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Spawn’s Universe #1 set for giant Image Comics debut: Inside the making of the ambitious new series

By Mike Avila
Page from Spawn's Universe #1 by Jim Cheung

Advance orders for Spawn’s Universe #1, the book that marks the expansion of Todd McFarlane’s signature franchise, are so good, McFarlane says it could set a sales benchmark for Image Comics. “It looks like Spawn’s Universe #1 is going to be the biggest new launch for Image since 1998 [and the first issue of Fathom],” the Spawn creator tells SYFY WIRE.

McFarlane explains that early orders for the 64-page, $5.99 one-shot, which hits comic book stores June 23, are already well over 100,000, with FOC (Final Order Cutoff) still nearly two weeks out. “We can sort of tell how books are trending because there's a decent portion of some of the biggest stores that wait until FOC to put their orders in,” he says about advance orders. “The easy math is whatever [orders] you have early, double it. Because you're going to get there. So if that's true, and that's what just about every one of our Image books does, then Spawn’s Universe is going to be our biggest new launch [of the 21st century].”

SYFY WIRE has your exclusive look at some of the killer art from the special issue, which heralds the beginnings of the most ambitious expansion in the history of Spawn. The issue will feature a handful of short stories built around individual Spawn characters. Before we show you some interior art from the comic, check out these two concept pieces.

The first is an updated refresh on Medieval Spawn by Stephen Segovia. As if Spawn didn’t have enough weapons, Segovia even gave him chains wrapped around his right arm.

Medieval Spawn Design Stephen Segovia design

This next one, by artist Marcio Takara, features his She-Spawn design. McFarlane says he likes this one so much he wants to use it as a cover image in the future.

Marcio Takara_shespawn_concept

This next image is an interior page from the Gunslinger Spawn chapter, as drawn by star artist Brett Booth. Booth is penciling the chapter centered on the fan-favorite character. Known for his aggressive, hyper-detailed pencils, the artist says it took him a minute to get a handle on Gunslinger Spawn’s unique visual identity. “He has that cool jacket and, just like the Spawn cape, you can do a lot with it,” Booth says. “I’ve actually made the jacket a little longer than Todd did. But the hat, it's tricky to do at first and to kind of get it the right size.”

Gunslinger Spawn by Brett Booth

Booth says drawing Gunslinger’s hat at the proper scale took a bit longer than expected. “[The hat] is a head and a half high, max," he says. "I think it's difficult to draw because it's so tall and we have to get them into panels, and sometimes... we've wound up... doing like upshots a little bit more than I normally would, just so I could get the hat in the panel.”

He and McFarlane talked quite a bit during the process of creating the Gunslinger story, and the cover for the one-shot that Booth penciled. When asked what it’s like to draw for an inker who also happens to be a legendary comic artist, Booth says it was not what most people would expect. “Todd kind of lets you loose to do your thing. It’s actually pretty laid back,” he says. “The biggest problem is, I do a lot of backgrounds and add stuff [to a page] and he’s always telling me, “No, no, I need room for dialogue.” He doesn’t want me to do so much background work. And that's kind of like the hardest thing for me to do. Because I don't like blank space. And I know as an artist, you're supposed to use negative space and all that other stuff, but it bugs me.”

Spawn Universe Cover

McFarlane confirms this in a separate interview, and explains why Booth’s famously-detailed pencils drive him bonkers. “I say this as a term of endearment: Brett Booth is a maniac,” the Image Comics co-founder says. “I am staggered by what he puts on that page. Every page he sends me, I'm like, 'Oh my God, Brett, I thought we had this conversation.'”

McFarlane adds that Booth draws like he’s still a 20-year-old artist trying to break into the business. “I see his pages and they’re the work of a young man who's got nothing but enthusiasm and energy and draws 20 hours a day. That’s not how old men draw. We actually start pacing ourselves as we age.”

Jim Cheung is another all-star artist McFarlane convinced to join him in his big Spawn expansion. Cheung had a slightly different perspective of drawing off of McFarlane’s plots. “I would say it’s harder because I think a writer/artist often visualizes the page as they write, so they have a good sense of the visuals they’d want to see,” Cheung says. “The very first time I handled a script from another artist was for Uncanny X-Men, and the writer was Alan Davis. Every page of that script screamed ‘Alan Davis’ to me, and all I could see was Alan’s art. It became an incredibly difficult issue for me to draw because I felt that everything I did was second rate to what I felt Alan would do.”

Cheung says Todd’s writing allows for great artistic freedom, which is a welcome change from his recent work with writer Scott Snyder on Justice League, who tends to write in full-script style. “Todd writes the old Marvel-plot style, so often a single paragraph is all I have to base a full page on,” he says. “This leaves much more to my imagination and allows me to pace the story according to my own storytelling sensibilities. It’s quite a contrast to Scott, who prefers to write full script, so there’s less guesswork involved. I don’t mind either method, but after over 20 years of working from full script, it did take me a minute to shake off the cobwebs to remember how to deal with plots again.”

Cheung penciled and inked the chapter of Spawn's Universe focused on the OG Spawn (FCO added the colors), and we can show you two of the finished pages from that story, for the first time, right here:


Spawn’s Universe #1 from Image Comics arrives in comics shops on June 23.