Spawn was created by Todd Macfarlane. In a world where the majority of well-known or well-liked superheroes are usually created by either Marvel or DC, it comes to no surprise that upon discovering Spawn, one of the most popular questions to ask is: Is Spawn Marvel or DC?
To answer this question properly, we will first need to explain a little bit about who Spawn is, who Todd Macfarlane is, and how Spawn came to be.
The Character Of Spawn
Before becoming a Hellspawn, Al Simmons was a CIA assassin. The director of the CIA, Jason Wynn, decides to hire Bruce Stinson, Simmons’ friend, to assassinate him because of numerous disagreements between Wynn and Simmons.
Stinson assassinates Simmons and Simmons is burnt to death and sent to hell. Whilst in Hell, Simmons makes a deal with the devil, a character known as Malebolgia, the ruler of the eighth realm of hell.
This deal requires Simmons to become a Hellspawn, in exchange for Simmons to see his wife, one last time.
Malebolgia’s name was inspired by Dante’s ‘Inferno’. Malebolgia was Spawn’s master and creator and is one of the Lords of Hell within the series.
Malebolgia could be considered to be one of the equivalents to Satan within the Spawn universe. He is one of the numerous leaders of Hell and is responsible for creating Hellspawn, which is how Spawn came to be.
Malebolgia was created by his predecessor, Leviathan – Leviathan also created Necroplasm. Malebolgia rises and defeats his master, effectively usurping him and taking the throne of the Eighth Sphere of Hell for himself.
Most Hellspawn’s are creatures that were previously human. The humans go to Hell and make bargains that require them to become Hellspawn to go back to Earth.
Hellspawn are controlled by Malebolgia and are full of dark energy called Necroplasm. When the Hellspawn are in Hell, the power the Necroplasm provides is infinite, however when outside of hell the Hellspawn are weakened and this power doesn’t last anywhere near as long.
The deals that the Hellspawn make with Malebolgia normally put the Hellspawn at a disadvantage, as the Hellspawn wouldn’t be returned to the same period on Earth that they had left it in.
Years could pass, meaning that the goals the Hellspawn might have had in mind when making the bargain with Malebolgia would normally be unattainable.
This is the case of Simmons, as he makes the deal with Malebolgia so that he can see his wife, Wanda Blake, again. Malebolgia returns Simmons to Earth five years into the future, without any memories apart from his name and a brief recollection of the fact that he had died.
Spawn’s Return To Earth
After a period of time experiencing flashbacks that would give him clues as to what his former life was like, he remembers the deal he made with Malebolgia.
Despite this, he is still unable to remember his wife’s name and instead resorts to using CIA files to find her. He discovers that his wife has married his previous best friend, Terry, and has had a daughter with him.
This is when Simmons realises the amount of time that has passed since his death.
Spawn then encounters another Hellspawn – this is where he fully discovers what being a Hellspawn entails. The Hellspawn explains that Necroplasm is the fuel behind his powers and that once any Necroplasm that he has whilst on Earth runs out, he will be returned to hell.
This leads Spawn to attempt to lead a life that requires him to use as little of his Necroplasm as possible, in order to avoid returning to Hell.
This is when Spawn truly begins his journey as an anti-hero, using his abilities as a Hellspawn to fight evil criminals, ranging from street thugs to paedophiles.
It might be worth mentioning that this is an example of the type of graphic content that Marvel seemed to disapprove of, as the adult themes that McFarlane will often incorporate into his storylines can be considered inappropriate for certain audiences, especially the children that comics such as Spider-Man might be appealing to.
Spawn later discovers the power of his symbiotic armour – he has an armour that will adapt itself and take action to protect its host.
An example of how the armour works could be his first metamorphosis, after which his suit becomes even better – he obtains a new cape, alongside chains that can change their shape and disorientate certain opponents that Spawn might come head-to-head with.
As well as this, the suit can feed off of souls, and his boots and gloves both become spikes.
Who Is Todd McFarlane?
Todd McFarlane, born in 1961, is an extremely well-known comic book artist and writer, as well as also being an entrepreneur and filmmaker.
McFarlane was sixteen when he initially came up with the character of Spawn. McFarlane has a unique art style – this art style is often the sole reason many Spawn fans will enjoy the comics, as the plot lines can be confusing and contradictory.
His talent with art soon lead to him becoming a regular artist for Marvel, with McFarlane working on Amazing Spider-Man in 1988.
Whilst working on The Amazing Spider-Man comics, McFarlane became a favorite with fans, and soon became one of the most popular comic book artists within the industry.
This is because McFarlane’s art style was considered a lot more modern than other art styles, allowing the comic book company to become a lot more available and appealing to other audiences at the time, as well as giving Marvel the push they needed to bring their other comic books up to a similar standard.
