Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Spawn # 1

There was a time I was forced to sell half of my comic book collection.  While I muse and groan silently about the losses I parted with, I am happy to see many notable survivors still lingering around, including the first 36 issues of Todd McFarlane's game-changing Spawn. 

Do you remember where you were when Spawn # 1 came out?  McFarlane was undeniably the hottest comics personality of the early nineties.  I remember somebody offering me a good chunk of change for McFarlane's run on Amazing Spiderman when I was in college, and that was during the man's ascension in comics.  I hadn't yet known I was sitting on gold until I started working in a comics retailer when I saw all those McFarlane Spidey issues going for what I considered at the time to be astronomical markups. 

I held onto those McFarland Amazing Spiderman issues for a very long time until they were surrendered, casualties of the heated dickering with my zealous buyer later in life, who took advantage of my desperation to get out of a hole.  He wanted my Spawn issues too, but I refused him on those.  Number one, they represent a part of my life I can never get back, the final semester at college when I was working two jobs including the comics shop and going to school full-time.  Spawn was one of my drug books that got me through that post-adolescent, crazy busy time in life--along with a string of ladies including my future wife, natch.  I lovingly think upon that era as the "sex 'n Spawn" period, since I was engaged with either of those when not working, running track or in class.

All nostalgic bits aside, Spawn # 1 was a major event in comics and I was there for it, behind the counter at the store as that issue flew off in almost quicker fashion than DC's phony "Death of Superman" arc.  Our store had a customers-first rule that employees only had access to the stock after the doors were closed on release day.  My guts were gnawing all throughout my shift as the regulars came in and gobbled up Spawn # 1 like it was launch party.  To some extent, that's exactly what it was, since McFarlane fans showed up en masse that day.  Fortunately, my bosses had ordered a generous amount of the debut issue and me and my co-workers were able to snag our copies, with about ten issues left to spare.  Suffice it to say, those were scarfed within the first hour of business the following day.

I don't need to rehash the plot of the Spawn series, since if you're reading this, you're a fellow comics nerd like myself.  However, what can be said at this point is how fascinated I am that Spawn marked the birth of a then-new imprint, Image, that could take on the Big Two.  Supreme, Savage Dragon, Shadowhawk, Youngblood, Pitt and The Maxx were all other pretty successful launches for Image back then, Youngblood in particular.  I'm fascinated how quickly that first issue of Youngblood jacked in value as a momentary hot commodity and now, seldom few even remember the thing.

Spawn, however, is still kicking out there.  In some twisted fashion, we readers identified with Al Simmons, a son of a bitch soldier under orders in his mortal form before he was plucked off and forced to stomach the indignity of his best friend doinking his wife.  We wanted justice for the man, as much as we wanted the mass public and J. Jonah Jameson in Spiderman's fictitious world to cut the dude a break for putting his life on the line every damned day of his broke-ass existence.

Simmons' thirst for vengeance created the Hellspawn and thus we have a comics icon who ruled the nineties.  If you'll recall, there was the pretty decent Spawn movie, the outstanding HBO Spawn animated series, McFarlane's line of Spawn toys (which spurred an empire built upon hulking, detailed action figures) and even the heavy metal band Iced Earth did a full concept album based upon Spawn, The Dark Saga

I admit, I haven't kept up with the series in recent years, but I salute what McFarlane and Image were able to achieve back then and God willing, my child will inherit the Spawn issues I have along with the rest of my collection.  I've seen Spawn # 1 going anywhere from $10.00 to $810.00 out there online depending on the grade.  For me, it's worth a hell of a lot more to share these books and these stories with my kid when he's of the appropriate age.

               Listenin' to:  Stiff Little Fingers - Nobody's Heroes

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