Review: SPAWN: ORIGINS – VOL. 1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Todd McFarlane
Artist: Todd McFarlane
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Reviewed by: Carl Bryan
In 1992, a student of mine found out I was a comic collector and asked “Do you read Spiderman and have you looked at Todd McFarlane’s art? He’s coming out with a new character entitled Spawn and you need to grab this comic. It’s awesome!” So I took his advice and ran to the store and collected issues #1-3. 296 issues later, Spawn is arguably the king of independent comic characters and Todd McFarlane is the prototype writer/colorist/author who made it all happen.
This Spawn Origins collective trade paperback collects issues 1-6 and highlights the origins of several main characters – Spawn/Al Simmons, Wanda Blake, Cyan, Terry Fitzgerald, The Violator/Clown, Satan, Jason, Wynn, Billy Kincaid, Sam and Twitch and Overt-Kill. This is the foundation of Spawn where you examine his plight of selling his soul just to see his wife again, but he didn’t bargain on the Devil creating him into a HellSpawn that was supposed to be kept in line by the Violator.
This is where Todd McFarlane is doing arguably his best work in that he is drawing, inking, coloring and writing Spawn. But it also is where Spawn is set apart from other heroes in that he is a true anti-hero. Never mind his personal dilemma of putting the pieces together what has now become his life/anti-life, he now has powers (albeit on a meter (the first incarnation of an influence felt in other comics)) that he uses to the max to take care of a child murderer that in his former life as Al Simmons he was hired to kill. As Spawn, he finishes the job and with McFarlane’s penciling, the detail is beyond graphic. Twenty-seven years ago, Spawn hit the shelves. These issues are the major bricks of the foundation.
Artwork, images, imagination….there was nothing like this and you also get a bit of homage to certain other characters such as Spidey and Batman. Spawn’s cape has more twists and turns than Dr. Strange’s and his chains are a symbiotic webbing akin to a combo of Spider man and Doctor Octopus. McFarlane’s time on both of those characters influence his work on Spawn. Subsequently, in the day, it is obvious that he had read some Frank Miller as there are news break overtones in the comic where you switch to what the media says about the situation in the city. And while each is different, it really is Orwellian how things are similar today!
You can also see some portraits that have influenced other artists and story tellers. The Grim Knight….take a look at Spawn armed to the teeth with weapons. on page 152. Overt-Kill – take a look at the recent Damage by DC, or any other bulked up villain with Cyborg type powers. Dialogue bubbles that scream that these comments are coming from the gates of Hell – take a look at Spawn’s. McFarlane doesn’t take a break on any page and doesn’t shortchange anyone who invests in his comics. Each frame is artistically invested upon by the artist. He wants even the most minor players in his Spawn symphony to sing a part.
Finally, page 129 is in this book solely to let the world know that the line can be crossed when adults do not treat children right. Billy Kincaid’s body hung in chains with ice cream sticks and an ice cream scoop penetrating his chest and abdomen. That ranks up there with the image of Lois holding Superman after the Doomsday Battle , Batman being broke by Bane, and Barbara Gordon opening the door to find the Joker adorned in a Hawaiian shirt. You don’t forget those drawings!
Too often as we read older comics, we fail to look at them through the eyes we once had due to the glitz, glamour or polish we now have with our comics. McFarlane’s artwork makes up for a bit of short-comings in some of the dialogue that drips from the Violator’s mouth. Picture an annoying Danny Devito monologue and you have that type of script. However, your eyes drinking in the art work makes up for the script shortcomings.
This is a return home for long time Spawn fans. This is where you need to go to understand what is coming up for issue 300. But it is also a celebration of Todd McFarlane creating something that shook the comic world in 1992. If you don’t have it, buy it! You may have not had a college student direct you to the nearest comic store to pick it up in 1992.