|Todd McFarlane's Spawn|
|Created by||Todd McFarlane|
|Developed by||Alan B. McElroy|
|Voices of||Keith David|
John Rafter Lee
|Narrated by||Richard Dysart|
|Theme music composer||Shirley Walker|
J. Peter Robinson
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||18|
|Executive producer(s)||Todd McFarlane|
|Running time||30 minutes (episodes)|
180 minutes (films)
|Production company(s)||HBO Animation|
Todd McFarlane Entertainment
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||May 16, 1997 –|
May 28, 1999
Todd McFarlane's Spawn, also known as Spawn: The Animated Series, is an American noir adult animated television series which aired on HBO from 1997 through 1999 and reran on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block in Japan. It has also been released on DVD as a film series. The show is based on the Spawn character from Image Comics, and won an Emmy in 1999 for Outstanding Animation Program (longer than one hour).
The series centers around the story of former Marine Force Recon Lieutenant Colonel Al Simmons, who worked as a government assassin in covert black ops. He was betrayed and killed by a man whom he believed to be his close friend (the man, later to be revealed as Chapel, burned him alive with a flamethrower during a mission). Upon his death, Simmons vowed revenge on Chapel and hoped that he would one day return to his beloved wife Wanda.
Because of his life as an assassin, Simmons' soul goes to Hell. In order to accomplish his vow, he makes a pact with the devil Malebolgia (who was the overlord on the eighth plane of Hell). The pact was a simple one: Simmons would become a soldier in Malebolgia's army (known as a "Hellspawn" or "Spawn" for short) in return for the ability to walk the earth once again in order to see Wanda. However, Simmons was tricked by Malebolgia: his body was not returned to him and he is returned to Earth five years after his death. He had been given a different body which was a festering, pungently cadaverous, maggot-ridden walking corpse that had a massive living red cape attached to it. Because his new body had been rotten for some time and was in an advanced state of decay, his face had become heavily malformed, to the point that he barely appeared human, which led to Simmons donning a mask in order to cover its grotesque appearance.
Upon his return to "life", Spawn seeks out Wanda, who had apparently got over the grief of having lost Al and married another man, Al's best friend Terry Fitzgerald with whom she seemingly had a daughter, Cyan. Terry, a respectable man, works as an analyst for a man named Jason Wynn. Wynn is a powerbroker in the CIA and secretly a black-market arms dealer, amongst other things (such as the head of secret government organizations within the NSA and National Security Council ). Wynn is revealed to be the man responsible for the death of Al Simmons due to a disagreement that the two had between each other concerning their "work." Jason's actions would also prove dangerous to the lives of Terry, Wanda and their daughter as well. Realizing that he is no longer the man in Wanda's life, Al swears to protect her and her new family.
The series depicts Spawn nesting in the dark alleyways, killing any who invade his new-found territory. Rejecting these actions as unworthy of Spawn's time and power, Malebolgia then dispatches another of his minions (a demonic creature known as the Violator that assumes the form of a short, obese clown) to try to persuade Spawn to commit acts of violence and savagery in the name of Hell.
Spawn struggles to fight the lure of evil, as well as seeking to escape being hunted by not only the forces of Hell, but by assailants from Heaven, who have a need to destroy the Hellspawns in order to cripple the forces of Hell so that they do not gain an edge in the escalating war between the two spiritual hosts. As the war intensifies, the line between the forces of good and evil become increasingly blurry. Spawn finds help along the way in the form of a disheveled old man named Cogliostro who was once a Hellspawn that overcame the demonic powers resting within, amongst a number of other characters.
In the last episodes of the series, Spawn learns how to shapeshift and, appearing as Terry, makes love to Wanda, impregnating her. It is revealed that there is a prophecy that the child of a Hellspawn will play the deciding factor in Armageddon, and may be the real reason Spawn was allowed to return to Earth.
