Tag Archives: Image Comics

Spawn 300 End of the Road

Introduction

The Road to Spawn 300 was littered with pot holes and detours. However, we are finally here. And, I have to say, it was worth the wait. Both Chris and I were obviously excited when we heard that Greg Capullo was going to be back for this issue. We both grew up with him as the main artist.

We were both subsequently disappointed because we had somehow convinced ourselves that he was going to be the artist for longer than just the one issue. When we learned that wasn’t going to be the case, I think I suggested that Uncle Todd should sell his McGwire baseball to hire Capullo back as artist.

At least we get him for the next issue, too. Also, he is doing variant covers for the next two. Maybe there is now an open invitation to to covers whenever he wants. As I said to Chris, hope abounds. Now, for my review of Spawn 300. It isn’t exactly like the DC 1000 issues from last year. He invited some other big names to join him. However, the issue followed continuity instead of shorter vignettes. Even so, I will review each story individually like I did with those books.

Chapter 1 (Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo)

The Spawn meter is back. What’s up with that? Oh well, like Chris said, Capullo’s art is going to ruin me for the return to the regular artist. Aside from McFarlane, Capullo’s art is the iconic style for Spawn. The story is just more creepy little girl kills her family nonsense, But, Violator shows up and there’s some gratuitous ultra violence at the end to remind us what Spawn’s all about.

Chapter 2 (Scott Snyder and Todd McFarlane)

I enjoyed the story from this chapter much more than the first one. It called back to a previous battle between the two antagonists and what happened when they “disappeared” from sight and into the shadows. This was probably my favorite story from the whole issue. Scott Snyder definitely shows that he’s a more seasoned writer than Uncle Todd in this one.

Chapter 3 (Todd McFarlane and Jason Shawn Alexander)

Another story that attempts to fill some of the gaps. This one is about the former Spawn enemies that he reanimated to fight on his side. As Chris texted, and I agree, the art style of Jason Shawn Alexander just doesn’t fit Spawn as much as we’d like. But, the story was decent and, unlike Chris, I’m going to keep collecting until the book isn’t produced anymore. In spite of being almost 30 years old under essentially the same creative control that whole time, it is still surprisingly fresh. I want to see where Uncle Todd takes us next.

Chapter 4 (Todd McFarlane and J. Scott Campbell)

The art of this chapter is great. J. Scott Campbell really nails the Spawn style. However, the story is lackluster. I just don’t give a crap about She-Spawn or her story. Alas, it looks like she is here to stay, at least for the next couple of issues, so I’ll have to get over that.

Chapter 5 (Todd McFarlane and Jerome Opena)

A teaser that does exactly that. No idea what it is or means, but I’m intrigued to learn more.

The Verdict

I like what Uncle Todd did with Spawn 300. It is a “historic” issue in that it tied the longest running creator owned comic book. It is also a nice round number that comic book nerds love. Instead of choosing to tell small vignettes as Detective and Action did with their historic 1000 issues, he continued continuity while also setting up future stories.

Overall, the strength of the writing is what we’ve come to expect from Spawn all these years. It is disheartening to be going back to Jason Shawn Alexander’s art after seeing the other interpretations of the Spawn style. Again, I like JSA’s art and I actually really enjoyed it for the Dark Horror storyline. However, it just doesn’t look like the Spawn that I remember from my reckless youth. Oh well, put it in the “get over it” bucket with She-Spawn and enjoy the ride. Here’s to another 300!

Spawn 299 (Spawn Road to 300)

Introduction

Once upon a time, I had a dream to collect all of the Spawn books up to 300 before 300 released. Given that the release schedule of the book has been spotty recently, that might still happen. Since we are already at Spawn 299, however, things look bleak for my modest attempt to have a full run of Spawn right now.

Nevertheless, I have a clear unbroken streak for the last 20 or 25 books and I am actually pretty close to a full run if I could just bring myself to buy a few books at 20 dollars or more. Alas, I am not prepared to do that. So, once again, it looks bleak for our hero. Join me, then, for my review of Spawn 299.

