Todd McFarlane's seminal series Spawn is nearing its 300th issue, a milestone uncommon outside the halls of Marvel and DC, and in celebration, McFarlane revealed the first cover image he ever drew of the character. Surprisingly, though, the image doesn't come from the first issue of the series, nor does it come from any comic published at the same time, but from a 35-page comic McFarlane drew in 1977.
The image features a prototype of McFarlane's cloaked anti-hero, along with a nascent version of the artist's iconic signature. Spawn is surrounded by "Kirby dots," and the character's high-collared cloak is also visible in the image, though the mask has gone through some changes. The image also offers evidence that Mcfarlane has long been a proponent of self-publishing. He does note, however, that he had help publishing this one from his father, "who was in the printing business." Of the image, Mcfarlane says it floors him "to see HOW MUCH Spawn has evolved over the years."
I drew this cover in 1977 (yes…I know that was a while ago) for a 35 page comic book my dad (who was in the printing business) helped me put together. It still floors me to see HOW MUCH Spawn has evolved over the years! #roadto300 #yearofspawn pic.twitter.com/SnD2ksMfz7— Todd McFarlane (@Todd_McFarlane) March 18, 2019
McFarlane entered comics readers' consciousnesses with his acclaimed run on Spider-Man. Along with superstar artists Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Erik Larsen and Jim Valentino, McFarlane left Marvel in the early '90s, and the group went on to found Image Comics. Spawn was one of the first four titles published by Image, along with Liefeld's Youngblood, Larsen's Savage Dragon and Lee's WildC.A.T.s. Of the four, only Savage Dragon is still ongoing, but it has some distance to go before hitting the 300-mark.
Nevertheless, 300 issues is even something of a rarity for corporately owned Marvel and DC titles. In independent publishing, it's almost unheard of. The most recent famous example is Dave Sim's Cerebus, which reached its 300th and final issue in 2004. Spawn hitting this milestone is proof that, despite increases and decreases in popularity, the character still has stories to tell.
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