October is upon us, and I wanted to take a deep dive into some horror comics new and old. I was going through my long box and found the first five issues of Spawn. I hadn’t read these issues in 20 years or so and thought now would be a great time seeing as the world of Spawn is more monster movie than a superhero. Spawn wasn’t my first introduction to horror in comics (that would probably be Ghost Rider), but it was probably the first horror comic that made an impression on me with it’s focus on character and a world building.
Rereading it now I was surprised to rediscover how much Spawn is a gothic romance in the beginning or more aptly a great example of dark romanticism. Al Simmons-killed in the line of duty-sells his soul to a demon named Malebolgia in order to come back to earth and be with his wife, but the demon being a jerk and all make a deal with conditions. Al comes back to earth but five years later, disfigured and finds out his wife has married his friend and had a child. Al is “alive” but can’t have what he wants. Malebolgia has given him the power to stop evil but at a cost. Upon the depletion of his powers, he returns to hell. The more bad guys he kills the strong Malebolgia’s army grows.
Spawn arrived on the scene of the comics world as a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t stifled by corporate censorship and could explore any theme it wanted to. For example, issue five introduces the character of Billy Kincaid-a child murderer. In the story, Kincaid is paroled from jail and continues his murder spree. In a comic like Batman or Spiderman, those heroes would’ve caught Kincaid and taken him back to jail but Spawn tortures and then murders him. Where the first four issues show violence against supernatural beings, issue five jolts the reader into a new and darker world of superheroes showing that this character has no problem killing anyone.
I haven’t read a new Spawn comic in many years, so I have no idea if any of the characters are still around but revisiting this book makes e want to catch up. I realize that I enjoy it more now than I did when I was younger. The book has plenty of action and monsters, but at its core, it's about a man robbed of his happiness, and in an attempt to get it back he is robbed of his free will. It has scary moments but what is more horrific than not only being killed and sent to hell but hell using you as a (S)pawn for its evil desires and every action you take drives you closer to that horrible fate.
Spawn is still popular but not as much as it was in the 90’s. However, I feel that is about to change in 2019 when the new movie starring Jaime Foxx as Al Simmons will be released. The movie will be directed by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and produced by Blumhouse Productions ( Insidious, Paranormal Activity, Get Out) so the horror pedigree is there and should prove to make a successful addition to the Spawn franchise.