When it comes to ranking the best moments of his professional career in the comic industry, Todd McFarlane thinks this week could be at the top, just behind co-founding Image Comics in 1992 and the launch of Spawn shortly thereafter. That's because the legendary creator-mogul has announced the creation of Spawn's Universe, a massive expansion of the dark superhero's world. McFarlane isn't just thinking about his next arc of Spawn or even the movie rumored to be in the works. He's thinking of a future 15 or 20 years down the line, in which characters that don't even exist yet will make their Spawn's Universe debut.
Starting in June, McFarlane will be releasing four new titles through the end of the year, kicking off the start of the Spawn Empire Expansion starting with the one-shot Spawn's Universe. Three of those titles, including King Spawn, Gunslinger Spawn, and a team book, The Scorched — featuring a rotating cast of hellspawn, including Spawn, Redeemer, Gunslinger, Medieval Spawn, and She-Spawn — will be ongoing. The in-fiction explanation for the dawn of Spawn's Universe is that a rip in time has paved the way for hundreds of hellspawn (and possibly other entities) to battle each other for supremacy on Earth.
If you want to get a sense of where things are going, McFarlane tells SYFY WIRE, you just need to look back at the Jerome Opena variant covers for Spawn #300 and #301, depicting just a few of the dozens of Spawn-adjacent characters he's created over the years. On those covers, the likes of Pirate Spawn, Medieval Spawn, Gunslinger Spawn, Mandarin Spawn, and of course, classic Al Simmons Spawn team up for the first time.
"DC did it in the '50s and Marvel did it in the '60s. Can it be done again? I don't know but we're about to find out. I've been going up against the giants all my life, so this me taking one more big swing," McFarlane says. "This time, I'm smart and old enough to know that I can't do it alone."
"Spawn's Universe #1 will be the table-setter and then we'll get to King Spawn, which is significant in a couple of ways," he continues. First, the book will represent another notch in Spawn's belt as he joins the ranks of heroes with two ongoing titles. McFarlane says his plan to collectively create hundreds of characters, has been brewing since the early days of Image but really solidified over the last few years. Second, he says, it represents a shift for the arc of Spawn.
"All of these characters have essentially been hoggin' the pages of Spawn, so it's time to move them out," he jokes. But it's not just about heroes, he adds. "I need to create my Dr. Dooms, my Magnetos, my Thanos, and Darkseid, so I'm focused on that too. Additionally, this concept was too big to just fit into the single Spawn book."
Additionally, McFarlane says Spawn's Universe marks a new chance for younger comic fans to be part of a new chapter in comic history, buy a new #1, and wade into a new world.
To help with the task of expanding Spawn's Universe, McFarlane has tapped some of the biggest names in comics to contribute. McFarlane confirmed that Art Adams, Jason Shawn Alexander, Carlo Barberi, Brett Booth, J. Scott Campbell, Greg Capullo, Donny Cates, Jim Cheung, Mike del Mundo, Javier Fernandez, David Finch, Jonathan Glapion, Kevin Keane, Aleš Kot, Puppeteer Lee, Sean Lewis, Sean Gordon Murphy, Ben Oliver, Stephen Segovia, Paulo Siqueira, Marc Silvestri, Marcio Takara, and Frank Quitely would be among the first creators to sign on.
McFarlane says he started quietly reaching out to see if creators would be interested last year. He says the condensed version of the calls went thusly:
"'Hey, it's Todd. I'm going to try and do some cool s*** so I'm calling to see if you're interested. If you are, I'll take anything from one to an infinite amount of pages from you. Let me know!'" he explains. "I've been getting a variety of responses. Some may come in for a short stint, some may come in for a cover for all I know and others will say, 'Hey, I'll park my car here a little longer.'"
Despite the ongoing pandemic, many of McFarlane's recent ventures have taken off. According to the writer and publisher, Spawn's sales have increased 600 percent from pre-pandemic orders and the book currently enjoys a Top 5 Sellers spot on Diamond's Top 100. Last year, McFarlane raised $3.5 million over 30 days for a remastered version of the Spawn figure on Kickstarter.
"The time is just right to get some of these bigger ideas in my head out and to give them pages," McFarlane says. "Spawn was the catalyst, the rock dropping in the water and all of this other stuff is now the ripples. I don't know how big they can get over time, but we're about to see."