Spawn is a fictional character appearing in a monthly comic book of the same name published by American company Image Comics, as well as in a number of films, television series, and video game adaptations set in the Image Universe. Created by Todd McFarlane, the character first appeared in Spawn (May 1992).
The series has spun off several other comics, including Angela, Curse of the Spawn, Sam & Twitch, and the Japanese manga Shadows of Spawn. Spawn was adapted into a 1997 feature film and portrayed by Michael Jai White, an HBO animated series lasting from 1997 until 1999, a series of action figures whose high level of detail made McFarlane Toys known in the toy industry, and a reboot film starring Jamie Foxx and Jeremy Renner. The character also appears in annual compilations, miniseries specials written by guest authors and artists, and numerous crossover storylines in other comic books, including Savage Dragon and Invincible.Todd McFarlane began drawing as a hobby at an early age, and created the character Spawn when he was 16, spending “countless hours” perfecting the appearance of each component of the character’s visual design.
Spawn enjoyed considerable popularity upon its initial release in the 1990s. Comic book collecting was enjoying a marked upswing at the time, fueled by the speculator boom looking for the next hot book that would jump in value after its release. McFarlane had enjoyed superstar status among comic fans with his work on Spider-Man, which had featured McFarlane’s name prominently as both writer and artist. McFarlane’s subsequent break with Marvel and the formation of Image Comics was seen by many as a sea-change event, changing the very way in which comics were produced. Wizard, in May 2008, rated “The Launch of Image Comics” as 1 in the list of events that rocked the Comic Industry from 1991 to 2008. The first issue of Spawn was very popular with sales of 1.7 million copies. During Spawn’s second year of publication, Wizard noted that “The top dog at Image is undoubtedly Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, which, without the added marketing push of fancy covers, polybagged issues, or card inserts has become the best-selling comic on a consistent basis that is currently being published.” Sales slumped around the time of Spawn 25, but by Spawn 45 it was again a consistently strong seller.
The popularity of the franchise peaked with the 1997 Spawn feature film, the pre-release publicity for which helped make Spawn the top selling comic book for May 1997; in addition, the spin-off Curse of the Spawn 9 came in at fifth best-selling for the same month. However, the film was only a mild commercial success and failed to start a film franchise based on the character. A 2008 issue, Spawn 174, ranked 99th best-selling comic of the month with retail orders of 22,667. In October 2008, issue 185, which marked both a new creative direction and Todd McFarlane’s return to the book, sold out at the distribution level and received a second printing. By issue 191 in May 2009, with estimated sales of 19,803 copies, Spawn had dropped below Top 100 titles sold monthly to comic shops as reported by Diamond Comic Distributors. As of September 2010, Spawn was ranked at 115 in the top 300 sales figures chart reported by Diamond Comic Distributors. On the day of its release in 2011, issue 200 sold out. This issue featured work by Greg Capullo, David Finch, Michael Golden, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Danny Miki, and Ashley Wood. A second printing was released the next month. It received a negative review from IGN.