Todd McFarlane's Spawn
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"Burning Visions"||TBA||Alan B. McElroy||May 16, 1997|
|Al Simmons returns from the grave, lost and bewildered at how his wife Wanda is now married to his best friend Terry Fitzgerald. He is followed by a evil demon in the form of a clown, called the Violator, who reveals that Al has been dead for five years and is now a Hellspawn. Meanwhile, Jason Wynn and Tony Twist are trying to figure out how to move out their illegal arms.|
|2||"Evil Intent"||John Hays||Alan B. McElroy||May 23, 1997|
|Tormented by the thought that he cannot be with his wife, Spawn is annoyed by the Violator's efforts to drive him into violence and evil in the name of Hell. He eventually engages in a brawl with the demon in his true form.|
|3||"No Rest, No Peace"||TBA||TBA||May 30, 1997|
|When Tony Twist's hired cyborg hitman, Over-Kill, fails to eliminate Spawn, Wynn sends in Jess Chapel to get the job done.|
|4||"Dominoes"||John Hays||TBA||June 6, 1997|
|Police detectives Sam Burke and Twitch Williams begin trailing the sadistic child-killer known as Billy Kincaid, who poses as an ice cream man. Wanda learns of some new evidence that will help her client be cleared of his charges.|
|5||"Souls in the Balance"||TBA||Gary Hardwick||June 16, 1997|
|Spawn must deal with a crazed priest, a person who does not die after a snipe shot. Meanwhile, the Violator tips off the location of Wanda and Terry's sweet daughter, Cyan, to Kincaid.|
|6||"End Games"||TBA||TBA||June 30, 1997|
|Spawn saves Cyan from Kincaid and returns her to her parents, along with the wedding ring that Al Simmons was buried with. Frustrated that Spawn did not kill Kincaid, the Violator finishes the job himself and promises to continue pursuing the Hellspawn.|
Todd McFarlane's Spawn 2
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|7||"Home, Bitter Home"||Jennifer Yuh Nelson||Larry Brody, John Shirley, John Leekley & Rebekah Bradford||May 15, 1998|
|Chapel steps onto Spawn's territory, and the two have an encounter that shakes the alleyways.|
|8||"Access Denied"||Tom Nelson||Larry Brody, John Shirley, John Leekley & Rebekah Bradford||May 22, 1998|
|After Terry discovers more than he should about shipping discrepancies, Wynn orders a hit on his life. Spawn intervenes, wanting to be the one to kill Terry, but after learning that Terry did not steal Wanda from him like he had originally thought, Spawn fights off Terry's attackers.|
|9||"Colors of Blood"||Mike Vosburg||Larry Brody, John Shirley & Victor Bumbalo||May 29, 1998|
|Unable to locate Terry after his hitmen's failure, Wynn turns to Wanda. Spawn takes care of some local drug dealers that are killing the homeless.|
|10||"Send in the KKKlowns"||Jennifer Yuh Nelson||John Leekley & Gerard Brown||June 5, 1998|
|A man claiming to be doing "the Lord's work" is killing off blacks, but finds that the one he captured, Terry Fitzgerald, is more than he can handle. Spawn attempts to confront Wanda, but only frightens her in the process.|
|11||"Death Blow"||Tom Nelson||John Leekley, Rebekah Bradford & Gerard Brown||June 12, 1998|
|Lisa Wu begins looking into the recent Rat City alley murders and Spawn visits Wanda at home.|
|12||"Hellzapoppin"||Mike Vosburg||John Leekley, Rebekah Bradford & Gerard Brown||June 19, 1998|
|As Wynn watches the news, he receives a message from Clown and the channel goes back on. Realizing that Wynn had sent people to kill both Cyan and Wanda, Spawn threatens to kill Wynn if he does not back off.|
Todd McFarlane's Spawn 3: The Ultimate Battle
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|13||"The Mindkiller"||Jennifer Yuh Nelson||John Leekley||May 23, 1999|
|Spawn begins feeling regret about abandoning his former mentor, Major Forsberg, as Cogliostro attempts to talk him into giving up the shroud.|
|14||"Twitch Is Down"||TBA||TBA||May 24, 1999|
|Officer Twitch Williams investigates the alley murders and confronts Spawn. After Twitch learns too much about the alley murders and Jason Wynn, Wynn sends the dirty Police Chief Banks out to kill Twitch in order to keep him silenced.|
|15||"Seed of the Hellspawn"||Mike Vosburg||John Leekley||May 25, 1999|
|Spawn learns to use his shroud to take on the forms of others. Knowing that returning as Al would worry Wanda too much, Spawn disguises himself as Terry and makes love to his wife one last time. Meanwhile, Sam is watching Twitch get hospitalized. Banks attempts to frame Spawn as Twitch's shooter.|
|16||"Hunter's Moon"||Jennifer Yuh Nelson||John Leekley||May 26, 1999|
|Spawn befriends a vampire named Lilly, but when she attacks him and reveals that she was sent by Heaven to kill him, he wastes no time in frying her with sunlight. Lisa Wu, now revealed to Spawn as Jade—a hunter also sent by Heaven to kill Hellspawn—allows him to re-heal himself after his fight with Lilly.|
|17||"Chasing the Serpent"||Chuck Patton||Rebekah Bradford||May 27, 1999|
