Todd McFarlane: Comic Creative, Visionary, and Rebel
When I watched Todd McFarlane’s SyFy Documentary, “Like Hell I Won’t,” I did not see just a story about a comic creator and what he does in his day-to-day. I saw a story about a man who became a creative, a visionary, and a rebel. When I think of those three words, I think of Todd McFarlane, the creator of the comic book “Spawn” and one of the founding fathers of Image Comics.
The documentary showed a McFarlane who was a creative the moment he started to grow. From doodling pictures in class to drawing amazing works of art for the love notes he gave to his girlfriend (and future wife) Wanda, he was honing his craft as a comic artist. Sure, in an alternate universe, he could have been Todd McFarlane, the baseball player (since he played some baseball) or something else but comic books became his passion. Comics was something he wanted to pursue and he had a vision.
However, he was bogged down by the notion that comic book artists were only bred in New York. However, that notion changed when he saw comic book artist John Byrne,who was working on “Uncanny X-Men,” on television saying that he was living in Calgary, Alberta, McFarlane’s hometown. And at that instant, McFarlane decided to pursue comics/ And since McFarlane wanted to work in comics so he did what any up and coming comic creator would do.
He submitted samples of his art to different publishers for years. However, he had gotten 300 rejections. He could have given up on his dream but if there is anything I learned about McFarlane, it was that he never took no for an answer.
McFarlane’s persistence reminds me of a quote from Zig Ziglar: “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” He never gave up on his goal and aimed to work in the comic book industry and eventually got his first gig from an publisher name Steve Englehart. The gig involved drawing art for the comic called “Coyote.” Although four months later, he would lose that job due to the book getting canceled, McFarlane would rebound and eventually do art for “The Incredible Hulk” under Marvel Comics and eventually would do one of his best works on “Spider-man” in the early 1990’s.
As I delved further into the documentary, I learned that the reason McFarlane’s “Spider-Man” work was the best was because he broke the rules. Marvel Comics wanted him to draw Spider-man they way the wanted him to. However, the Canadian artist did the opposite and it sold. Marvel must have been scratching their heads as to how this dude from Calgary, Alberta Canada was helping Spider-Man gain a lot of sales with his unique art. One of the things McFarlane changed out Spider-Man was the eyes on his mask and the web that came out his webshooters. McFarlane wanted more emphasis on Spider rather than just the “man.” To this day, the Spidey’s webs are still written in the highly detailed style created by McFarlane.
“Break the rules and make it look cool,” McFarlane would say. And it paid off. “Spider-Man” became one of Marvel’s highest grossing comics but it was not enough for the comic company. As a result, McFarlane and six other artists made up their minds and decided to waltz into the Marvel headquarters in New York and call it quits.
These seven comic creators would create Image Comics and it was a place where McFarlane would not be told no since he had 100 percent creative freedom. And with that freedom, he created his flagship comic book, “Spawn.”
The amazing thing I saw from the documentary was that “Spawn” is more than just a comic book story about a U.S. Marine, named Al Simmons, who sells his soul to the devil and becomes this supernatural warrior hellbent on going after those who did him wrong. Its also a love story about a wounded warrior who longs and fights to see his wife…Wanda (same name as McFarlane’s wife) once more. Some of McFarlane’s inspiration from the story comes from his love for his wife and family. And it really got deep when the artist said that he would do the same exact thing Spawn would do see his wife again.
Despite the implosion of the comic book industry back in the 1990s and facing several lawsuits (Notably from Neil Gaiman, an NHL hockey player and many other), McFarlane was (and still is to this day) tenacious when it came to working on “Spawn.” By doing so, a movie based on the comic came out in 1997 and adult toys were made (which revolutionized the adult collectible toy industry. An HBO cartoon based on “Spawn” was also made.
All of this stemmed from not only his love of comic books. But it also stemmed from wanting to be like his father while at the same time not being pushed around. McFarlane admired his father for his hard work and blue collar work ethic but was affected by how people took advantage of his father.
After working on “Spawn” for so many years, McFarlane was able to write the 300th issue for the comic book he started in the 1990’s while founding Image Comics. It is ironic how after he got 300 rejections, he was able to create 300 issues of “Spawn” because he was a creative, visionary, and a rebel. And this inspired other creators to put in that same effort into the comics. Creators like Robert Kirman (“The Walking Dead” and “Invincible”) have been inspired by McFarlane.
