With the release of the upcoming Spawn #301, legendary artist, writer, and Image Comics founder Todd McFarlane will become the only American comic book creator to reach that number of continuously-published, creator-owned comics. Passing Dave Sim's Cerebus for one of the longest-running records in comics, McFarlane compared his achievement to -- to the surprise of no one who has been following McFarlane closely over the years -- baseball, citing Cal Ripken's 1995 game in which he passed Lou Gehrig's record for most consecutive games played. Gehrig's record, which was long considered basically impossible to break, was 2,130 games. By the time he took a seat, Ripken had played in 2,632 consecutive games.
During a conversation with ComicBook.com, McFarlane said that his current record is a milestone, but not a destination. He suggested that he would like to double it, in order to make the record an unreasonable thing for most people to even attempt.
"I'm already working on 302," McFarlane said. "The moment I hit the button to send the last page of 301, I started working on 302. Then every book thereafter, it just raises the bar, right? In terms of that number. It's just Cal Ripken, Jr. Once he passed Lou Gehrig's number, 2,100, he'd go, 'Oh, I'm going to add another 500 to it,' to put it way out of reach. As long as my health is good, I don't get hit by a bus, I should be able to put this number at a point where anybody that even thinks about it will come to their senses really quickly and will go ;He can have it.' It's been 27 years. So if I get to 600, then that'd be 54 years. So think about that -- a 20-year-old kid is going to have to sit there and say, 'What do I want to do until I'm 74? Oh yeah, I'm going to do that one thing, and if anything happens in between there, I fall a little bit short...' You're better off if you're looking for a record to stack potato chips higher than anybody else, because it won't take you 50 years to at least try and break that record. So hopefully, I just get to a point where everybody goes, 'That record's so dumb, you can have it for the rest of your natural life and beyond.'"
The record itself, though, is not really what McFarlane wants as a long-term goal. Instead, he says, he wants to create a legacy, in the same way that Walt Disney and Jim Henson and Stan Lee have: by creating something that is around after he's gone.
"The goal has always been, to create characters that outlive you," McFarlane explained. "The only way they're going to outlive you -- I mean, you don't have to necessarily be publishing them because I think that The Walking Dead characters will outlive Robert Kirkman, whether he decides to ever pick that book up again -- but just, for me, one of the easy ways to make sure that they live past you is that they're still in the public eye. So as much as I can do it personally, then I'm going to do it."
He said that, while working in Hollywood and with his toy line (where he deals with big corporations from professional sports leagues to other comic book publishers on a regular basis), he has learned how exasperating those elephantine structures can be. That, he explained, is part of the appeal of not just Spawn, but creator ownership as a whole.
"I have to get no sign off from anybody," McFarlane said. "I don't have to go into meetings to figure; it's just this little piece of paradise that is good for my creative soul. So no matter how crazy I'm going in my head after talking to a lawyer or a group of people or whatever, on another subject, I get to turn to this creative breath of fresh air called Spawn, and I embrace it. I can tell you that in 27 years there has never been one moment, one moment in which I ever had the thought of not doing it. I'm not saying that all of it has been magnificent or it's all been great or people have to like it. I'm saying that, for me, I need it. I need this book in my life."
Spawn #301 will be available in stores and online on Wednesday, October 9.