Currently, one of the most iconic superstar artists in comic books is Image Comics founder Todd McFarlane. Known for his toys and his Spawn comic book and character, McFarlane has an art style and ambition unrivaled in the comic book industry. Although his heyday may have been in the 1990s, McFarlene still has a high level of hype that’s unrivaled except perhaps by fellow Image founder Jim Lee.
This immediate fan interest is seen in both his recent relaunch of the Spawn comic book property, his upcoming projects, and McFarlane toys creating merchandise for DC. All of these elements can help propel not only McFarlane and his properties, but comic books as a whole, allowing the industry to reach great heights once again.
McFarlane’s Personal Brand Is Hotter Than Ever Through Spawn and Toys
In the past two years, not only has Todd McFarlane’s Spawn comic book published over 300 consecutive issues but it’s also expanded in a way unseen in decades. Numerous spinoffs have been launched, including the wildly popular titles Gunslinger Spawn and team-up book The Scorched, all of which sell very well in their own right. The former actually broke records for pre-orders, showing that the hype behind McFarlane’s hellish hero wasn’t as dead as many believed. McFarlane made his presence known once again through social media posts, bringing an aura of anticipation to a property that hadn’t been big in decades.
The result is that Spawn is once again a top-selling book, and McFarlane is brokering this renewed popularity for another crossover with DC Comics’ Batman. Speaking of which, McFarlane Toys is mainstream once again, as well. Beforehand, McFarlane’s plastic creations hadn’t been seen in everyday stores for quite a while. Now, McFarlane Toys figures can be found on both the regular toy aisles and the collector’s sections of big box retailers.
Beyond figures for Spawn as well as cartoons, video games, and movies such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Mortal Kombat, spirit Down, McFarlane Toys is also handling the collector’s merchandise for DC’s comic book characters and films. The action figures for movies such as Wonder Woman 1984, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, The Suicide Squad, Batman, and the upcoming movie Black Adam were all handled by McFarlane’s company. This has made him synonymous with each blockbuster’s corresponding “media.” By cornering the market on nearly every aspect of fandom, Todd McFarlane is positioning himself as the man who could bring the spotlight back to comic books in a big way.
McFarlane’s Hype Can Make Comic Books Into Must-Have Items Again
As mentioned, the Spawn titles have seen tremendous success in the past two years, and it’s all thanks to McFarlane simply putting a product out there that he believes in enough to market and hype endlessly. The Gunslinger Spawn book made tons of money on its first issue, despite there not being much known about the protagonist yet. McFarlane had simply designed a character so cool looking that readers, collectors, and everyone in between simply had to have it.
Now, McFarlane is once again working with DC Comics, and it is possible that they could be the next “target” of his unique style of branding and marketing. The upcoming Batman/Spawn book will likely make tons of money, and if McFarlane were able to bring those types of sales to DC titles on a regular basis, the sales would jettison for the entire industry overnight. The same goes for Marvel Comics, where McFarlane could easily do another Spider-Man or Venom series. Some might argue that this would be too close to the speculator market of the early ’90s that gave rise to McFarlane’s massive popularity in the first place, but given how his Spawn books are performing, there’s something to be said about his personal brand.
After all, comic books and the superheroes that they’ve “spawned” have more potential than ever, although it hasn’t always translated into sales for the former. McFarlane has proven that he can sell not only comics, but all of their surrounding merchandise, making the properties as a whole into ubiquitous pieces of pop culture. If Marvel and DC want to expand their modern success beyond just movies, they might need to turn to McFarlane and see how he does it.