McFarlane’s story is nothing new. Its a story of a man who never gave up even when people told him no or when it was the eleventh hour. And because of that perseverance, he is living the best life. If McFarlane could pursue his goals and aim for them, why can’t any of us? If nothing could stop him from doing his best work creating, what is stopping you from doing yours?
If you want to watch the documentary, “Like Hell I Won’t,” you can click on this link.
My Take On the Superior Spider-Man
This past week, I’ve read the Superior Spider-Man which was written by Dan Slott. Some of the issues in the series were drawn by Ryan Stegman and Giuseppe Camuncoli. The series first debuted around 2013. In the Amazing Spider-Man comic, the villainous Dr. Otto “Octopus” Octavius swapped bodies with the heroic Peter Parker to save his own life.
Inside the dying Otto’s body, Peter told Otto to protect those that he cared and loved and that with great power, came great responsibility. Otto decided to do just that but by his own means. Otto Octavius decided to become a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was by christening himself as the Superior Spider-Man.
Such a move created a controversial buzz among Spider-Man fans. Many were upset that Slott had Peter and Doc Ock swap bodies. I had to admit, I too was upset and thought it was a rather odd move and did not bother reading the comic until this year. I even thought that fan backlash would force Slott to quickly drop the title. However, that never happened probably because Slott wanted people to see what would happen next.
What propelled me to read the comic was our of curiosity. I wanted to see what it would be like for a villain to take on a heroic role. And after reading the first issue, Slott’s story direction made me want to read more. And if that was Slott’s agenda, I’d say he did a pretty damn good job.
I saw that being Spider-Man made Otto feel that he had a greater power and a greater responsibility. From using that same intellect that made him a dangerous supervillain, Otto became a more lethal incarnation of Spider-Man. From the miniature spider-bots to the Spider-Man army he created, Octavius was not the Spider-Man anyone wanted to mess with. He was not the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man we all grew to know and love. He was every hero’s and villain’s worst nightmare. Just ask Kingpin or the Avengers.
One of my favorite moments in the comic was the real Peter Parker fighting to reclaim his life. There was a battle between Peter and Otto within Peter’s mind. This reminded me of the battle between the two Superman in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace where Superman’s light and dark sides fought. However, the Amazing Spider-Man lost and the Superior Spider-Man was victorious. But knowing Peter Parker, the OG Spider-Man is not one who gives up so easily.
Otto, now in full control of Peter Parker’s life, set out to rebuild his life. He earned a doctorate at Empire State University, used his genius and technology which helped drop the crime rate in New York City, he fell in love with a fellow Empire State student, Anna Marie Marconi who had dwafism, and started a company called Parker Industries.
As I read into the series, I saw some parts that showed Doc Ock’s past. As a kid he was bullied by both his father and the kids at school. The only love Doc Ock had was from his mother. It was here where I felt very sorry for Otto. All that he wanted to do was be a scientist and himself. And it was also here that I learned that Peter and Otto were not too different. Peter was also bullied but he lived in a home where both people loved him.
At the climax of the story, several tragedies and tribulations make Otto realize that Peter Parker was the Superior Spider-Man. The return of the Green Goblin, now christening himself as the Goblin King and terrorizing New York brought about this. The Goblin also knew that Otto had taken over the mind of Spider-Man thanks to reading the journal from Peter’s ex-girlfriend Carlie Cooper who was able to piece together why Spider-Man was acting unusual and gaining the resources for his extreme war on crime. After seeing a childhood friend get killed by saving Otto’s life, New York in chaos by the Green Goblin, and Anna Marie kidnapped, Otto knew that only one man could end it all: Peter Parker. The real Peter Parker.
It is here where Otto finally admitted that Peter Parker was the real Spider-Man and that in order to make things right, he had to erase himself from Peter’s mind just like he had tried to erase Peter. Peter and Otto parted on somewhat better terms and Peter returned as the Amazing Spider-Man. After Peter was able to defeat the Goblin, he slowly but gradually began to learn what Otto did while he was gone. But in the end,Peter began to have a new lease on life after his experience.
