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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So WHO Killed Spawn?

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we take a look at the downside of having a shared universe when the characters in the shared universe aren’t owned by the same people, as a departure by an Image Comics founder led to Todd McFarlane having to come up with a new killer of Al Simmons, the man who would return to Earth after death as the hellspawn known as, well, Spawn.

Al Simmons was a former soldier who was murdered and given the opportunity to see his wife again only if he agreed to become a hellspawn, in effect a soldier for hell. He agreed, but when he returned to Earth, five years had passed since his death and his wife had remarried his best friend. He was badly disfigured and had little memory of his death. As time went by, he began to remember more and more until finally, in Spawn #12 (written and drawn by McFarlane), he remembered who had killed him…

Chapel was a character from Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood. He was a bit of a super-soldier, only in his case, the super-soldier serum he had taken had also given him HIV! In Spawn #13 (written and drawn by McFarlane), Spawn sneaks into Youngblood headquarters and kidnaps Chapel…

In the end of the issue, Spawn leaves his mark on Chapel. That was more or less it for Chapel’s influence in the pages of Spawn, although the Spawn/Chapel connection continued in comics in Liefeld’s Extreme Studios (there was this whole thing where Chapel kills himself to try to become a hellspawn, as well, but he becomes some OTHER hell creature instead).

In 1996, Liefeld and his studio, Extreme Studios, split from Image Comics.

In 1997, a Spawn film was released. The movie, naturally enough, did not want to option Liefeld’s character, so they invented a new character to be Spawn’s killer, Jessica Priest (played by Melinda Clarke).

In 1997′s Spawn #61 (written and inked by McFarlane with pencils by Greg Capullo), McFarlane adapted that change into the comics themselves, as Spawn first learns that maybe Chapel WASN’T his killer…

And then the Violator reveals who was…

That’s really the extent of Jessica Priest’s involvement in the pages of Spawn. She shows up a couple more times just in quick mentions of Spawn’s past…

but once the change was made and the Chapel part was abandoned and forsaked, McFarlane pretty much moved on and didn’t dwell much on who killed Al Simmons (especially when Al Simmons was replaced by a new Spawn as the star of the title a few years ago). We DID get to see some of Jessica Priest’s background in the pages of the Spawn spin-off, Curse of Spawn.

That’s it for this week!

If YOU have a suggestion for a notable comic book retcon, let me know at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

20 Comments

Yep, Al Simmons was replaced by a new Spawn, but wasn’t Al going to be the villain in the Image United miniseries? Still waiting on the next issue of that. Talk about abandoned and forsaken!

Wait, they still haven’t finished that? Now, that IS an Image project by its original creators. Love those guys. Especially Todd McFarlane’s stuff.

Melinda Clarke is awesome.

I like me some Todd McFarlane too. Though, he is an acquired taste, I guess. Some of the stuff here is ‘off’ and some is very 90s, but I always smile when I see it. And Capullo is rocking the later pages.

Also, I’ve read a lot of Spawn in my younger days, and I didn’t know it wasn’t Chapel who killed him. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? McFarlane had kept Al running around in circles for many years. I sometimes wonder what could have been if he condensed the 150 issues into a 12-20 issue maxiseries. I believe there were some fine ideas and nice twists along the way.

Ah, McFarlane. A brilliant artist, but an absolutely shitty writer. Spawn was pretty to look at, but a chore to actually read.

How do you get HIV from a serum?

Wow, McFarlane art is definitely not a taste I’ve acquired.

Travis Pelkie

March 3, 2013 at 5:44 pm

I read the Spawn stuff I had last year (most of the issues until about 22, with a smattering of later issues), and it’s actually not awful. Some pretty good stuff in there, although a certain amount of that was the guest writers (in the first 22 issues, 9 have other writers — Moore, Dave Sim, Gaiman, Frank Miller, GMozz did 3 issues, and I forget who wrote 19 and 20, those 2 weird issues with Houdini and stuff).

I like that reveal of Chapel, it’s pretty interesting and well done.

But it definitely could have stood to be condensed quite a bit. A lot of side roads that didn’t seem to go anywhere.

Mike Loughlin

March 3, 2013 at 9:28 pm

@Michael P.,

You drink it without wearing a condom.

tom fitzpatrick

March 5, 2013 at 8:29 am

@cich: I agree with you on Melinda Clarke. She’s definitely watchable on Nikita! ;-)

tom fitzpatrick

March 5, 2013 at 8:45 am

@ T.P.: I’m really dismayed by the fact that you don’t know everything! Really, it’s shocking.
Spawn # 19-20 is co-written by Andrew Grossenberg and Tom Orzechowski.

@ Mike Loughlin: and how would you know that? ;-)

Darius Washington

March 5, 2013 at 8:58 am

If I recall correctly, Chapel’s enhanced abilities came from a Government serum that had been injected into him. It was also done as a control mechanism because the serum contained the HIV virus and if chapel got too out of line, the virus would be activated so that he’d contract full blown AIDS.

Is there anything Liefeld’s involvement can’t screw up?

Just when you think it’s safe to defend the comic books of the 1990s, you remind of us this.

@fraser Actually the latter half of those images are Capullo

On the Spawn cartoon Chapel was Al’s killer too.

Greg Capulo’s art ROCKS!

Dont’ forget that Al Simmons was also a member of Liefeld’s Knightstrike (I think that was the name) squad, which was Extreme’s answer to Wildstorm’s Team 7.

Liefeld tried to make the connection between Chapel and Spawn stronger.

In some panels McFarlane art is reminding me of Sam Kieth. Like a bad Sam Kieth. And until today I never noticed that Spawn’s first costume had a thong-like pattern in the back.

@cich I’m pretty sure that McFarlane had said that he intended it to be a (Really long) limited series, because he had that power counter that went down every time Spawn used his powers, and when it hit 0 he was supposed to be done. Now it was supposed to take years and years, but he had an end in sight. At least until Spawn became a cash cow and he stopped using the power meter in the books.

Spawn is one of those books that I bought and read because I felt obligated to — everyone was buying it! It must be good! — but I never actually liked it. Macfarlane is obviously a very skilled artist (although I find that his style has not aged at all well) but his writing was always way, way overdone to the point of absurdity. And all of the hackneyed religious stuff…. I just find it all joyless. I felt the same way about his run on the adjectiveless Spider-Man. Dark, dreary, and — to my mind — stupid.

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