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Q & A with Trent Claus, the owner of the largest foreign Spawn collection in the world!

Posted on September 3, 2015 at 10:20 AM


FCC staff in blue, Trent in white


Ok Mr. Lobstrosity, lets get the titles out of the way first! You are the owner of Spawnworld.com and the undisputed “King of Spawn”. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started on the road to collecting all things Spawn related.


As a kid my family collected Star Wars stuff and we’d go to all the flea markets, toy stores and comic shops we could find. We started frequenting a store called Cosmic Comics, which had a small selection of toys. While I was in there I started to learn about comics and developed an interest in them. I ended up hanging out in the store so often that they put me to work! I was 13 when I started and didn’t leave until college.

I’ve always been an X-Men guy but when Image started up and Spawn debuted I was blown away. I bought all the debut image titles but Spawn was the only one that really resonated with me. A couple years later when the first Spawn toys were released I snapped them all up immediately and decided at that point to collect everything Spawn related. To keep track of everything, I kept a list of every item I had, as well as items I believed to exist but didn’t have yet. That list grew and eventually went online and became SpawnWorld.com, which today is the largest Spawn website in the world.

My collecting focus has shifted over the years, these days I’m much more focused on the comics than I am the toys and other paraphernalia, although I still collect all of it. With the comics I became more aware of the existence of newsstand editions several years back and have tried very hard to complete a set of those. Over the years I picked up foreign editions of Spawn here and there but didn’t fully commit to collecting them until around 2001. Currently my international Spawn set is my main focus, I’m trying to complete a run of Spawn #1-10 from every country in which it was published.


What is the appeal of the character of Spawn in particular?


In the beginning, McFarlane's art of course, but also the storyline and characters. I've always been interested in religious fantasy like Dante, Milton, etc. angels, demons, Purgatory, reincarnation... Spawn has all that stuff and I really enjoy it. Unlike a lot of Spawn fans, I was never very interested in the "guy with big guns" angle or the more purely superheroesque storylines, but the mythological stuff is great.


How many countries have you completed your run of #1-10 from so far and which have proven to be the most difficult to find?


There are 28 countries confirmed to have printed Spawn comics, 5 of which printed more than one run (usually by a different publisher). So that makes 33 runs. Ignoring variant covers and multiple printings, I've completed 29 out of 33.

Five of the runs have variant issues, either special covers or multiple printings, which I also try to complete. So if those you count those I only have 27 of the 33 runs finished.

Finding them has been quite the challenge. For some of the countries it's relatively easy to track down an issue or two but finding all 10 can be difficult. For other countries finding anything is hard. The hardest to find have been Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand.

As for the variants, Japan is by far the most difficult. Spawn was very popular there at the time and issue #1 alone had 12 printings! Just looking at Japan's #1-10 run, there are 79 unique issues to track down. I'm have 65 so far.


So you are the world wide bad-ass of Spawn, no question there! Lets delve into the hypothetical for a bit shall we? Todd hears about you and your collection and decides he not only wants to meet you but might actually want to purchase it for his library. What cash amount would it take for you to even think about selling your entire Spawn #1-10 global run?

And a second question, have you ever thought about letting the McFarlane entertainment company know this collection exists just to see what they might say? It has to be the biggest in the world right?


Well I'm definitely not into collecting comics for the money so I don't think I would be interested in selling. But it would be fun to act as more of a curator of Spawn memorabilia, kind of like Steve Sansweet for Star Wars. I've met Todd a couple of times and talked to him about SpawnWorld but never about my collection in particular.


Well I understand the not interested in money thing, trust me! For insurance purposes though it might be something to think about.

I also think you’re being too modest with Todd. He needs to know about you Trent! Who knows it might even provide some inside information that could help you source more foreign Spawn collectables you might not know about. Or at the very least get you an invite to the studio and some sort of recognition. But, we don't do this for that do we? Love is what drives us and in that vein I feel like you have hit some sort of mainline when it comes to niche collecting.

Tell me Trent, What has been the most dog-gone difficult Spawn books to find #1-10? Not including the multiple Japanese editions/reprints though. What has been that group that made you consider selling a kidney?


It's so difficult to choose the hardest... they've all had their own challenges. I've joined chat groups in some countries, cold-contacted countless bookstores, contacted publishers and luckily I've made a lot of friends around the world who have helped me out tremendously.

Of course, one of the biggest challenges is always the language barrier. Unfortunately I don't speak anything other than English and a bit of Spanish, so Google Translate is a necessity. Sometimes it works great, other times not so much. Because of that, countries that don't use the Latin Alphabet such as Bulgaria, or Thailand are particularly difficult.

Another major issue is the rarity/value relationship. Spawn comics, in general, aren't worth a tremendous amount. You would think that this would make them easier to buy but I've found that it tends to be the opposite. Because they are perceived as low value they are often mishandled, discarded, or simply not put up for sale because the seller doesn't feel it's worth their time. Even if I offer insane cash finders fees they can be very hard to track down because people have all thrown them away! There's a common dilemma amongst us international collectors in that, in some countries, the US versions have been more desirable than the local versions so the local versions often get tossed out.

This was a big problem trying to put together my run from the Philippines. It's a perfect example of a situation where the printing was perceived to be of low quality so the US versions were more desirable. I think most copies were thrown away and those that didn't fell victim to the harshly humid climate over the last 20 years. So it becomes a situation where no matter how much money you offer, the items simply cannot be found! I was lucky to be able to finally put the Philippines run together through a contact Matt found... again it's through the help of my friends that I've made much of my progress.

