The Return of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man(?)
So Todd McFarlane recently said he’d be up for drawing Spider-Man again. Naturally, this lead me into a nerd frenzy, immediately thinking about how awesome it would be to see my favorite Spider-Man artist back at Marvel again. And it would be awesome. It would be so, SO awesome. But the more I think about it, the more wary I become. There are countless examples of famous creators returning to the characters that made them who they are and completely and utterly failing at them, and I certainly don’t want to see McFarlane added to that list.
In a weird way, this “news” reminds me of Neal Adams’ big return to Batman a few years back. Now, I was not alive during his career defining run on the character, but I was well aware of his impact on the Batman post-Adam West TV series, and had read a few collections that contained his art. So, when the announcement was made that Adams was returning to the character with the miniseries Batman: Odyssey, I was pumped.
Then I read the comic.
Odyssey’s opening issue was so all over the place that I honestly thought it was a joke. This couldn’t be the great Neal Adams that I had heard so much about. His art was muddy, the facial expressions were weird, and there were panels that looked like they were rushed beyond belief. It just simply wasn’t good.
But this isn’t the only example. Remember Walt Simonson’s return to comics in The Mighty Thor and Indestructible Hulk? That art was so bad that I dropped both books! Andy Kubert’s return to Batman in the recent Damian: Son of Batman miniseries was pretty hit and miss, and the less said about Frank Miller’s current artistic output, the better.
But Todd McFarlane could be different. His art changed comics. You can argue if that change was good or bad, but you can’t deny the fact that his style had a massive effect on the comics of the late 80’s and early 90’s, and that’s not even counting the changes he made in the industry as one of the founders of Image Comics. His art style was such a seismic event that his influence is still felt today in the works of Ryan Stegman, Ryan Ottley, and the mighty Greg Capullo (who took over Spawn for McFarlane for multiple issues).
Before Todd McFarlane came along, many of our favorite characters looked like typical heroes. But once readers got a look at his radical takes on Batman, Hulk, and Spider-Man, they were hooked. No one drew Batman’s cape like McFarlane, looking more like a massive extension of his body than a piece of cloth around his neck. It was impossibly huge, yes, but also incredibly awesome and stood out from other depictions of the Dark Knight. The same goes for his Marvel work. There’s a reason Incredible Hulk #341 stands as the greatest Hulk/Wolverine fight of all time, and it’s because of McFarlane. His pencils made the ferocity and violence in that fight practically leap off the page.
Of course, the biggest splash Todd McFarlane ever made at Marvel was with Spider-Man. As a child, one of the first Spider-Man comics I ever read was Spider-Man #5, the finale of the “Torment” storyline. I will 100% agree with people that McFarlane’s writing was iffy at best, but no one, NO ONE draws the character the same way he does. The impossible contortions, the webs, the eyes on the mask…Spidey had never been seen in that way before. And with that being one of the first Spider-Mans I ever saw, it left an indelible mark on my young nerd brain. Todd McFarlane’s art is what I compare every Spider-Man artists’ work to every time I see a new take on the wall crawler.
If, and this is a big IF, McFarlane and Marvel can come to an agreement for him to return to draw Spider-Man, I would be ecstatic. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being horrible. Of course it would have a to be a Spawn crossover, and even though I haven’t picked up a Spawn comic in years, I’d absolutely get it if Spidey was in it. So, here’s hoping we get Todd back, and more importantly, that it’s worth the wait. Which it probably will be for me, no matter what the end product is.