I think it can be a lot more subtle than that, and as long as the repercussions and jeopardy are just as important, it shouldn't matter that it was a guy in a three piece suit doing the evil as compared to a guy with a big giant ray gun."
Of course, at the center of the series villainy stands the Clown, who despite his buffonish appearance will develop into a much more threatening character as the current "Endgame" arc and Capullo's issue hit stands. "What I'm going to continue to say is that, for the first 185 issues, he was putting on an act," McFarlane said. "He was like a double agent, just playing the loyal citizen to the cause, but now those shackles are off, and if you listen to the dialogue, it's not funny. He's dead serious now. He has a specific purpose he wants to achieve where as before he was just one of the grunts in the foxhole. He and Spawn, in a weird way, had a lot in common. They were the two guys shooting at each other from the foxholes during the war. I think there's a line in one of the new book's where he leaves a note that says, 'I'm not clowning around.' I need to make him formidable, so you go, 'Wow!' When he's around now, it's not for levity or laughs. He's got a bent purpose, and it's going to get creepy."