The Canadian Comic Creator: Todd McFarlane Is Born

He was always the best artist in his class. When a teacher needed something drawn on the blackboard, they would call on little Todd McFarlane to help. McFarlane, however, never wanted to become what he is today: one of the most revered comic book and action figure creators in the world. Instead, McFarlane wanted to be a professional baseball player. But, when an injury crushed that dream, McFarlane used his natural talent in drawing to create a comic book empire. Today, McFarlane’s “Spawn” still stands as the most successful independent comic book ever, and his two companies, McFarlane Toys and Todd McFarlane Entertainment, continue to set new standards in the toy and film industries.

McFarlane was born on March 16, 1961 in Calgary, Alberta, but moved with his family to Southern California, where he lived until he was 14 years old. It was that time in the U.S. to which McFarlane attributes his love of sports. “It was sunny outside,” he says, “so we got to play a lot of baseball.”

In 1975, McFarlane’s family moved back to Canada, where McFarlane went to William Aberhart High School. Here, he began to develop and refine his drawing skills. “I was the proverbial best artist in the class kid, you know?” says McFarlane. “’Yes, Mrs. Crabtree.’ ‘Todd, could you come here and draw an elephant for us? We're going to talk about elephants.’ ‘Yes, Mrs. Crabtree.’”

After graduating from high school, his skill and passion for baseball was such that it gained him a baseball scholarship to Eastern Washington University. After graduating with a degree in graphic art, McFarlane sought to play baseball on a professional basis. In 1984, a scout recruited the young artist to play outfield on a semiprofessional team based in British Columbia. McFarlane even tried out for the Toronto Blue Jays farm team in Alberta.

Soon, however, an ankle injury would put an end to McFarlane’s hopes of a professional baseball career. And so, with little other options, he turned to his other passion in life: drawing. “Through all of that ‘I’m going to be a sports guy [stuff]’, I was a doodler,” admits McFarlane.

Throughout university, McFarlane had worked at a comic book store in Spokane, Washington. It was his first real exposure to the comic book industry and he had loved it. It was a new world for McFarlane, and one that he became keenly interested in joining.

McFarlane began his job hunt by sending out numerous copies of his resume to various comic book companies. He was met with one rejection letter after another. That is, until he heard back from Marvel Comics. Here, he was offered a job in the mid-1980s. “I broke into Marvel Comics and climbed the ladder of the corporate characters,” says McFarlane. “I ended up doing ‘Spider Man,’ which put me on the map.” But soon, he says, “I got sort of disinterested in working for the system.”

McFarlane knew he had found his dream job, but he wanted out so he could do it for himself.

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