'ADVENTURES OF SPAWN' ONLINE COMIC CREATIVE TEAM Q & A
One-on-one with Writer Jonathan David Goff and Editor Tyler Jeffers
Friday, September 22, 2006
Spawn 30 presents a whole new storyline and character design for Spawn, his allies and enemies. For the first time ever, Spawn.com is producing an online comic, The Adventures of Spawn, to be released incrementally -- the first half is now live. Last month, we brought you an interview with Spawn 30 artist Khary Randolph, and now we'd like you to get to know a couple of key players on the creative team: writer Jonathan David Goff and editor Tyler Jeffers.
What role do you play in the AOS creative process?
JG: I am the lowly writer, which puts my contribution to these proceedings somewhere between the editor's (I forget his name) heavy-handed whip-cracking and Khary's gorgeous art.
TJ: After the initial idea and storyline that Jon came up with was approved, I made the call to Khary Randolph and was fortunate enough to convince him to take this project, and organized the production team from there. Now, I pretty much serve as the watchdog and fact checker. I crack the whip (apparently with my heavy hand) and make sure these pages are completed on time.
What experience in your background has helped you in your role on AOS?
JG: Well, I still wake up early on Saturday to catch a few hours of cartoons (although nostalgia tells me today's 'toons are somewhat lacking compared to those of my youth) and I have been a follower of the Spawn mythos from Issue 1, so in some ways it was an easy fit for me to take a dark, horror-driven character that I am really quite familiar with and just give him that Saturday morning spin that I loved from my youth.
I also helped oversee the development of the action figure line that this comic is based on, so part of the inspiration for the story was not only the cartoons I used to watch (and still do, thanks to the wonders of DVD), but also some of the old cartoon/toy-based comics that came out when I was growing up in the 80s, either on the spinner racks or packaged right in with the toys I played with as a kid.
I always got a kick out of picking up a new toy and being able to delve a little deeper into the world and characters by reading their adventures -- it just seems to add another level of interest and builds on the connection I had with the characters, and as a result, made playing with the toys that much more fun.
I'm kind of rambling here a bit, but the short answer after the long-winded response is: my wasted youth spent playing with toys, watching cartoons and reading comics was all the experience I needed to write a comic based on action figures and inspired by Saturday morning cartoons (surprisingly my degree in quantum astrophysics didn't have much bearing).
TJ: The two or so years I spent working on the Spawn comic book helped me tremendously. Keeping a timely production schedule is key, as is communication between artist, writer and production team.
Working in comics is always a blast, but the Web is my passion and my main responsibility here at McFarlane Toys. That being said, my being able to mix the two genres really is a dream job. As much as I would like to sit around on Saturday mornings and watch cartoons, I just don't have the time.
How did the AOS idea come about? Why completely redesign the Spawn mythos?
JG: The comic is just an extension of the Spawn Series 30 action figure line, so that's where the idea sprang from. Todd wanted to create a line of figures that would be representative of what Spawn might look like if he were part of the Saturday morning set as opposed to the dark, violent and hyper-detailed character that he is.
Once we began developing the action figure line, it just seemed fitting that we would expand upon it with some sort of story. We do an online feature for each of our Spawn-related action figure releases, and we are always looking for cool new content to add to the Features. It all just came together in such a way that everyone involved felt that an online comic would be the natural extension of everything else we were doing.
As for the change in origin, well, it just seemed like the way to go. We were changing the style of the character; we were playing with the whole Saturday morning cartoon vibe, and as much as I love me some horror and violence, that Spawn cartoon has already been done with the original HBO series, and this line of figures had nothing to do with any of that. So, instead of just re-hashing what had come before, we took the opportunity to go a different route.
It's Saturday morning. It's fun. It's bright. Let's amp up the action. Let's add some multi-dimensional, sci-fi adventure to the mix. All of that cool, fun stuff that will remind the older audience what it was like when we were kids, while at the same time appealing to a slightly younger audience that really isn't ready for the more traditional "boogeyman" Spawn.
Will it reach out to those kids who aren't already into our Spawn figures? Maybe (hopefully). But, more importantly, will it be something cool that our core Spawn action figure audience will enjoy and in some cases be able to share with their kids? That would be great. If we can do both: entertain our longtime fans, while gaining the attention of new fans, then all will be right with the world. At the end of the day, we just wanted to have a little fun, and I think we definitely achieved that goal (I'm having fun anyway).
TJ: The redesign of the Spawn mythos was really done on the toy end of things. But, we are always looking to do new and exciting content for the Web site. And when the first concepts for Spawn 30 came to my attention, both Jon and I starting talking about how cool it would be to just do a Saturday-morning-cartoon type of comic about these characters. Jon really took the idea and ran with it.
The whole mythos was his responsibility to help tie together the characters of this new line of Spawn -- we just expanded it a bit. And because we wanted to make a big push for this line at the San Diego Comic-Con this year -- the whole project was fast-tracked.
What particular challenges does the online format present? Are there things you can do in the online format that are not possible in traditional printed form?
