Todd McFarlane's Spawn
After being betrayed and murdered by his employer, a government trained assassin named, Al Simmons, is resurrected as a Hellspawn and is forced to become the reluctant leader of Hell's army.
The adult animation series aired from 1997 to 1999 on HBO and was nominated for and won an Emmy in 1999 for Outstanding Animation Program (longer than one hour). While a reported sequel series titled Spawn: The Animation was supposed to happen in 2004 featuring the return of Keith David as Spawn, it was unfortunately scrapped. Even then, Todd McFarlane's Spawn is widely hailed as one of the best animated series of all time and has garnered quite a large cult following since it's conclusion.
Spawn is often heralded as a product of his time. He’s an obscenely dark and gritty character battling the agents of Heaven and Hell where the line between good and bad is often blurred, and sometimes nonexistent. Instead of trying to make the Hellspawn more palatable for a mainstream audience in 1997, HBO committed to something much more grand with Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, allowing the animated series to thrive in its originality and downright gruesome violence.
From the first episode, fans will immediately begin to notice parallels with the comics story. We see classic stories come to life like Billy Kincaid’s Ice Cream Man and even the mysterious Cagliostro’s influence. It feels familiar to longtime fans which is a welcome aspect especially in a media translation of a comic book property. This is due in large part to the success of the animation team, who managed to capture the essence of who Spawn is and the world he endures.
The first season features some rather interesting introductions from the creator himself, Todd McFarlane and those brief moments are still remarkably impactful. It’s some real grim, dark behind the scenes stuff, but it works so wonderfully well for the character. It’s something ONLY McFarlane could do, but he pulls it off magnificently and frames each episode in a way that adds to it. Sure, it’s humorous and campy to see a young McFarlane working on pages of Spawn comics in some random creepy room, but that’s also what makes it so enjoyable to look back on. It’s honestly not too different from what the Game of Thrones show runners did after each of their episodes as well. The solemn reflection on the themes of that episode is an approach that has worked well for HBO and this is no different.
While it is only a short three seasons long stretched out over eighteen individual episodes, the substantial depth each one has makes the series feel much longer than it is. There is a high level of replayability in each season and that has helped keep me watching the series even now, decades later. Sure it doesn’t cover the story as well as what we see in the comics, but it’s a cohesive and complex translation of the character that accurately depicts the comics uniquely well.
Fans of Spawn, whether in comics, the 1997 film or even as a playable character in the new Mortal Kombat games will undoubtedly find plenty to love in Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. The animated series is dark, violent and full of intense adult themes but it also has incredible depth. As a snippet of Spawn’s life, it successfully details the struggle and motives of Al Simmons without feeling too cumbersome.
It isn’t all rainbows and fun, but the series absolutely stands the test of time as one of the best animated series based on a comic today!
Todd McFarlane's Spawn is dark, violent and full of intense adult themes but it also has incredible depth. It isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but the series absolutely stands the test of time as one of the best animated series based on a comic, even today.
Todd McFarlane’s Spawn: The Animated Series: I Want My Humanity Back
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Acting - 10/1010/10
- Music - 10/1010/10
- Production - 10/1010/10
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