Over the weekend, Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, revealed he was hard at work on a live-action Spawn script, which we’ve been hearing for a while. But it’s worth asking, why bother with a movie, when animation would suit Spawn so much better?
Spawn is the story of Vietnam vet Al Simmons, unjustly killed and brought back to life in a demonic suit covered in burn scars. Simmons has access to near-limitless power, from magic to super-strength, but every power he uses costs him a little bit more of his soul. And since the devil doesn’t offer a paycheck, Michaels lives among the homeless, and often finds himself defending them against threats both demonic and all too human in nature.
Thanks to McFarlane’s muscular, scratchy and kinetic art, which revitalized Spider-Man for Marvel, Spawn was an immediate hit, with Spawn #1 selling millions of copies, moving piles of toys, and even getting a live-action movie in 1997.
The movie, much like the grimdark Spawn himself, was very much of its era, right down to the soundtrack that teamed up the likes of the Crystal Method and Filter. (Yes, “Can’t You Trip Like I Do” is from this movie’s soundtrack.) The film was scorned by some fans, but director Mark Dippe, a seasoned special effects expert, used cutting edge CGI in a noble effort to translate McFarlane’s art to the page, and screenwriter Alan McElroy, writer of several Spawn comics, worked to stay faithful to the comic. The movie struggled with its budget and translating a comic that was very much about the tropes of comic books, and ultimately fell apart in theaters, grossing $54 million against its $40 million budget.
It also overshadowed a more successful translation to the screen. Around the same time, McElroy also wrote several episodes of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, a traditionally animated series that debuted on HBO the same year as the live-action movie and ran for three abbreviated seasons. In fact, unlike its live action partner, it even took home major awards, winning an Emmy in its final season for Outstanding Animated Program. Despite only running for a total of 18 episodes, it did a surprisingly effective job of both translating McFarlane’s art into motion and in capturing the sometimes cheesy vibe of the original comics.