Comics On TV

Spawn Movie Is Still On and Sam and Twitch Will Become Series, Comic Creator Todd McFarlane Reveals

Human characters from the longest-running independent comic Spawn will feature in a premium television drama series.

by | June 10, 2021 | Comments

Sam and Twitch 19

(Photo by Image Comics)

Debuting in the first issue of Spawn as nominal antagonists to the title character, detectives Sam Burke and Maximilian “Twitch” Williams are a pair of good cops despite their odd looks — Sam is slovenly and overweight while Twitch resembles a classic nerd. Thanks to their true hearts and eventual understanding with Spawn, they became fan favorites in their own right, spinning off into their own title, Sam and Twitch, and finding their way into film and television development.

The latest attempt to bring them to television unites production companies wiip and McFarlane Films, and sees executive producers Paul Lee and Mark Roybal (Mare of Easttown) and Jason Smilovic and Todd Katzberg (Condor) envisioning it as a premium television drama. And as Todd McFarlane — the creator of Sam, Twitch, and Spawn who will also serve as an EP alongside the rest and Sean Canino — told Rotten Tomatoes, there may also be a hint of the supernatural within its drama; a notion absolutely fitting Spawn’s best known spinoff. He also offered some other preliminary thoughts on the new Sam and Twitch project, the perils of interconnected film universes, and an update on the Spawn feature film.


Todd McFarlane

(Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

Erik Amaya for Rotten Tomatoes: Back when we had comic-cons and you were behind a booth, how did you pitch Sam and Twitch to prospective readers?

Todd McFarlane: Sam and Twitch to me is a bit of an eclectic book, there’s no people with capes and costumes running around. So if you’ve sort of gotten to a certain age and you go, “Hey, I’ve read 10,000 superhero books,” [the comic was something different to read] — not that I don’t dislike [superheroes] now, but I need other stuff in my reading habits of comic books. I started diversifying. I just wanted to put out a book that said, “Hey if you don’t like Spawn, then here’s this other corner of it, and it’s not the same thing. So if you want something that’s a little more sophisticated, older, mature,” — whatever word you want to put on it — “then here’s an option.”

When I [first] used to walk into Hollywood, my simple pitch was — now I’m going to age myself — it was “The X-Files meets Hill Street Blues,” right? So it’s the reality of good detectives and then every now and then something goes bump in the night. So that’s the combo. And done with a serious face while you’re doing it the whole time and you’re not goofing it.


Todd katzberg and Jason Smilovic

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Were Todd Katzberg and Jason Smilovic sympathetic to that original premise or did they come to you with a different framing for this particular version of Sam and Twitch?

McFarlane: The characters have been around for, literally, since day one of the first Spawn book and then they’ve had sort of iterations of their own book. My job when trying to find talent isn’t to show them the path, it’s to listen to what they have, but you listen after you give them some of the material, right? So I go, “Hey here’s a bunch of stuff, read it, use it as much or as little for inspiration as you need and then come back and give us your take.” So as long as some of the core colors are there, then the details of how the stories are developing are less important, because I think people come back to good drama for the characters, more than the specifics of any sort of scene or episode.

And so [they] take this and build out a world with characters that people care about and — oh, by the way — make it so that if nobody’s ever read a comic book of Sam and Twitch, never heard those words and don’t know nothing about Spawn, will be able to enjoy this TV show and not feel like they’re missing one piece of the puzzle. Then, as geeks we’ll probably put a couple of Easter eggs in there and wink wink, that will go “Oh I know what that meant,” “I know what he said,” “Oh and that guy’s name was so-and-so,” “I know what that meant.”

But none of that’s going to be any kind of driver. It’s about two detectives up against some heavy odds and no backup, because what they’re dealing with from time to time are not going to be things they’re going to be able to explain to anybody. So you just have to solve their case and when people ask, even their chief, they got to just shrug their shoulders and just say, “I guess we got lucky.”


Spawn issue 69 cover

(Photo by Image Comics)

Click to open full image in new tab.

What makes Sam and Twitch make perennial fan favorite characters?

