For the new "Spawn" creative team, Todd McFarlane kept it in the Image Comics family. In advance of McFarlane's panel midday Thursday at this year's New York Comic Con, CBR has the exclusive first details that "Savage Dragon" creator and McFarlane's fellow Image founder Erik Larsen will join the series as of "Spawn" #258, in what McFarlane describes as a "true partnership." Effectively, the two will co-write the series with Larsen penciling and McFarlane inking -- though it's a bit more freeform than that.
"It's going to be sort of a tag team," McFarlane told CBR News. "We're going to co-plot, we're going to co-write. He's going to do the early, rough laydowns on it, I'm going to do a little bit of inking, he's going to do a little bit of inking, I'm going to do some penciling on top of his inking, and we're just going to do this hodgepodge that, at the end, you're going to go, 'Who wrote that?' 'I don't know, do you remember, Erik?'"
Larsen is slated to contribute to at least five issues of "Spawn," starting with #258 -- what McFarlane calls a "essentially a silent issue" and the prelude to the previously announced four-part "Satan Saga Wars," which starts with #259. Beyond that, it's open-ended as to how long Larsen will contribute to McFarlane's creation.
As longtime fans know, Larsen and McFarlane definitely have history together. The two were both stars of Marvel's Spider-Man books in the late '80s and '90s, and were among the seven creators who famously left the company to start Image, the industry's most prominent publisher of creator-owned comics. They've collaborated on "Spawn" before for one issue -- 2010's "Spawn" #199 -- but this marks the first long-term partnership planned for the pair.
"He said, 'Hey, if you don't mind, let me throw some stories at you, for writing,'" McFarlane shared. "He actually surprised me with some of the stuff he was coming up with -- very thoughtful stuff. And then, 'If you can't find an artist, I'll do artwork.' I'm like, 'What? You've got your own book.' 'No, I can do it.' He sent in some of the early pages, and I was just blown away by them."
Larsen joins the book after a period of some upheaval on the long-running "Spawn" series, which launched in 1992. Writer Brian Wood and artist Jonboy Meyers were announced as the new creative team on the book last year, though Wood later departed the series without any of his contributions seeing print. Paul Jenkins was announced as Wood's replacement this past January, but both Jenkins and Meyers have since left the book.
The original intention of bringing in new writing talent to "Spawn" was for McFarlane to step away from monthly duties on the book, but now he's back and as involved as he has been in years -- pulled back in just when he thought he was out.
"I am Pacino in 'The Godfather Part III,'" McFarlane said. "At some point, you just go -- and Erik sort of has the same mentality -- 'Fuck it, I'll just do it myself.'"
"There's something to be said about stability on a book that I think has value," he continued. "Erik understands it, I understand it. We'll just do it ourselves -- two grumpy old men."
When discussing the qualities he admires in Larsen, for McFarlane it's both his consistency -- he's written and drawn "Savage Dragon" for more than 200 issues and counting -- and his ability to draw epic-scale action.
"I'm looking for somebody who can give me big, dynamic comic books," McFarlane said. "Erik Larsen, in spades, check. And, I need somebody who can do it on a regular basis -- which is arguably the harder thing to find. Every time I talk to somebody about doing a monthly, I preface it with, 'It is actually a grind. As cool as it may look, it's hard work to do a monthly comic book.'"
"We've got 450 Image issues collectively under our belts, just with our two titles, so you've got two guys who can turn out books," he continued. "It's going to be good, because if I'm busy, Erik can pick up the slack. If Erik's busy, I can pick up the slack, and it's not going to hurt the production of the book."
McFarlane and Larsen's decades of shared history also seems to have helped accelerate the collaboration process, with McFarlane comparing it to his partnership with current "Batman" artist Greg Capullo, who drew "Spawn" for years.
"I haven't written one word for [Larsen]," McFarlane said to CBR. "Forget a full script, I haven't even given him a plot. We've talked on the phone, and he went, 'Got it.' 'Click.' And that's it. And as bizarre as that may sound, this is exactly how Greg Capullo and I did it for years."
That said, McFarlane did stress that the artistic dynamic between the two has continued to evolve, and that it likely will for the duration of their run.
"Even the early pages that he sent me, I go, 'Erik, my guess is it's going to take us at least one, maybe two issues before we figure out what the dance is with the artwork; how much you need to give me, how much I need to give you back, how much you need to ink, how much I need to pencil,'" he said. "We're just going to figure it out. In a weird way, it may actually have different answers, depending on what the scenario is -- if it's a scene with a lot of light on it, it may be one method between us. If there's a lot of dark, there may be another one."
Despite the addition of Larsen to the book, McFarlane said that the series will likely continue in the same creative direction as he had intended since the return of Al Simmons with "Spawn" #251.
"Spawn and his mentality, and even to some degree, his powers, will change when he gets back to Earth," McFarlane said. "He'll be a changed man, both mentally, as well as physically. That was always the intent of him coming back, and being just a little more vulnerable, having a little bit more of an Achilles' Heel -- having to be a little bit smarter about how he moves around the world."
McFarlane's enthusiasm for the partnership with Larsen is clear, and between that and reclaiming his hacked-for-days Twitter account, the writer/artist/toy mogul has plenty to be happy about.
"I feel like a little 12-year-old comic book reader again -- except this time I get to have some input with it," McFarlane said. "Good old-fashioned superhero comic books. I'm hoping fans will like it."