25 Years Of A Modern Classic
Tripwire Contributing Writer OLLY MACNAMEE assesses Spawn No.1 Director’s Cut from Image Comics, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the book…
Spawn No. 1: Director’s Cut
Writer/ Artist: Todd McFarlane
Surely every hardcore comic book fan is always itching to get a peek behind the curtain, especially when it’s one of their favourite comics or comic book creators, right? (I’m hearing ‘Yes!’ aren’t I?) Well, this 25th anniversary issue does just that, with Todd McFarlane anecdotally revealing the thought process behind this groundbreaking, industry shattering first issue. And, what more of a fitting tribute in this, the 25th anniversary of Image Comics, than to rerelease this comic book classic. And – yes – it is a classic. Whether you loved it or loathed it, it was undeniably a seismic moment in the history of comic book publishing and a huge evolutionary leap forward as well; incorporating digital colouring that has stayed with us ever since, nowadays complementing the artwork when done right.
But, this is not about the revolutionary colours Image unleashed on the market. No, this is all about the raw, black and white inked art and McFarlane’s intentions behind each and every page. He reveals, for instance, that the three diverse reporters on page three, and which he has used ever since, on and off, are a certain breed of presenter. The chunkier, bearded, don’t-seem-to-care old timer, McFarlane reveals to be ‘bombastic, (and) he keeps getting fired and must find new stations to report for. Throughout the last 25 years of Spawn, he’s intentionally had about 30 different station logos next to him. He’s like a bad version of Rush Limbaugh; a hot maverick combination of these types of guys who do talk radio.’ That made me chuckle, to see that these three reporters are more a running joke than anything else. Hell, the Rush Limbaugh stand-in can’t even seem to keep his job on one channel even by the end of this debut issue! And now, we’re in on it as well, if we hadn’t been before.
The reprints – clearly taken from the original artboards – remind me of how kinetic McFarlane’s art was, and how experimental he was willing to be with the page layouts. Something I had already recognised when he became the fill in artist on DC’s Infinity Inc. after the passing of Don Newton (a truly underrated master of the art, when working with Rubinstein as his inker, for example). By the time Spawn hit, McFarlane was the fully formed over-the-top artist that suited the excessiveness of the late 80s and early nineties. Hell, his Image partners were, arguably, the Yuppies of the comics’ world. Well, Liefeld anyway. Allegedly.
We are reminded, by McFarlane, just how much of a personal quest this was for the young creator, having created Spawn at the tender age of 16, and allowing it to brew in the back of his head until this moment, back in 1992. First, the close-up of his iconic mask, before the big, balls-to-the-wall reveal of Spawn in all his curly cloaked creepiness.
For those of us of a certain age, and who lived through the dawn of the Image era, this is a must-have keepsake and reminds you – stripped of all that digital colour – just how good McFarlane was when he put in the time and in comparison to other art styles of the era, I hasten to add. Or, rather, when he could put in the time. His commentary comes off as a fanboy’s commentary; regaling how stoked he was to get George Perez to do a first issue pin-up (and then again for issue 101, ten years later), and that’s not a bad thing. This is as much a reproduction of the original art as it is a love letter, from Spawn’s creator, and it’s a fun, engrossing read as a result.
We may have moved on from the aesthetics of the 90s, but we should remember what McFarlane and company created. Their legacy on the comic book world looms large and long. Here’s to the next 25 years!