Artist Spotlight – Todd McFarlane
Hi all, today let’s celebrate the art and achievements of the magnificent Todd McFarlane! Todd is one of the greatest comic book artists of all time, and arguably the most popular and influential creator of the past 30 years. In my eyes, Todd’s right up there with Jack Kirby, Neal Adams and Frank Miller in terms of artistic trailblazers, responsible for shaping generations of artists’ techniques along with fans’ tastes!
As previously discussed in my Artist Spotlights on Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, the big three Image Comics co-founders all had seismic effects on the comics industry, but it was Todd who was their ringleader. His popularity amongst fans and impact on the comics landscape in the early-’90s cannot be overstated; it should also be noted that this was comic book readership’s last heyday, and many OA collectors in the coming decades will hail from this demographic. Todd’s ability to compel readers to buy books for his art alone, as well as form rock star mobs at his public appearances (this applies to Jim and Rob too), had never been seen before or since!
Aside from his impact on the comic book scene (Todd McFarlane Productions still publishes Spawn monthly and he remains President of Image Comics), Todd also has major successes in other endeavours. McFarlane Toys revolutionized the action figure industry by introducing extraordinary levels of sculpt detail and colouring to the toy world. Its raising of the bar forced other major toy makers to up their game, and the effects can seen to this day. McFarlane Toys’ acquisition of multimedia and sports licenses also opened the action figure market to a wider audience, bringing in teens and adults of all proclivities to the toy world. Todd McFarlane Entertainment has many notches under its belt in the movie, TV, music and videogame realms… and who can forget Todd’s record-breaking multimillion dollar baseballs!
Todd’s first monthly superhero work was on Infinity Inc. #14-37, from 1985 to 1987. He adopted a generic DC Comics house-style on this title, although there were glimpses of his detailed rendering style and expressive facial features. Prices for OA from this run remain relatively affordable, as the art doesn’t quite exhibit all of Todd’s hallmarks. It’s a good entry point for McFarlane fans on a budget, but do note that prices appear to be creeping upwards.
He also drew a single issue of All-Star Squadron, which is another option for affordable McFarlane OA which contains some of his artistic flourishes.
Todd jumped over to Marvel Comics in 1987, where his first mainstream work was as a fill-in artist on Daredevil #241. As you can see, the price for artwork from this issue jumps significantly as compared to his DC work, probably due to the more prominent character (Daredevil) and significance as Todd’s first Marvel work (where he really made his name).
McFarlane began to mature artistically on this year-plus run starting from Incredible Hulk #330. It was here that Todd introduced his insanely detailed, intricately rendered art style. He would continue to develop that trademark anatomically-warped, hyper-dramatically posed, cartoonishly-faced look of his characters throughout the Hulk run, and carry it over to his Spider-Man work.
With “McSpidey” OA already priced in the stratosphere, collectors have been looking for more affordable McFarlane Marvel artwork, which Todd’s Incredible Hulk OA used to represent. This has resulted in the cost of “McHulk” artwork appreciating significantly over the past year, as interest and demand in it escalates. For instance, the below Incredible Hulk #341 page 18 just sold for $3k in November 2016 on Heritage Auctions, before reselling for $4.2k last month!
During the early part of his Hulk run, Todd concurrently produced three issues of Detective Comics (#576-578). Given the popularity of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, along with the scarcity of supply, “McBats” artwork is in demand but almost never comes up for sale. The last recorded sale took place in November 2013, and I have to imagine that McBats OA has gone up markedly in value since then. Todd also drew one cover for Batman in 1988, which I’m sure would be a 6-figure piece if it was sold today!
This is it, the crème de la crème – perhaps the most widely-coveted superhero OA of the past three decades, and the defining Spidey (and comics in general) art to a generation or more of readers! Todd took the style he had developed during his Incredible Hulk tenure, and honed it into a devastating weapon of mass attraction in this legendary ASM run. The mind-bogglingly bombastic images packed into issue after issue propelled McFarlane to the mountaintop of the industry, and established him as one of the eternal artistic greats. Not only did Todd’s art forever alter the mindsets of artists and fans, but he also co-created one of Spidey’s most fearsome (and one of my favourite) villains – Eddie Brock’s psychotic Venom!
Todd sold and traded away most of his ASM and Spider-Man OA decades ago, so all of it’s pretty well spread out amongst collectors by now. This doesn’t mean that supply is plentiful however, as he only penciled 28 ASM issues in total, starting with #298 in 1988. Moreover, said collectors don’t tend to let pieces go very often (especially prime artwork, like pages featuring Venom). Recognizing that McSpidey OA has never been cheap, I feel that now is a good time to pick up pages, as values have remained at the same level for the past two years. I believe that prices will escalate going forward, as the ’90s Effect kicks in and more collectors who grew up during that era clamour for a piece of McSpidey OA. Furthermore, McFarlane is now recognized as an all-time master of the craft, so even collectors who don’t have any nostalgic connection to his art want Todd’s ’90s OA for aesthetic and historical reasons.
Marvel Tales Covers
During his time on ASM, Todd also produced the covers for Marvel Tales, from issues 223 to 239. These covers featured a variety of characters interacting with Spidey – some whom Todd had seldom or never drawn elsewhere. Of course, these covers are highly sought after as: a) they’re the rare instance where Todd drew certain high profile characters (such as the X-Men); and b) they’re McFarlane covers.
Following the mind-boggling popularity of Todd’s run on ASM, in 1990 Marvel gave him full creative control over a new title, Spider-Man. Todd’s art on this title remained phenomenal as ever, and in fact SM OA is even rarer than ASM OA – he drew and wrote only 15 issues of Spider-Man before leaving to form Image Comics. Values of Spider-Man OA are about on par with ASM pages, but I personally feel they’re slightly less desirable because of Todd’s clunky writing on the title, along with the fact it’s not from his break-out ASM run. Regardless, my most desired McFarlane artwork comes from this run: Juggernaut pages from the ‘sideways’ Spider-Man #16 “Sabotage” crossover with Liefeld’s X-Force #4. Also, the most iconic cover of the ’90s comics boom, and one of the most famous in history, comes from this run!
Todd launched his creator-owned Spawn in 1992, penciling and inking the covers and interior pages of issues 1 to 15 by himself. He also penciled issues 21 to 34 (minus #25), and continues to ink or pencil various covers and interiors to this day. Even though he let almost all of his Marvel work go, Todd held on to every piece of Spawn artwork that he penciled and inked himself. For discussion of Spawn OA prices, please refer to my December 2016 and March 2017 Market Reports.
Where can I buy Todd McFarlane OA?
There’s a ’Tec and three ASM pages closing on HA in a few hours, so check ’em out quick! CLink has some Spider-Man, Spawn and Infinity, Inc. pieces at auction too. There are also four Spidey pieces available on Romitaman. Finally, enjoy viewing some of the Toddster’s terrific work in CAF members’ galleries.
Until next time, happy collecting!