By: NEIL KING
Twitter: @neilk34neil Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
DC and Marvel Comics might be the two most powerful names in comic books, but they aren’t always the most important.
This month, a character cloaked in a black and white mask, a huge red cape and chains held that distinction when Image Comics released “Spawn” issue number 250 on Feb. 4.
The longest-running independently written and published comic book series, “Cerebus the Aardvark,” lasted 300 issues.
“Spawn” should reach issue number 301 in just over four years.
In a world of comics known for recycling characters that have been around for over 50 years, having a comic like “Spawn”, which debuted in 1992, reach such a milestone as 250 issues is truly refreshing.
It’s the mom and pop store down the street setting up shop next to a big box store like Wal-Mart and remaining successful.
The success of “Spawn” is inspiring. It’s America.
Todd McFarlane has gone from an artist of Batman and Spiderman to being a folk hero in the comic book community.
“Spawn” doesn’t find its success by being a run-of-the-mill comic. “Spawn” challenges the perception of what creators are allowed to call into question in what some view as a children’s magazine.
McFarlane uses his characters, usually either servants of God or the Devil, to question the world around him and to reimagine theology in various ways.
The images in “Spawn” are more likely to be gruesome than sexy. There are no super-powered heroines in tight spandex with impossibly large breasts or men with sweat-dampened six-pack abs.
“Spawn” addresses matters like suicide and what makes a hero, in darker colors than we’re used to seeing on the comic page.
This means something very special in the world of comics: achieving success with creativity while swimming against the stream is still possible. Artists can still create a new idea in a profession that relies on classic characters to pay the electric bill.
This makes it somewhat tragic that the “Spawn” issue number 250 is bloated with its own dialogue and sub-plot.
This storyline has been coming to a steaming head for some time now. Readers understand the importance of this issue.
Yet, the first 14 or so pages are dedicated to setting the story up.
Again. Sort of.
Those pages also add a plot point, but it’s one that detracts from the action of the book more than adding to the importance of it.
Those same pages don’t sum the story up to this point or help new readers jump on board, but restate the stakes in a way that feels somewhat insulting to the regular reader and suspiciously like fluff.
Maybe McFarlane just wanted his last stab at writing this storyline of “Spawn” to be an extra-long issue and needed a few pages of filler to get it there.
He is having a new creative team take over starting with issue number 251, after all.
Maybe McFarlane wanted to set a precedent of giving character Jim Downing the attention and respect he deserves before the new team takes over.
It feels as though McFarlane, instead of sauntering off into the golden-hued sunset, ends up waddling away like a man who sat right at the buffet.
His overstuffed 250th issue of “Spawn” is still a beacon of originality and hope in the world of comics, but it could have been executed much, much better.
Hopefully, the new creative team will breathe life into the series.