," says Don Thompson, editor of the Comics Buyer's Guide. "People will buy the comic book simply because Todd McFarlane has a piece of art in it."
McFarlane's first Spider-Man comic book, released last June, stunned industry executives by selling 2.75 million copies (or 2 million more than a typical best-seller). Readers credit a style that mixes traditional rectangular panels with large, slashing images, offbeat perspectives and painstaking detail. And of course, says Thompson, "he does absolutely gorgeous women, usually wearing no more clothes than required."
But McFarlane has also reshaped the personality of the comic hero introduced by Stan Lee 29 years ago. No longer a stern do-gooder, McFarlane's Spider-Man is a puckishly humorous—and happily married—superhero. "There's no reason why Spider-Man can't enjoy a little boyish playfulness," says McFarlane. "If I were him, I'd act this way."
One of four children born to a Calgary, Alberta, printer and his wife, McFarlane studied art and printing at Eastern Washington University, and after a pitching tryout with a Toronto Blue Jays farm team, he began mailing sample illustrations to New York comic-book companies. "Editors knew my package was coming in every month," he says. "After a while, they said, 'Just give him some work and shut him up.' "
His first drawing job, at 23, was on an obscure Marvel line, followed by longer stints working on The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and others. But it wasn't until he began both drawing and writing Spider-Man last year that he developed a following. Each week, he receives hundreds of fan letters at the two-story home on British Columbia's Vancouver Island that he shares with wife Wanda, 25, a high school biology teacher (and daughter of a former baseball coach). But McFarlane insists that his own dreams of stardom are anything but heroic. "I got into this to be an artist," he says. "I could give up the fame just so long as I can sit in my little office and draw comic books. They're kinda cool."
TODD MCFARLANE DOESN'T OFTEN LEAP buildings, outrun trains or scuffle with local supervillains. But when he sits at his drawing table to spin the latest Spider-Man yarn, the 30-year-old Canadian is the reigning king of comic-book heroes. "He's the comic-book equivalent of a Robert Redford or a