Spawn’s Sam & Twitch Are Getting Their Own TV Show | IGN

Spawn’s universe is expanding beyond comics into television.

Spawn creator Todd McFarlane is teaming up with production house wiip, the studio behind HBO’s hit Kate Winslet-starring Mare of Easttown series, to create a television series based on the supernatural detective comic Sam & Twitch. Jason Smilovic and Todd Katzberg, showrunners on the EPIX series Condor and writers on the upcoming Jennifer Lopez Netflix film The Cipher will adapt the project and serve as executive producers, as will McFarlane for McFarlane Films and wiip’s Paul Lee and Mark Roybal. 

The announcement is just the latest in a series of headline-grabbing moves by McFarlane in recent months, and as he tells IGN, it won’t be the last. “Oh no. This will not be our only announcement in the near future. Let me just say that.” 

sam-twitch-image-1623341597601 Spawn’s Sam & Twitch Are Getting Their Own TV Show | IGN

When asked if the next big McFarlane news would be from a non-comics project like say, the long-gestating Spawn film, the comic and toy mogul gives an uncharacteristically brief answer: “Um, yeah.” 

The timing of the Sam & Twitch news probably surprised many of his fans because McFarlane and his team have been incredibly busy the past few months. His upcoming Spawn’s Universe #1 isn’t even out yet (it drops June 23) and it’s already confirmed as the biggest new comics debut for Image Comics in the 21st century with over 200,000 copies ordered. That book is part of a master plan to create an interconnected comic book universe featuring his own characters, with three new monthly books debuting this year. His Spawn remastered action figure Kickstarter set a record for the crowdfunding platform when it raised $3.5 million in a month. And that’s not even taking into account the ongoing Spawn title, the latest issue of which McFarlane was busy getting ready to send it off to the printer when we talked. 

McFarlane has been working to get the Sam & Twitch duo adapted for TV for quite some time. Kevin Smith was once attached to write and direct a Sam & Twitch show for the BBC, and this latest attempt has been in discussions for about a year. McFarlane credits the pandemic for providing an opportunity to get the idea in front of the right people. “It forced everybody to just concentrate on ideas and story and content … instead of production,” he says. “Because that all got shut down for a while. There was five, six months where almost nothing was being made in Hollywood. And so the focus was on writing, reading scripts… and looking for ideas.” 

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He had been talking with wiip since talks resumed about Sam & Twitch last year, as they were shooting Mare of Easttown. 

“Every time I was talking to them, they kept saying, ‘We’re shooting our show up in Pennsylvania.’ And when he said the name of the show, I thought he said ‘mayor,’” McFarlane recalls. “Anyway, when it finally rolled out, I gave it a gander. Oh my God. I remember sending Mark Roybal an e-mail going, ‘If Sam & Twitch can be half this good, we’re going to be in great shape.’ The cinematography, the acting, the story, the colors, the movement just felt… it was just a good, entertaining drama. And I was like, that’s it.” 

Having Smilovic and Katzberg on to helm the adaptation only bolstered McFarlane’s enthusiasm. For one, he’s a big fan of War Dogs, the 2016 film starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller that Smilovic co-wrote. And then there’s the fact that no matter how many TV shows and films he may be involved with, McFarlane remains a comics geek at heart. And this teaming exemplifies that. 

“Well, first off, if you just call them by their first names, they’re a great comic book character – Jason Todd. So they already had big brownie points on my side for that,” McFarlane jokes. He also saw some broad similarities between the main characters in War Dogs and his homicide cops. “I sort of saw Sam & Twitch in that movie a little bit, except they were obviously younger versions. But you have two guys in over their head, and nobody’s going to come and help them.” 

The popular characters were created by McFarlane and made their debut appearance way back in Spawn #1 in 1992, before eventually getting their own spinoff comic book series. Due to various publishing delays, the series only produced 26 issues over a four-year span. One of the most famous comics scribes around these days, Brian Michael Bendis, cut his teeth writing Sam & Twitch before leaving to go write Ultimate Spider-Man for Marvel. And now, the pair are in the pipeline to become the next comic book characters turned TV stars. 

sam-twitch-comic-1623342029458 Spawn’s Sam & Twitch Are Getting Their Own TV Show | IGN

But McFarlane says he was adamant in discussions with Smilovic and Katzberg to not feel burdened to adhere closely to the source comics material. “I told them not to be loyal to anything specific to the mythology of Spawn. Just keep the big pieces intact,” he says. 

McFarlane points out that even though he’s building out a Spawn-centric universe in the comics, the Sam & Twitch series isn’t necessarily part of a plan to do the same in film/TV. For one thing, the Spawn film has been in neutral for some time. But also, “My intent isn’t to bog it down and have it be something where you got to know who Spawn is to enjoy it. It can’t be that. Any show that wants to stand on its own has to just deliver its own character with its own story.”

That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be an occasional Easter egg for fans, though. “Maybe what we do from time to time is possibly a wink and a nod to something. But is it going to be heavy-handed and obvious? Probably not,” he says. 

For McFarlane, the most important thing is to capture the essence of who Sam & Twitch are. Sam Burke is seen as the muscles of the duo, the headstrong cop. Twitch Williams is a math genius who can crack the strangest cases and use his elite marksmanship to take down all sorts of threats. Both are good, honest cops in a fictional world where corruption is rampant. “These two guys have a strong bond and they know more about the world and the possibilities of it than most others,” he says. “But they have nobody to tell, and even if they did, they’d be considered crackpots. So I told [the producers], just keep the mood, the grit, the drama of [the comic] and make believable characters. And then I think we can hopefully sell it to a wide audience who have to know nothing in advance of who these characters are or anything that I’ve done with any of my other characters.” 

Since wiip has a successful working relationship with HBO after Mare of Easttown and HBO was the home of the Spawn animated series, we asked if the premium cable outlet or HBO Max was the preferred landing spot for Sam & Twitch. McFarlane says it’s still way too early in the process to have an answer, although given the dark, supernatural elements, streaming seems ideal. 

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He also says he has no delusions about his involvement if the Sam & Twitch show happens. Unlike the Spawn movie, which McFarlane has remained adamant about directing, he’s happy to step back and let the production studio and the showrunners lead the way. “My job here isn’t to say, ‘Here’s my top things. Let’s do it,’” he says. “Especially if somebody is putting up millions of dollars, right? They’ve got a big giant say in how they want that money to be spent. I’ve been on the other end of that in my life, where people have come to me and said, “Hey, we’re going to give you some freedom, go have some fun and create.’ 

“Essentially that’s what Marvel did to me when they gave me my own Spider-Man book. It made my career,” he recalls. “I was able to try some things and experiment a little bit with the character. So I always want to do the same thing. I’ll tell these guys if there’s stuff that exists that they think is useful, use it. If there’s something that you want to try, that’s new, you know what, let’s discuss it and have at it. Don’t be intimidated or afraid that somehow I’m gonna shoot it down or that there’s only one way to do it right. I’m in the cool drama business. If you deliver a cool drama to me, I’m not going to pick apart the details. My notes are going to be, can this be cooler? Can these be more dramatic? Can you make it cooler? That’s it.”

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