Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hero of the Week #26: Spawn

SPAWN (Image: TMP)
Real Name: Al Simmons
First Appearance: Spawn #1 (June, 1992)
Group Affiliation: Hell (former)
Gaming Credentials: Todd McFarlane's Spawn: The Video Game (1995); Spawn: The Eternal (1997); Spawn: In the Demon's Hand (2000); Spawn: Armageddon (2003); Soul Calibur II (2003)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: DNR

When I look at a character like Spawn, and the video games he's headlined, I can't help but ponder the fact that the likes of Hawkman will only make their video game debut in next year's MMO, DC Universe Online. I guess that's just my penchant for the classics talking...

Today's feature is a little duplicitous in nature.

This isn't a celebration of Spawn as much as it is an acknowledgment of an interesting development over in the comics. Not that it isn't worth spotlighting a character who's managed to star in four of his own video games, and guest-feature in a fifth. Truth be told, over in the comics, Spawn's world has changed quite significantly, even seeing the titular role handed over to a brand new guy called Jim Downing.

Spawn was one of the flagship characters that launched Image Comics as a power to be reckoned with, in 1992. Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, partnered a coup with other prominent artists of the time to launch a studio that put greater emphasis on the value of creators. Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Marc SilvestriRob Liefeld, Jim Valentino, and Whilce Portacio, made up the rest of the Image founders, whose legacy is one that has allowed for some of the brightest talent of the past decade to enter the comics industry through independent works.

Robert Kirkman is among the talents to emerge through Image's publishing practises, creating the highest selling independent comic of today, The Walking Dead, along with several other projects that include the immensely popular superhero classic, Invincible.
This success has afforded Kirkman the rare distinction of being inducted into "founder" status within the Image fold, some fifteen years after the company's creation. Now, he unites all founders but Jim Lee for a project that will see the superheroes of the original Image Comics clash in Image United -- a series not without precedent, but still reasonably significant as a curiosity, all these years later.

It's fair to say that the original Image Comics properties created by the founders were very much products of their time. In retrospect, many are regarded with severely mixed feelings, not surprising of practises that placed emphasis on a certain brand of visual flair over writing. This quality of Image Comics, however, was all about graphics and characters for the video game generation. They were influenced as much as they influenced.

Having defined a popular perspective on comics over the course of the nineties, the rise of Image coincided with a mainstream swell in video game releases that saw direct overlap. The first Spawn game was released only three years after the character's debut, and saw Todd McFarlane go on to form an on-going relationship with video games that has led to lending his artistic approach to video game releases, often with results of mixed quality, similar to his comics [ie; the terminally infamous action figure battle game, Evil Prophecy].

Love or hate the exploits of bombastic chain-swinging nineties bad asses like Spawn, they're an important footnote on the landscape of both comics and video games as mediums, and that's good enough to make Spawn our representative HOTW!

The last Spawn video game was in 2003, but you'll find Image United #1 on shelves now from Image Comics! Check listings for subsequent release schedules.

<< Hero of the Week 12/06: Dr. Doom       [Home]       Hero of the Week 11/22: Sandman >>

Originally posted:

No comments: