Spawn’s role in the superhero hierarchy has always been a matter of debate. He’s not a member of the DC or Marvel family, and thus tends to get lost in the modern media shuffle which focuses on the films of those companies. Still, he’s managed to enter mainstream conciseness thanks in large part to the notoriety of the Golden Globe-winning HBO animated series based on the character. Still, even many of those who know Spawn really just know of him. The specifics of his exploits remain contained within the pages of the characters’ comics, which some fans still have written down on their “To Read” lists somewhere towards the bottom of the page.
Those who have dove into the history of Spawn, however, will be the first to tell you that the character and his world are among the most intriguing of all comic creations. Even those who are more familiar with the character may be surprised to learn that there is far more to the Spawn series than meets the eye. The history of his rise from an idea imagined by Todd McFaralane to a leading comic icon is littered with fascinating factoids that you may have never heard before.
These are the 15 Things You Never Knew About Spawn.
15. Early Issues of Spawn Were Printed Out of Order
It’s difficult to follow an ongoing comic storyline in the best of times. You’ve got to be able to keep up with a strict release schedule and, ideally, start reading the arc from the very beginning in order to avoid having to hunt down relevant back issues. Even those who read Spawn from the start had a tough time keeping up with the character’s adventures, though, thanks to some early issues being printed out of order.
Nobody is entirely sure how it happened, but for some reason, issues 19 and 20 of Spawn were skipped over during their initial release. Strangely, these issues were then re-released. 19 came out between 24 and 25, while 20 came out between 25 and 26. There are a few theories regarding what happened here, but the most popular one is that the upstart Image Comics had made some sort of technical error that resulted in them missing a publishing deadline.
14. Spawn’s Power Level Is Pretty Absurd
Spawn’s powers are a curious subject. In the beginning, Al Simmons’ transformation into Spawn granted him certain abilities that we have come to associate with many superheroes. He had super strength, super speed, and the ability to rock a pretty awesome cape. These powers spawned – pun…you know what, it’s intended – from the necroplasm that runs through his body.
Things started to get a little crazy once the abilities of Spawn’s suit became more pronounced. For instance, it was established early on that Spawn’s suit is an organic entity that can sometimes act independently from Spawn. In order to keep things in check, McFarlane tried to establish the idea of a “power counter” that Spawn could exhaust by using too much magic. This is why the character relied on his suit more often than not in early issues. Eventually, though, it was established that Spawn is essentially only limited by his imagination.
13. One of Spawn’s Strangest Injuries Was Caused By Batman
As we just mentioned, Spawn is an incredibly powerful entity. He not only wields the power granted to him by the necroplasm that flows through his body and the power of his suit, but he is even able to draw from the hatred and evil of the world in order to replenish his inner strength. Of the many powers that strength fuels, the one that generally comes in handy the most is his ability to quickly heal any wound. Well, almost any wound.
See, when Spawn had a crossover event with Batman, there was an incident that led to Batman throwing a Batarang into Spawn’s face. While Spawn could have healed the wound rather easily, he instead chose to take an old shoestring and use it to seal the gap in his face up. Why? Well, sometimes Spawn doesn’t like to show off the full extent of his powers in order to retain a degree of humanity. As such, he sported the shoestring look for quite a few issues.
12. Todd McFarlane’s Original Design of Spawn Was Much More Sci-Fi Inspired
Creators go through many versions of an idea before they ever dare call it a final product, and Spawn was no different. Hell’s favorite soldier has certainly evolved over the years, but he has also retained many trademark elements that most people associate with the character. He’s still got that incredible cape, he’s still caught up in matters involving heaven and hell, and he still deals justice in a demonically dark world.
Interestingly, there was a time when none of these now trademark elements were part of the Spawn character. When Todd McFarlane began working on Spawn when he was just a teenager, he originally envisioned the character as more of a sci-fi warrior. McFarlane has released some sketches of this early design, which show that Spawn once sported a pretty spiffy blue, gray, and white suit that feels like it belongs in outer space. Of course, he eventually adopted the more hellish red and black attire he’s now known for.
11. Spawn Was Added to The Xbox Version of Soul Calibur II Due to A Lack of Options
Anyone who remembers playing the great Soul Calibur 2 around the time of its initial release will no doubt remember that each console version of the game came with an exclusive character. GameCube players, for instance, got to play as the legendary warrior Link from The Legend of Zelda, while PlayStation 2 players were able to take Tekken’s Heihachi Mishima into battle. As for Xbox gamers, they got to play as Spawn himself. While Spawn was certainly a cool addition, some fans have always wondered why Microsoft chose a non-video game character as their exclusive.
