Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo. Two legendary comic creators who conjure up images of dark crusaders and explosive action. Individually, their work on Spawn and Batman represents the most dynamic and exciting comic book art in the history of the medium. Now, after countless requests from fans, they’re joining forces on a new Batman/Spawn crossover.
Announced last summer at San Diego Comic-Con, the McFarlane-scripted Batman/Spawn took fans by surprise, easily becoming the most buzzed-about comic at the con. Pencilled by Capullo, who has some pretty strong history with both characters, the book will hit stands this December. Yes, that does feel like a long time to wait, especially considering it’s been nearly two decades since the last Batman/Spawn crossover. So, to both whet your appetite and help prepare you for what’s ahead—because believe us, you’re not ready—we spoke with the remarkable creative team along with DC Chief Creative Officer (and Batman/Spawn cover artist) Jim Lee on their approach in bringing this upcoming team-up to life, how their years of experience is informing this new project and whether we’ll be getting some amazing action figures out of the deal—this is Todd McFarlane, after all!
Todd, you worked on the very first Batman/Spawn crossover book with Frank Miller writing. The next one was done by a different creative team. For this new one, what did you want to do to set apart your story from what has come before and establish your own take on the Batman and Spawn dynamic?
Todd McFarlane: The easy thing about it is that it was 25 years ago when I drew the first one. It’s sort of like doing a movie 25 years ago. It’s like, we’re not making a remake of it. It’s more like a reboot. I wasn’t ever concerned about a reader having read the earlier ones, and if you’re interested in them, you can now get them. DC is reprinting them. But what Greg and I are doing is a reset—doing a modern-day Spawn and Batman story without worrying about what came out before.
The first crossover explicitly stated that the Batman in that story was the Dark Knight Returns version. Did you have a personal version of Batman that you wanted to do, or was that not a concern?
TM: I recall when I was working with Frank Miller on that book, one of the rules from DC was that I could not change anything about Batman. Even down to the belt and the symbol. I wanted to do the version without the yellow oval, but they told me I had to keep it. Nowadays, there’s two dozen Batmans and fifty different costumes. Everything’s open to interpretation.
Greg Capullo: We’re forbidden from using the yellow oval now!
TM: Yeah! Now the oval is like, retro-chic cool.
So, we went from being in a box at the time to now we can do whatever we want, and it’s pretty cool.
Greg, you now have drawn Batman for over ten years. Originally, this story with you and Todd was meant to come out in 2006. In between then and now, what have you learned about drawing Batman that helped prepare you for this book that you didn’t know back then?
GC: Drawing Batman, of course! It would’ve been cool in 2006, but now to me it’s easy because I don’t have to think about anything. Todd’s been my longtime partner and we work really loose together—and on one of my favorite characters. Together, they’re like family to me. I can really let my instincts go crazy. I feel free.
Do you find Spawn and Batman different, but both suited for your style?
GC: Well, they obviously both suit my style! I was never intending to be a dark hero artist. I guess I’ve been typecast! They’re similar characters, but I do approach them differently. Spawn has crazy detail, and the way I approach Batman is to make him more graphic, more monolithic. Not to add too much detail. Putting them in the same story, it’s a bit of a balancing act. I wanted to give fans of both characters what they expect. It’s a gap to bridge. The Batman I draw in this is very familiar, with maybe a teeny bit more detail. But it’s purely instinct.
Jim, is this the first time you’ve drawn Spawn? And did you ever think you’d be drawing him for a DC crossover?
Jim Lee: Strangely enough, I have drawn Spawn on a number of different pinups and covers while I was part of Image Comics and even after I left Image to join DC. This particular piece is the first time drawing Spawn with Batman though and that was challenging on a number of fronts. In many respects, Batman and Spawn are similar in that they are two dark, brooding characters obsessed with seeking justice and of course, they both share the same taste in giant, sweeping capes that are like characters unto themselves. But at the same time, they are very different beneath the surface and I wanted to bring out those elements visually through the final image itself.
You mentioned on your Instagram that one of the biggest challenges was finding a composition you liked that other artists haven’t used. How many other compositions did you try and what led you to this one?
