By Benjamin Nobel, November 1, 2015
It may sound hard to believe but all of the following facts are true:
- Spawn appeared in a comic book published in April of 1992 (that publication date being a month prior to Malibu Sun #13 and Spawn #1 which were both published in May of 1992)
- All three of the major grading companies (CGC, CBCS, PGX) note this important Spawn appearance on their labels for Rust #1
- This early Spawn appearance has prominent placement on the inside back cover of Rust #1 (a prime advertising location and superior paper quality versus an interior page)
- The artwork featuring Spawn was by Todd McFarlane himself, and was an early black-and-white sketch version of the artwork later used for the cover of Spawn #2
- The “Spawn” logo in this artwork was an early “concept” logo, i.e. a “prototype” that McFarlane ultimately tossed aside, going with something else instead
- In addition to a “regular” version of Rust #1, a “Limited Edition” variant of this April 1992 comic was published, with a restricted print run cited to be 10,000 copies (that number represents one percentage point of the print run of direct edition copies of Spawn #1)
- It is possible as of this writing to buy one of these limited edition April 1992 copies for under $25 in high grade
Back in 1992, a couple of weeks before Spawn #1 arrived, comic shops received their copies of Malibu Sun #13 — a preview publication featuring new product information and licensing opportunities — and found that customers who had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Spawn #1 were willing to pony up considerable cash to take home a Malibu Sun #13. It had Spawn on the cover, and it got there first.
My local comic shop owner told us at the time, that the artwork shown on Malibu Sun #13 was what the cover of Spawn #1 was going to look like. And then when Spawn #1 copies arrived weeks later, that proved true, but with one important exception: the “Spawn” logo was different. In other words, Todd McFarlane had changed his mind about the logo and went in another direction. Having that original version of the logo in Malibu Sun #13 was immediate justification to hike the price; it made Malibu Sun #13 that much more interesting.
Below is an example CGC label for Malibu Sun #13 — as you can see, the publication month is May of 1992, and the “Key Comments” reads “Spawn pin-ups” but nothing more.
Here is the full CGC Certification information for the above example, screencaptured from CGC’s certification lookup tool:
So even though the publication date is May of 1992, as shown on the upper right corner of the book itself and then repeated on the CGC label and certification lookup, matching — not before — the publication month of Spawn #1, everywhere you look people refer to Malibu Sun #13 with the claim that it contains the first appearance of Spawn — a claim arguably tracing all the way back to those original comic book stores that hawked their copies of Malibu Sun #13 to Spawn-hungry customers when those copies got there first. Look at eBay listings today and you’ll find the common theme that everyone out there advertises the book as containing Spawn’s first appearance:
As you can see, all of the above listings for Malibu Sun #13 advertise the book as containing Spawn’s first appearance. But wait, didn’t this blog entry start off with the fact that Rust #1 was published a month earlier? Yes. But few comic shops stocked Adventure Comics titles, so while they were busy touting the virtues of Malibu Sun #13 and hawking copies to impatient kids coming into the shop to check whether Spawn #1 had arrived yet (“sorry, not yet, but check this out”), Rust #1 was meanwhile flying under the radar. I only found out about Rust #1 myself this year from a comic shop owner who had just purchased a collection and was thumbing through the books, then noticed Spawn there on the back page of Rust #1 and did a double-take because the publication date on the book was April 1992 (meaning it pre-dated Spawn #1 by one month).
And this April publication date along with the importance of the Spawn appearance is now corroborated on the labels for Rust #1 from all three of CGC, CBCS, and PGX (screenshots included below from copies that have surfaced on eBay and elsewhere). First, CGC:
CGC’s full certification lookup tool output is shown in the below screenshot:
As you can see above, the publication date is 4/1992 — as compared to 5/1992 for the lookup earlier on Malibu Sun #13. And in the Key Comments field, CGC notes the bronze foil logo (which Limited Edition copies have) and “Full page “Spawn” ad by Todd McFarlane”. The Variant field reads “Special Limited Edition” and under Label Text they note the copy number, which was printed on the back of each copy. Based on the numbering, sources such as ComicBookDB.com peg the print run at 10,000 copies.