After his rise to popularity, McFarlane chose to leave the Amazing Spider-Man comics because he wanted to try writing. McFarlane believed that with his art skills already up-to-scratch, adding writing to his repertoire would be no problem.
Interestingly, Marvel decided that they liked the sound of this, and instead of making McFarlane the artist or writer of a smaller comic book title, Marvel gave McFarlane his very own, completely brand-new ‘Spider-Man’ comic.
Amazingly, when the comic was released, Spider-Man’s first issue was the biggest selling first issue in the whole of comic book history – until X-Men broke the record a couple of years later.
McFarlane got what he wanted – he had all of the freedom in the world to decide what happened within his comics, with no regard to the continuity of the plot-line.
As a result, after a little while, Marvel started to ask McFarlane to make changes to his comic book.
To begin with, McFarlane was happy to oblige, however, after a while, he started to grow frustrated, as the comic book he worked on was one of Marvel’s best-selling titles, and he didn’t believe that so many changes were necessary.
The main reason Marvel wanted McFarlane to make so many changes to his series is that they found that elements of the comic were far too graphic for their liking.
Todd didn’t agree with this, and after one last straw (involving a battle during Issue #16, a crossover between Spider-Man and X-Force), McFarlane decided he was going to leave Marvel Comics.
Whilst McFarlane didn’t specifically leave Marvel comics necessarily intending to start his own rival comic book company, he probably knew that he would be able to find some success within the comic book world, independent of big companies like Marvel or DC Comics.
McFarlane’s departure soon led him to help create ‘Image Comics’, alongside a number of other high-profile, talented comic book artists.
These artists are all artists who have encountered similar problems to Todd and wanted to have their very own space to both create and publish characters that are their property, without having to give up choices surrounding these characters to big companies such as Marvel or DC.
Without Image Comics, these writers would create characters whilst working for companies such as Marvel or DC, with the characters being owned by the company.
This meant that if an artist created a very successful character and then chose to leave the company, the artist would not have any rights to that character and the company could continue to profit from the artists work.
This was uncomfortable for a lot of artists and lead them to leave their respective companies, as the instability and lack of copyrights, and therefore, power over their work meant that the risk was worth it.
Image Comics has been responsible for a number of popular comics, including Spawn, The Walking Dead, Witchblade and Invincible.
Does Spawn Belong To DC Comics Or Marvel?
As Spawn was published whilst McFarlane has been with Image Comics, Spawn is neither a DC Comics character nor a Marvel character.
Whilst Todd McFarlane has previously worked on some Marvel comics, the Spawn character is not owned by either of these major comic book companies.
Who Owns Spawn?
As McFarlane published Spawn through the publishing company, Image Comics, Spawn is McFarlane’s property.
This is because Image Comics was specifically designed in order to create a space for comic book creators to own their own work, meaning that McFarlane was able to publish Spawn through Image Comics without actually giving up any of his rights to the character or any of the related properties.
Whilst working for Marvel on Spider-Man, McFarlane was not allowed to make any final decisions on his work, and ultimately, Marvel could make all decisions regarding this, including stylistic choices in both McFarlane’s writing, and his art.
This is why Image Comics was created.
Spawn And Batman Crossover
Many fans of the extremely popular Batman character and comics will often ask whether or not there has ever been a crossover between Spawn and Batman.
As Batman is a part of the DC Comics universe, fans will typically be of the opinion that a crossover between the Batman and Spawn universes is legendary.
There was, in fact, a Batman and Spawn crossover in 1994. Opinions about this crossover were mixed – some descriptions have used words such as ‘horrible’, whereas others have called the crossover ‘entertaining’.
Despite these mixed opinions, the events that took place within the Batman and Spawn crossover are considered canon to the storyline within both universes.
Now that we’ve given you a decent insight into how Spawn came to be, it’s easy to understand that the events leading to Spawn’s success were unique.
The creation of Image Comics meant that artists like McFarlane now have a space to create work authentic to what they have imagined themselves, without having to join a comic book company such as Marvel or DC Comics and not be able to make their own creative decisions.
Although McFarlane’s artwork is legendary, his writing might have less appeal – the two avenues that have been created within the Comic industry as a result – being able to retain ownership of your work by going through a publishing company such as Image Comics, or choosing to join a company such as Marvel or DC and use the characters and existing publicity to boost your work, can be made more clear and allow the creators, as well as the audience to choose what they enjoy the most.
Despite Spawn’s tumultuous lore, the character remains popular amongst both new and old audiences and has generated a large amount of spin-off series, products and brand deals.
So, to answer the question of whether Spawn belongs to DC Comics or Marvel: Spawn belongs to neither, and is the property of Image Comics.
This means that the possibilities for Spawn as a character are endless, and we may be able to expect many other collaborations and crossovers between Image Comics and other companies to come!