Hold on to the tattered edges of your red cape boys and girls. Determining the True First Appearance of Spawn is going to be a bumpy ride. By the time we are done, I hope we’ve cleared up all of the confusion surrounding Spawn’s 1st Appearance.
Is Malibu Sun #13 The Real First Appearance of Spawn?
By now you’ve seen a lot of claims that Malibu Sun #13 is Spawn’s real 1st appearance. I decided to do some digging to see if there is any truth to this. Malibu Sun was a preview publication for New Product Information And Licensing Opportunities promoting Malibu properties and creator owned comics they published.
Since Malibu was the original Publisher and Distributor for Image comics, there was an ad for the first issue of Spawn right on the front cover. The image would become the actual cover for Issue #1 except it still had the original logo.
This is where things get a bit tricky. While Malibu Sun #13 came out 2 weeks before Spawn #1, they both have the same published date of May 1992. It is also a Preview, not an actual comic. The only thing we get to see is the cover that would become Issue #1, the original logo and a back image.
Is this good enough to qualify as Spawn’s First Appearance? I say NO! But if I found a nice copy for less than $20, you better believe I would snatch it up.
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There is one exception that makes investing in Malibu Sun #13 worth it. After the online craze stating that this was Spawn’s true first appearance, people starting pulling these things out of dollar bins all over the place and a few discovered that there was an error misprint of the back cover with the black and yellow ink transposed.
There is just enough interested in the regular copy that finding the extremely rare misprint should keep the value of this error variant up enough to make it worth buying it cheap and holding on to.
Adventure Comics Complicates Things
In April, 1992, a small imprint called Adventure Comics had a black and white sketch ad promoting Spawn, Created, Written and Illustrated by Todd McFarlane in several of their comics. This particular sketch would become the cover of Spawn #1, but it has the original SPAWN logo that was replaced prior to the publication of Spawn #1.
So far, the verified titles that have this ad include Rust #1, Rocket Ranger #3 and Torg #3 with Cover Dates of April 1992. To further complicate things, Rust #1 had a regular print of 20K and a Special Limited Edition with with a Bronze Foil Logo on the cover and unique id number on the back. Online reports have stated there were 10K copies, but the original writer Steve Miller stated there was not a set number of the special edition and estimates it tapers off somewhere around 11K.
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Spawn #1 Black and White
Next up is one of the most sought after copies of Spawn. The Black and White Spawn #1 cover variant that you got for every 50 copies you ordered of Spawn #65. It’s estimated that there are no more than 3,100 copies available. There is no doubt that this is one cool looking book, but I have a few concerns about it.
It was published 5 years after #1. To me, this has always been called a reprint, but because of the cover change, it is considered a variant. I struggle with the idea that this book is as valuable as it is. The challenge is figuring out if it will retain its market value or increase once the next Spawn movie comes out. If you can come up with a solid copy for less than $50, I say go for it. But keep in mind the risk you are taking if you pay a lot more for it.
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Without a doubt, the first appearance of Spawn is issue #1. Now if you have an old beat up copy of this comic and you think it’s going to make you wealthy, I have bad news for you. It is estimated that there were 1.7 Million copies printed of Spawn #1.
Todd McFarlane was super popular at the time. A bunch of Comic Creators breaking away from the major comic publishing companies to form their own comic company was a big deal and this was one of the flagship comics of the Image comics launch. It generated a tremendous amount of publicity and was incredibly popular at the time, even getting a movie only 5 years after it’s release.
However, if you have a pristine, unread copy or 10 of Spawn #1, there is a small amount of value in owning this comic. Currently around $5-$10. If that copy grades a 9.8 from CGC, you will get more than a 10 times increases in value to $90-$100. If you find a super clean copy cheap, don’t hesitate to grab it because it’s a great comic for your Personal Collection and who knows what will happen if they come out with a new Spawn movie.
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Spawn #1 Newstand
It’s hard to say if the newsstand copy of a comic is a variant, but we know a few things about the newsstand copy of Spawn #1 that sets it apart from the standard direct to comic book shop copy.
