I was in third grade when I first heard about Spawn. On the bus ride to elementary school, my friends and I would always take some action figures, comic books, trading cards or something to entertain ourselves. But who were we kidding, we were really trying to show off. I would take my comic books thinking, “My friends will be totally impressed by this!” Back then, all it took to impress us was a flashy cover, and a cool looking hero. My Night Thrasher #1 was pretty impressive by those standards. However, the one that really captured us was my friend’s Spawn #1. He was a dark and mysterious hero, with incredible power, searching for revenge on those who ruined his life… and he used swear words. To a third-grader, it does not get much cooler than that.
Looking back, Spawn embodied everything that was new and cutting edge in the comic industry. With Image being a group of artists who broke away from Marvel and DC, their counterculture bona fides were well established. Spawn too paralleled this new spirit with being the complete counter-icon to mainstream heroes of the day. Where Spider-Man and Superman wanted justice, Spawn wanted revenge. While Batman and Wolverine were dark heroes, Spawn was even darker, rougher, and less kid-friendly. He filled a niche that other heroes came close to, but had never quite nailed.
By today’s standards, Spawn #1 has nothing special to offer. He filled his 90s niche, and thereafter, became a novelty. Spawn is a good idea, but it gets old. The first issue asks many questions, and gives very few answers to Spawn’s past. After rereading that first issue, I find I don’t care about those unanswered questions. The character is very shallow, and after one issue, I didn’t find myself invested in the hero. It almost seems as if the whole story is built around the idea of a “cool-looking main character” with little regard for the storytelling itself. Maybe I’m too harsh.
Maybe I am just bitter that it was my friend who won everyone’s attention with the first Spawn comic. Whatever the reason, Spawn #1 fails to stand up to current character development and storytelling we see in comics today. Spawn was a novelty, who captured the world’s attention for a moment, and then faded in to the background. No amount of chains, skulls, or even swear words can help him find his way back in to my heart.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.
"The stories in this collection are circular, puzzling; they often end as cruelly as they do quietly, the characters and their journeys extinguished with poisonous calm.READ the article