Spiderman #1 (Todd McFarlane) Homage Covers

Young Artist Changes Modern Comics Forever

Publication Date: August 1990
 Todd McFarlane
Cover Artist: Todd McFarlane
Penciler: Todd McFarlane
Colorist(s): Bob Sharen

Todd McFarlane, a Canadian comic book creator, artist, writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur, may be best remembered by Marvel fans for his historic and legendary work on The Amazing Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, and Spiderman titles. McFarlane’s work for the Spiderman books lead to the creation of Venom, Marvel’s popular villain and anti-hero, in Amazing Spiderman #299 & #300.

Before breaking into comics, McFarlane studied art in college, but suffered a baseball injury his junior year. As he recuperated, he focused on his schoolwork and drawing. He submitted more than 700 samples of his work to comic book publishers over the next 18 months. Most were rejected, but a few editors responded. DC Comics’ Sal Amendola responded to McFarlane and advised him to focus on stories to be picked up for a comic, not the pinups he had been submitting. The character pinups simply did not demonstrate the proper skills for comic work. Amendola provided McFarlane with a dummy script which soon became “Slash,” a 5-page backup story in Coyote #11 published in February 1985, McFarlane’s first professional work. Coyote was a title published by Epic, a Marvel Comics imprint.

More than a handful of McFarlane’s Marvel covers have become iconic in the industry, and a select few are often homaged and parodied across all genres of books. Among these covers are The Incredible Hulk #340, The Incredible Hulk #345, The Amazing Spiderman #300, The Amazing Spiderman #316, and Spiderman #1. McFarlane’s most popular cover for rival DC Comics is arguably Batman #423, which – like his Marvel books – has been homaged more and more frequently as time passes.

Ironically, McFarlane’s most popular and oft-homaged covers – such as Spiderman #1 – are similar to the pinups rejected so frequently during McFarlane’s college years in the early 1980s.

McFarlane created an iconic style for Marvel’s flagship hero, Spiderman. In contrast to previous artists, McFarlane drew webs that were more detailed and organic in appearance. Later Spiderman artists – perhaps most notably Erik Larsen and Mark Bagley – continued this trend but adapted it to their own individual artistic styles, along with other dynamic treatments developed by McFarlane for Spiderman.

McFarlane soon wanted more freedom in story telling, not just artistic duties. To appease the now-popular artist, Marvel agreed to launch a new Spiderman title for McFarlane, who would provide both story and art for the first 15 issues to launch the new title. McFarlane, having more creative freedom, drew as he wanted and explored much darker themes than offered by The Amazing Spiderman.

Unfortunately, these darker themes began to garner negative attention for McFarlane, and Marvel began to place restrictions on him on the new title. This other side of Spiderman was too dark for Marvel’s taste, and they wanted more lighthearted fanfare than McFarlane provided. McFarlane’s last issue for Spiderman was #16.

McFarlane – along with Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino & Whilce Portacio –  formed Image Comics in early 1992 to give themselves more creative license over the characters and properties comic artists and writers create, changing the dynamics of the comics industry forever.

McFarlane’s artistic sensibilities and entrepreneurial spirit have changed the face of comics and the comics industry beyond measure. The impact of his work is sure to be felt for years to come.

Until then, enjoy these covers which pay homage to the first comic helmed almost solely by Todd McFarlane – aka “The Toddfather,” as he is known to fans.

Sources: Marvel Fandom; Screenrant.com (“10 Best Todd McFarlane Marvel Comic Covers“); Bellevue University Freeman/Lozier Library Blog (“Facts from the Stacks: Todd McFarlane“)