The Great (Spawn has been around for a long time)

Homage Covers – Remember those books I mentioned earlier for 20 dollars or more? Most of them are the original Homage covers from the mid 200s of the series. I did not collect at that time. Therefore, I missed all of those covers. The prices prevent me from pulling the trigger on those books. This time, I decided not to take the chance. Once I realized that Uncle Todd announced homage covers for these books, I made sure to order them all. In fact, issue 300 got me in a way that few other comics have. I ordered 4 or 5 of the different variant covers. That never happens to me.

I swear! This is the first time!

Getting Close to 300 – I mean, 299 is only one less after all. This book represents my teenage rebellion. It brings me back to a simpler time when I had no worries. Spawn is a part of me. It has been for almost 30 years. I’ve been there since the beginning. Reaching this milestone is an incredible experience as evidenced by my crazy variant purchases on the big 300.

The Good (Spawn 299 takes the book back to its roots)

Heaven/Hell War – This book is about a man. A man who was betrayed in life and then again in afterlife. Surrounding that main narrative is a war between Heaven and Hell. Sometimes, this story gets tiresome. Given the “real world” implications made by recent issues, I will take the Heaven/Hell war.

News Anchors – An Uncle Todd specialty. The names of the news organizations might have changed, but the faces have more or less remained the same. I hardly ever read these panels, but they are comforting in a way that I can’t completely explain.

Except this guy. He’s crazy.

The Decent (The inconsistencies are still there in Spawn 299)

Jason Shawn Alexander’s Art – I’ve said it before. I will say it again. I liked JSA as a change up from the hyper realistic art that we are used to seeing in Spawn. However, as the main art, I’m not a fan.

Melodramatic much? I’m not the same angry 13 year old who fell in love with the ultraviolence of Spawn. I’m now an angry 43 year old man who just can’t take the hormonal mood swings of a perpetually adolescent story line.

The Verdict (Spawn 299 is what you’d expect)

I have no idea what Uncle Todd has planned for Spawn 300. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do know that he has some of the talent that has worked on the book in the past to come back and write/draw for the book. What got me most excited is that Capullo has decided to saddle up for at least one book.

Everything that makes Spawn great is still there. Everything that makes Spawn mediocre is still there. It’s all the same book that it always has been and most likely always will be. I will be sure to be there until the end whenever that happens.

Spawn Review (Week of 5/19/19)

Editor’s Note: I haven’t read comics in about six months. Since the only non-Marvel, non-DC book that I consistently collect is Spawn, I will include all of the back issues that I missed in that time. This review covers #289-294. Going forward, I should be able to branch out and include more books in this section of reviews.

Introduction

I have been a fan of Spawn since the beginning. I have discussed on more than one occasion that I remember going into the comic book store as a spry young teenager to see the fresh new #1 comic books from Image. You must understand that this wasn’t at a time when Marvel and DC were rebooting their books every other year and I wasn’t as much of an independent connoisseur as I am these days. That’s not to say that I’m much of one right now. Simply that I knew nothing about them back then. So, these number one books felt special. Hell, they were special to me.

Many of those books are now dead due to their creators not being able to keep up with the rigorous demands of self imposed deadlines or just not being very good. One, in particular, has stood the test of time and kept Image afloat at a time when comic book companies haven’t exactly had the best time of it. That little comic that could is Spawn. I have to admit that I was a bit worried coming back to Spawn after all this time, but those worries are unfounded as you will soon read.

Besides, we are getting Homage covers again. What a time to be alive.

The Good (Spawn is Still Pretty Good)

Spawn is Still Fresh: Sure, it shows some of the wear and tear of any comic book that has been around for over 25 years. But, let’s save the not so good for those sections. This is all about why you should be reading Spawn right now. The book is still telling great stories quite well. The Dark Horror arc is when I started reading again and it kept me interested enough to keep the book on my pull list in spite of some of the judgy looks and comments I got from my LGS clerk at the time. But, that store is out of business now, so who got the last laugh?

I haven’t been as excited about the latest story. That’s more my issue with the inclusion of the current occupant of the white house in the story. I have taken great strides to even forget that he exists. I understand that I might do so to my detriment, but ignorance is bliss as they say. The rest of the story has been fine, I guess.

Honestly, that hair is the most unrealistic thing about this whole story.

