Tag: comics

My First Date with Spawn

Contributed by Thomas S. Flowers

Not to be too weird about it, but imagine yourself for just a moment that you’re a twelve-year-old boy. You’re walking through the store and like any boy of pre-teen age back in the early 90s you decide to go check out whatever comics are offered at this very obviously not comic book store in the magazine section while your mom shops for food and other boring stuff like that. As you peruse the offered wares you come across a comic the likes you have never seen before. Its gritty. Slightly graphic. Super dark. And dare we say, demonic.

This was me. Back in 1990-something, 1994 or 1993, I can’t quite remember. What I do remember is how when I first laid eyes on Spawn, I ran and somehow convinced my mom to buy it for me and I took it home and was hooked ever since. Spawn was…different. It wasn’t Marvel or the X-Men, which is what most of my friends were reading at the time. It wasn’t DC, an entirely different circle of friends. In fact, I can’t recall Spawn being popular at all with any of my buddies…I’m sure they read it and maybe even liked it on some level…just not on the same level as me. Spawn spoke to a darker inkling to which I typically wandered. And because it spoke to that dark side, it helped galvanize some of my own creative thoughts and ideas of what could be possible within the realm of storytelling.

The badass covers helped. Those issues, man, from the very beginning are some of the best horror comic art I’ve seen. Todd McFarlane was known even before Spawn as leaning towards the more explicit in his artwork. If I’m remembering this right, there was a certain Spider-Man comic involving Wolverine piercing some bad guys eye with his adamantium claw. Or something like that. Recalling still, McFarlane didn’t care too much for censorship and ran with his own brand to Image Comics, creating Spawn…

…an Marine ex-CIA assassin who gets murdered by his best friend, Chapel, and sent to h-e-double hockey sticks and there recruited by a high-level demon named Malebolgia to join his army in a war against Heaven on the promise of getting to see his wife, Wanda, again. Agreeing to these shady terms, but truthfully…not sure who would turn down getting to leave hell, the demon sends him back to earth…five years later with the worse case of scatter brain and wearing a head to toe superhero costume. And the scars, did I mention the scars? Yup. Spawn aka Al Simmons was burned alive in life and as a kinda really fucked up signing bonus is now horribly disfigured.

The fact that this comic spoke to me at such a young age is disturbing…

Moving on!

In the first issue of Spawn, Al is trying to figure things out. He gets “flashes” of old memory. And as another high-five from Malebolgia, another demon is sent to “guide” Spawn in this new role he’s supposed to play on Earth. The guide is none other than The Violator who takes the form (most of the time) as a short, fat, hellish looking clown. When he’s not Chuckles, he’s this really freaking looking monster with large bulbous eyes and long needle like teeth.

Through these first few comics, it’s really about Spawn remembering who he was and coming to terms that in five years’ time, everyone thinking he’s dead (because he was), including his wife, life goes on. Wanda ended up marrying Al’s other best friend, Terry, and they end up having a daughter together. And soon after, Spawn also begins to realize that he wasn’t just dropped on Earth looking like a walking piece of human toast, he’s got power, real devastating shatter this world kinda power. And that suit of his isn’t some mom’n’pops Halloween get up, it’s a living symbiotic entity with its own set of abilities. But there’s a catch…those powers of his are not limitless. There’s a clock, so to speak. Once he drains all his green glowing goo…boom, back to hell.

This kind of story wasn’t something I was used to reading. As a comic marketed to young adolescent boys, there were layered intricacies. Spawn wasn’t just some Hellspawn with a host of awesome powers, he was also Al, a dead Marine ex-CIA assassin who lost his way but wanted to do the right thing. He loved his wife. He loved his country. But still, he wasn’t your typically “good guy.” Nowadays, the anti-hero is an overhanded trope. Back in the early 1990s, for me at least, it was not. Spawn showed me that characters didn’t have to be 100% good, that not everyone was 100% bad. That there were grey areas amongst the pure goods and evils in the world. Case in point, the story of Billy Kincaid.

As for kid’s comics, this was a dark story…but I wonderfully done one! Billy Kincaid was the son of some senator, an ice-cream truck driver, and a child murderer. His famous line being, “You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream.” Pretty creepy, right? Anyways, in issue #5, Spawn pays ole Billy and visit and gives him a taste of his own medicine, hanging him in Detectives Sam and Twitch’s office with popsicles stabbed into his corpse and a note, “BOYS SCREAMED AND GIRLS SCREAMED SO I MADE HIM SCREAM…AND SCREAM…AND SCREAM.”

Yes, this was a kid’s comic, mind you.

And so wonderfully not appropriate. Like any parent back in the 80s and 90s is really going to thumb through the begged comic before buying. My folks were none caring when it came to violent content, it was the graphic sexual content they did not approve. Very puritan, I know. And I’m sure this is how an entire generation had been raised to think subconsciously, that violence is okay, but sex is bad. I’m rambling now, please forgive me. The point being, Spawn did something good by taking out this really horrible person, but he did so in a way that was utterly grotesque. Most hero characters would have simply captured Kinkaid and gift wrapped him perhaps beaten but still breathing for the police to find. Spawn on the other hand…well, he at least gift wrapped Kinkaid, right?

