Hey everyone! Hope you’re all having a great week, what with the return of Game of Thrones and the enormous slapfight regarding the casting of a new Doctor. Thankfully, my comics library is here to distract me from the drama/excitement/general hullabaloo, and this week I’ve gone back to the decade of my birth to revisit a comic book classic – Spawn. Since its creation in 1992, Spawn has been a mainstay of the superhero landscape. Arguably one of the best examples of an anti-hero in comics, Todd McFarlane’s dark, moody creation has been around for almost as long as I have.
Considering how long Spawn has been around, it’s pretty darn convenient that Image have released a bunch of trade paperbacks collecting Spawn from its very beginning. Naturally, that’s where I’ve started: Spawn: Origin Collection, volume 1.
Once a government agent – a specialist in black ops, and a trained killer – Al Simmons was killed by his own men. Thrown into the depths of Hell, he makes a bargain with a demonic entity – he gets to see his wife, and the demon gets his soul. Resurrected as the warrior Spawn, stripped of his memories and struggling to come to terms with his new powers, Simmons is desperate to regain his identity. With malign forces hunting him at every turn, Simmons is determined to find the woman that haunts him day and night, and reclaim his identity.
I could place Spawn’s 90s origins from the minute I opened the book. McFarlane’s artwork practically screams 90s comics, warts and all, but at the same time it was wonderfully nostalgic. While some of the art – particularly close-ups of characters – was dodgy, the action-packed spreads and weird ‘n’ wonderful demons made for some great pages. Spawn’s costume, while a bit cheesy, makes for some great images, particularly when brooding on a rooftop; I have to wonder how much Batman and Spawn fed off each other at the time. The chains, swirling cloak and glowing hands scream “edgy” in the modern day, but they’re still a potent combination; I couldn’t imagine a character as dark and tortured as Spawn looking any other way. I also got some serious Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vibes from some of the panels, though that may be more down to the hallmarks of 90s comic art rather than any specific reference to Kevin Eastman.
In terms of writing, Spawn is a little cliché, but still interesting; I must admit I was more interested in Simmons coming to terms with his new place in the world rather than the demons that were pulling his strings. There are plenty of horror tones throughout the series, so it’s not the kind of book you’d give to a kid; some of the horrible characters seemed like they’d be more at home in a series like Hellblazer.
Given the sheer longevity of the series (it’s still going today!) I really am curious as to how McFarlane and the series’ subsequent writers kept it going for so damn long; after all, titles at the big two are lucky to last 50 issues before a reboot these days. I’m also interested to see how the character has changed throughout the years; I think it’d be interesting to pick up a modern-day Spawn book and compare it to the very beginnings of the character.
All in all, Spawn: Origins Collection seems to be the best place to start if you want to delve into the world of Spawn. It’s dark, edgy and a whole lot of fun – the perfect way to start reading a classic series.
Written by Alastair McGibbon
Image sourced via McFarlane Comics