Spawn is Including Current Events: That’s not to say that I consider the inclusion of current events as a bad thing. Sure, we’ve had to see the BLotUS in our beloved pages. But I suppose that’s the price to pay for a comic that likes to dabble in real life for inspiration. And, honestly, he’s played a small role in the story. It’s just my issue that I have with the man and his methods. Your mileage, as always, will vary. The current events have gone miles to keeping the story going and fresh. See the previous comment.

The Bad (There are Inconsistencies in Art)

Two Different Artists: Initially, I liked the odd art of Spawn. It was different from what we are used to seeing out of the book. In my experience, it was always a hyper realistic art style. The dream like quality of the fuzzed borders and muted colors were a nice change. However, another has been bringing a more traditional Spawn art style to the book. It has ruined me for Jason Shawn Alexander’s art. However, that all looks to change as Chris texted me the other day to say that Uncle Todd is going to get together with Greg Capullo on a Spawn project. I’m hoping it is an extended run on the main book. But, we will see. Whatever it is, I’m all over it.

The left is what I consider the more traditional style of art for the book while the right is the the the more “fuzzy” art, so to speak. Both definitely have their advantages and disadvantages. I’m just saying that, for my money, I prefer the left. And, this is my article after all.

The Ugly (In Spite of it All, Spawn Feels Dated)

Spawn Feels A Bit Dated: In spite of all of the changes and attempts to keep it fresh, the book is showing its age as I said earlier. The ultraviolence and swearing feels like it is from a different era. As comic fans have shown, there is still an audience for this type of book, but it doesn’t help the stated goal of trying to expand the audience. Sure, you might argue, maybe that’s not a necessary or realistic goal. Realistic? I’m not sure. Necessary? It sure is. Comics and comic book fans are on the endangered list. Okay, I’m done arguing with myself for now.

The Verdict (While Flawed, Spawn is Worth Your Time)

Is the book perfect? No, but few books are. I would argue that right now, Hulk is a perfect book. Batman, when Tom King isn’t writing filler for in between his big and inspired stories, is a perfect book. Other than that, every book has flaws. Spawns are forgivable. The art style is inconsistent. You can argue that isn’t all bad. And, I sort of did. Also, the overall style of the book makes it feel like it is from a different time and speaks more to teenage me than current adult me. Again, we sort of argued that wasn’t all bad.

In spite of these flaws, you should definitely pick up this book. It is still very entertaining and well worth your time. If you can, get started with the Dark Horror storyline and read through. Besides, 300 is only around the corner and you definitely want to get your hands on that. For me, it’s actually more exciting than Detective Comics or Action 1000.

Spawn in 2018

Introduction

Seeing as how we are entering the 3rd week of the new year, I’m a bit behind on my 2018 retrospectives. Better late than never, right? Perhaps not, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. So, without much further ado, let’s start our look back at comics in 2018 with Spawn.

In the past, I might have titled this article as independent books, but probably not. I know that I’ve talked about independent books as a concept in the past. The truth is that I’ve only read Image besides Marvel and DC. Further, I gave up on The Walking Dead. Spawn is the only other Image book in my pull list. Perhaps that says something about the state of Image comics. More likely, it says something about me. Okay, on with the show.

The Good (Spawn in 2018 is surprisingly consistent)

I can’t speak on the past as comic book plots are notoriously inconsistent and require numerous reboots. I will say that, not having read Spawn for the better part of 5 (maybe 10), years, I still understood and followed the plot without a problem. That’s not always the case with some of the more recent attempts to redefine the various Marvel and DC properties.

I never read The New 52, but I’ve read that it was a disaster. Also, Marvel Legacy was pretty much DOA after trying to undo the new heroes they spent several years constructing.

Also, creative teams change quite often. Sure, you have the occasional team that stays together for a few years and writers tend to stick to a title for a long run. However, the recent trend seems to be to shuffle guys from title to title and even from company to company. I’m not sure if this is their attempt to keep things fresh and interesting.

Granted, Spawn isn’t all that different. Though, I will say that in the time I’ve been reading it, the title has had the same writer and artist for most of the issues. Also, Todd McFarlane isn’t as involved as he once was. Still, he writes occasionally and does a variant cover every now and then.