As it turns out, they didn’t have much of a choice. Microsoft didn’t want to add Master Chief to the game, meaning that they were left with very few iconic Xbox characters to work with. They tried to work out a deal to put one of the Dead or Alive characters in the game, but were never able to make it happen. They were happy to eventually land Spawn, even if Soul Calibur’s developers had to remove his cape because it was too difficult to implement into the game.
10. Spawn’s Skin Was Burnt So Readers Wouldn’t Focus on His Race
When creating Spawn, Todd McFarlane ran into an interesting issue as it relates to the character’s race. See, McFarlane felt that there still wasn’t enough interesting black superhero characters in the world of comics and wanted to design one that would stand out. At the same time, he didn’t want people to solely focus on the fact that the character he created was black, or otherwise try to turn the character’s race into an unnecessary controversy.
As such, he decided that when Al Simmons transformed into Spawn, he should have all of his skin charred to a crisp. In McFarlane’s words, this was done in an effort to remove the pigmentation that some readers may have been unable to get past. It was certainly a unique approach to the idea, but it did eventually lead to a pretty substantial milestone, as the Spawn film adaptation became the first major superhero movie to feature a black lead character.
9. Spawn Toys Revolutionized The Superhero Action Figure Industry
Spawn is not a family-friendly comic. Its source material is inherently dark, and the various writers who have contributed to the character’s adventures over the years have a fondness for pushing the envelope whenever possible. Still, Spawn is a superhero, and, as such, he does have to fulfill certain merchandising requirements. In other words, no matter how dark Spawn gets, someone somewhere expected him to still sell some action figures.
Todd McFarlane initially tried to reach a deal with Mattel regarding the rights to produce action figures based on Spawn and other properties, but the two could never agree on terms. As such, McFarlane created his own brand of Spawn action figures that differed from the current superhero action figures on the market in several ways. McFarlane’s figures were intricately detailed, came in elaborate packaging, and, generally speaking, were designed to be collectibles. The obvious quality difference between Spawn toys and other superhero toys soon forced manufacturers to adopt McFarlane’s style and make them an industry standard.
8. Spawn Has Had Many Strange Interactions With God
As you may know, Spawn has had many dealings with the underworld. It’s kind of his thing. As an operative of Hell, Spawn is often required to work with demons, even if he does often try to be a force for good. What isn’t as well-known are Spawn’s dealings with Heaven. Specifically, his dealings with God. That’s really a shame when you consider how very strange and interesting said dealings usually are.
For instance, there was the time when Spawn kinda sorta accidentally kidnapped God while he/she (it sometimes changes) was disguised as an old woman. That’s a little awkward, but then again, so was the time that God came before Spawn disguised as a dog and laid down a little heavenly law before giving Spawn an ancient weapon. Their weirdest interaction, though, occurred when an even higher power transformed God and the Devil into the children of Al Simmons’ wife and new husband. This was done to teach them the humility of being human.
7. Todd McFarlane Wrote Several Issues of Spawn Under a Fake Name
Todd McFarlane is an interesting guy. If you want to be generous, you can call him eccentric. Sometimes, he does and says things that seem a little off-kilter and even inexplicable. This style seems to be the source of much of his creative brilliance, but sometimes it manifests itself through some rather odd behavior.
For instance, consider the period late in Spawn’s run when Todd McFarlane decided to step away from the series and hand the writing duties over to a guy named Will Carlton. Getting to write for Spawn was quite the coup for Will Carlton when you consider teh fact that nobody had ever even heard of the writer before he was given this assignment. As it turns out, that’s because Will Carlton never existed before he started writing for Spawn. For some reason, Todd McFarlane decided to write about 20 issues of Spawn under the name of Will Carlton. Why? Apparently, he just thought it would be fun.
6. McFarlane Really Liked to Name Characters After Real People…
It’s not uncommon for a creator in any medium to base some of their creations on people or events from their real life. Almost everyone uses their experiences as the basis for their creations to some degree. In the case of Spawn, though, you really hope that this story about a man that becomes an agent of Hell in order to repent some previous sins and save his family doesn’t share too many similarities with anyone’s life.
At least so far as the comic’s character names are concerned, though, it most certainly does. Just about every major character in Spawn got their name from some person in Todd McFarlane’s life. Al Simmons, for instance, was named after an old roommate of McFarlane’s. Simmons’ wife and daughter were named after McFarlane’s wife and daughter, while Simmons’ friend Terry Fitzgerald was named after a real-life longtime friend of McFarlane. Sure, it’s not the most creative way to come up with names, but what harm could possibly come of it?
