Decades ago, John Leguizamo arrived on the set of Spawn at ungodly hours to step into the character of The Clown, the bloated villain at the center of the 1997 comic book adaptation.
“It was a bit inhuman, this costume”, says Leguizamo. Hollywood journalist with a laugh. âSome days I would get there at 3 am to start doing makeup for four hours. And then I had to go and play for 12 hours. It was pretty brutal. But it was worth it. “
Leguizamo was a comic book fan and enjoyed crossing paths on set with Todd McFarlane, the writer-artist who became a superstar with Marvel’s Spider-Man before co-founding Image Comics and creating Spawn. He remembers McFarlane as a cool guy who preferred leather jackets back then. McFarlane remembers Leguizamo as having a good attitude despite the discomforts of the job.
âThey had a hole in his suit where they were trying to blow air into his fatsuit,â says McFarlane. “He never complained about the process.”
Almost 25 years later, the two are teaming up again on another comic book project. This time it is Leguizamo who is the creative force behind the property as the creator and writer of PhenomX, a comic book to be released by McFarlane’s Image Comics on November 3 and featuring a writer-artist cover.
PhenomX focuses on Max Gomez, who has been wrongly imprisoned and is desperate to regain his freedom. Max agrees to become a subject in a clandestine government experiment that gives him transfiguration abilities.
Leguizamo has assembled an all-Latino creative team, including artist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, with interior artists Chris Batista, Sabrina Cintron and Christopher Sotomayor. Jim MuÃ±iz, JosÃ© MarzÃ¡n, Jr., and Juan FernÃ¡ndez provide the cover art.
PhenomX is a tale that Leguizamo has dreamed of for a long time. He grew up as a comic book loving teenager, and later in his life observed residents of neighborhoods like New York’s Lower East Side protesting the pollution seeping into their neighborhoods. This made Leguizamo think.
“What if instead of it’s a danger, all of this magnetic fields, all of this radiation, all of these pollutants – what if that gives us super power?” What if it makes us stronger? Leguizamo wondered.
Leguizamo and McFarlane reconnected three years ago at New York Comic Con and started talking about collaboration. Leguizamo was already a writer named Eisner at this point for his graphic novel Ghetto Klown, but McFarlane gave him a hard love over how difficult it is to make a successful comic.
âJust because you’re a celebrity doesn’t mean it’ll work automatically,â recalls McFarlane. âYou have to deliver a story that people will want to read. “
Leguizamo remembers feeling the pressure to deliver something McFarlane would approve of.
“It was very sobering talking to Todd. He wasn’t trying to discourage me, he was trying to make me more sharp,” says the writer-actor.
As an actor, Leguizamo has worked with acclaimed directors such as Brian De Palma, Spike Lee and Baz Lurhman and studied storytelling from them. Lurhman’s Mulan Red was a formative experience, with the actor remembering that the script was originally 300 pages long. (A two-hour movie would have a script of just 120 pages.)
âWe read it every Friday and he kept cutting it down until he hit 150. This process became part of me. I was able to write one of the scenes in the film, which was an incredible opportunity, ârecalls Leguizamo. âBrian De Palma, when I did Carlito’s Way, he let me improvise like crazy. There are so many possibilities in an instant. A moment could go anywhere and still be part of the plot and move the plot forward.
In 1997, Spawn has not been particularly well received by critics, although it has gained appreciation over time with the home entertainment audience. Leguizamo’s reunion with McFarlane comes as another of the actor’s poorly received ’90s gets another shot to big screen fame, with animated film Great Mario Brothers. The film will star Chris Pratt as Mario and Charlie Day as Luigi, the plumber that Leguizamo played in 1993’s Super. Mario Brothers.
Leguizamo, who starred alongside Bob Hoskins as Mario and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa, is still approached about the film and was recently at a hotel where a family with young children asked to take a photo with Luigi.
âI think the film has found its audience. When he first came out it was tough, “the actor said with a laugh.” I’m glad he has a life … I think it’s a tribute to Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper . “
As for the future, McFarlane is developing a new Spawn feature film with Blumhouse, with an eye for him to direct. He says he would like to put Leguizamo in the movie, even in a small role.
McFarlane says, âEven though it was just someone pushing someone around, and all of a sudden John turns around and says a cool line that geek would say, ‘Oh my god. It is a continuation. I like that stuff.