The label note applied by CGC is useful, telling us for example that the ad is a full-page ad, and is by Todd McFarlane. A few key pieces of information CGC does not include in the Key Comments notes:
- The full page Spawn ad is actually a black and white sketch version of the artwork later used as the cover of Spawn #2
- The Spawn logo is not the same one used later in the series, but instead is the prototype logo that also appears on Malibu Sun #13
- Although the publication date makes clear that Rust #1 pre-dates Spawn #1, this fact is not specifically pointed out.
- The location of the ad in the interior back cover page is not specified.
Interestingly, when we look at the label notes on CBCS and PGX copies, some of these other facts are included — so taken together, the three labels as a group give us most of the important information. Nobody however makes note of the usage of this same artwork as the cover of Spawn #2. Below is an example CBCS label; as you can see they make specific mention of the publication date pre-dating that of Spawn #1, on the label note:
Another fact included in the CBCS label note is the location of the ad on the interior back cover. And finally, below is an example PGX label:
As you can see, PGX has pointed out the full-page Spawn ad “with prototype logo.” Between the three grading companies, lots of important information is conveyed; but none have pointed out the connection to the cover of Spawn #2. Below is a side by side comparison of the interior back cover full-page Spawn ad that appears in Rust #1, and the cover of Spawn #2.
As you can see in this side-by-side comparison, the full-page Spawn “ad” in the interior back cover of Rust #1 published in April is the exact same artwork upon which the cover of Spawn #2 was later based. Aside from the black-and-white sketch versus full color difference, you can see the difference in the two Spawn logos — the April ad in Rust #1 features the original “prototype” logo instead of the logo Todd McFarlane ultimately used in the Spawn series.
Rust #1 Special Limited Edition Value
As of this writing — as promised — with a budget of $25 you can acquire a high grade copy of the Special Limited Edition variant of Rust #1. Below is an example recent eBay sale under this price, as proof that it is indeed possible to get your hands on this rare book at this budget price:
Collecting Rust #1
“Completists” who need every Spawn comic will want to collect both the “regular” edition of Rust #1 and the Special Limited Edition. And if you really need every Spawn comic, the ad also appeared — although in an interior page (on cheap newsprint) as opposed to the more prominent inside back cover on glossy paper — within the pages of Rocket Ranger #3 (April) and Planet of the Apes #23 (May). However, among these various comics which included the Spawn ad, only the Special Limited Edition of Rust #1 checks all of the following boxes:
- April publication date (the entire reason this ad should be of any interest to collectors is the publication month of April being chronologically earlier than the May publication of Spawn #1 and Malibu Sun #13)
- Restricted print run (the Special Limited Edition copies — each one numbered individually on the back cover — are a “variant” with a restricted print run believed to be just 10,000 copies)
- Interior back cover placement (more prominent placement and better paper quality)
As of this writing, the largest online comic shop, MyComicShop.com, does not have any copies available in any condition, of either variant of Rust #1. And looking at their “wantlist” feature, 22 of their customers are actively seeking Rust #1 with six of those having placed the book on their wantlist in the past six months. Also note in the screenshot below that MyComicShop corroborates the 10,000 print run estimate for the Special Limited Edition variant.
Something to be aware of when collecting Rust #1: “Adventure Comics” (which later became Malibu) did not appear to budget for high quality staples when publishing this comic book. It makes sense that independent publishers needed to cut corners as much as possible, but in this case they created quite an ironic situation: copies of Rust #1 are plagued with rusty staples. Keep this phenomenon in mind when collecting your copy; require staple photos from the interior as part of your due diligence assessing the comic’s condition.
The irony is comical: Rust comics tend to have rusty staples. I encountered this phenomenon first-hand when collecting this book, and what’s more, I encountered rust migration from the staples on NM-advertised copies where the seller claimed to have stored the book bagged and boarded since purchase, and the nearby books in the same box had no such problem. This indicates to me that the quality of the staples themselves is poor, possibly a manufacturing choice to cut corners and save money.
A final note: as mentioned earlier, the numbering for the Special Limited Edition variant of Rust #1, is on the back cover in the upper right corner. The examples below mean that the one at the left was the #6568 copy printed; the one on the right was the #9973 copy printed. Although the exact number of your copy may not matter to you, to some collectors the number matters; for example owning copy #1 would be especially cool, as would owning copy #10,000. I often hear that collectors prefer low numbers to high numbers; and if the number itself has some other meaning to you (1975 if you were born that year or something of that nature), then keeping the numbering in mind might lead you to prefer one copy over another.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more rare Spawn comics you can buy with a $25 budget!