|Spawn, aided by Jade, frees Terry Fitzgerald and Major Forsberg from Jason Wynn's opium prison.|
|18||"Prophecy"||Brad Rader||John Leekley||May 28, 1999|
|Jade realises Spawn is not what she thought and decides to spare him, and Heaven responds by placing a bounty upon Jade. She is mortally wounded by the new hunters and in the end, she avoids disgrace and is granted a spot in Heaven by having Spawn give her a warrior's death. Meanwhile, Sam and Twitch confront the Chief in the subway, and secure a confession before the last train leaves. "I want my humanity back" was all that Spawn said before the closing credits roll.|
- Keith David – Al Simmons / Spawn
- Richard Dysart – Cogliostro
- Dominique Jennings – Wanda Blake
- John Rafter Lee – Jason Wynn
- Michael Nicolosi – Clown (human form)
- James Hanes – Violator (demoniac form), Overt-Kill
- Jennifer Jason Leigh – Lilly
- Victor Love – Terry Fitzgerald (episodes 1–12), Bobby (episodes 1–12)
- Michael Beach – Terry Fitzgerald (episodes 15–17), Bobby (episodes 15–17), and additional voices
- Kath Soucie – Cyan Fitzgerald and additional voices
- James Keane – Tony Twist, Sam Burke
- Michael McShane – Maximilian "Twitch" Williams, Gareb
- Denise Poirier – Merrick, Bounty Hunter, Angela
- Ronny Cox – Billy Kincaid, Senator Scott McMillan
- Victor Brandt – Chief Banks
- Ming-Na Wen – Jade (Lisa Wu)
- Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Jess Chapel
- Robert Forster – Major Forseberg
- James Hong – Gen Soon/Zhang Lao
- Debbi Morgan – Granny Blake
The series has achieved a small but loyal cult following who praise the animation, writing, voice acting, music and dark tone, whereas the graphic violence and intentional unresolved cliffhanger has attracted criticism. Variety stated in 1997 that "It’s as dark and complex as anything HBO has attempted in the live-action arena. And visually, it’s quite the stunner. HBO wanted different, and it surely got it." A more mixed review at the time in 1997 came from The Dallas Morning News, they questioned why anyone would "want to subject themselves to such a relentlessly grim, gruesome dehumanizing experience."
Todd McFarlane's Spawn was ranked 5th on IGN's list of "The Greatest Comic Book Cartoons of All Time", and 23rd on IGN's list of "Top 25 Primetime Animated Series of All Time" (despite the fact the show was aired at midnight on HBO).
Series producer Eric Radomski reflected in a retrospective interview that "Spawn TAS was a personal triumph for me. Very rarely do artists get the opportunity to have as much uncensored creative freedom as I did at HBO on Spawn."
The score and opening theme was handled by Shirley Walker, who also composed background music for Batman: The Animated Series. While Batman: The Animated Series featured traditional movie orchestra-type music, the producers of Todd McFarlane's Spawn requested that Walker give the series a more organic and subtle electronic soundtrack, with only minimal usage of orchestral sounds.
All three seasons have been released separately on DVD and VHS as three two-hour movies, under the titles Todd McFarlane's Spawn, Todd McFarlane's Spawn 2, and Todd McFarlane's Spawn 3: The Ultimate Battle after editing these seasons into movies.
On July 24, 2007, HBO Video released a 4-disc 10th-anniversary signature collector's edition on DVD with all 18 episodes and multiple bonus features.
When the show's first and second seasons were released on video they were released in two formats. The first format was called the "Uncut Collector's Edition", which is the version that was shown on TV and held a TV-MA rating, and the other was a special edited version called the "Special Edited Edition" which held a PG-13 rating by toning down the violence and sexual content.
On July 5, 2016, HBO added all three seasons to its streaming services, HBO GO and HBO NOW.
- "HBO and David Kelley Win Top Early Emmys". The New York Times. August 30, 1999. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
- Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 Through 2003 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. pp. 857–858. ISBN 978-1476665993.
- Ray Richmond (1997-07-20). "Spawn – Variety". Variety.com. Retrieved 2019-10-22.
- Kershner, Jim (June 3, 1997). "'Spawn' Storm: Spokane Artist Todd Mcfarlane Always Wanted To Create His Own Comic Book Series, And When He Finally Did, It Became The Hottest Title Of The Decade". The Spokesman Review. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
- "The Greatest Comic Book Cartoons of All Time - IGN". IGN. Ziff Davis. 2007-01-26. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
- "Top 25 Primetime Animated Series of All Time". IGN. Ziff Davis. 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2015-08-02.
- "Todd McFarlane's Spawn: The Animated Collection (10th Anniversary Signature Edition)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2010-12-14.