- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2007

The comic book permeates all levels of popular culture. This sporadic feature reviews some recent examples from the world of digital video discs (compatible with DVD-ROM-enabled computers and home entertainment centers) and also includes a recommended sequential-art reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

Spawn: The Animated Collection, 10th Anniversary Signature Edition

(HBO Video, Rated: TV-MA, $39.99)

Four DVDs encased in an illustrated, etched metal package and nearly impossible to extract lead owners into one of the most violent adaptations of a comic book ever produced.

Also critically and popularly acclaimed, the series tapped into Todd McFarlane’s famed anti-hero’s world and was translated perfectly into a very-mature-rated horror cartoon.

For three seasons in the 1990s, HBO gave Mr. McFarlane a canvas to explore the very bad and occasionally good side of human nature as his conflicted character searched for revenge on his killers, clues to his origin and a reunion with his wife, Wanda.

Only if the badly burned Spawn could break free of Hell’s controls and challenge the underworld would he reach his goal of salvation.

Owners get all 18 digitally remastered episodes of the series, which boasted superlative voice-over work by Keith David as Spawn and Richard Dysart as his unwelcome mentor and conscience, Cogliostro — and for that role, Mr. Dysart should have won an Emmy.

The pair of actors made the program as powerful a drama as seen in any format on television in the 1990s and beyond.

Besides the incredible animated style, my favorite memories of the series were the live-action introductions of the episodes by Mr. McFarlane, who acted as the Canadian version of Rod Serling with his odd accent and ominous message.

Best extra: Besides the rehash of extras included from the 1999 Ultimate Collection edition DVD, owners get a frame-by-frame study of the first episode, from storyboard to animation, 15 character profiles and a 10-minute step-by-step look at the making of an episode.

More important are the new optional commentary tracks for a quartet of episodes. In each of them, Mr. McFarlane not only dryly and clinically dissects the fine details of the production but, more impressively, manages to talk nearly nonstop.

Read all about it: Spawn has resided on the shelves of comic-book stores since 1992. Those wishing to catch up quickly on his adventures should pick up the Spawn Collection, Volume One ($19.95) and Volume Two ($29.95), trade paperbacks that contain the first 33 issues of the acclaimed series.

The Archies: The Complete Series

(Genius Products, $26.95)

Story Continues →