Spawn, created by Todd McFarlane, is one of the most successful comic book characters in history, with an enduring appeal in mainstream comics. Spawn’s origins as a Hellspawn and his mission to protect humanity’s souls from both good and evil make him an adult-oriented superhero series. The debate continues over whether Spawn fits better into the Marvel or DC universe, but signs point towards DC due to collaborations and tone similarities.

In 1992, Todd McFarlane unveiled what would become the defining series of his career, Spawn. The hero born of Hell tasked with battling the forces of good and evil, Spawn gained an enduring appeal in mainstream comics, though many fans are still unsure about which company publishes his stories.

Spawn is nearing its 350th issue, so it’s safe to label Spawn one of the most successful comic book characters in the history of the medium. It’s no stretch to compare him with characters like Punisher, Hellboy, and Ghost Rider. Created by former mainstay Marvel artist and Venom co-creator Todd McFarlane, Spawn has been a fan favorite for thirty years, working his way into the mainstream consciousness in a way very few indie heroes have managed. Since his 1997 movie and treasured HBO animated series, people continue to wonder what’s next for Spawn across media and even fans who don’t read his comics are interested in him. Even though he’s widely recognized, however, many readers still wonder just where can they find his comics, Marvel or DC?

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How Spawn Came To Be

According to Todd McFarlane, he started working on Spawn when he was a teenager. In his mind, Spawn had all the powers of a superhero but he would take the extra steps that a traditional Marvel or DC never would. McFarlane has described him as being representative of the justice that a father would seek out if his daughter were hurt, a plot point that comes into play from the antihero’s earliest comics against Billy Kincaid. From the beginning, Spawn’s stories felt like an even more mature take on Venom, pushing the safe boundaries set by Marvel and DC and becoming one of the most adult-oriented superhero series in comics.

While McFarlane may have had the idea for the hero when he was a high school kid, Spawn didn’t make his first appearance until 1992’s Spawn #1 (not including the Malibu Comics preview). Spawn was released through the newly created Image Comics, a brand new publisher created by some of Marvel’s most prolific artists at the time. McFarlane, along with Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio, Sam Keith, and Marc Silvestri, bucked the binary Marvel and DC represented and gave readers a third choice. The company was hugely successful, selling millions of copies their first year and maintaining an impressive amount of momentum throughout the ’90s. While Liefeld’s Youngblood and Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. were the company’s best-sellers, Spawn and McFarlane have since become the face of the company, thanks to both longevity and consistency.

Spawn‘s story is simple. He was a professional assassin named Al Simmons who was murdered by his own side. He struck a deal with the devil to become a powerful Hellspawn and became a free agent after realizing he was betrayed. Since then, Spawn has defeated the king of Hell, sealed the gates to Heaven and Hell, and waged a war against both sides, as they’re both mainly trying to become the undisputed dominant force in the universe. Spawn’s origins have changed over the years, but the core of his mission has remained more or less the same. The antihero seeks to protect the souls of humanity from being claimed and controlled by either side of the war between good and evil, especially as the “good” side has turned out to be as morally dubious as its immortal foes.

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Which Universe Does Spawn Fit Better

While Spawn may be published under Image Comics, there’s still an ongoing debate over which other comics universe Spawn fits into better. There are actually aspects of his story and design that point toward both universes. Having been retconned into actually having a symbiote suit in the style of Venom, as well as living in a world based on regular Earth, there are overlaps with Marvel. A simple comparison between Spawn and Venom shows an obvious design overlap and both characters, and spin-off characters like Carnage, share their love for uninhibited violence. However, Al Simmons is much more in control of himself and his abilities than Eddie Brock is with Venom.

Stories like Spawn/Batman, a collaboration between Todd McFarlane and Frank Miller (who had written stories for both Spawn and Batman), made the case for Spawn’s place at DC. Considering the fact Spawn’s earliest creators were largely involved with DC (Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, and Grant Morrison), the universes’ tones certainly match. The world of Spawn’s New York, at least back then, was much closer to the DC’s Gotham than the brighter New York of Marvel. Since the hero has shared a total of three crossovers with Batman, he’d certainly feel more at home in the DCU than he would in the 616. However, his much more lethal tactics, coupled with his often destructive need to control, might be a better fit for Marvel’s darkest corners. Ultimately, more signs point towards DC.

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Spawn’s Comics Today

In modern comics, Spawn is one of the most entertaining indie characters in print. With a growing cast of heroes that includes Medieval Spawn, Gunslinger Spawn, and She-Spawn, he’s helped populate the most dynamic shared universe outside Marvel and DC. He continues to be the face of Image Comics and has been central to many recent company-wide crossovers. Image is known for publishing creator-owned books, such as The Walking Dead, Invincible, and Oblivion Song. With McFarlane still an active creator and leader at Image, he’s been involved both in Spawn and its spin-off books, most notably Gunslinger Spawn with Brett Booth.

Spawn is well worth checking out and the current run being helmed by Rory McConville and Carlo Barberi is one of the best creative arcs on the book since it began. The recent stories have tied the hero’s story back to its origin, placing classic characters into more prominent roles. The universe even has a team-up book, The Scorched (by Sean Lewis & Steven Segovia), an Avengers-style assembly of some of the most heroic Hellspawns in the series. For fans of darker heroes, high stakes, and independent creators, Spawn is the go-to book in any multiverse.

 Spawn is an Image Comics character but he has a lot in common with Marvel’s and DC’s universes and is a radical departure from heroes like Spider-Man.  Read More