2021 will be The Year of Spawn, and by the time it's over, the character will have a much bigger footprint in the comics market and a bigger universe surrounding him. That's because this afternoon, Image Comics President and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane announced his intent creating his own multi-character, interconnected comic book universe. The goal, McFarlane and Image say, is to establish a shared fictional universe over time, in the vein of what the other comic industry giants, Marvel, and DC Comics, have accomplished with their comic book universes. The plan is to have four ongoing series set in the Spawn Universe by the end of 2021.
McFarlane made the announcement during a first-look presentation to the Direct Market Retailers at the Annual ComicsPRO Conference. The character of Spawn will be at the forefront of the initial launch of new titles, but the long-term goal is that Spawn will become but one of many characters with potential to headline projects not only in the comics industry but in many mediums across the globe.
McFarlane's plan is to capitalize on the huge success that Spawn has seen in the last year or so. The series, which recently broke Cerberus's record as the longest-running indie comic of all time, has seen sales increase between 150 to 600% from pre-pandemic orders, transforming the long-running supernatural adventure comic into a top 5 monthly selling title on the Diamond Distributors Top 100 Chart.
McFarlane also recently released a Spawn figure on Kickstarter set that set a new Kickstarter record, in its category, for raising just under $3.5 million in 30 days. That figure was also recently awarded the People's Choice 2021 Toy Of The Year (TOTY) by The Toy Association, Inc.
As part of his announcement, McFarlane announced four new titles coming out in 2021, with three of them continuing on as regular monthly titles, meaning that there will be an opportunity for fans of the Spawn character and his new expanding world, to get their stories from it on a weekly basis in the coming months and years, not unlike how the Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman titles functioned in the comics heyday of the '90s.
To lend a creative hand on some of this expanding list of titles, McFarlane has recruited. An all-star list of comic book creators such as Art Adams, Jason Shawn Alexander, Carlo Barberi, Brett Booth, J. Scott Campbell, Greg Capullo, Donny Cates, Jim Cheung, Mike del Mundo, Javier Fernandez, David Finch, Jonathan Glapion, Kevin Keane, Aleš Kot, Puppeteer Lee, Sean Lewis, Sean Gordon Murphy, Ben Oliver, Stephen Segovia, Paulo Siqueira, Marc Silvestri,Marcio Takara and Frank Quitely, as well as others he will be announcing in the coming months.
The Year of Spawn
The Year of Spawn begins in earnest in June with Spawn's Universe #1, a book that will set the stage with a story that will then spill out into the other new monthly titles. The first of which release in August with a book called King Spawn #1. These releases will mark the first time in twenty-eight years that fans can get their hands on a new, monthly issue #1 of a Spawn book. In October comes the second new monthly called Gunslinger Spawn.
Finally, there will be a new #1 team book, titled The Scorched, which will band five characters together to fight against forces too big for any of them to take on alone. Spawn, Redeemer, Gunslinger, Medieval Spawn and She-Spawn begin the groups adventures, but McFarlane promises a rotating cast of heroes over the coming months to keep the roster of heroes fresh. He also said that he will be bringing in new major villains into the fold, too.prevnext
All of this just continued to build on the mythology of Spawn and his world. The original Spawn book is one of the world's bestselling and longest-running comics, with over 100 million copies sold in more than 120 countries.
"This to me is number three," McFarlane told ComicBook, suggesting that the series' first issue was the first step, and the record-breaking 300th was the second. "If I do my job right, we will be looking back 10, 20 years from now on 2021 as one of the seminal moments in my comic book career. This is how big it is, that I'm contemplating it in my head. And I'm not saying that it will launch to that -- but just like nobody knew what Spawn was going to be after a couple of issues, if I do my job right 10 years from now, there will be a dozen, if not dozens, of books and hundreds of characters. And this was the official beginning of that quest to see if it can be done again."prevnext
The idea of expanding Image's superhero universe isn't unique to McFarlane; just yesterday, the publisher announced that the Free Comic Book Day title coming out in May would be North Force #0, a reworked version of an upcoming issue of Savage Dragon that shines a spotlight on a number of other Image superheroes owned and written by Erik Larsen.
"This isn't about just a Spawn story and expanding Spawn," McFarlane explained. "This is expanding creativity, and/or possibility on multiple mediums in the future. The goal is to create possibilities. And the possibilities aren't going to come unless you've got the characters and you've got the foundation....All of it adds up to other companies and corporations, and eyeballs and fans looking at this brand and saying, 'What else you got?'"prevnext
Jim Cheung's Spawn 1/2
McFarlane has always had a big, complex world around Spawn -- heck, most of those variant Spawn characters are beings that launched out of the first couple of years of Spawn, along with dozens of others set in various different centuries throughout history. The idea here is to take all of that to the next level.
