This Was Then: Spawn #1

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.