Todd McFarlane to Studios: Hey, Take a Look at Image Comics

Todd Mcfarlane Image Comics
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Comics creators weigh in on medium's leap to the screen during PBS panel

Spawn” creator and Image Comics president Todd McFarlane had a not-so-subtle message for studios and filmmakers on Wednesday: If you’re seeking comic-book-based source material to turn into movies, hey, take a look at us.

With Warner Bros. controlling DC Comics and Disney now owning Marvel and Lucasfilm, McFarlane noted during a panel promoting “Superheroes: The Never-Ending Battle,” a three-part documentary that PBS will air later this year, “there’s a big vacuum for all the other studios” that an independent entity like Image might help fill.

McFarlane and six other comic creators formed Image in the early 1990s — bolting from Marvel — specifically to provide artists and writers greater control and a larger share of profits from their work. He was joined on the PBS panel during the TV Critics Assn. press tour by Len Wein, whose credits include creating Wolverine, the popular “X-Men” character; and Gerry Conway, whose creations include the Punisher and writing the famous comic-book arc where Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, dies. (“Readers went ballistic,” Conway recalled, noting that he had to avoid fan conventions for years because of the intense blowback to that story.)

Both Wein and Conway acknowledged that they hadn’t fully shared in the benefits of the popularity of comics in movies and TV, with Wein saying that DC had tried to rectify that under former editor Paul Levitz. The character of Lucius Fox, played by Morgan Freeman in the “Dark Knight” trilogy, “bought my new house,” he said, while by contrast he had made relatively little off some of his other popular characters.

Conway stated that the current generation of Hollywood decision-makers “grew up reading comics,” which has improved the lot of comics writers when dealing with studios. Still, McFarlane griped that there are still headaches, pointing out in the context of origin stories, “They always want you to explain everything, to the point where it’s stifling at times.”

In a sense, the panel itself highlighted some of the challenges superheroes have faced in their leap to the screen. Some of the questions exhibited scant knowledge of the art form, while others were highly specific and trafficked in easy-to-lampoon minutia — indicative of Wein’s observations that comic-book fans come to movie depictions of beloved heroes with fixed, bordering-on-rigid ideas of what they expect, without allowing for the nuance of shifting to another medium.

“You have to be flexible, and a lot of fans lack that capacity,” he said.

Although McFarlane’s Spawn was turned into a 1997 movie and an animated series, Image’s greatest success beyond the printed page is likely “The Walking Dead,” the Robert Kirkman comic turned into a hugely successful AMC series.

Asked about any trepidation about all the titles becoming movies, the trio uniformly expressed excitement about the trend — speaking as much as fanboys, they stressed, as comic-book pros.

“Most of us are pretty proud of our creative children,” McFarlane said, while Wein added, “The geeks have inherited the Earth. We’ve won.”

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  1. SunnyDay says:

    No thanks, I’d rather see a movie from a comics company that doesn’t allow one of its writers to libel a friend of mine who used to work for him (see the current Linsner vs. Hopkins debacle) or that has a creator who doesn’t think women should read comics.

  2. actually i’d recommend THRILLBENT.COM

  3. Saiwue says:

    The stories I like from Image are not super hero based. Take Saga, or Revival, or Ten Grand (Walking Dead is Image!)…these stories create a very rich world that is ripe for TV or even movies.

  4. Rex Saigon says:

    Image’s superhero comics won’t work as movies. Once audiences sit through one movie featuring spandexed heroes (possibly with insane amounts of pouches around their waists, arms and thighs) striking impossibly “cool” poses, they won’ get burned a second time.

    • Adam says:

      It is definetly time for a Image comic book movie. Marvel probley thought the same thing. They just went and did it. Marvel made lots of money with there gamble. After all no one can tell the future. The charecters out fit defines the charecter. After all that is what the creator intended anyway. Spandex are in. After all look at Spiderman. The Spawn comic would be an excellent movie. The movie can be MA13 or MA17. The older fans will most liekly go for the MA17 rating. After all they are probley in thier late twenties or thirties by now and have been waiting along time to see one. Don’t worry about the younger audience. There are movies that are just as much if not more adult like that are just as acsessible on cable. The older fans will bring thier children to see the movie just like any other movie. Spawn has a collection of religion and mythology along with a dramatically sadistic side that readers never expected to see in a comic. It is time for Image comics to take the screen into thier own hands.

      • AlwaysRight says:

        I say the main reason the independent comic book companies like Image, IDW, and Dark Horse are not making any films is because they are lazy, I mean how hard would it be for million air Todd McFarlane to release an animated Spawn film Like DC has done to reintroduce spawn to the public and build some hype for the full feature film. How hard would it be for Dark Horse to release some more HellBooy animated films.

        Lets Face it the independent Comic Companies are lazy awaiting a hand out, another thing is that not every Comic book deserves a theatrical release some can just be made for TV films or shows for HBO,Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and there broad casting outlets.

      • John Franson says:

        “The Spawn comic would be an excellent movie.” Yeah, too bad it wasn’t…

  5. Testy Besttester says:

    If Thief of Thieves doesn’t get a feature deal it should damn well be developed into a very good cable or web series.

  6. G. Jardoness says:

    He’s so right! What the world is in desperate need of; Apart from peace, hunger-relief, and disease-eradication — is more comic book driven movies!

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