Yesterday, BBC America surprised the comics internet with the news that Kevin Smith was going to write, direct, and executive produce a new comic book show -- but rather than one of the many superhero series either already on TV or in development, Smith would tackle Sam and Twitch, a supernatural cop show set in the world of Todd McFarlane's Spawn.
"Get ready for the Jay & Silent Bob of cops," Smith tweeted last night.
And that's an interesting take, of course: while Sam and Twitch deal with some pretty dark stuff, creator Todd McFarlane's vision for the world of Spawn has often been darker than that of the people around him. When Jessica Jones creator Brian Michael Bendis did an acclaimed run on the comic book version of the buddy-cop series, rat-a-tat dialogue and humor -- two things Smith scripts tend to lean heavily on -- were both a big part of what made fans fall in love with it.
"I think naturally my bent on almost anything is always darker than most people's," McFarlane told ComicBook.com during an interview last night. "I know that Kevin's going to put a little bit of a fun factor in there that I might not otherwise do myself because I've got more of a morbid bent. It will be nice to see how he tackles the balancing act: if it's too much fun, maybe people don't take it seriously, but if you get too serious, people go, 'Why do you gotta depress me?' Everybody has a different personality when they watch TV or movies. My wife doesn't like dark, heavy dramas, but I could watch them all day long....[Kevin] is going to try and thread the needle with those two groups and see if he can pull it off."
Like some of the demons and creatures that inhabit Spawn's world, the Sam and Twitch project came back from the dead. After being developed and scrapped long ago at another network, McFarlane told us that it was brought back single-handedly by BBC's head of original programming...who had been part of that initial pitch years before.
"I've gotten to the point that unless the company wants to make an announcement, I'm not really inclined to hype something," McFarlane admitted. "The BBC has a lovely lady there named Nena Rodrigue. She used to work hand-in-glove with Dick Wolf years ago. And years ago I had optioned Sam and Twitch to Dick when he was over at NBC, but it never got off the ground, like a lot of things that get developed. Eventually the rights came back to me, and I put it off to the side, which is okay because the Twitch character was going to play a big part in the Spawn script. Then Nena gave me a call and said, 'I'm back!' And now she's got a nice position at BBC America. She said she'd never forgotten Sam and Twitch from the Dick Wolf days, so was I interested in giving it another whack? And I've always liked Nena so it was sort of that simple."
Smith wasn't part of the initial pitch, though; he apparently came into the equation as one of a number of writer/producers who had been considered for the job -- one of whom landed at BBC America in another capacity.
"Very quickly, we got the contract done and started filtering through writers. They got down to a couple writers, and then made the decision to go with Kevin. It's interesting because the other guy got a series with them, too, so they both ended up with a series, which is kind of cool."
McFarlane also said that he can't think of another corner of the Spawn universe he'd like to see explored. "I think the next shoe to drop will probably be the Spawn movie," he said.
That movie -- which he has said he'd like to direct, and which will have more of a horror bent than the R-rated superhero movie that came out in the '90s -- is still without an official studio, but has been marching along at McFarlane's direction for years now.