Brian Wood Heats Up "Spawn" for Al Simmons' Return

There are few creator-owned comics that have run as long as Todd McFarlane's "Spawn." Since its debut in 1992, as one of Image Comics' flagship titles, the series has been overseen by a number of talented industry writers and artists -- and it's about to add one more big creative team. Announced at New York Comic Con 2014, Brian Wood and Jonboy Meyers are set to take over the title with "Spawn" #251, following McFarlane's milestone "Spawn" #250 which will bring the original Spawn Al Simmons back to the series.

CBR News spoke with Brian Wood about his upcoming run, where Al Simmons is when the story picks up and the challenge of adding his own spin to one of the most iconic creator-owned characters in the history of comics.

CBR News: Brian, tell us a bit about your plans for "Spawn" -- obviously, it's still early days, but how do you plan to approach the character during your run?

Brian Wood: It's early, but not that early! My first issue ships in February, so we're really hitting the ground running. During the first part of October, Todd McFarlane and I had a bunch of phone calls and I wrote a few pitches. Put briefly, what Todd's looking for is not a writer to come in and continue in the style of the book as it is, but to bring a new point of view and storytelling style to the book. Not a reboot, just finding a fresh angle. I'm to make it my own, using as much or as little of the previous 250 issues as we see fit.

I have a lot of respect for "Spawn" -- it's a creator-owned masterpiece in its longevity and focus and world-building. There's a ton of energy and ideas in the book, especially so in its early years. I think a lot of my readers didn't see this coming, my taking on the book, but the same was true when I was announced on "Conan," or "Star Wars." I'm always looking to take on challenges, to push myself out of my comfort zone and get stronger as a result. 
The character's been through quite a few different incarnations. Where does your series pick up, and what's going on with Al Simmons when we see him again?

Well, Todd's last issue as writer is #250, and at the end of that issue, Al makes his reappearance. When I start with [the] "Spawn Resurrection" [one-shot] and then onwards with #251, we get into how Al's changed, what he's seen while he's been away, where he's actually been, and, to quote the solicitation text, who did he piss off so bad? The mysterious answer to that is: Something that makes that eternal Heaven vs. Hell thing, the conflict that's always driven this series, look like a petty squabble. Al's back, smarter, stronger, wiser and with a perspective that no one else has. In a way, he's 'King Spawn,' the experienced soldier who, while he has his stronghold and his minions and his land, is not afraid to get down off his throne, pick up his sword and join the battle.

I'll let you decide how much of that last sentence was metaphor and how much I'm actually writing into the book!

In many ways, this is a reset on the clock for Al Simmons, who has been off the table for a while. What excites you about getting a chance to write the character?

Well, there's excitement just around the fact this is a milestone. 250 monthly issues and the return of Al Simmons after, what, eighty of those issues? So that's cool. Its always fun and exciting to be part of an event like that. Also, while this is in no way a reboot or a reset, there is a certain 'getting back to roots' going on here, which as a writer is always a good creative exercise, a puzzle to figure out: Who is Spawn, what does he want, who wants to stop him, etc? And you take it from there. Strip it down, and surge forward.

You've taken on quite a few different comic book icons during your career. How much pressure do you feel for something like "Spawn?"

Unlike any of the other company or licensed book I've taken on, like "Star Wars" or "X-Men" or "Conan," "Spawn" is creator-owned. It's Todd's book, has been since 1992, and as a creator-owned guy myself, I have tremendous respect for that. I think due to its longevity and its success over the decades, it's easy to think of it as just another company-owned cape book. But I don't see it that way. So the pressure is real, and it's unique. I don't just have to tell a good story for readers; I have to take care of Todd's creation as best I can.

What do you think is the biggest challenge you face, here?

Living up to expectations. Like "Star Wars," like "X-Men," "Spawn" has a very passionate fanbase who know the continuity better than I ever could. You don't want to disappoint them, and I certainly don't want to disappoint Todd.

Why do you think Spawn, both as a character and a concept, has endured since its first appearance in 1992?

There is a lot of primal stuff going on in the book -- forces of good vs. evil, as well as really relatable characters and conflicts and emotional beats. The genius of this title isn't the crazy monster designs or shifting costumes, but a rock solid emotional core.

Brian Wood's run on "Spawn" begins with "Spawn" #251 with artist Jonboy Meyers.

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