spawn the animated series

Crimson Peak would be so perfect as an animated series (I mean Beetlejuice managed to spawn a cartoon so why not?).

Every episode, Edith has to solve some problem with ghosts and hauntings. Ghost-Thomas helps her out and Ghost-Lucille usually tries to thwart her plans and/or just plain get her killed (until Thomas inevitably resorts to puppy eyes and pointing out that she still owes him for killing him and stuff…). After every adventure is completed, Edith writes a successful story about it.

*sob* I really want this.

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TODD MCFARLENE’S SPAWN (1997)

an animated television series which aired on HBO from 1997 through 1999. It is also released on DVD as a film series. It is based on the Spawn character from Image Comics

The series centered around the story of an ex-serviceman named Al Simmons, who fought in the Vietnam War as a commando. He was betrayed and killed by a man whom he believed to be his close friend (the man, Chapel, burned him alive with a flamethrower). Upon his death, Simmons vowed revenge on Chapel and hoped that he would one day return to his beloved wife Wanda. In order to accomplish his vow, he makes a pact with the 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 the “Hellspawn” or “Spawn” for short) in return for the ability to walk the earth once again in order to see Wanda.   

 Spawn struggles to fight the lure of evil as well as seeking to escape being hunted by not only the forces of Hell but also must defend himself from assailants from Heaven, who have a need to destroy the Hellspawn in order to cripple the forces of Hell so they do not gain an edge in the escalating war between the two spiritual hosts. 

Why was it forgotten?: A VERY ADULT SERIES THAT WAS ONLY SHOWN ON HBO.

Hoo boy, Spawn, for those readily familiar with comics, and even some of those with a cursory knowledge of comics have definitely heard of Spawn. There’s good reason for that as he was one of Image’s big breakout super heroes that really helped establish them when they started. He’s also the creation of legendary artist, Todd McFarlene, a guy known for putting an insane amount of detail into his illustrations. I mean, look at this cover for a Spider-Man comic.

I would frame that and put it on my wall.

Now, like many Image properties at the time, Spawn was riding the wave of a new trend in comics where they were all trying to be much more graphic, and mature and suitable for an adult audience. Basically, everybody wanted to be like Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Many of Image’s early stories did this with mixed results but Spawn was the one that really seemed to make it work. It was the story of a man who made a deal with the devil and was made to be an officer of hell’s army but he spends his time tormented by the minions of hell AND heaven, as well as being racked by his own inner turmoil. Spawn is an anti-hero in every sense of the word, he does do things a hero would do, but largely only to protect himself or to stick it to his enemies.

As far as I know, there weren’t many, if any other super heroes like that so Spawn really stood out, not only for its detailed and dark, gritty art, but for its story as well. And– I didn’t really like it. I was young and really getting into super hero comics at the time and I tried to read the first collected stories of Spawn and it didn’t grab me. The overly dark, melancholy atmosphere, the overabundance of words, narration, and world building, the lack of action for much of the first few issues, it just really put me off. I’ve tried to read it 3 times over the years and I just couldn’t do it.

The cartoon on the other hand, that’s a horse of a different color. Being that it’s animated, it does a lot of the world building and colorful narration much quicker than the comic, so for me, the pacing is significantly improved. It also does really well to capture the dark and gritty styling of the art from the comics. Of course, it doesn’t have anywhere near the level of detail, and even some of the animation can be kind of basic at points but it still captures the atmosphere really well. There are some really dark and sometimes scary moments as Spawn deals with criminals or other minions of hell, particularly the always disturbing Violator.

Moving on, for an 18 episode series, that was later condensed into 3 movies for the DVD market it does tell a cohesive and fairly captivating story. It does kind of jump around a bunch with trying to mash in some of the most interesting aspects of Spawn’s story, making it all feel a little crowded but it’s still an entertaining watch. It’s got some good voice acting to, with none other than mother fucking Keith David as Spawn himself.

Dang, what a cartoon, this is one of those ones I really have trouble defining as forgotten since it was watched and enjoyed by people, starred a well known character, and it was acclaimed to a degree. I really reached with the fact that it was on a premium cable service that not a lot of people had, so work with me on this. While it isn’t a great must-see cartoon, it’s definitely one that you should check out if you’re interested.

TRIVIA

  • 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." 
  • An unrelated series titled Spawn: The Animation is in production since 2009, with Keith David reprising his role as the titular character.
  • The series was nominated for and won an Emmy in 1999 for Outstanding Animation Program (longer than one hour)
  • All three seasons have been released separately on DVD & VHS as three 2 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

CLOSING THOUGHTS

We’re hitting the ground running folks, we’ve got a lot more cartoons to cover this week, and they get a bit more obscure. Hope you’re ready for more of Image Comics!

there is no time for regrets if you can change and defy hell then I can change too and defy heaven
—  Jade from Spawn the animated series 1999