Credits: Dave Sim (writer), Todd McFarlane (art), Tom Orzechowski (letters and editor), Steve Oliff, Reuben Rude, & Olyoptics (colors)
Summary: The Spawn/Not Spawn that is Todd McFarlane teleports to Erebus, the mysterious seventh level of Hell. There, he encounters comic creators lined up to be executed, while their creations are kept in prison. They endow Spawn with all of their powers, but he is unable to free them. Spawn is called away by Cerebus, who takes him through his black and white world. Cerebus then guides him to Todd McFarlane’s home, where Spawn meets his daughter, Cyan. Cerebus says goodbye as Todd’s wife Wanda returns home.
Spawntinuity: The opening narration drops hints about everything Todd McFarlane knows about Spawn’s world, including the fact that Spawn’s home in the alleyways “existed before the city itself did.” Years later, McFarlane will begin to drop hints that the alleyways have some mystical connection. There’s also an ominous hint about what will happen when Spawn visits Al Simmons’ grave, which eventually happens during Grant Morrison’s run.
Spawn vs. Lawyers: McFarlane was one of the first publishers to make sure every issue of his series stayed in print, although this was the lone issue that he avoided reprinting. When asked, he simply said that it didn’t fit into the Spawn storyline, which isn’t much of an explanation (Frank Miller’s fill-in certainly doesn’t have anything to do with the ongoing storylines, but it’s still in print). Recently, Sim and McFarlane announced that they would both be reprinting this issue, which perhaps confirms rumors that the story wasn’t reprinted due to a disagreement between the pair.
Review: Since this is more of an essay than an actual story, it’s hard to write a true review of it. Cerebus was already the longest-running independent comic by the time this issue was published, and since McFarlane was openly following in Sims’ footsteps, a Cerebus crossover seemed like a good idea. (I’ll admit that the only Cerebus comics I own are his crossovers with Spawn and the Ninja Turtles. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a Cerebus comic in any of the tiny comic shops I’ve frequented).
Maybe this issue seemed like a bold statement in 1993, but time has certainly blunted whatever impact it might’ve had. Since this comic was published, Todd McFarlane has been involved in a lengthy court battle involving the rights to the characters introduced in the previous issue, the creative team of Spawn has mostly consisted of hired freelancers, and this specific issue has remained out of print for mysterious reasons. I don’t personally care if McFarlane farms out Spawn, and I’m not blindly on Neil Gaiman’s side of the lawsuit, but it’s hard to think of Spawn as a deep statement about creator’s rights. As much as fandom might’ve proclaimed to care about this in the early ‘90s, I think it’s telling that the corporate-owned superheroes still rule the top 100 while most creator-owned titles are barely able to turn a profit. Robert Kirkman tried to revive this argument a while back, and the response from most creators seemed to be along the lines of “oh, that kid’s adorable.”
I’m not denying that many creative people have gotten the shaft over the years, but the amount of outrage this comic dedicates to this issue seems excessive. Around fifty percent of the world’s population lives on two dollars a day. Girls walking to school in some countries have acid thrown in their faces. People who speak out against corrupt governments, or just own certain books, are being executed. I can accept a maudlin, overblown “issues” comic about those topics. Comic creators getting screwed? It’s sad, but treating it as if it’s the world’s greatest injustice is a little much.