Posted in Comics n Stuff, Miscellaneous

My Life in Comics: Image is Everything Part 2

If there is any creator thought to be driving force behind Image Comics and it’s chief spokesman, it would be Todd McFarlane.

Whenever interviewed, he came across as loud and self assured and quite savvy for a young artist. He saw how creators could be shut out of any income from their creations when done through corporate owned characters. He saw Steve Ditko toiling in relative anonymity and Jack Kirby working long days to put food on his family’s table despite the two of them co-creating the Marvel Universe of characters with Stan Lee. Lee was a company man, so he was taken care of, but work for hire left them with no stake in the millions and millions those characters earned for the corporate entity that only saw their creations as work for hire. McFarlane wasn’t going to go like that, especially since he had given them a comic that on his talent had sold over 3 million copies. His take on Spider-Man changed how it would be done from then on and the earlier mentioned adjective-less Spider-Man series allowed him to showcase writing, pencilling and inking, he was a triple threat and demanded to be recognised. I sometimes think that if Marvel gave him some kind of award or trophy, the Image exodus wouldn’t have happened how it did, but it did and after Youngblood opened the door, McFarlane was the one who booted it wide.

Spawn #1 was released in early July 1992 and was like nothing else on the stands. McFarlane tried to bring a urban horror aesthetic to Spider-Man, a  departure from his crime noir origins and bright coloured action imagery. I don’t know if it fit really, but his redesigns on Wendigo, Lizard, Morbius and the Hobgoblin were eye-catching and memorable. He was able to go all in with this milieu when he produced Spawn, a character he had created many years earlier, but had not published.

Spawn was the story of Al Simmonds, a special forces soldier who was betrayed and murdered and ended up in the hell of Maelbogia. This iteration of the devil made a deal with Simmonds so he could see his beloved wife Wanda again. Al agreed and was sent back to the world, but 5 years later in a different body, which now was burned by hellfire and cursed with demonic powers. He had been forgotten and his wife, well she moved on and re-married, now having the child she had always wanted, but Al couldn’t give her. Spawn was full of dark urban landscapes and fantasy horror imagery, which suits the style that McFarlane drew with. It was visually interesting and full of intense themes and high drama. Free of the comics code authority’s rules anything went here, with brutal murder, dismemberment and all sorts of violence on display. It would be many years before I would read this myself and while I feel it isn’t for me, you can see the creativity and talent that went into it.

But McFarlane wasn’t done, he also went on to make toys, based on his now creator owned intellectual property, his approach was more sculpted in design, made more to be a collectors piece than a child’s toy and in other companies doing the same later and others trying to find the sweet spot between playability and cool-factor, he helped to change the action figure and collectables market. Proving as adept a business man as a comics pro, McFarlane has gone from strength to strength, but has maintained control over his characters and concepts. Whilst he has little to do with the month by month comics, with exceptions, his character has been constantly in new comics for the last 30 years having ebbs and flows of popularity, but over 300 issues later, Spawn is still going. Very few of the initial comics properties have had this level of longevity and it looks like the character and his universe shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Spawn was the proof that if you had a product and knew what to do with it, you could make it a success and was something of a blueprint for the rest of the Image publishing line, but alas, not all of the creators would follow it.

Just a quick one this time, next time the third of the multi-million sellers.

Author:

Liverpool based family man and unrepentant geek, trying to understand what's going on in my own head, which is not always being a good place to be. Remember always, we live in a world of wonders.

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