JG: I don't know that an online comic would normally be any more problematic than a book that is meant to see print. If anything, working on online content seems as though it would be easier.
However, there are a few small complications with what we are doing with AOS -- mainly the fact that the story is serialized. We are releasing the story in roughly three-page increments, so every Friday we add another three pages that must tell a piece of a larger story -- while at the same time work as a stand-alone.
Taking that into consideration, I had to write the story in such a way that I could flash back and forth between various action sets in order to showcase each of the characters without trying to jam too much into the three pages. I broke up the action by finding ways for the villains to separate the heroes. That way, I could focus on a specific character without getting too bogged down in such a limited space (three pages) and offer readers a somewhat complete story with each new installment -- establish the setting, meet the characters, throw them into conflict, cliffhanger.
The hardest part was probably coming up with cool cliffhanger ways to end each new installment, because they had to grab the readers' interest in what was going to happen next -- and at the same time, work to move the story forward so that the next time we see those characters the action could continue to flow in the proper direction, eventually leading to a satisfying conclusion.
In a print book, you still have "page turns," and certain times you can build suspense, and while technically each page in an online book can be considered a "page turn." I had to be a little careful in order to save the cool "what the?" or "oh no!" moments for the end of the third page.
TJ: The only challenge this format presents, is dealing with Jonathan David Goff. Seriously though, online is almost a completely different animal than traditional print comics, and not necessarily in a bad way. The Web enables so many more people to check out your work online. Whether it is just a pinup, or an entire comic strip -- the potential to get more eyeballs on any particular item, is much easier to do on the Web than it is on a shelf of a comic shop. Not to mention, the confines of the traditional page size doesn't exist online. There have been numerous people who have been successful with online comics that totally go outside the box as far as layout is concerned. Just check out some of Scott McCloud's Web comics. There is a large group of people who traditionally do Web comics instead of print. A lot of them totally take advantage of how much room you have to play with when you have the Web instead of a printed page as a medium. But AOS was always thought of as a 'traditional' comic -- so its format didn't depart too far from that.
Do you feel that the online format has any inherent limitations?
JG: Not really. If anything, I would say the online format allows the creators to be a bit freer. Not to mention, the readers can come back and check it out whenever they want.
TJ: Not really. The only thing that I try to ensure is that the content is available for anybody to view. No matter what Internet connection they may be using. So, keeping the file size rather small helps a lot with that.
Does the final product match -- or exceed -- your original expectations?
JG: Definitely exceeds.
I knew it would be cool, but I am amazed every time we get another batch of pages from Khary because he is taking my script and some very loosely drawn page layouts and giving each panel and character a ton of energy. I was pretty excited to see what he could do with the first couple of pages and he hit them out of the park, and now when I'm doing a layout there are certain panels and pages that I just know are gonna kick even more ass than the others, so I send them off and just sit back and wait to be awed.
And all of that is the line art without color or letters or any of that extra pop, so once the extra layers begin to take shape it all just kind of comes together.
TJ: By far it exceeds. The great talent we have on this project definitely shows; the artist, the writer, and my production team have done a tremendous job in putting our best foot forward. The group as a whole is beyond awesome in that respect.
And the fan reaction has been great. The comic pages have been really popular overall, which is exciting, and may lead to more AOS-type stories in the future.
What are the plans for the future of the AOS story?
JG: Right now. I can't say specifically, but there is an unlimited potential for future stories. We could do something as simple as short "origin" tales that take the info in the bios and condense them into quick five-page reads. The editor (what's his name, again?) and I have joked about a short story illustrating just how Cy-Gor got the zoo passes into Al and Wanda's mailbox (it could actually be a pretty funny story). I would also like to show a bit of the dark side to Spawn X at some point. Not super-dark. I'm not thinking along the lines of the core title or HellSpawn because what we are doing with AOS is completely separate from any of the traditional comics Spawn has been associated with up to this point. But I would like to play around with some of those darker elements and bring him into the shadows, because, although this take on Spawn is more focused on the fun and adventure of cartoons and comics, there is still room for some of the spookier stuff (after all, he might not be born from Hell, but his powers do come from an ancient object crafted by evil) -- at the very least have him bust a few heads in an alley somewhere.
Then, there are the numerous characters from the McFarlane Toys catalog we haven't even touched yet and the fact that we have the ability to create cool new characters that fit into this world. Just look at Omega Spawn, who was created for the toy line, but then expanded upon in the online comic with a time traveling history and squadron of Omega-like robots. Are you kidding me? Omega Spawn alone could be the focus of a number of stories.
So, again, I'm a bit long-winded, but the answer is: I can't say for certain, but it sure seems as though there is a future for more AOS stories. Maybe you should ask the editor what he thinks (that's right Mr. Editor, I just threw you under the bus).
TJ: Since the writer stole my thunder, let's just say that not only do we have ideas for some new AOS stories (including the "Zoo Pass" story), but also ideas for new Web comics in general.
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