Apparently there is a gigantic 984 page long Spawn Compendium Volume 1 out to celebrate Todd McFarlane’s wildly popular creation. I was there at the time of course and remember buying Spawn issue 1 (and W.I.L.D.Cats,#1 and Savage Dragon#1) but I gave up on it pretty quickly. It looked great (at the time?) but like McFarlane’s work on Spider-man (which I also bought, because I’m, you know, in my 30s) it seemed terribly written to me even then. Impenetrable almost.
Anyway, the point is that there’s an interesting little piece over at Comics Alliance called, Spawn 20 Years Later: Looking Back at the Quintessential ’90s, that talks about what seems a rather unexplored but interesting nexus point in the history of comics, issues 8-11 of Spawn, for which McFarlane handed over the writing to Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim and Frank Miller respectively.
The Comics Alliance article goes into a touch more detail about these comics and the wierd blurring of the boundaries between independent or creator driven on the one hand and mainstream, corporate comics on the other. Take the founding of Image for example. A bunch of ‘auteur’ creators-artists dammit!- feeling stiffed by their corporate paymasters decide to form their own company, where they own the rights to their work and are free to express their own artistic sensibilities. A noble endeavour, no? But these creators don’t start creating introspective autobiographical work or other such arty-farty nonsense that the freedom of their new company would grant them. No. They create work almost exactly like the superhero work they were doing before. Only bloodier and with bigger tits.
Never the less, Image still stood for something and so Gaiman, Moore, Miller and Sim, four of the most prominent and important comics creators of the last three decades, were all willing to write Spawn. The results were varied in terms of both narrative and production, e.g. Moore’s temporary return to superhero comics, the long-running legal battle between Gaiman and McFarlane around the ownership of characters. That last one might be one of the clearest examples of how every revolution gives birth to its own fascism as you’re likely to get.
Anyway, seems like a topic worth returning to in more detail at some point. Looking at the bookshelf I can see a copy of the 1997 Titan books collection Spawn: Evolution, which has the Moore, Gaiman and Miller stories but not the Sim (nor, indeed, the Grant Morrison issues, which I’ve also never read).
So in lieu of any fully formed critical opinion as yet it is only possible to conclude with my thoughts upon first reading the comics produced when mighty comic auteurs Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller (who collectively have given us Watchmen, The Sandman, Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, V for Vendetta and Violent Cases, to name just a few) deigned to write scripts for Todd McFarlane’s Spawn: “you can’t polish a turd.”
Of course, I retain the right to take that back should further investigation and consideration or threats from rabid McFarlane fans change my mind.
And once again, the Comics Alliance article is here.