“Change is part of the human condition. And yet every day you run into systems that are crushingly holding on to status quo, are holding on to yesterday. And for those of us who are wired to think about tomorrow, we become the rebels, we become the outcasts, we become the people who are rocking the boat.”— Todd McFarlane
Todd McFarlane (@Todd_McFarlane) is an Emmy- and Grammy-winning director/producer and creator of one of the world’s best-selling comic books, Spawn. He is best known to many comic book fans for his work as the artist on The Amazing Spider-Man, for which he co-created Marvel’s top villain, Venom.
Todd is the CEO of Todd McFarlane Productions, McFarlane Toys (one of the US’s top action-figure manufacturers), and McFarlane Films. He is also a co-founder of Image Comics, which debuted Spawn in 1992, selling 1.7 million copies of the first issue. In 1997, Spawn was made into an Emmy Award-winning animated series on HBO and a live-action feature film that grossed over $100 million. In 2019, Todd made history with Spawn #301, earning the Guinness World Record for longest-running creator-owned superhero comic book series.
The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.
This episode is brought to you by MasterClass! With MasterClass, you can learn from the world’s best minds—anytime, anywhere, and at your own pace. With more than 180 classes from a range of world-class instructors, that thing you’ve always wanted to do is closer than you think.
MasterClass’s cinema-quality lessons give you unparalleled access to renowned instructors, who share everything from how to execute specific techniques to insights about their craft that can be translated across many fields and disciplines. This holiday, give one annual membership and get one free! Go to Masterclass.Com/Ferriss today.
This episode is brought to you by Vuori Clothing! Vuori is a new and fresh perspective on performance apparel, perfect if you are sick and tired of traditional, old workout gear. Everything is designed for maximum comfort and versatility so that you look and feel as good in everyday life as you do working out.
Get yourself some of the most comfortable and versatile clothing on the planet at VuoriClothing.com/Tim. Not only will you receive 20% off your first purchase, but you’ll also enjoy free shipping on any US orders over $75 and free returns.
This episode is brought to you by Helix Sleep! Helix was selected as the best overall mattress of 2022 by GQ magazine, Wired, and Apartment Therapy. With Helix, there’s a specific mattress to meet each and every body’s unique comfort needs. Just take their quiz—only two minutes to complete—that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. They have a 10-year warranty, and you get to try it out for a hundred nights, risk-free. They’ll even pick it up from you if you don’t love it. And now, Helix is offering 20% off all mattress orders plus two free pillows at HelixSleep.com/Tim.
Want to hear an episode about someone else who overcame early failures to ultimately excel in their creative vision? Listen to my conversation with author Steven Pressfield, in which we discussed feline role models, halfway-house theories, eclectic resumes, self-sabotage, writing a first novel in his 50s, the artist’s journey, little successes that lead to big results, and much more.
What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Todd McFarlane:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
- Spawn | Image Comics
- The Amazing Spider-Man | Marvel
- Todd McFarlane’s Spawn | HBO
- Spawn | Prime Video
- Spawn #301 | Image Comics
- Incredible Hulk #340 | Marvel
- Legendary Artist Todd McFarlane Talks Baseball and Toys | SI Kids
- A Selection from 350 Rejection Letters | Todd McFarlane, Facebook
- Frank Miller Batman Reading Order | Comic Book Herald
- 300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley | Amazon
- 300 | Prime Video
- Sin City Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller | Amazon
- Sin City – Recut, Extended, Unrated | Prime Video
- How Frank Miller Brought Daredevil Out of the Shadows and Into Comic-Book History | Mashable
- Batman/Spawn: DC Comics Crossover Coming in December 2022! | Bloody Disgusting
- Marvel, Jack Kirby Estate Settlement Brings End to High-Stakes Battle | The Hollywood Reporter
- Todd McFarlane: Comics | Marvel
- Todd McFarlane and His Ever-Increasing Guinness Record | Comics Beat
- Comics Code History: The Seal of Approval | Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
- The Atlas Era: Before Marvel Became Marvel | Marvel
- Comics Bogeyman: A Look Back At ‘Seduction of the Innocent’ | Comics Alliance
- Comic History: Bullseye Kills Elektra (Daredevil #181) │ RNS Entertainment
- Why Did Todd McFarlane Leave Marvel Comics? | Comic Book Legends Revealed #482
- Andre Agassi: “Image Is Everything,” Canon (1990) | YouTube
- 1992 United States Men’s Olympic Basketball Team | Wikipedia
- Coyote 1-16 | Steve Englehart
- Infinity, Inc. | Wikipedia
- The Rejected Todd McFarlane Version of a G.I. Joe Classic | CBR
- Todd McFarlane Draws Batman: Year Two — Batman’s Got a Gun! | Cartoonist Kayfabe
- Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 300 | Marvel Database
- Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 320 | Marvel Database
- Venom Through History: A Look at the Origins and Past Iterations of the Lethal Protector | Los Angeles Times
- Comic Legends: The Secret Origin of Spider-Man’s Spaghetti Webbing! | CBR
- Historical Components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average | Wikipedia
- 5 Iconic Airlines That No Longer Exist | Investopedia
- Kmart | Wikipedia
- [06:40] Baseball.
- [12:04] Rejection letters.
- [15:57] Compelling storytelling and meeting deadlines.
