Image Comics’ “Spawn” comic book has been around for a long time. “Spawn” #300 will be on the shelves Sept. 4. That issue will tie it with “Cerebus” for longest running independent series in comic history. “Cerebus” even made an appearance in “Spawn” #10. On Oct. 2, “Spawn” #301 will take sole ownership of that title. Todd McFarlane is returning to write and draw a story for this issue.
Back in the 1990s, Marvel Comics was loaded with talent. The comic books they were producing were making the company tons of money while they were being paid low page rates for their work.
The artists were upset that their artwork and characters were being heavily merchandised, and they were seeing no part of it. A group of these artists marched into the Marvel president’s office and demanded the company grant them ownership and creative control over their own work. Marvel and DC presented the attitude that characters are what made a series popular, not the artists.
Marvel refused to meet their demands.
A few months later, seven of those artists banded together to form Image Comics. The original founders of Image Comics are Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino and Whilce Portacio.
Image Comics was formed with two main rules. The first is Image does NOT own a creator’s work, the creator does. This is the most important rule. Nothing is worse than creating a great character only to not have control of what happens with it. The second rule is no Image partner will ever interfere creatively or financially with another's work.
Now that you know the history of how Image Comics came to be, let me tell you a little bit about the character of Spawn. The original Spawn was Albert “Al” Francis Simmons. He was a member of the Secret Service, CIA, NSA and the NSC during his military career. His training with these organizations made him a very capable assassin. Al is murdered by his friend, Bruce Stinson (codename Chapel), during a mission in Botswana. (Sidenote: Chapel is a character created by Rob Liefeld for his “Youngblood” series at Image Comics). Al goes to Hell due to his life as an assassin. In Hell, he makes a deal with Malebolgia to become a Hellspawn in his service. He is sent back to Earth with a badly burned body and only vague recollections of his past.
This eventually led Al to seek a way to rid himself of being Spawn. In Issue #185, Al commits suicide. The Legion of Lost Souls that were trapped within Al Simmons were able to finally leave Earth, except one. Jim Downing had been in a coma for years in a hospital. Once his soul was free, he was chosen as the next Hellspawn. He remained “Spawn” until issue #250 where Al Simmons reclaimed the title. The Jim Downing years are not the best in terms of story-line, but alas it happened, and you should know about it.
“Spawn” moved beyond comic books. There was a very popular “Spawn” movie in 1997. There was also a three-season HBO series that was well received. The big deal with Spawn though, was the toys. McFarlane worked with Mattel to produce “Spawn” related action figures but they couldn’t make the toys with the level of detail that McFarlane wanted so he reclaimed the toy rights to his characters and started his own toy company. McFarlane Toys is now one of the most popular lines of action figures. The first figures produced by the company were, of course, “Spawn” characters, but they have grown to feature licensed horror and sports properties. McFarlane is writing and directing a “Spawn” reboot film under the Blumhouse banner. Jamie Foxx and Jeremy Renner have reportedly been signed to star. No release date has been given yet.
Now you can see the road McFarlane navigated to get to the awesome achievement of having the longest running independent series in comic book history. From a page rate artist at Marvel to owning his own toy company and directing movies, he has proven to be a true entrepreneur forging paths where none existed. Congratulations on 300 issues of Spawn, and here's to wanting 300 more.
(Mug) Troy Stegner owns Zia Comics and Games at 125 North Main Street in Las Cruces. He also runs Las Cruces Comic Con and El Paso Comic Con. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.ziacomics.com or youtube.com/ziacomics.