Overall, I really enjoyed the comic series. I grew to also like the character of the Superior Spider-Man. The Otto incarnation is another favorite Spider-Man next to the original, Spider-Man Noir, and Miles Morales.
I also have to say that for me, this series is up there with Batman: Year One, All-Star Superman, and Invincible. Spider-Man has always been one of my favorite Marvel heroes next to Captain America. Like Superman, Spider-Man is the epitome of never giving up even when shit is seemingly hitting the fan or during the darkest of times. And in this comic, Peter never gave up. Without a doubt, Dan Slott made this a true Spider-Man story. And I bet that it took great power and great responsibility to write it.
And as Stan Lee would always say, Excelsior!
Brian of Earth16
A Decade of Fun and Self-Discovery
As 2019 draws to a close, I look back and realize how grateful I am. I live with people who support me and my aspirations. I have a flexible job. I live in the greatest country on the planet, the United States of America. I am in good health despite having to deal with Von Hippel Lindau Syndrome. I have a roof on top of my head and food to put on the table. I also have this awesome growing side hustle I am doing that lets me blog, vlog, and talk about comic books. Despite many twists and turns, I have to say, the 2010s was a a crazy decade but one of fun and self-discovery.
In the 2010s, I slowly but gradually developed a visceral view of the man I was becoming. During the time when the economy was in the crapper, and Justin Beiber was basically being seen and talked about as if he was the Second Coming, I wasn’t quite prepared for what this decade was going to throw at me. I was on a long road to self-acceptance, I was beginning to understand one of the true meanings of creative writing, I had to comprehend the trajectory of my purpose, experience living with a disease, meeting new people, trying new things, moving to a different state, and learning self-love.
First off, I do not describe myself as an “Aspergian” or an “Austic” man. I see myself as someone who has to live with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism (HFA). I do not believe in the idea of labels. I am not Aspergers or Autism. Aspergers or Autism is not me. Some people who have Autism may not agree with me and may see themselves as an “Autistic” or “Aspergian” and that’s okay. I just don’t put the label before me. However, this notion has also gotten me to push aside that side of myself and even deny that I have Aspergers. I would barely tell even those who I was closest too outside my family that I had to deal with HFA. It was not until stress at my current job that the jig was up and I disclosed that I had autism. My disclosing was analagous to Superman revealing his identity in Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman #18. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and looking back, I should have done the same in college. I write that because the people that I work with were very understanding and supportive. I have no doubt that my peers and creative writing professors back in UC Riverside would have been just as supportive if I really let them know about me. I do suspect that some could tell that there was something about me but I regretably hid that part of me.
I originally studied creative writing to help me get a career in journalism. However, I look back and I am starting to understand why the field gravitated towards me. I don’t think that it was neccesarily the career aspects that drawn me to it. It was that it was just fun to not only write but create a universe or a view of a universe through one’s lense. Creative writing has had helped me develop a vicarious view of other people’s lives and to remind myself to not see things in black and white. Plus, another reason I did it was because in my first year, several of my hallmates were doing it and they had such joy in their faces discusing many aspects of a story: characterization, plot, imagery, style, voice, theme etc. And I have enjoyed taking part of the workshops where I learned from both the professors and peers. However, that all ended around 2011 after I graduated.
As a result, I abandoned my creative aspirations and tried out careers in the education, medical, and financial fields due to not getting an opportunities in the journalism field. I wanted to work in a “real job” and just make money. And because of that notion, all endeavors had ended with little to no success.
In the year 2011, I worked as a substitute instructional assistant for children with special needs. While the position was rewarding, I knew that I wanted to do something creative. Although I was promoted to a full-time instructional assistant in 2012, I did not last long in the position since it was not really for me and got let go. I was back on as a substitute but left around 2013 to move back with my family in Los Angeles. However, the most reward aspect of that experience was that it, along with watching Smallville (mentioned from a previos blog post), had positioned me to slowly helped me accept my autism.
While working as an instructional assistant, I also decided to pursue a career in the medical field by studying sonography. However, I had zero interest in the filed and I failed physics, which was a pre-requisite for the program. Apparently, I did learn my lesson from my previous experience taking chemisty from my first year in college; I was legitimately not a science guy. While I was in physics, I paid very little attention and bombed two midterms. I did do some studying, but I was not getting the material. I ultimately did not take the final and abandoned the class on June 2013, the same time I left to go back home in Los Angeles.