Speaking of variants, in this day and age of overpriced (in my opinion) variants, that hasn’t been the case with Spawn. Seeing as how I’m not quite the variant hawk that Chris is, I might be wrong. However, I am aware of many of the covers available and will buy the ones that I find interesting or attractive. The only variants that I’ve seen for Spawn were for cover price, which is great for a collector on a limited budget like me.

The Bad (Spawn in 2018 is showing its age a bit)

I don’t mean in the Old Man Logan way, either.

Even with all of the good about the comic, Spawn is beginning to show its age a bit. Seeing as how the book is 25 years old, that isn’t a surprise. However, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t notice it while reading the title last year. It is still a fun title in the nostalgia sense, but I don’t know if it is something that would grab my attention if it wasn’t already something that I knew about. It is absolutely a title conceived in another time. This is only a minor gripe as they seem to be in the process of updating the title in terms of style and content. It remains to be seen if that continues.

The only other negative about the title is also nostalgic. Those of us who were there at the beginning of Image remember delay after delay. Some titles came out months after they were scheduled. It did little to dampen my excitement, but others were understandably upset. Most companies have been able to avoid significant delays. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the delays in Spawn if not for the notifications from my online pull list. But, I noticed, and it’s odd that there are shipping delays in the age of on demand printing

The Ugly (Spawn in 2018 is a bargain)

Speaking of bargains, why can’t I get this book for cover price?

How is the comic book being a bargain an ugly? Also, $2.99 for a comic book? Is that really that much of a bargain? Let me answer those questions in reverse order. While I decry the price of comics, they actually haven’t increased as much relative to other things over the last 2 or 3 decades. Would I like nickel or dime comics? Sure, but that’s simply not realistic. Plus, Spawn is on the lower end of the price spectrum.

As far as the ugly, it is alluded to in the picture above. Let’s take one more nostalgic trip back in time. When I started reading Spawn again a couple of years ago, I noticed that it was close to issue #300. That inspired me to try to go back to fill in the issues I was missing. For the most part, that was easy. What is not easy is there is a run of book around the time of the cover in the picture that run anywhere from 20 dollars to over 100. As someone who doesn’t want to pay 3.99 for a book, 20 bucks is way too much. As I said in the previous section, we live in an age of on demand everything. Why can’t they reprint these books so that people can get their hands on them for cheaper than what the secondary market charges?

The Verdict (Spawn in 2018 is still worth collecting)

Sure, it is 25 years old and showing its age. But, they seem to be trying to change that somewhat. As with most renovations in comics, we will see if it continues, but I like what they’re doing so far. Focusing on Spawn’s daughter has proven to be an interesting story. There have been delays recently, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I think that they’ve figured it out and it is just one month delay that has continued for the past few months. The older issues are very expensive, but that’s the same with any collectibles. Overall, the story is strong, the art is cool, and the book is cheap compared to other books on the market today. If you are looking for something new and potentially different from other comic books, definitely pick up the most recent issue.

Image Comics in the 2000s

A Note

We return, perhaps triumphantly, to the content that has made us famous? Well, famous in our circles, anyway. Okay, so it’s not strictly gaming content yet. That’s coming next week. But, it is more a more nerd oriented article. One other is coming later in the week and I’m going to edit a podcast to release this week. We will be back to gaming content with a podcast with the Gamer Bros. and some companion articles.

Introduction

I’ve already taken a trip back to Marvel in the 1990s and 2000s and also DC in the 1990s and 2000s. The one other constant in my comic collecting life has been Image. I’ve also talked about my history with them in the 1990s. All that’s left is a trip to visit Image in the 2000s. Consequently, and not surprisingly, this is that trip.

Marvel’s Civil War got me back into comics in the 2000s. DC’s Infinite Crisis expanded my knowledge of comics to previously unknown characters and stories. Images was more of a habit. I don’t mean to say that I didn’t enjoy the books. It’s just that they weren’t a driving force behind my collecting. As usual, let me explain better.

You’re saying our time meant nothing to you? Um, I, well, no, that’s not what I’m saying. I’d said I’d explain better.