JL: Oh, there were probably five or six compositions I played around with before settling on this final piece, which has them kind of “dancing” around one another. A number of cool compositions were already brought to life by my artistic peers, so that eliminated a number of options right off the bat. One variation I liked initially but ultimately abandoned had the two in locked combat, very closely cropped and intense. But at the end of the day, I didn’t want to show one character outshining the other, so I chose a different path. I also wanted to accentuate their personalities through their gestures so that played a role in how Batman and Spawn would stand or pose. And that ruled out a very close up shot of the two of them with their faces inches from one another.
Greg and Todd, a lot has happened since Spawn’s debut in the 1990s, and now we’re in a comic book media boom. What do Batman and Spawn both mean to you, after everything that’s happened with them as characters and the overall medium of comics, in 2022?
TM: I would say pairing the two of them together is different in comics than in anything else. Outside of comics, the Batman brand is way, way stronger, especially on a global level. Spawn isn’t what Batman is in that arena. In comics, they’re much closer. In the past, Spawn has outsold Batman. The two being next to each other isn’t a gimmick, they’re both A-listers. It’s fun to do that with any heavyweights in the industry. This is just going back to what’s worked before, for a whole new generation of fans that didn’t read them both together the last time we did this. You might’ve heard about it, but you were never able to share in the moment. Not until now.
GC: The characters are very different. Spawn will kill or do anything—he’s a mercenary from hell. Batman is very distinct to me. Why he’s so cool and awesome is because he was given a chance to claim either victimhood or victory. He could’ve been an alcoholic or drug addict, but he didn’t. That strength of will makes the character so special and identifiable. Spawn’s the opposite. There are no moral barriers to keep him in line and just do whatever. That’s what divides them. But they’re both highly skilled physical fighters. Batman doesn’t cross the line to kill, but if he did, he’d be on par with Spawn. That’s how I see them and describe them.
TM: Just to explain Spawn, he’s not the violent version of Batman, but he’ll do whatever is necessary. You want to bring a knife, he’ll bring a knife. You want to bring a bazooka, he’ll bring a bazooka. You want to bring a nuke, he’ll bring a ****ing nuke. And he won’t apologize for any of it. We all draw lines on what we will or won’t do. If we were to argue about what’s cursing, we have a different line on what words are defined as a curse word. So, just defining the differences on what superheroes will or won’t do because of historically being owned by corporations, I wanted to separate him early on to say that he’s not looking for violence. But if it’s the only way to survive or save someone? Then he has no qualms. It’s war to him.
It’s like Braveheart. You either cut someone’s head or get yours cut off. That’s what happens on the battlefield. If you hesitate at any moment, you’ll lose your head. You have to go toe-to-toe when needed. Not all the time, but on the battlefield, you must.
Jim, what’s been the best thing for you, as both an artist and a fan, about seeing this book come together?
JL: I remember being a fan and being so excited when my favorite characters from different universes would team up. It was such a powerful moment in fandom to see that kind of collaboration between companies in the past and being able to help put this deal together now in 2022 was a special highlight for me this year. And to get the premiere Batman artist in Greg Capullo being inked by Todd McFarlane was just icing on the cake! A world class crossover with world class talent…these are the moments that we as comics fans live for! And being able to contribute to this project, even if it’s just a variant cover, brought out the little kid in me!
Last question, what else would you like to see come out of this? Can we expect some Greg Capullo-designed Spawn and Batman action figures?
GC: Haha! Well! I’ve been telling Todd we better get on it!
TM: I would also like to see… I mean, we probably could have had a hundred artists do variant covers. We’ve got thirteen, but we could’ve gathered a hundred covers, easy. But I would’ve liked to see those covers being done in the book. But also, it would be nice at some point to do a book that shows off Greg’s spectacular pencils. Showing the black and white inks without lettering, so people can see the complete artwork.
GC: And I filled in all the blacks and doing full pencils anticipating a penciled-only version. I’m going that extra mile because I anticipate something as cool as this, I figure something like that will happen down the line.