A Quick Look at the Rise of McFarlane Toys

Today we are going to have a quick look at one of our favourite brands,McFarlane Toys, and if you're trying to learn a bit more about them it only seems right to have a bit of background on the company's superstar founder.

Who Is Todd McFarlane?

Most widely known for his artistic work on Marvel's The Amazing Spider-Man and then for his huge success during the 1990s with his own creation, the anti-hero Spawn, Todd McFarlane began his career in pop-culture working as a highly successful comic book artist.

While working as an illustrator for Marvel, Todd began expressing his unhappiness with the apparent lack of creative freedom he was being allowed within the company. By this time he had gained a strong fan-following for his work and, in a bid to retain his extremely popular (and highly lucrative) services, Marvel gave McFarlane a Spider-Man project all of his own. But even the slack afforded to him by his new role wasn't enough. After several disagreements over illustrations, story and the treatment of several key characters and villains within the existing Spider-Man narrative, McFarlane decided to leave Marvel. A number of other highly talented members of the Marvel team had also decided that they wanted out and in 1992 a mass exodus occurred, culminating in the creation of a new company and a new era for comics, "Image" was born.

Spawn Comic

Image Comics

Image Comics represented a real break in the mould as far as comic book publishing at the time was concerned. For years the industry had been resigned to the dominance of the two giants, DC and Marvel, with precious few other, inevitably much smaller, publishers getting a piece of the pie. The big guys called the shots; they had the money and the infrastructure, and what they said, went. Image differed from the mainstream in that its firm focus was centred around the writers and artists and the treatment of their work. Artists owned their creations and possessed all the rights necessary to oversee and control their own projects. Image's ground-breaking success paved the way for a new breed of independent comic publisher, a movement that still continues today. Finally, McFarlane seemed to have found the freedom he'd been looking for and, in the company's first year, Todd released his own creation, Spawn, into the world.

Ever the entrepreneur, in 1994, Todd began work with toy giant, Mattel, in a bid to begin production of action figures based on his work. Creative differences ultimately lead the two entities to go their separate ways, resulting in Todd establishing his own toy company. Initially working under the moniker, "Todd's Toys", Mattell applied pressure for a name change, believing that the Todd's Toys could be confused with their own Barbie, who's brother was called Todd. No bad feelings there, then...

And so, three and a bit paragraphs in, we get to the subject of this article: McFarlane Toys.

Beginning with a series of figures based on characters from Todd's Spawn comic, McFarlane Toys quickly stamped their authority as something fresh and new. The Spawn figures displayed levels of detail and intricacy that were previously unseen in action figures. The sculpting was precise and the paint had been used to pick out individual details and create effects more commonly seen on hand-painted one-offs. Even the packaging stood out from their rivals, with each figure being completely encased, pristine and desirable, inside tough, transparent plastic. In contrast, most toys of the day featured minimal painting and were simply blister-packed to a grey-card base that was often printed on only one side.

Original Spawn Figures

Of course, another standout feature of the figures were that they looked shocking and more than a little scary. Committed to his own vision, McFarlane wasn't afraid to add gratuitous gore and, occasionally, more than a touch of the risque to his creations. The company became well known for taking controversially sadistic and often satirical perspectives on subjects like classic fairy-tales, historical murderers and even Christmas. In short, there's a good chance that, if you grew up during the 90's, McFarlane figures were the ones you wanted, but mightn't of been allowed to buy.

McFarlane Toys Today

Fast forward a few years and McFarlane Toys still holds true to their original values. They still produce excellent figures, retaining their standards for great sculpt and paint, but now at a more comparable price to their competitors. Securing many extremely popular and successful television, movie and game franchises has brought many new fans on board and lines such as The Walking Dead, which contains not only collectible poseable 7 inch figures, 10 inch statues and even some pretty awesome (and suitably gory) cold-cast resin statues, are proving extremely popular with collectors and enthusiasts.

What Else do McFarlane do?

Video Game Figures

It's not all blood and guts at McFarlane. Alongside horror licenses like Freddy Kreuger and Jason Voorhees, you'll now see lighter additions from the likes of the Simpsons and Where the Wild Things Are. McFarlane have also become a leading producer of figures from popular American sports, with their catalogue showing a number of famous characters from the world of Football, Basketball, Hockey and Baseball. Recent additions to the television-series fray include a line of collectible (and suitably spooky) figures from Stranger Things, as well as some excellent new construction-set alternatives for Rick and Morty and Southpark.

The recent rise of computer games teemed with the constant popularity of action figures among gamers is causing several toy manufacturers to seek licenses with popular game publishers (and vice versa). McFarlane produces excellent, collector-grade licensed figures for the Call of Duty and Borderlands game series and the new Destiny figures are incredibly high-quality and proving very popular among collectors.

We're particularly excited right now about the new range of Fortnite figures that are due to ship before Christmas 2018 -finally fans of the smash-hit game have the opportunity to buy their very own Cuddle Team Leader, Black Knight, Raptor or Skull Trooper.

And that about wraps it up from us! We hope you have enjoyed our brief delve into the weird and wonderful world of Todd McFarlane. If you've got anything you'd like to add, or maybe you would like to give a shout-out to your favourite toy, we'd love to hear about it.