The countries I still need to complete (Australia, Indonesia, etc) are similarly difficult. Australia was the biggest surprise for me. When I first started this adventure, I assumed that places like the UK, Australia and South Africa would all be pretty easy since they are in English... boy was I wrong!

Speak of the devil... I just received Spawn #3 from Australia in the mail today. That only leaves Aussie #8 that I'm missing!


I know right? Some of the english language countries can be the toughest countries to crack. The foreign indigenous bias rears its ugly head in lots of sourcing situations. I remember searching for a Portuguese Spawn #1 and my contact telling me that it would be a very tough order to fill. At that time the American book was what all the collectors in Portugal wanted. The cultural irony of Americans seeking out this indigenous material that was considered less valuable than its American counterpart is quite interesting.

Im glad you landed that Aussie book! I admire your passion Trent and Spawnworld.com is a wonderful achievement. But, I think maybe its time for show and tell don't you? I’d love to see some pics of your international Spawn comics as well as your entire Spawn related collection!


Sure! Here are my "grids" that I use to keep track of what I have/need for the #1-10 collection:


Please see pics below


I do the same sort of thing for the action figures. Here's an example of the complete set of all 13 Mandarin Spawn variations:


Please see pic below


On SpawnWorld, I currently have more than 2197 unique comics/books and 2442 toys listed.

I also write and curate a Spawn encyclopedia on the site which currently has 1440 encyclopedia entries listing virtually every proper noun ever uttered in the comics, each with a thumbnail image and links to their references.

What I don't have listed yet are all of the thousands of other items like trading cards, stickers, arcade games, posters, gum dispensers, keychains... the list goes on and on. Someday I'll get them all added to the site.

Spawn sometimes gets a bad rap but has been a very popular character around the world. Here in the US he often gets unfairly lumped in with the chromium/variant-cover/90's drek crowd... but it's just not accurate. The main series didn't have its first cover variant until 1997, 5 years after it started. It didn't have it's second for another 3 years! In fact, the main series has never had a chrome, foil, hologram, etc. cover.

The series is currently on issue 253... one of the longest running series currently published and the 2nd longest independent US series ever. Yet most people only know about the 1st 11 issues. They know about the guest writers (Gaiman, Miller, etc.) and the legal drama with Angela but that's about it. Imagine if we judged the entirety of the X-Men, Superman or Batman by only their 1st 11 issues? Think of all the amazing stories, artists, characters and years of history we'd be ignoring.


WOW! Hold on while I lift my jaw off of the floor!!!!!!!!!! That's really impressive!


Thanks!


I buy what your selling. It isn't fair for a series to be judged only by its first issues. Spawn really has had an amazing publishing run. From getting to issue #253 to being published in a massive amount of countries. I also agree it shouldn't be lumped in with the rest of the manufactured ’90's drek. For me personally Spawn represented the future of comics in many ways. As a kid I remember being excited about creators taking full control over their creations and not being bound by some corporate webbing, pun intended. Looking back I realize I was buying into the hype but I still think Spawn represents that enterprising spirit that percolated into the creator environment that is still bearing fruit today.

Ok Trent, so you clearly are kicking collecting Spawn in the ass. Are there any other Spawn related collectible dreams you have? Where do you see your collection, SpawnWorld.com and yourself in 10 years time?


There will always be more Spawn stuff to collect. The trouble for me is space, or rather lack thereof.

I've had to drastically cut back on any further collecting of the toys, they just take up too much space. There are only a couple figures that I still hunt variations for, once those are done I'll throw in the towel.

As for the comics, I'm doing very well. By my last count, there are 1473 (US) Spawn-related books and comics, of which I'm missing only 23. Foreign issues from #1-10 I'm missing 26.

I've been assembling a set of CGC 9.8 Spawn 1-10 (all US versions) and am hopeful that a big group that are submitted for grading now will come back with some winners. The newsstand issues are really tough to get in high grade.

I'm still hunting for a few other odds and ends: There are 26 trading cards I need, 3 "palmboards" from Japan (those little toy skateboards), 1 more Citizen Watch, a bunch of Zippo lighters and a few other assorted paraphernalia.

In 10 years time I hope to have completed the full sets of the comics and cards as well as the select few figures that I'm still hunting. SpawnWorld will still be cataloging every Spawn item that's produced and hopefully I'll have all the cards and paraphernalia listed on the site finally.


Amazing my friend! I have one final question though? After all of these goals are completed, catalogued, and saved. What will you do? What is Trent gonna do when he has bagged every big, rare piece he is looking for? What’s next?


There's always something more to collect!

I have an art collection, comprised mostly of comic and animation art and I think of that as my primary collection. I'll focus more on that once the Spawn hunt is over.


Awesome! Thanks for taking the time to answer all of our questions. You are a valuable member of the foreign collecting community Trent!


Australia

Brazil(ongoing)

Brazil collection

Bulgaria


Croatia


Denmark (Egmont)


Denmark (Semic Interpresse)


Finland


France


Germany (Kiosk)


Germany (Prestige)


Greece


Hong Kong


Hungary


Indonesia


Italy


Japan


Mexico


Netherlands


Norway


Peru


Philippines


Poland


Portugal (Abril/Controljornal)


Portugal (Devir)


South Africa


Spain


Sweden


Thailand


Turkey


UK


USA (ongoing)


USA (newsstand)



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