‘Spawn’ Comics – Far From a Classic Series

Back in 1992, following a split from Marvel comics and his run on Spider-Man, Todd MacFarlene launched a new line called ‘Spawn’, which was an instant success among readers. ‘Spawn’ was one of the first titles launched by the newly formed Image comics – a publisher who would allow artists and writers to retain ownership of their creations.

The popularity of ‘Spawn’ grew quickly. The comic market was in an upswing and readers were looking for the next big thing. Riding the growing wave of more adult orientated characters and stories and more complex narratives, the striking appearance of the religious themed anti-hero seemed to be what everyone was looking for. Readership continued to grow, peaking in 1997 with the release of a feature film.

Rereading the original stories almost 20 years later, it would seem that the initially successful run was a reflection of the times rather than the quality of the comic itself.

By today’s standards the adult themes, concerning a dead soldier resurrection by a devil as a ‘Hellspawn’ is handled in a practically juvenile manner, switching between character introspection to wacky violence perpetrated by a crazy clown demon at the turn of a page. The lead character also swings back and forth in tone, cursing his fate and mourning his lost life one moment before gleefully ripping off a characters arm and quipping shortly after.

Many of the characters almost reached iconic status in their time, but the interesting ones are far and few between. Most are downright rubbish, with a particular low-point being a gang fight between brutal street thugs called ‘The Nerds’ and ‘The Creeps’ with their over-sized, over-emotional cyborgs. MacFarlene often tries to force in quirkiness every now and then, and forced is what they feel.

Although Spawn sits alongside ‘The Savage Dragon’ as the only remaining Image launch title, its stock plummeted in direct proportion to the number of action figures, terrible video games and cheap movies that got released. In hindsight, one has to wonder how it ever managed to right its level of popularity in the first place.