There is a lot debate as to whether a newsstand copy of a comic is considered a variant. For me, it comes down to whether the newsstand version is truly different than the direct copy, is it easy to distinguish between the two and how rare is the newstand copy. The other thing to consider when looking at newsstand copies is they tend to be handled roughly, can wind up on spinning wire racks and not many people were buying their comics at the local 7-11.
The newstand edition of Spawn #1 is printed on the exact same paper with the exact same sales price. The only difference is it has a UPC on the cover. But…. There is always a but, isn't’ there?
It’s estimated that 98-99% of all Image comics were sent to comic book stores. That means that even if we estimate high at 2% of copies were newsstand, there are about 34,000 copies out there. When you compare 34K to 1.7 million, even the smallest difference like a barcode can make a difference.
Remember earlier when I said newsstand copies tend to be in worse shape than their comic book store counterparts? With a mostly black cover, even the slightest nick will show up on this comic, making a high quality grade newsstand copy of Spawn #1 rather rare and valuable to the right collector.
To illustrate this point, I just did a search on ebay for CGC 9.8 Newsstand copies of Spawn #1 recently sold and there were 4, all sold for $250 each. I did the same search for the non newsstand version and there were 42 sold for around $80-$100 a piece.
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Which Version of the 1st Appearance of Spawn Should I buy?
If you are a Collector looking for a Long Term Investment, you have a few options. You can take a risk that the Black and White Spawn will continue to appreciate in value. You can roll the dice that even though Malibu #13 is not recognized as the first appearance of Spawn, there will be a demand for the back cover misprint. Or you can bet on the sure thing, a CGC 9.8 copy of the newsstand version of Spawn #1.
If you are a Flipper looking to make a quick buck, you want to find any of these cheap in near perfect grade. Get them pressed for $15, graded for $18 and sell them for $90 or more. This applies to any of the versions listed above. The key is getting a high quality copy for cheap.
If you are a Casual Comic Collector, I recommend finding a nice clean lot of Spawn issues 1 through 10 on Ebay for under $20. It’s a nice set to have, if for no other reason than being one of the Flagship lines for Image Comics, not to mention Todd McFarlane is a legend comic creator in his own right.
When Should I Sell?
There is an art to buying and selling any type of collectibles. In the case of Spawn, I feel like it really matters how much you paid. If you bought any of these when they came out in 1992 or you got them dirt cheap and they approach 9.8, I would recommend having them Graded, Slabbed and thrown up on E-bay.
But only if you are certain they will get a 9.8. That process alone will double or triple the value of your comic. Even though a new Spawn movie will drive up the prices, there were nearly 1.7 Million copies originally printed. My gut feeling is this is when we will see a flood of sales hit E-bay keeping the price down, maybe even dropping it lower than it is today.
If you have a high grade Newsstand Copy, you are doing way better and have a choice. You can follow the suggestion above or you can attempt to sell at the peak of the movie craze for top dollar. The challenge is going to be that CGC doesn’t differentiate between Direct Editions and Newsstand for Spawn #1. If we see a flood of Direct Copies right before the movie release, it could negatively impact the Newsstand edition as well.
On the flip side, you could raise the price sky high and call it out as the Newsstand Variant and educate your sellers about the difference and point out the rarity. You might get lucky with a nice profit. If not, you still have a very cool rare copy of Spawn #1 to keep long term. At some point, collectors are going to figure out just how few Newsstand Editions there really are.
I would start selling Spawn #1 raw copies now, hold onto 9.8’s and the Black and White version until right before the movie is first released. With the exception of the Malibu Sun #13 error Variant and the Newsstand Variant of Spawn #1, being the two long term holds unless you can make some serious cash at the peak of the movie craze.
If you made to the end of our story, congratulations, you win a no prize. Just leave us feedback below on how we can improve this article or just your thoughts on Spawn #1.
Seriously though, I love the history of Spawn. One of my biggest comic flipping scores was 15 unopened copies of spawn 1-10 of which I sold 12 and kept the rest. In fact, 25 years later I am getting the #1’s pressed and sent to CGC as I type this out. Wish me luck, I want at least 1 CGC 9.8 for my Personal Collection.
Originally published Sep 17, 2008 @ 11:30pm