- [19:04] Deadlines pre-Internet vs. deadlines today.
- [23:25] How industry status quo led to the founding of Image Comic Books.
- [35:51] The Comics Code and the last straw.
- [42:14] The Marvel Dream Team exodus.
- [1:00:35] How is Todd’s camel bladder a competitive advantage?
- [1:06:23] Career bouncing and double-shifting as a penciler and inker.
- [1:24:36] The happy accident of Venom.
- [1:35:28] De-Rockwelling the company icon and inventing “spaghetti webbing.”
- [1:38:53] Bucking the status quo to become the status quo.
- [1:42:34] Parting thoughts and a promise for round two.
MORE TODD MCFARLANE QUOTES FROM THE INTERVIEW
“You never want to have a conversation with anybody where two plus two equals giraffe.”
— Todd McFarlane
“When I was trying to break into comic books, in all those years leading up to breaking in, I was reading everything I could get my hands on about our industry. And what I found was I was coming across a common theme. And the common theme was that everybody, no matter how big your standing had been in our industry, eventually got pushed out against their will, and in some cases got the short end of creative and financial sticks.”
— Todd McFarlane
“When I got my first job in comic books, three weeks before I graduated, I went in with my eyes wide open. And so I knew what the game was, and I go, ‘Okay, their job is to exploit me as much as possible. Can I do the same in reverse at the same time?'”
— Todd McFarlane
“Change is part of the human condition. And yet every day you run into systems that are crushingly holding on to status quo, are holding on to yesterday. And for those of us who are wired to think about tomorrow, we become the rebels, we become the outcasts, we become the people who are rocking the boat.”
— Todd McFarlane
“Sometimes my enthusiasm gets the better of me. And there’s nobody that hates Todd more than Todd.”
— Todd McFarlane
“If anybody is under the age of 30ish listening, I’m going to give you a bit of a golden rule. If anybody asks you to do something, especially somebody in authority, always say yes even if you’re not going to do it. It’s just way easier. You get out of the room faster. No confrontation. Just nod your head yes in agreement and go do whatever the hell you want.”
— Todd McFarlane
- Grey Hulk
- Frank Miller
- Jim Lee
- Jack Kirby
- Iron Man
- Stan Lee
- Fredric Wertham
- Joseph McCarthy
- Rob Liefeld
- Erik Larsen
- Andre Agassi
- Jim Valentino
- Terry Stewart
- Earvin Magic Johnson
- Larry Bird
- Whilce Portacio
- Marc Silvestri
- Bob McFarlane
- Benito Mussolini
- Tom DeFalco
- Steve Englehart
- Don Newton
- G.I. Joe
- Larry Hama
- Dick Giordano
- James Gordon
- Dennis O’Neil
- Jim Salicrup
- Bob Harras
- David Michelinie
- Jim Shooter
- Norman Rockwell
- Charlie Brown
- Eddie Vedder
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)
13 Replies to “Todd McFarlane, Legendary Comic Book Artist — How to Make Iconic Art, Reinvent Spider-Man, Live Life on Your Own Terms, and Meet Every Deadline (#639)”
Dear Tim, please get this part two up and running and booked as soon as possible. My anticipation is massive for the next round. Especially knowing what you are going to be talking about.
Tim, this episode was epic!! I too wanted to be a penciller when I was younger. Todd McFarlane is one of my heroes, and this entire episode was such a delight. You did us comic geeks proud! I particularly liked that you asked him questions that wound up leading to Todd’s origin story. I’d heard bits and pieces, but there was so much more detail in this interview.
I absolutely cannot wait for a Part 2 on this one. I wouldn’t be surprised if Todd had enough material for four parts, and I’d be into all of them.
Thanks again for this amazing interview, and all the work you do!
Part 2 coming soon!
Such great news!!!
Todd McFarlane is a legend. But Wade Davis is Indiana Jones. Master storyteller. Any of his books will transport you to exotic worlds here on earth. Voodoo, psychedelics,Everest, Amazon, Columbia.
He should be at least an episode @tim
Yes, indeed. I’ll be reaching out to Wade soon. Just finished one of his books and I agree.
Huge McFarlane fan. Collected every book of his I could get my hands on, as a kid following his favorite artist beginning with Amazing #298. Would definitely love to hear a round two with Todd.
I’m replying to your 5 Bullet Friday newsletter. I see, what looks like, you circling the subject of indigenous thinking. Can I suggest an interesting slippery-dip into it further? Australian Aboriginal author, scholar and funny dude Tyson Yunkaporta’s “Sand Talk”. An excellent book, written so well like he’s right there with you on the bench, but also very thought-provoking too. I also recomment Dr Lynne Kelly’s (who you’ve mentioned in a past 5 Bullet Friday newsletter) book “The Memory Code”.
I’ll take a look. Thanks!
Why does Todd sound so much like Bill Burr? Would def be interested to hear how the initial group split responsibilities and developed Image, it came across in the podcast that Image is majority owned / run by him but looking at wiki it seems like a really interesting structure and history.
Such a good episode and hits a certain love of Comics that I have from that time. I hope part 2 is coming soon. Thanks Tim and Team.
This was a fun listen. Looking forward to round 2.
90% through episode 2 and really enjoying it. Feel so lucky i didn’t have to wait six months.