McFarlane: I think [those around them] find it easy to discount them because of their physicality. And I think there’s plenty of us out in the world who are judged solely by our physical looks instead of our actual abilities. I’ve always [wanted it] so that when these guys get down to being detectives, they’re really good, arguably the best at their precincts, even though they don’t have the perfect bod to go with it.

Then there’s an unbreakable bond between the two partners that, hopefully, people understand goes deeper than the work. For people who have maybe siblings or close friends, there’s that sort of a vernacular that people use. You can say and do and act a certain way around some people in your life that you would never show to anybody else, you would never show to the outside world, but you would never let the outside world encroach on whatever that relationship is.

It’s one of the things I’ve talked to writers in the comic book [about preserving]. These guys enjoy each other and sometimes they even goof and there’s a lot of dark humor, but it’s never in front of anybody else. As soon as the door is open and the third person comes in or they go out to the public, they’re complete professionals. They don’t let anybody get in on that game of that relationship.


SERPICO, Al Pacino, 1973

(Photo by Everett Collection - Al Pacino in 'Serpico')

Cop shows kind of became a tougher sell in the last year, but do you think that Sam and Twitch’s dedication to fighting history of standing against corruption in the comics makes them more appealing characters in the modern landscape?

McFarlane: I think it’s about having these dedicated people. I mean, if you look at it sort of almost a little bit like Serpico, if you will, that he was sort of a guy out of place right? And even in American Gangster, the beginning of that movie when they find the money and they go, “We can’t hand this in, nobody would trust us again,” right? So not to say that there’s corrupt cops around them — I don’t want to do that — but you got these dedicated cops that are a little bit out of step with the norm and they know that every now and then something moves in the shadows that shouldn’t be moving, but there’s nobody else that’s seeing it. And so there’s no other help; they have nobody else to lean on other than each other, they’re not going to be able to sort of get back up.

So the vast majority of it will look and feel like crime drama, but then every now and then there’s going to be an odd piece that doesn’t make any sense. They’re going to have to sort through it and when they get to the origin of some of it — which may be inexplicable — they’re not going to be able to tell anybody. So they’re going to have to keep those secrets to themselves. [They know] the worst place to be in the world, as history will tell us, is you never want to be the person who sees something for the first time, because you will always be written up as the kook.

So thinking back on kind of the Brian Michael Bendis run on Sam and Twitch, and a little bit after that, there were those amazing Ashley Wood covers. Do you think the show will kind of capture a little bit of that energy?

McFarlane: That grit, I’m hoping. Obviously, whoever comes to direct is going to set the tempo, but just on the writing side, we’ve been talking about it and we want a world that’s just slightly odd. We’ve even talked about movies like The French Connection and stuff that are just sort of “cool New York” — not that we’re going to set it in the past — and, more recently, a movie like Uncut Gems that shows you a little bit of the gritty side of the otherwise flamboyant city. So we’re hoping that sort of the environment is also alluring to the audience.


Spawn issue 317 cover

(Photo by Image Comics)

Click to open full image in new tab.

Is there any thought to planting seeds for an interconnected Spawn universe in the series?

McFarlane: We don’t have any specific plans right now. Like I said, my best guess is that we do a couple of winks and Easter Eggs — somebody sees something on a billboard or something like that. But given that I haven’t sold those characters, you can’t even do it creatively, which is sort of a much bigger question that I’m sort of asking in Hollywood right now. There is a way to actually play with all of this, but somebody has to have their hands on a big piece of it then. That’s another topic, another headline, for another day, hopefully.

Does it feel like the mood has changed toward the notion of having a universe to sell versus an individual character or title?

McFarlane: I think there’s a lot of places in town that are curious and asking about if it possible, seeing the giant success of what’s happening with the Marvel universe and the DC universe for Warner Brothers and Disney. So the other big companies are going to want to keep pace. [It leads to] two questions: How do you do it? And how long does it take?