As far as Spawn comics go, its hard for me to pick just one that was the best. There were so many back then. Billy Kinkaid was probably the darker one , especially so early in the series. With storytelling like that, it’s no wonder how popular Spawn became. As you no doubt have heard or seen, there was that 1997 movie adaptation of the comic, written and directed by its creator…which goes to show that just because you can make a really badass comic, doesn’t mean you know shit about directing. Sorry. This was a really amazing movie for the first screening on that summer day in 1997, but every day thereafter…ugh.

In that same year, though, there was some grace to be found for Spawn. The HBO animated series took off with a bang, keeping more or less to the original comic story. If you haven’t seen these, you need to. Some are free on YouTube. Every bit like the comic is terms of dark, gritty, and bloody violent with that grey matter intrigue that makes you question what it really means to be good or bad. Which in a nutshell is the entire attraction to the Spawn as a story. Not everyday do you read something about a demon who questions his morality. That in his best moments tries to do some good, but usually makes a mess of things. And in his worst, is usually lethargic, and if not…well…think Billy Kincaid. And the best part? Here I am some twenty-three years later, still gushing over a comic book character. That’s love, baby.


Who doesn’t love a good story? From great works such as, All Quiet on the Western Front and Salem’s Lot, Thomas S. Flowers aspires to create his own fantastic worlds with memorable characters and haunted places. His stories range from Shakespearean gore to classic monsters, historic paranormal thrillers, and haunted soldiers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, Thomas’s debut novel, Reinheit, was eventually published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series (4 books and counting), filled with werewolves, Frankenstein-inspired monsters, cults, alter-dimensional insects, witches, the undead, and the worst monster of all, PTSD, are published with Limitless Publishing. For more intrigue, be sure to visit www.ThomasSFlowers.com.

Rising Stars – A Starting Point For Comic Excellence

Contributed by Morgon Nequist

I am a latecomer to comics. Am I allowed to admit that? Well, whether I am or not, I just did.

I grew up on science fiction and fantasy – mostly books, and Star Trek. At an age when many other girls became obsessed with makeup or other more typical girl stuff, I devoured book after book and hour after hour of Star Trek and other sci-fi offerings.

I came by it honestly. Both my parents loved it too. Neither were comics fans. And with no brothers to introduce me to superheroes, I kind of lived in a world that didn’t really acknowledge comic books much. Not that there was anything wrong with it – it just wasn’t my sphere.

So my first introduction to comics is very different, and more adult, than what is probably common. I didn’t stay up hours after my bedtime with a flashlight reading comic books.

But what I did start with was Rising Stars.

I had just finished watching Babylon 5 with my then-fiance. And he casually mentioned that J. Michael Strazynzki had written a comic book. The entire thing was done at that point, and he had all the novels.

Keep in mind I’d never had anything against comics at all, or thought they were silly or immature – I’d really just never even really thought about reading them.

Babylon 5 is amazing, so it couldn’t hurt to try his graphic novel, right?

Rising Stars is narrated by the ever-serious Poet, one of the 113 children given superpowers the night a comet crashed into the earth. It eventually morphs into a bit of a Highlander story – whenever one of the 113 Specials dies, the others experience a power surge. Chaos ensues, and then the story ends the way it began in a beautiful bookend. It’s powerful, bittersweet, and one hell of a read. The story is excellently written, and the art helped express the story in a medium I wasn’t used to anymore. I hadn’t read books with pictures for years. Characters, with twists to the typical superhero powers that I hadn’t thought of, caught my attention and drew me in.  The entire story arc and comic left an impression on me. I’m sure it isn’t new necessarily new or revolutionary for old hands in the comic reading world but it was for me.  I won’t reveal too much more in case you, dear reader, haven’t had a chance to read this one.

I blew through all three volumes of the final released work in a matter of days, annoyed whenever I had to put them down to deal with real life. And after that, I knew I had to check out more graphic novels and comics. One taste is really about all it took.

From there I moved on first to some of the other more adult works – Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The Long Halloween, and even AU works like Gotham by Gaslight. Now the list is getting too long to type out, even though it hasn’t been that many years since I first sat down with Born In Fire, volume one of Rising Stars.

But the best part of my late entry into this fandom is the massive amounts of amazing backreading I’ve got to delve into.


Morgon Newquist started life by causing an international incident in Central America, and has been marching to the beat of her own drummer ever since. She grew up in the Rocket City – Huntsville, Alabama. After a stint at the University of Georgia to study Latin, she has returned to the place of her upbringing where she wrangles two dogs, a cat, and four children daily.

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Batman: Year One

Contributed By David Neth

Okay, so call me simple, but the comic that most inspired me for the Fuse series was Batman: Year One. Especially when I was writing Fuse’s origin story in (you guessed it), Origin.