The Walking Dead

Today, The Walking Dead is a big deal. Sure, it’s isn’t as big of a deal as it maybe was 3 or 4 years ago, but it is still on television and my youngest wants to be a zombie for Halloween. So, it’s wormed its way into the public conscience. Back then, it wasn’t nearly as big of a deal. I found the title in a similar manner as the Infinite Crisis. As I wandered through the store looking for Marvel Civil War titles, I saw “The Walking Dead”. Huh, I thought, a comic about zombies. That seems cool.

It seemed even cooler as I read more about it. The writer, Robert Kirkman, sold it as the zombie story that happens after the credits roll in a typical zombie movie. Always on the search for something unique, that intrigued me. Sure, we all love the old school stories like Night of the Living Dead.

Though, if I’m being plainly honest, I’m pretty sure that society would return to normal, a la Shaun of the Dead instead of the post apocalyptic horror that Kirkman presents in his stories.

At least for me though, what kept the zombie genre interesting for so long were the second and third generation stories. Danny Boyle introduced the “not quite zombie” zombie apocalypse. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost gave us a love story–with zombies. Max Brooks wondered how a documentary style zombie apocalypse might look. And Robert Kirkman explored the slow destruction of all semblance of society and found that humans are actually the much bigger threat.

I stayed with The Walking Dead even after my LCS had to close up shop. While I had been buying both issues and trades, I started buying only trades online when the store closed. Eventually, I stopped buying even those. I stopped watching the show for the same reason. In an effort to constantly up the ante, they focused more on shock value than entertainment. They became what most horror becomes. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Aiden asked about AHS the other day because we’re introducing him to the genre. Christine said something and I more or less echoed her thoughts. The first season was good, the second season was okay, and the rest of them were not worth watching.

Spawn

The only other Image book that I collected at this time was Spawn. I often talk about my history of comics as beginning with Marvel Comics. While that isn’t strictly untrue, it wasn’t actually comics that served as my introduction. Instead, as I suspect it is with many people my age, I discovered comics through campy 70s and 80s television shows.

My true introduction to actual comics came in the 1990s. As a result, my first comic book love belongs to Spawn. It probably doesn’t seem like it now, but the book was groundbreaking. One, it almost single handedly kept Image viable during those lean early years. That’s not entirely what I mean.

Image seemed like such a good idea. It was sold so well that they got many industry giants to buy into it. While initially, it looked like the whole experiment might blow up in their faces, they eventually figured out who they are.

 

Many things that we take for granted in comics today originated in Spawn. Instead of newsprint, he opted for the glossy magazine type paper that allowed for sharper lines and more vibrant colors. This showcased his art in a way that made the book feel like, well, art. Gone were the days of the funny books. Instead, comics became eye catching and true collector’s items. Also, does anyone remember the CCA? G? The fact that I can’t even remember the letters even though I grew up under the tyranny of that all seeing logo shows that most younger fans probably don’t know what I’m talking about. We owe at least some of that to Uncle Todd and Image telling them to shove it.

The Verdict

The Walking Dead and Spawn. Two books that kept an entire publisher relevant for me for a few years. They’ve always been a smaller studio and creator driven. Other than those two, not much else from Image has crossed over into other pop culture like Marvel and DC. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. As DC has shown, it’s not easy to make quality comic book movies. Then again, Marvel does have a decade head start on them. Not all of those early Marvel efforts are masterpieces, either.

However, this article isn’t about Marvel or DC. So, let’s get back on track. The only reason I mention movies is that there are plans for another Spawn movie. Alas, in a couple of weeks or months, I will talk about that. For now, I will praise Image as the little studio that could.

Just chug-chug-chugging along.

They were born out of the ashes of a colossal exodus of talent from the big two. They survived on the back of Spawn and later The Walking Dead. 20 years later, they seem to have found their niche as the place for writers and artists to go to test out new ideas and work on projects that didn’t quite fill the traditional mold. Sure there are others in this space, but Image is the undisputed king.

Image Comics in the 1990s

Introduction

I already wrote articles for Marvel and DC in the 1990s. Well then you might think, that’s it. You’re all done. Oh, you silly person. You have clearly forgotten the indy comic book scene. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. You need to establish your mainstream cred first before you branch off into the lesser known aspects of a culture. To be honest, you probably didn’t say any of that. But, as long as we are being honest, I didn’t even know of any comic companies other than Marvel and DC until I got introduced to Image Comics.