I mean, both of those worlds had 50, 60, 70 years to get to the launch point that we now talk about. It seems like, Oh it’s been here forever, but it took a lot of decades for them to incubate it. And so that’s part of the conversations I’m having now, do you want to have a shared universe and get a meaningful one? Those are two different things and I think, once you even put your toe in that water, you have to commit to arguably decades to get to the high watermark. Nobody’s going to hand anybody a fully-formed universe like that, at least on the superhero front, because it doesn’t exist … maybe through some novels, perhaps.


Kevin Smith

(Photo by Paul Butterfield/Getty Images)

This isn’t the first time Sam and Twitch has entered development. There were previous projects with Kevin Smith and Dick Wolf attached. What led to them dissolving?

McFarlane: I think the same thing that brings most development to an end, you get an expiration date on contracts and nothing got made. So the hard step isn’t selling and developing in Hollywood, it’s making something. We just weren’t able to get to that last step. Now we’re at a different point in time, back then there weren’t all the streamers. But now you have a different world where there’s different possibilities to tell different types of stories.

I’m not saying that we’ll end up at a streamer, but we’re hoping that if we can put a couple more pieces together, get all the stories lined up and bring a little bit more talent on, when we walk into a pitch and say, “Hey, here’s all the talent. Here’s all the pedigree. Here’s what everybody’s track record is, it’s not a bad combo right? And if you put us all together and we get married and we have a baby called Sam and Twitch, it could be an interesting, oddly entertaining show that hopefully is accessible to a lot of people.”


Spawn issue 24

(Photo by Image Comics)

Click to open full image in new tab.

Before the pandemic hit, it seemed like the Spawn movie was so close. Is it still in development?

McFarlane: Yeah. I’ve added some other talent to it. We’re all working towards it. We’re hoping to get a script here pretty soon, get that in good order. It’s been done by some heavy hitters in [the industry] and then, hopefully, we’ll get some interest in one of the big players. Everybody has full confidence that we’ll get there eventually.


