Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn #1 debuted in 1992, but it wasn’t until eight issues later that the character’s mythology really began to take shape thanks to the famous writer Neil Gaiman. When Gaiman came with one issue, he introduced several characters and changed the world of Spawn forever.
Although Image comics titles such as Spawn have broken sales records, critics have not been impressed with the real stories told in the comics. Spawn was no exception, as there were many half-formed ideas in the initial releases that struggled to come together as a whole. Determined to take to heart what critics were saying about the script, Todd MacFarlane hired what many considered to be the best writers working on comics at the time. That’s how people like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim and Frank Miller came to write on the release of Spawn. Each screenwriter approached MacFarlane’s signature character in his own way, but it was Gaiman, in particular, who provided the Spawn universe with a comprehensive mythology that the series had previously lacked.
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Spawn #9, written by Gaiman with MacFarlane’s art, begins in the 15th century, where readers meet angelic bounty hunter Angela, who successfully tracked down and killed a medieval spawn of hell. The story then shifts to the present day, when Angela returns to the earth plane to hunt down the newest spawn of hell, Al Simmons. Simmons is still trying to cope with his newfound abilities, having befriended the homeless population of the alley he now calls home. One of the participants introduces himself to Simmons as Count Nicholas Cagliostro (later known as “Kogliostro”), and he seems to have a history with Hellspawn, he knows more about Simmons and his newfound powers than anyone else.
With this single problem, Neil Gaiman is building a world that wasn’t in the Spawn comics. By himself, as a writer/artist, MacFarlane added intriguing fragments here and there, but it was all vague and insufficiently explained. The three characters presented here, created by Gaiman together with MacFarlane, largely reveal the details of the Spawn world. Medieval Spawn gives the character a legacy and history, informing readers that the Spawns were before Simmons. Angela is an antagonist who further concretizes the version of Heaven in this world, structured as a powerful corporation where angels and other divine beings are waging a “cold war” with the forces of Hell on Earth. Cogliostro is perhaps the most important addition, providing Simmons with a much-needed mentor figure to explain his abilities as a Spawn. From Chiron the centaur training Achilles to Obi-Wan Kenobi showing Luke Skywalker the ways of Power, mentors have played a crucial role in heroic fiction—they set the rules of the world in which the action takes place and gave the heroes the tools they need to succeed. The appearance of Kogliostro in Spawn # 9 also hints that Spawn should discover a larger world, for example, a touch in the style of the Sandman, according to which Spawn Lane is actually a place where lost souls from history (among them Richard Nixon and Elvis) gather together.
These Gaiman additions served as a springboard for MacFarlane’s promotion, and Cogliostro became such an important figure in Spawn myths that he became a central character in other media, such as the HBO animated series and the 1997 feature film. Unfortunately, a lengthy legal dispute between Gaiman and MacFarlane led to many of these elements being later downplayed, resulting in Angela joining the Marvel universe. Nevertheless, Neil Gaiman’s contribution to Spawn remains a crucial moment in the character’s story, expanding the world in a way that the title still benefits.