After struggling financially, I took several computer programming courses and decided to get back into journalism. I eventually found a job working at a credit union which was emjoyable since it was near the beautiful beach of Santa Monica. As a result of that, I thought I could pursue a career in accounting. While I did manage to get an accounting job in addition to taking several courses, I ended up getting fired due to incompetence on the job.
It did not take me too long to rebound back to employment. I have gotten a new job which is the place I currently work at now and it has been a good experience. There is a great amount of customer service involved in this job but it has also helped me learn how to communicate well with others in a tactful and vicarious manner. The position is also great since it allows me to leave earlier than 5pm. As a result, I have enough time to do my side hustle and pursue freelance journalism.
Those experiences, although most have lead to failure have taught me that I am a creative and that I needed to realize that the world owes me nothing. It did not matter if someone was chosen over me to get a position, if I had all the qualifcations under the sun, or if I was not liked for who I am. Only I owe myself all the love and support that I need; the rest can (or doesn’t have to) fall into place.
There were other experiences that had me take a hard look at who I was becoming. Around 2014, I joined a Toastmasters in Santa Monica called Club 21. I learned a great deal about public speaking and also the importance of listening. It was there that I slowly started to embrace my creativity and a sense of myself. I learned that I was not afraid to go infront of a crowd and speak.
Another huge moment in this decade was learning that I also had a rare condition called Von Hippel Lindau Disease. This disease can cause tumors to develop on the eyes, brain, spinal cord, pancreas, kidneys, and reproductive organs. So far, I have had several surgeries but I have been doign very well. I have doctors that look at my case periodically to make sure that I am on track. I also learned a valuable lesson when it came to worrying about this diease from a brain surgeon. He told me that I need to focus more on my “why,” or my purpose. It made a lot of sense. My purpose, my reason for living should be my focus over even the seemingly scary things in life.
Moving to Arizona was one of the craziest things that happened to me in this decade. I didn’t think I would ever move out of California but I did. If I were to steal the Doctor’s TARDIS and go back in time to tell myself from 2010 that six year from that year, he would be moving to Arizona, he’d laugh his ass off. And that move was amazing. It was a scenic drive as my family and I drove through the desert from Los Angeles and through Riverside County. Other experiences included going on several stops for food. One funny experience involved my cat crapping in her travel carrier and me having to clean her up as well as the carrier.
After settling in Arizona, I have also learned about self-love and how integral it is to ones life. This goes back to accepting myself for who I am: a man who has Aspergers and Von Hippel Lindau Disease and yet is creative, gregarious, intelligent, and awesome (did I mention handsome to all you ladies out there? *Laughs!*) But yes, I have been learning how to love myself more by listening to myself and even learning to say “no” to some people. Even as a Christian, I had to understand that if I am to love God and Jesus most high, I need to also love myself because God made me. And self-love also taught me to not blame others or anything else for my failures or mistakes. I am the reason for my failures and mistakes. No one else. Furthermore, self-love reminds me to never look back into the past but learn from it and move on.
And this decade was also where I discovered how much love and passion I have for comic books, Star Wars, pro-wrestling, and anime. I eventually ended up going to my first comic convention in Los Angeles where I met Hayley Atwell, the actress who played Agent Peggy Carter from Captain America, and got her autograph. Three years after moving to Arizona, I started to go to Pheonix Fan Fusion where in 2019 this year, I met Ray Park who played Darth Maul, Amy Jo Johnson, who played Kimberly the Pink Ranger, and comic book writer Christopher Priest. Later that year, I also met actress and gamer Felicia Day. My passion for comics made me start this very blog, the Earth-16 Comics Wire (Previously known as the Boy Wonder Press) and the Flashcast podcast with the DC Comics Geeks Nation.
In closing, This decade was an adventure and one I would never forget. It was a helluva decade. I’ve started to learn how to accept myself for who I am. I have no idea what the 2020s will bring but I am certain that it is going to be full of adventures and happenings worth writing about. Heres to a good decade to all in the multiverse!
-Brian From Earth-16