Monday, August 9, 2010

Spawns Of Future Past

So recently you may've heard about the whole McFarlane/Gaiman Spawn legal carryon. There's been excellent coverage on a blog here. The purpose of this post is to refute a couple of points made by others in the comment section, since I can't post pictures over there. So to begin...

Lambtoons: "The only artwork for Dark Ages Spawn that looked remotely like Medieval Spawn was McFarlane's variant cover to #1 which only showed an extreme close up of the face"

I respectfully disagree, and I'll show you why. Below left, Medieval Spawn as originally presented. On the right a revision of the original design, making it a bit edgier. In the middle, the cover to Dark Ages #1 (regular edition), featuring what is supposed to be a different character.

I've circled some common elements. Now I'll grant you, spiky legs/shoulders/forearms are a feature of your standard Spawn costume. There are two major reasons why I think they are similar enough for one to be derrivative of the other:

1) The face plate. Yes, it's the standard Spawn-type face, but that presented as a metal faceplate to me indicates a connection (no not just on it's own, I mean as a sum of the costume). Are they a bit different? Sure they are. However, to my mind this was merely an evolution in the design, due in large part to a desire to make Dark Ages edgy and, well, dark. If you look at the changes in the way Al Simmons Spawn has been presented over the years, his design underwent many changes, as did the mood of the comic. With the evolution of various titles like "Hellspawn", "Curse of the Spawn", "Spawn the undead" etc which significantly increased the dark atmosphere of the original concept, I do not believe it is a big stretch to look at the middle picture and think something along the lines of "damn, they just made Medieval Spawn look a whole lot tougher".

2) The chest design. This is the standard design for spawns also. However, where I see the similarity is this- the blue armour, white edging, and red centre. 99% of other spawns we've seen have black clothing. In this case, we have two characters. Both presented as knights. Both from seemingly similar time periods (semantics aside). Both in BLUE armour, with white and red markings.

It's my contention that the above two elements, when combined with each other, and when taken in the larger context of the overall presentation of the suit, are similar. Which is where the problem lies. As someone who collected Spawn for over 10 years or so (including a ton of cards and toys), Dark Ages at the time, and still now, looks to me like merely a grittier update of the Medieval Spawn armour.

Also worth noting, the Dark Ages Spawn costume evolved quite rapidly in the course of the comic, to where, if memory serves, it looked quite different. However, the above costume from issue #1 was also used on the cover of issue #2. Whatever evolution took place, I believe it's initial presentation was close to that of Medieval Spawn. Which is what the court case was about- is DAspawn derivative of Mspawn. In his first few appearances (atleast visually, I'm not inclined to re-read the series, if I even still have it), the answer has to be yes, in my opinion. A character will develop his own feel over time, but in his initial presentation, I see Medieval Spawn, not a distinctly different character.

Lambtoons: "No one who collected the series and read it was given the wrong impression that they were selling Medieval Spawn repackaged"

I'd actually argue that's exactly what they were doing, atleast at the start. It makes commercial sense- package something in a way that's recognisable. Medieval Spawn was a popular character despite (or perhaps thanks to) only appearing in 3 (?) issues. To make a new product instantly entice readers, having him look similar makes total sense. Once people step through the door, then you can turn the tables on them and present your ideas. Certainly all the publicity leading up to the first issue, as I remember it, did little to dispell the idea that it was Medieval Spawn. Now, once the series got going, maybe it quickly became apparent it was a different character (I don't remember). But in the initial stages, I stand by my assertion.

Just in closing, I'd like to make clear this is not a pro-Gaiman/anti-McFarlane thing on my part, I just happen to agree with the Judge's ruling. I've read maybe a half dozen comics by Gaiman post-Sandman. I still have a strong affection for Al Simmons, despite having walked away from Spawn several years ago (I'm about to start binding my Spawn collection, and considering picking up all the missing issues just to complete the Al Simmons story). Just thought I'd throw that out there, since experience teaches these things can easily become about which side you're on. I'm on the side of good comics.

1 comment:

lambtoons said...

Like you said everything remotely similar is standard on every Spawn. Spikes, skulls, the "M". Oddly enough the mask here is totally different though from that pic you can't really tell but on # 2 you can tell it doesn't really have the Spawn symbol it's more of a skull with a bat-wing like shape on the side. To me his mask is closer in looks to Impaler Spawn then any other Spawn

Also note he doesn't even have full body armor on him. Something that was heavily pushed by Gaiman's lawyers was that he was a Spawn in armor. Well depicted here he has the same amount of armor as the original Spawn has from #32 on. His chest,stomach,upper arms are all bear just like the original Spawn.

Again is doesn't really matter because the suit can take any shape and it's still the same creature. No matter if like on Dark Ages Spawn and Spawn it's depicted as skin tight or on Medieval Spawn as having the appearance of full body armor.

The spikes are way bigger and look more like the teeth of some hell creature then actually spikes even. If I remember correctly I believe Alan Moore came up with the idea that the spikes were k-7's teeth.

The boot you pointed out in the revised Medieval Spawn looks more like the boot on Spawn from 32 on then anything shown on Dark Ages Spawn.

As you said this was the beginning of the Dark Ages book. It makes sense that all Spawn suits could start out having basic elements in common with the original Spawn then evolve over the course of the book to look totally different and unique.

Here's a page that shows the covers

Here's a detailed figure based on cover # 1