5. …Which Is Why Hockey Player Tony Twist Won A Major Lawsuit Against Him
The answer to “What harm could possibly come from taking the name of real people” also begins the not-so-brief lawsuit portion of this list. The Spawn property has been the subject of numerous lawsuits over the years, but one of the most absurd ones has to be the time that a professional hockey player sued Todd McFarlane over the matter of a fictional mobster.
See, McFarlane created a rather despicable mobster by the name of Antonio Twistelli early into Spawn’s run. At some point, McFarlane admitted that he had, again, taken the character’s name from a real life person. This time, however, that person wasn’t someone close to McFarlane, but rather a professional hockey player named Tony Twist. Mr. Twist didn’t much care for the association. As such, he ended up suing McFarlane for $15 million in 2004 over the matter. Following a series of appeals, McFarlane ended up having to pay Twist $5 million to settle the lawsuit.
4. Neil Gaiman’s Contributions To Spawn Triggered A Decades-Long Lawsuit
Not too long after it debuted, Spawn became one of the hottest properties in comics. Fans everywhere really latched on to the series’ incredibly dark tones and compelling early storylines. The series was so popular, in fact, that McFarlane was able to convince writers like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Neil Gaiman to contribute original storylines to the character’s universe. For the most part, these contributions just resulted in some fascinating stories. Gaiman’s contributions, however, ended up resulting in almost two decades of legal headaches.
See, Gaiman’s stories introduced three new characters to the Spawn universe that quickly became fan favorites. McFarlane was so impressed by these characters that he decided to use them in subsequent issues. The problem was that he promised Gaiman, and other writers, that they could retain the rights to their creations. When Gaiman balked at their continued usage, McFarlane decided to just create knock-offs of the characters instead. Still not satisfied, Gaiman sued McFarlane and triggered a lengthy lawsuit that was finally ruled in Gaiman’s favor. Interestingly, Gaiman later sold one of these characters – Angela – to Marvel. You might know her as Thor’s sister and a regular in Guardians of the Galaxy comics.
3. Al Simmons’ Killer Was Eventually Reconned In Order to Avoid Having To Pay Someone
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Man, Todd McFarlane would presumably do whatever he could to avoid yet another Spawn-related lawsuit.” If so, you’d be right. Actually, McFarlane’s desire to avoid all possible legal incidents surrounding his property might have forced him to forever alter a pretty crucial part of the character’s history.
When McFarlane was pitching the idea of doing a Spawn movie to New Line Cinema, someone at the studio noticed that there was a bit of a legal issue with doing a film that followed the character’s origins exactly. In the comics, Al Simmons was killed by a character named Chapel, who was actually borrowed from the Image Comics‘ series Youngblood. If Chapel was going to appear in the film, someone would have needed to pay creator Rob Liefeld a fee. Since nobody wanted to cut an extra check, McFarlane decided to simply change the identity of Simmons’ killer to a woman named Jessica Priest. From then on, Priest was referenced as Simmon’s true killer in many of the comics as well.
2. Taco Bell Once Ran A Series of Promotions Based Around The Spawn Movie
Some of our older readers might remember the time that McDonalds got into a bit of hot water by deciding to include toys based on the film Batman Returns in their Happy Meals. Some concerned citizens felt that it was irresponsible of the company to feature children’s toys based on a PG-13 film. McDonalds claimed that they struck a deal to feature the film before the MPAA gave the movie its final rating. Eventually, the whole thing died down and the world moved on.
A few years later, Taco Bell one-upped them by doing a promotion based on the rated R Spawn movie. As Taco Bell wasn’t specifically marketing to children, nobody seemed to be too outraged, but that doesn’t mean that the promotions themselves weren’t downright bizarre. While it kind of makes sense that Taco Bell would promote spicy food with the help of a soldier from Hell, the final promotions were tonally strange.
1. Snoop Dogg Was Originally Considered for the Lead in the Spawn Film
The Spawn movie is generally remembered as a misguided attempt to translate the character to the big screen — if it’s remembered at all. Generally speaking, the nicest thing anyone can say about it is that John Leguizamo turned in a memorable performance as Violator. It’s interesting to think how the film would have turned out if the studio’s original choice for director, Tim Burton, had been able to commit to the project. The same goes for Alex Proyas, who dropped out of the movie in order to direct Dark City.
However, there’s no “what if” scenario more interesting than the idea of hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg playing Spawn, as was almost the case. Yes, according to Snoop himself, the famous rapper was not only approached to star in the film, but he actually read for the part. The already strange casting call becomes that much more bewildering when you consider that high-profile actors like Will Smith, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Denzel Washington were also considered for the role.
What other fun factoids do you know about Todd Macfarlane’s greatest creation? Who do you think should star in the reboot? Sound off in the comments section.