In 1994 Todd McFarlane was working with Mattel to produce action figures based on his comic book characters. When the two could not decide on how to make the toys to McFarlane's satisfaction, he reclaimed the toy rights to his characters and started his own toy company.
Originally dubbed "Todd's Toys," the name was changed in 1995 following pressure from Mattel, who feared that the new company's name would be confused with that of Barbie's younger brother.
Production began with action figures based upon Todd McFarlane's Spawn comic series and has since grown to feature a large number of licensed property lines including The Simpsons and "Movie Maniacs" (which features numerous famous horror icons such as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, The Terminator, Leatherface, and The Thing), as well as other characters and lines like basketball, hockey and baseball legends, along with characters from video games such as Soulcalibur, Onimusha, and Metal Gear Solid. Other media such as storybook characters from Where the Wild Things Are have been represented.
The company has produced original works, giving a grotesque twist to fairy tale stories such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and historical figures. McFarlane has collaborated with artists like Clive Barker and H.R. Giger to produce other original figures.
The first line of Spawn toys ever produced was released in 1994 and consisted of six figures, the hero Spawn and his medieval counterpart (aptly named Medieval Spawn) with Tremor and the villain's Violator, Overt-Kill, and Clown, as well as a Spawn Alley Playset, the Spawnmobile and the Violator Monster Rig. They were notably different from the toys common on shelves at the time because of their level of detail in both sculpting and painting. Other toys utilized only a few colors painted in general areas (a single "flesh tone" for the face, etc.) and were tacked to cardboard backs. McFarlane's figures had individual items such as spikes, teeth, claws, and buttons painted individually and packaged encased by hard plastic which surrounded both the figure and blister card, making them more suitable collector's items. Each toy in the first line came with a regular-sized comic (although with fewer pages than the standard 22), which were individualized to the character.
The series would include alternate timeframes and different takes on the classic characters with Series 10, 20 and 30 showing homage to the core characters of the books.
What got me collecting Spawn Figures was the introduction of something new and different to the toy industry. At the time there were only a few action figure options to collect, Kenner Star Wars, Batman, ToyBiz Marvel, and Playmates Star Trek.