I feel like saying the ’90s were a bit of an odd decade for the work of Alan Moore is safe.

He was working with Eddie Campbell throughout the decade on what’s now considered one of his greatest works, From Hell, but the fanfare and accolades for it largely came when it was completed and collected. And at the end of decade, went on to launch what would become the powerhouse of America’s Best Comics.

The lion’s share of his most visible work came for the upstart indie publisher, Image Comics. Given the artist-led creator-owned proposition of the founders, it might seem like an odd fit. And I know that some people say that Moore was slumming it for a paycheque, which is a disservice to him and his collaborators. But working with Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, and more gave us some unique entries into his catalogue. Ranging from popcorn horror like his Violator minis, to another profound exploration of the Superman & Captain Marvel archetypes in Supreme, through to a legendary run on WildCATs.

And it all seemed to start with a guest-issue of Spawn.

what kind of afterlife is this?”

Spawn #8, by Moore, McFarlane, Steve Oliff, Reuben Rude, Olyoptics, and Tom Orzechowski, kicked off a four-issue stint of guest-writers. It was an interesting experiment. Moore and Neil Gaiman infused new material with their respective issues. Frank Miller’s exists. Dave Sim’s was never reprinted and some say he disappeared into the void. I can’t say any of them were bad. As well, Moore, Gaiman, and Miller all went on to contribute more to the early days of McFarlane’s universe.

“In Heaven (Everything is Fine)” follows serial killer Billy Kincaid into Hell. It’s a relatively simple story of Kincaid getting his bearings in the afterlife, running afoul of a number of locals alongside other newly damned folks, and delivering a brief, but expansive, build up of the lore for Spawn‘s hell. It takes some of its cues from Dante’s Inferno, including an interesting take on the Wood of Suicides, but it’s not limited by it. Moore and McFarlane draw up some new maps for hell that will become further explored over the decades of the series.

In some ways, it’s kind of like what Moore did for DC in the legendary “Down Amongst the Dead Men” story from Swamp Thing Annual #2, though with an entirely different effect for Kincaid’s journey. And revelation for what hell, and particularly Malebolgia, intends for him.

There’s ten deadlands.”

To me personally, this was the greatest era of Todd McFarlane’s artwork.

Although I very much enjoy his earlier work on Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man, and his occasional later work other than just inking is still good, the first couple years of Spawn were incredible. The detail of his linework combined with some interesting character design and compelling page layouts to result in stories that were consistently a joy to read. It feels like McFarlane is really trying to push the envelope with his storytelling and it feels like he really achieved some great work right through until Greg Capullo took over the main art duties.

It shines through with some bits (like the tiered opening) that feel like they could have been Moore structural components in the script as it opens up into more complicated layouts and splash pages that are a hallmark of McFarlane’s own scripting. That mixture is definitely something that made these issues different from a storytelling perspective. Along with some fascinating designs for the denizens of hell.

The line art is beautifully enhanced by the colours from Steve Oliff, Reuben Rude, and Olyoptics. Some relatively early day computer colours and separations can reprint strangely, but that never seems to be the case for Oliff’s team. Likewise with Tom Orzechowski’s letters. Which include an interesting lower case font for Kincaid’s narration and speech that feel like a child’s.

But y’see, you, you’re special. You’re a dead child murderer, and we appreciate that in a guy.”

I think it’s a shame that much of Moore’s Image output is uncollected and/or out of print. Some of it due to probably sticky copyright. Others due to Moore not wanting it reprinted. Something like Spawn: Blood Feud, with some snazzy art by Tony Daniel, I’m kind of unsure why. Since I’d think it would be purely under McFarlane’s purview. Interestingly, there is a German language edition of that fun vampire tale out there.

At least we do, however, have Spawn #8 from Moore, McFarlane, Oliff, Rude, Olyoptics, and Orzechowski still extant. It’s an interesting bit of world-building following one of the earlier, darker characters in Spawn’s universe.

Spawn #8

Classic Comic Compendium: SPAWN #8

Spawn #8 – “In Heaven”
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Todd McFarlane

Colourists: Steve Oliff, Reuben Rude, & Olyoptics
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: February 1993
Available collected in Spawn Origins Collection – Volume 2

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!