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

crime biography canceled TV shows Ellie Kemper Paramount crime drama ID Pop Comics on TV Infographic comic book movies slashers YouTube indie Film Hear Us Out Drama slasher south america Heroines black movie technology gangster nature San Diego Comic-Con french X-Men classics Marathons Tubi strong female leads legend Apple TV Plus Year in Review Sci-Fi Lionsgate spain Summer Trivia The Witch PlayStation Rocketman Comedy Central cancelled TV series concert kong Hallmark Christmas movies historical drama criterion Toys Biopics Character Guide YouTube Premium discovery anime action-comedy comic book movie adventure VOD Superheroes sequels 72 Emmy Awards debate 24 frames Opinion ghosts Thanksgiving diversity Horror Binge Guide science fiction live action golden globe awards series basketball BET christmas movies cinemax rotten movies we love Lifetime Christmas movies batman romantic comedy TV renewals game show E! TLC comiccon dexter Ghostbusters PBS Hulu GIFs USA hist obituary green book LGBTQ harry potter feel good Pet Sematary Hallmark Ovation game of thrones Writers Guild of America space dogs CMT indiana jones facebook Red Carpet Image Comics Fantasy venice video First Reviews TruTV President Endgame HBO Max Star Trek pirates of the caribbean disaster Spectrum Originals Fox Searchlight Martial Arts GoT Tokyo Olympics Freeform Pixar CBS All Access social media 20th Century Fox Marvel Studios Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 99% streaming movies anthology Cosplay monster movies werewolf ITV festival hispanic heritage month all-time psycho zombies Television Critics Association mission: impossible trailers telelvision true crime screenings new zealand Awards Tour Nickelodeon robots adenture franchise war TV One VH1 Music political drama ESPN APB HBO zombie adaptation Mary Poppins Returns BBC Cannes talk show hidden camera YouTube Red Shondaland Adult Swim spy thriller composers japanese 90s Crackle The CW Western Marvel james bond FX 93rd Oscars Nominations remakes cults prank japan Universal know your critic Superheroe stop motion Walt Disney Pictures Disney Schedule Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt SXSW justice league Set visit zero dark thirty sequel Calendar vampires streaming TV MTV films cancelled TV shows Paramount Network Black Mirror Trailer RT History period drama thriller royal family documentaries 2015 Syfy serial killer king kong Cartoon Network book Fall TV Acorn TV casting E3 universal monsters television Mudbound TCA 2017 OneApp boxoffice Spike The Walking Dead 2019 dceu Creative Arts Emmys medical drama comic books docuseries Musicals hispanic Grammys Mystery 4/20 young adult travel Netflix Tumblr crossover laika documentary comedies Travel Channel Super Bowl cartoon Netflix Christmas movies cancelled television 71st Emmy Awards Paramount Plus DirecTV Anna Paquin Tarantino BET Awards stand-up comedy canceled sag awards Disney Channel Election saw Country aapi independent mockumentary Star Wars OWN Exclusive Video dark kaiju VICE singing competition Alien Tomatazos wonder woman cars Spring TV Winners spider-man Britbox rom-coms Classic Film 1990s 2021 deadpool The Arrangement screen actors guild women Food Network jurassic park natural history italian ViacomCBS Reality Competition Podcast Columbia Pictures Rocky posters tv talk Dark Horse Comics australia latino Rom-Com video on demand FXX football free movies New York Comic Con archives Starz sports A24 Comedy name the review crime thriller 2018 kids rt labs IFC Epix fresh 21st Century Fox spanish language politics Turner Pacific Islander TCA Awards Amazon Prime Video witnail cancelled scene in color 45 NBC Musical DC Universe Disney streaming service jamie lee curtis IFC Films National Geographic Comic Book Amazon Box Office 007 Amazon Prime Rock marvel cinematic universe renewed TV shows TBS blaxploitation Warner Bros. TCA Winter 2020 Esquire DC streaming service critics popular Oscars movies Stephen King critic resources olympics MSNBC A&E binge asian-american high school satire police drama Legendary Emmys SundanceTV spanish The Purge Winter TV cops fast and furious The Walt Disney Company LGBT news NYCC TV movies dramedy Pride Month Amazon Studios Comic-Con@Home 2021 best Sony Pictures Baby Yoda TCA Wes Anderson Interview boxing superhero El Rey romance reboot Mary poppins lord of the rings Teen richard e. Grant Holidays Disney+ Disney Plus marvel comics blockbuster Trophy Talk Emmy Nominations elevated horror Holiday versus scorecard suspense heist movie WGN new star wars movies Shudder Television Academy sitcom USA Network based on movie Bravo Women's History Month mutant supernatural Peacock See It Skip It Kids & Family target toy story miniseries docudrama Apple halloween tv Black History Month Brie Larson Captain marvel Turner Classic Movies Animation revenge chucky children's TV Best and Worst rt archives ABC Signature halloween 2020 blockbusters transformers Vudu superman worst FX on Hulu parents cats Sundance TV razzies TV Land cooking Family Masterpiece Crunchyroll Elton John Premiere Dates RT21 ABC Family Sundance worst movies Certified Fresh Christmas Song of Ice and Fire international Photos Quiz 73rd Emmy Awards WarnerMedia BBC One 2016 award winner ratings The Academy Fox News YA Avengers reviews scary movies theme song HBO Go 2017 Reality CNN BBC America book adaptation comic MCU Mary Tyler Moore nfl die hard a nightmare on elm street breaking bad Marvel Television golden globes Sneak Peek festivals NBA Nat Geo Lifetime king arthur TCM CW Seed directors Action Pop TV DC Comics toronto child's play rt labs critics edition Lucasfilm Chernobyl FOX SDCC 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Awards Broadway psychological thriller TNT new york Funimation spinoff mcc GLAAD animated comics Extras Showtime Video Games finale emmy awards quibi nbcuniversal PaleyFest First Look Pirates Countdown doctor who History CBS Valentine's Day Watching Series godzilla ABC Arrowverse hollywood BAFTA AMC rotten aliens dc teaser foreign stoner unscripted Apple TV+ Disney Plus joker Logo American Society of Cinematographers what to watch Mindy Kaling biopic Academy Awards Discovery Channel DGA TIFF Polls and Games Sundance Now dragons twilight Film Festival