Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Big Spawn anniversary issue coming up. I have to give Spawn some credit where credit is due. I am a fan, first of all. It was hard not to be, in the nineties. I mean for just a bit there, Spawn just broke out, you know? There were action figures, a movie (people seem to forget- John Leguizamo even starred as Violator/Clown), an animated series…even spin-off books, like Sam and Twitch (which, in particular, I am an even bigger fan of, believe it or not).

I think it’s safe to say that Spawn kind of launched a new renaissance of indie comics (if it’s even fair to think of Spawn as indie- I’m not sure it really is, these days). Image and Dark Horse, among others, started to step up to the plate and get their names and characters out there. Witchblade, Lady Death, Hellboy...Sam Kieth’s the Maxx will always have a special place in my heart. What made it work?

Well, the art was off the HOOK. Still is, really. Spawn just jumped off the page. The colors, that over-the-top superhero look and the fact that it really looked like he moved sometimes you know? Something about the little creases in the cape, I think. It’s like you could really imagine the chains and the cape like they were some kind of living, flowing, entity that responded to the environment. So it was sort of like Spawn is this guy, in a suit.

But the suit kind of IS Spawn, too. The outfit is alive (this is established, in the comics, at this point) and maybe has a certain influence over Spawn’s nature/thoughts, I wonder? I mean, explicitly, they’re separate entities. But it’s like this armament from hell is part of what makes Spawn who he is. Demonic. Unforgiving. Unyielding. And, really, I think that was the character’s other appeal. McFarlane wanted to make Spawn different. And I think I gotta hand him that, in the sense that he didn’t halfass Spawn’s personality or nature.

Spawn is a brutal, BRUTAL antihero. Maybe even THE antihero. You could label Spawn a superhero in the sense that he fights evil and runs around in a big, flowing cape. But that’s about as far as you could go. Spawn is from HELL. THE hell. With fallen angels that want to destroy heaven, and feast on men’s souls. All that stuff. And I think McFarlane always made it clear that that WAS Spawn’s true nature. A demon, a monster, a lost soul. Sure, he has his moments where there’s a little glimmer of humanity, a spark of his old life. And he DOES choose to ‘fight the good fight’. But that doesn’t mean he’s a nice person. I mean the only kind of thing that COULD fight the forces from Hell -on their own terms- would be someone just as bad, just as ruthless.

So, I guess I really appreciate how Spawn just so, unapologetically, pulls out all the stops in making the hero a really, REALLY scary guy. In that ‘it’s for the greater good, that someone be around to do these things’ sense. And the fact that the comic takes it that far. So that you’re really along for the ride with something that isn’t exactly what you think of as your traditional superhero spandex type does set it apart.