Todd McFarlane is a self-admitted geek — and there’s no shame in that.
Thanks to the ACE Comic Con at Gila River Arena Saturday, January 13, to Monday, January 15, the longtime Ahwatukee resident can geek out with the best of them close to home.
McFarlane, a Canadian-American comic book creator and entrepreneur best known for his work on The Amazing Spider-Man and Spawn, will moderate a panel featuring icon Stan Lee during the event. He is attending as a fan and expert.
“I’m hoping to see what I wanted when I was 16 — a group of like-minded people to be around for a short amount of time,” McFarlane says.
“Sporting events are therapeutic. Fans put all their death and taxes conversations aside for a couple hours and go and root. At these events, we get our geek on. Everyone’s different: some are into toys, some might be into comic books, some might be into films, movies or manga. It still falls under the umbrella of ‘geek’ and you don’t feel alone.”
McFarlane, a former minority owner of the Edmonton Oilers, will be in good company. Chris Evans (Captain America) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Captain America: Civil War) will headline the event.
Other confirmed guests include the Captain America franchise’s Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (The Falcon), Hayley Atwell (Agent Peggy Carter), Laura Harrier (Liz) and Jacob Batalon (Ned).
VIP admissions, photo opportunities and autograph tickets are on sale at aceuniverse.com.
The industry has changed since McFarlane’s childhood days in Calgary and California, where comic shops were rare. He was often called “odd” or “mentally arrested” because he collected comic books. He considered that weird because the name-callers themselves were going to see Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies.
“The people were looking down at me when they were going to their fantasy,” he says. “I just couldn’t have mine.”
His life changed when a comic shop opened in his hometown.
“Other people like me said, ‘This is cool,’” he says. “Then, there were conventions and I said, ‘What? There are thousands like me. Now there are hundreds and millions like us.’”
Joining the Marvel team in March 1984, McFarlane became known for his attention to detail and for drawing the first incarnation of the villain Venom. He later teamed up with artists from Image Comics to launch his own series, Spawn, selling 1.7 million copies of the first issue when it shipped in May 1992.
McFarlane also launched a number of entrepreneurial efforts throughout his career including McFarlane Toys, Todd McFarlane Entertainment and 38 Studios. He previously had a store in Westgate.
Hollywood, he says, understands the attraction and the passion behind the comic phenomena. But Fortune 500 companies are slow to grasp the magnitude of events like the comic cons in San Diego or New York.
“I see a literal tidal wave of people,” says McFarlane, 56. “I’ve been to Super Bowls. This is the Super Bowl for four days in a row.”
He offers a bit of advice.
“Investment firms are pretty dry, I think, to the average person,” he says. “If they did a commercial about investing, one in which people were talking about investing while putting on superhero costumes to get ready to go to a convention, people would pay attention. Every business needs to tap into this giant pocket of people.”
ACE Comic Con Arizona, Gila River Arena, 9400 W. Maryland Avenue, Glendale, 623.772.3800, gilariverarena.com, noon Saturday, January 13, 10 a.m. Sunday, January 14, and 11 a.m. Monday, January 15, prices vary according to access.