Monday, February 8, 2010

SPAWN #9 - March 1993


Credits: Neil Gaiman (writer), Todd McFarlane (art), Tom Orzechowski (letters and editor), Steve Oliff, Reuben Rude, & Olyoptics (colors),

Summary: 800 years in the past, Angela hunts the Medieval Spawn. With her lance, she removes him from this plane of existence. In the present, she arrives in New York to hunt the latest Spawn. Meanwhile, a bum named Cagliostro teaches Spawn how to draw power from his uniform, and drops hints about Spawn’s past. Angela arrives and blasts Spawn with her lance. He emerges from his cape and pulls her inside. She flies away in a flash of light. Spawn picks up the lance she left behind and pushes a button on the side. He suddenly disappears.

Spawntinuity: This is the first appearance of Angela, Medieval Spawn, and Count Nicholas Cagliostro. Angela is the Spawn universe’s version of an angel. She reports to an office building in New York, run by a woman named Gabrielle. According to Angela’s hunting manual, Malebolgia creates a new Spawn approximately every century. It also says that Hellspawn that don’t prove themselves on Earth become food for Malebolgia’s army. Cagliostro disappears for a while, but later becomes a major character in the comics and various Spawn media (he’s also quietly renamed “Cogliostro.”) He teaches Spawn how to create inanimate objects (in this case, a box of wine), which is a power that’s soon ignored. Cagliostro has an informal, casual speech pattern here that’s ignored when he becomes a major character. Neil Gaiman portrays Spawn’s homeless friends as scandalous celebrities, such as Richard Nixon, Jimmy Hoffa, and Elvis. Everyone else ignores this joke.

Spawn vs. Lawyers: Oooookay. Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane appeared to have a good relationship until the late ‘90s, when McFarlane began using Angela in comics not written by Gaiman. I don’t know if this specifically set anything off, but a few years later Gaiman was suing McFarlane over the rights to Angela, Medieval Spawn, and Cogliostro. This dragged on for years, and somehow the rights to Marvelman/Miracelman got tied up in the affair.

The Big Names: Jim Lee draws an Angela poster. Alan Moore is announced as the writer of the upcoming Violator miniseries.

Production Note: The book is now printed on slick, higher quality paper.

Review: It’s the comic that launched a thousand lawsuits. I’m not sure if McFarlane even reprints this issue anymore, but it’s hard to see how he can avoid it since Angela and especially Cogliostro become major characters as the series progresses. Gaiman seems to be having fun with the new universe of Spawn, exploring some of the obvious areas McFarlane hasn’t gotten to yet. If Spawn comes from Hell, who represents Heaven in this world? What were the previous Spawns like? What happens when a Spawn goes back to Hell? (This is one of the holes with the premise McFarlane established early on. Regardless of what Spawn does on Earth, even if he’s proven “worthy” to lead an army, he’s still destined to go back to Hell. What’s worse than already being dead and damned? Gaiman specifies that he’ll become sustenance for Malebolgia’s forces, which means Malebolgia wins either way). Plus, as McFarlane and future writers will learn years later, the idea of a mysterious bum who acts a guide to Spawn is a strong one with a lot of potential. There are a lot of ideas here, even though the structure of the story is a little odd. Most of the story is spent building up to Angela’s confrontation with Spawn, but by the time she reaches him, the comic only has a few pages left. What exactly happens with Spawn disappearing into his cape and then pulling Angela in doesn’t make sense, and then she just disappears. The next page, Spawn disappears, leading into the Dave Sim issue.

Even with the choppy ending, this is still enjoyable. Gaiman doesn’t do much with the current-day Spawn, but he makes Medieval Spawn a sympathetic figure in just a few pages. Angela is a character I’ve always liked, at least when Gaiman writes her. She could be a stereotypical warrior female, but Gaiman gives her a sense of humor, and manages to make her brashness and egotism endearing. Having her hunt Spawns for the thrill of the hunt and not as a zealot is a clever inversion on what you would expect an angel to do in this series. Visually, I wonder if McFarlane based Angela on his interpretation of Mary Jane Watson-Parker (his makeover of the character received a lot of attention at the time). I don’t know that much about his lawsuit with McFarlane, but I wonder if Gaiman demands full rights to Angela. Shouldn’t McFarlane at least be credited as a co-creator for designing her?

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