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Meta-Messages - Spawn Tries to Save Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine and More

In this feature I explore the context behind (using reader danjack's term) "meta-messages." A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I'll give you the context behind one such "meta-message." Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today, based on a suggestion by Stephen M, we take a look at a famous meta-message by Dave Sim and Todd McFarlane in Spawn #10...

I'm really kind of surprised I haven't gotten around to this one yet, as it is a very notable one.

Todd McFarlane has a stretch early in his run on Spawn where he took four of the most acclaimed writers in comics at the time - Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim and Frank Miller - and had them each write a single issue of Spawn for a crazy large sum of money.

In Sim's issue, #10, Sim decided to make the whole issue one big meta-message about the evils of corporations owning comic book characters and why creator-owned comics are the best.

It opens with Spawn becoming a McFarlane stand-in.

"Spawn" then visits a special area of hell where famous superheroes are kept, along with the creators who created these characters but do not own their rights...

Spawn/McFarlane is then compelled to try to save them, with even Superman showing up to ask him to do so...

Spawn tries, but he cannot help them. The Violator (an evil demon creature) shows up in an outfit made out of money (presumably money earned on the backs of these poor creators) to mock Spawn/McFarlane's attempts.

Superman visits Spawn/McFarlane once again...

Spawn/McFarlane is now visited by Cerebus, who makes things even clearer...

The issue ends with Spawn/McFarlane being taken to Todd McFarlane's home, where we meet McFarlane's wife and daughter (he named Spawn's wife and daughter after his own)...

Ending the story with the creator ownership credits was a powerful design idea.

While extremely simplistic, this was still a strong tale by Sim and McFarlane. The arms sticking out of the cages thing was also an inspired design idea.

Thanks for the suggestion, Steven! If YOU have a suggestion for a good Meta-Message, feel free to drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

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