A quarter-century ago, seven Marvel and DC Comics artists and writers, seeking creative control and a better deal, mutinied and built their own creative vessel, which they christened Image Comics. The driving ethos was that all of their titles, released through their own individual studios, were creator-owned and controlled. Among the rebels from the Big Two was Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, and the upstart company quickly rose up in the business, with several of their series, including Youngblood, The Savage Dragon and WildC.A.T.s., reportedly selling hundreds of thousands of copies or more per month.

McFarlane and Spawn have been a big part of that success. In 1993, Image had the top-selling books for seven months; over the subsequent two years, Spawn and Marvel’s X-Men regularly duked it out for that slot. McFarlane released his dark, brooding superhero title through Todd McFarlane Productions under the Image banner, and the first issue holds a record for indie comic sales at 1.7 million copies. It would, yes, spawn a 1997 movie starring Michael Jai White and John Leguizamo, and the subsequent animated series from Todd McFarlane Entertainment won two Emmy Awards.

When the comics crash of the late 1990s arrived—a top-selling title today plateaus at around 150,000 issues—Image was impacted as heavily as anyone else, but thanks to the creative vision of McFarlane and his cohorts, and the arrival of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead expanding their reach far beyond the spandex-clad realm of superheroes, Image remains a vital force in comics today. McFarlane founded McFarlane Toys in 1995, and while he does not draw Spawn much anymore aside from the occasional cover, he still writes the book, which recently surpassed 250 issues. After our interview, McFarlane announced he is planning to write and direct a “dark” and “nasty” movie reboot for the character, while Kevin Smith will be developing Spawn spin-off called Sam & Twitch for BBC America.

Amid the buzzing activity of Toy Fair, McFarlane sat down with Playboy.com to look back on the first 25 years of Image Comics and to offer his own hard-won advice on how to push forward as an industry insurgent.

READ THE INTERVIEW HERE…

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A quarter-century ago, seven Marvel and DC Comics artists and writers, seeking creative control and a better deal, mutinied and built their own creative vessel, which they christened Image Comics. The driving ethos was that all of their titles, released through their own individual studios, were creator-owned and controlled....