Spawn: Where Do I Start?

Launched in the summer of 1992, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn quickly entrenched itself as the flagship title of the then-new Image Comics. The series featuring a murdered CIA agent named Al Simmons who clawed his way out of Hell and made a bargain with a demon to live once more and reunite with his wife, but finding that life had moved on without him since his first death. Wandering aimless, Simmons-as-Spawn finds out the sinister part of his deal with the demon is that he’s now serving under that demon, Malebolgia, as a soldier in the demon’s army. Both in art and story, Spawn became every cover in your local music store (R.I.P.)’s heavy metal section come to life, with fiery demons, warrior women,  demons on motor bikes and even some creepy ice cream men.

In the twenty years Spawn has been published, numerous stories have been told about Spawn, following not only Al Simmons but other characters who have worn the Spawn mantle in both the past, present and future. Although forever associated with Todd McFarlane, Spawn has been written and drawn by comics luminaries from Alan Moore and Frank Miller to Brian Michael Bendis, Steve Niles and Grant Morrison. In honor of Spawn’s hellish routes, we’ve sussed out 6 collections that’ll give you the most formidable idea of who Spawn is and what he does.

Spawn: Origins Vol. 1: This collects the first six issues of Spawn, laying out the fiery origin to Al Simmons and setting up his struggle against his new hellish overlord and the life he once had. For good or for bad, these issues are the quintessential 90s superhero comic in the artistry and the story. It also introduces two of the most interesting new villains of the era: the clown-turned-demon Violator and the child molester Billy Kincaid.

Spawn: Origins, Vol. 2: McFarlane was on a roll early on, but in this second set of issues (collecting 7, 8 and 11-14) he turns it up a  notch by inviting a who’s who of comic stars like writers Alan Moore and Frank Miller to contribute. This volume shows the introduction of the erstwhile detective duo of Sam & Twitch, who would become key part of the series as outside observers to the tribulations of Al Simmons as Spawn.

Spawn: The Armageddon Collection : Jumping forward a few years, this collection of Spawn #150-163 shows the final face off between Al Simmons and his long-time demonic overlord, Malebolgia. Comics rarely give you a definitive ending, but this 13 issue storyarc does just that. As Malebolgia’s forces descend on earth, Simmons must decide between fighting the demon who gave him a second chance or fighting against the world that no longer wants him a part of it. The choice he makes, and the effects of that, changed the title to do this day. Spoiler: Spawn wins, but loses everything in the process.

Spawn: The Endgame Collection: After pushing Al Simmons to the limit in “Armageddon,” this one shows the fallout from Simmons finally beating his hated enemy and dealing with the power vacuum that leaves. At the same time, a new man is gifted/curse with the mantle of Spawn, Jim Downing. Downing’s a far different man than Simmons, and his embodiment of the Spawn powers lead down a different road with different challenges and new villains.

Hellspawn: Complete Collection: Although Spawn will always be Todd McFarlane’s vision, this collection of the 16 -issue Hellspawn spinoff title gives a taste of something far different. Then comics-newcomers Brian Michael Bendis and Steve Niles team up with artists Ashley Wood and Ben Templesmith for the craziest comic supergroup of all time, re-invisioning Spawn’s mythos in a straight-up mature readers take on demons, clowns and the end of the world.

Spawn: The Undead: This overlooked entry into the Spawn pantheon of stories is worth picking up to see a different approach to Spawn, less as a protagonist and more as a helping hand — or hurtful hand, as it may be — in the lives of others. Each issue of this is a standalone story with Spawn acting as the guest star in someone else’s troubled life like a twisted version of the old television show Highway To Heaven. A very interesting concept by writer Paul  Jenkins, played out by artist Dwayne Turner.


  1. While I’ve always loved the image of Spawn I could never deal with McFarlane’s writing, especailly female dailogue. Truely terrible.

    • Avatar photo Chris Arrant (@chrisarrant) says:

      There have been a lot of other writers on SPAWN: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Brian Bendis, Grant Morrison, David Hine, Paul Jenkins. Have you read those?

  2. Been reading spawn all 20 years and have every issues and all The collections. Great list I really wish ifanboy did a video special on spawn. My second favorite character after Spiderman. Live spawn.

  3. All great picks Chris. My personal favourite run is when Capulloo became the regular pencilled and Brian Hogluin was writing.

  4. I was totally obsessed with Spawn as a kid in the 90’s. I remember staying up late at a friends house and reading the first 50 issues all at once. The series started to quickly peter out for me around issue 75 or so.

    A few years ago I got pretty nostalgic for Spawn and decided to track down the trades and do a read-through of the first 100 issues. Man does the series start off great and just spiral downhill. No wonder I stopped reading around issue 75. Things somehow get more and more convaluted, plots and characters are introduced and then quickly forgot about or go nowhere, and then once the vampires show up soon before issue 100 its just flat out BAD.

    Then, suddenly, out of nowhere it’s as if the writers realised that issue 100 was coming up so with very little buildup Spawn goes down to Hell to have his final battle with Malabogia, and boy is it lackluster! Very sad. I haven’t continued reading the series, but I checked out some stuff on wikipedia about what came next and I flip through an issue every now and then when I see it in the store.

    • yeah its a bit sad, it was great for a while and changed the game. i still have 1-100 complete but not any past that. now with the new artist and ridicules panels that you can hardly see, i dont see my self buying anymore.

  5. I’ve heard good things about Hellspawn and while I was not a huge fan of the comic, the Grant Morrison issues, along with the Moore, Miller, Gaiman and Sims (yes, him too) written issues are fun stuff.

  6. i used to love Spawn when it first came out. I think i bought the first year or so worth of issues….and i thought back then i was gonna flip all those issues for a Ferrari by now. haha

  7. Spawn’s real influence is really felt more in the realm of action figures and merchandise I think. Changed EVERYTHING.

  8. spawn i hope we get more post about a book thats been around for 20 years. image flagship character there batman or spiderman spawn is.

  9. Remember Spawn was the villian in Image United? Ah, image…