"There is a much bigger machine behind that character than you guys can imagine," McFarlane teased. "I'm going to introduce people on a regular basis, monthly, to some of them. And within years, I'm hoping each one of those books multiplies into hundreds of new characters too."prevnext
Jim Cheung's Spawn 2/2
McFarlane notes, though, that the expansion of the universe -- and the expansion of the publishing line -- is something entirely new in a way that fans might not immediately realize, considering how expansive he has tried to make it feel in the past. But there's a difference between doing Medieval Spawn and Gunslinger Spawn...and a universe of dozens of characters.
"I've done a miniseries here or whatever, something here, something there. What I haven't done in 28 years, almost three decades now, is a second monthly book," McFarlane said. "To people that may not sort of be producing a comic book, that's a marked difference, just in terms of just the workload. But now, I'm not talking about a second monthly book, I'm talking about a third and a fourth. So that by the end of this year, there will be four of them, four monthlies. You can come in every week, if you want to get your Spawn fix, and I don't mean Spawn himself. In a weird way, Spawn may become a generic term, because it's just the guy who became the catalyst to start this play that hopefully will be littered with thousands of characters, of which only about a small fraction will have anything to do with Spawn. Because otherwise, why do I want to keep repeating the same idea?"prevnext
Spawn's Universe #1, Page 2
Even though he's looking to Marvel and DC's interconnected, shared universes to inspire what he's trying to do, McFarlane says one thing he doesn't want to do is create the elaborate and sometimes baffling webs of continuity that those publishers struggle with.
"I don't want these books to be slavish to continuity, but I want them to acknowledge that they're all playing in the same sandbox, that it is a shared universe," McFarlane said. "And so, with that, there still has to be some oversight, to make sure you're not breaking any rules as you go along, from one book to the other. You and I and every other fan that's ever collected for any period of time, we understand in shared universes, things are going on in different books, and we don't need to be hit over the head with it. Sometimes it doesn't even have to be aggressive continuity. It just has to be sometimes a wink."prevnext
Spawn's Universe #1, Page 2
McFarlane said that he hates the idea of talking about "event books," but it's kind of a necessary evil when talking about the Spawn's Universe one-shot. He calls the book a "table-setter," not unlike DC Universe: Rebirth #1 or something in that vein. It will set the stage for what's next, and help fans get introduced to the characters.
"This is story is going to be multi-chaptered, and it's going to basically set sort of the prologue of what this event that's happening is," McFarlane explained. "Again, it's not going to be cataclysmic or anything like that, but an event is going to happen that basically, at the end of some of the chapters, it's going to say, 'And to get sort of further details, look for some of it in this new upcoming book, in this upcoming book, in this upcoming book.'"
By that time, fans will start to get titles, creative teams, and premises fast and furious.
"Spawn's Universe is coming in June," McFarlane said. "And then from there, every other month, till the end of the year, a new number one monthly will come out."prevnext
Spawn's Universe #1, Page 4
McFarlane has lofty plans for the line, which he thinks can eventually start to drop "Spawn" from some of the titles, with it serving simply as the world, and the character names not requiring it on the cover of the books after a while.
"I've got Gunslinger Spawn," McFarlane explained. "And I'm hoping if I do my job right, that in some point in the future I can drop the word Spawn off that title, that people will refer to him, they will like that character so much, I will modify his costume slightly, to push even further away from the original Spawn, that people just go, 'Man, that Gunslinger guy, he's badass.' Or they're saying, 'Of all the Spawns, that dude is the coolest,' right?"
He has a pretty clear breakdown for anybody who's still confused as to how it's all going to shake out.
"So Spawn's Universe is June," McFarlane laid out. "King Spawn is August. Gunslinger is October. And then December -- so by the end of this year, then I'll have completed my master plan, my evil plan -- is the team book, the team book that I'm calling The Scorched. The concept is, they've all been burned at some point in their life, and I can use that in a lot of different ways. That, that will be, of the three monthlies, will be the closest to sort of classic superhero stuff, because it will be a team book. I mean, and the characters, one of them will be Gunslinger. If you like Gunslinger, you're going to be there. If you like Spawn, you'll be there. And then a couple others. And then there's going to be a couple characters that are non-Spawns. As I go forward and sort of start rotating them out, then you'll probably see less reliance on sort of Spawn related characters, if you will. I mean, I'll let the readers tell me who they like and who they don't like. But it was one of the reasons why initially I had this sort of title called Chain Gang, because the Spawns have chains. But I go, if they're not going to be Spawns, and they're not going to be related to him and all this, that metaphor, that sort of double-meaning for that might lose its meaning. Where The Scorched to me, can apply almost to every human being at some point in your life. So I landed on that title instead."prevnext
Spawn's Universe #1, Page 6-70comments
In 2019, McFarlane made history with the release of the historic Spawn #300 and record-breaking Spawn #301. These milestones have earned McFarlane the Guinness World Records title for the world's longest-running creator-owned comic book series. Spawn #300 became the 2nd highest-selling comic title and was also the only character to place two of its issues in the Top 11 for highest-selling issues for that year.
A new movie version of Spawn is currently in development with BlumHouse Studios, Jamie Foxx, and Jeremy Renner, all attached to the project, and McFarlane will be making his directorial debut on the film when it goes into production.prev