Batman is such an iconic character in not only the DC Comics universe, but in the world of all comic books. And the coolest thing about him? He doesn’t have any supernatural powers! He’s just that badass to be able to fight (and win) against people who do.

Batman: Year One shows Batman at the beginning of his vigilante career, meaning it shows him messing up and making mistakes that would never happen to the seasoned Batman we all know and love. It’s what inspired me to give my character Fuse flaws, especially in the beginning. Just because someone suddenly becomes a superhero doesn’t mean they have it all together.

As authors, we’re supposed to be challenging our characters. In the beginning, these heroes are basically just like us: inexperienced in the world of combat. And therein lies the conflict necessary for the story: how will a new superhero survive when he’s just starting out? When their enemy has the upper hand physically? The origin story is a part of a superhero’s career that doesn’t always take prominence (unless you’re Spider-Man and they keep remaking the same movie over and over again).

What’s funny is, I didn’t read comics growing up. (Gasp!) However, I did watch the superhero animated series, like Batman and Spider-Man. I haven’t read any Spider-Man comics (Gasp!), but the Batman comics and the animated series are pretty much identical. I guess, in a way, I was getting my superhero education without even realizing it.

After reading Batman: Year One, I followed the story arc with Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory. All three of these comics inspired my Fuse series, especially the mafia’s influence over the grim city of Gotham. I love it how they tell Bruce Wayne’s story in the real world and then Batman’s influence in it. That balance is what I tried to create throughout the Fuse series because I didn’t want to get too caught up in the “super” part of “superhero.”

The only reason I picked up a Batman comic was to do research to write the Fuse series. I thought it’d be better to start with the basics, and I’m so glad I did.


David Neth is the author of the Fuse series, the Small Town Christmas series, and the Under the Moon series. He lives in Batavia, NY, where he dreams of a successful publishing career and opening his own bookstore.

Website |  Fuse: OriginFacebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Comics: A Transformative Medium

Comics. From comic strips to graphic novels, they have the power to transform a person. While they have become a pop-culture phenomenon, there was a time when the admitted love of comics branded you as a loser. Despite compelling stories, beautiful artwork, and ability to transport the reader to the far reaches of the universe, they were looked down upon.

If it were not for comics, I would not be a reader. If I were not a reader, I would not be a writer. I recount often how comic books were thrust upon me on long drives between North Carolina and Maine. The characters became familiar and the stories kept me hanging on the edge of my seat. Despite being too young to understand the adult themes, I found myself falling in love with this world where the impossible was not only possible, but the norm.

Years later, as my parents attempted to transition me from comics to novels, I was handed a set of X-Men novels written by Christopher Golden. The moment I reached the end of each book, I found myself amazed that novels contained a bit of the magic held within the glossy pages of comics. My love of reading starts and ends with comics but in-between, I have been exposed to fantastical worlds, galactic space ships, fearful tales of ghosts, and love affairs with vampires.

This story is not unique. I am not alone.

For the month of November, I am inviting creators to share what comics impacted them and how it changes their lives. Check back as the month progresses, find comics to explore for the first time or the hundredth.

Bangor Geeks Represented For Third Year

As you can see, the Bangor Comic & Toy Convention did not disappoint. This year I decided to have some fun and treat it less like a vending opportunity and more like attending a con with a permanent bench. Chris MacMillan, the organizer of BCTC continues to put on a great show that mixes a diverse set of interests from superheroes to anime, to MTG to consoles, and wrestlers to cosplayers. I continue to be amazed that hiding not too far from my hometown in rural Maine, there are geeks waiting for a chance to break out their costumes and delve into a world of storytelling, art, and collectibles.

Like last year, I was seated next to Amanda Kahl, a long time friend, illustrator, and graphic novelist. We had the opportunity to geek out, talk shop, and bounce ideas off one another. Unlike last year, I was smart and brought back up, a friend from my University of Maine Farmington days, Dan Johnston came and sat with me. Unfortunately, his iron will isn’t quite the same and he found himself victim to the amazing baubles of several vendors. I do have to admit, he scored some amazing artwork I’m a little jealous of.

The best part of it isn’t just meeting new fans, but seeing familiar faces for the second year in a row. I had multiple people say, “Loved your last book, gonna grab your two new ones.” I’m a bit more secure with signing books, well, at least until they ask for a personal message and then I just turn into an idiot. I had the chance to talk to hopeful writers and even a young man in the prime of his grade school years telling me about his awesome comic book adventures. Really, how much more happy can a guy get when he’s staring at a mini version of himself thirty years ago.

A special thanks has to go out to Chris MacMillan for putting on the BCTC. I’m glad I have a place near home where I can sell books and take in the geek culture, but it’s something much bigger than that. Growing up in a small town in northern Maine, we read our comics in the comfort of our rooms and felt a little shame about chasing down super villains with our heroes. Now, decades later, geekdom is marked with pride and you can’t help but think there is a new generation of creators being made because of this exposure. So thanks, for me, and the soon-to-be’s.

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