I got introduced to Image when Image introduced themselves to the world. Yep, I was there from the beginning. I knew nothing about the story of disgruntled Marvel and DC talent leaving the companies to start their own company. I just walked into the comic book store and saw these shiny new books. Sure, they were more expensive than the Marvel and DC books, but, shiny.

And we all know how I feel about shiny.

Which of these shiny new books did I buy? Initially, all of them. Every single one. That’s not an exaggeration. Understanding that the number 1 is a very special number in comic books, I got every first issue of the Image comics that came out. For some books, those were the only issues that I bought. Others, I kept buying in hopes that they’d grow on me. Not many did. There were only a few that I collected on a regular basis.

Image Comics in the 1990s

First was Pitt. I like Dale Keown’s art and I collected the book mostly for that. Chris and I have talked a few times about the book and I mentioned how it was one of the Image titles that I kept collecting and even replaced in my collection a few years ago. More recently, I had to admit to him that I’ve only ever read the first issue. Shame! Shame the nerd!

But, that art,. Like I’m the first nerd to be bamboozled by a pretty face.

The second book that I collected regularly (and continue to collect to this day) is Spawn. There seems to be a lot of hatred for Todd McFarlane in the community, but Chris and I both agree that he is one of the artists who helped to usher in the modern era of comic book art. Like many of the early Image books, his writing isn’t as strong as the art, but the Spawn story is fun enough for me to keep reading. Also, as he has grown, he’s been more willing to give up writing duties to more established writers and that has helped.

Finally, we come to probably my favorite comic book ever created. I had never heard of Sam Kieth before his work at Image, but I have become a life long fan. In fact, I recently also became a fan of John Layman as a result of Sam Kieth doing the art for his mini series Eleanor and the Egret. This all started with a comic book about a homeless man’s delusions of being a hero. The Maxx was unlike anything that I’d ever read in a comic book before. Considering the current comic book environment, it was just ahead of its time.

Image Comics in TV and Movies

We’ve already established that unlike Marvel and DC, I discovered Image through the comic books. However, it did not take long for popular culture to catch up and put the independent guys on televisions and movie screens. In some ways, these movies and TV shows helped to usher in a more modern era in much the same way that Image Comics pushed the comic book industry. Chief among the ones that I remember are the Spawn and Maxx animated series and the Spawn movie.

I just found out that a DVD exists of The Maxx. Time for a search.

HBO commissioned the Spawn cartoon, allowing for all of the dirty bits to be included. While it has been too long for me to remember specifics, I do remember that I enjoyed the cartoon very much at the time. A quick search confirms that assessment. The show won an Emmy at the time. Not to be outdone, Hollywood hitched their wagon to the Spawn money train and released a movie.  Again, I don’t remember specifics, but I don’t remember it being very good. It wasn’t bad, either, just one of those forgettable movies from my childhood. One thing that it did was show that comic book movies could be successful. We are a bit spoiled today, but there was a time when all comic book movies were as bad as current DC movies. (*cheap shot*)

Finally, I want to talk about The Maxx animated series. This one was on MTV during the first wave of people complaining, “Remember when MTV showed music videos?” The cartoon was just as weird and wonderful as the comic book. Additionally, it was part of an animation revolution that reverberates today.

The Verdict

I haven’t gone back to revisit these comic books as I have with some of the other entertainment that I enjoyed in my teenage years to see if they hold up. When I read The Stand again (well, I listened to the audiobook) a few months ago, I made the comment to Kevin that the story is so multilayered that I’ve been able to find a new way to enjoy the book; once as a teenager, once as a twenty something, and finally as a 42 year old father. The exact same can’t be said for The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or the Dragonlance novels that I’ve reread, but I do still enjoy them both just as much as then.

I even picked up my old 2099 books in anticipation of recording the podcast with Chris tomorrow. While not as entertaining as some of the others, it’s still been a fun trip down memory lane. Reading them has made me think about reading Spawn and maybe even The Maxx with new eyes. Part of me is afraid that it will ruin the memory as Chris and I will discuss happened with him and the 2099 series when he read it recently.

Besides, if this is to be believed, I’ll have all new The Maxx to enjoy soon ™ enough.