''Spawn'' is a ComicBook telling the story of commando [[HitmanWithAHeart Al Simmons]], who is betrayed by CIA spook [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Jason Wynn]] and murdered by [[BashBrothers his friend and teammate]] [[NinetiesAntiHero Chapel]] (later {{retcon}}ned as Priest, a DistaffCounterpart of Chapel). The character first appeared in ''Malibu Sun #13'' (May 1992), created by Todd [=McFarlane=].

After his death, Al meets a devil named Malebolgia, and his [[TheDragon Dragon]] Violator (who goes disguised as a clown in the mortal realm). He makes a DealWithTheDevil in an attempt to go back to his "loving" wife Wanda. He comes back as a NinetiesAntiHero with a living costume and Green Goo powers, powerful but finite, and must use those powers to increase the army of Hell and train as one of its lieutenants, called (Hell)Spawns, as Malebolgia, [[TheManBehindTheMan Mammon]], and [[BigBad Satan]] prepare for the Apocalypse. He finds a {{Mentor}} named Cogliostro, a retired Spawn who fills the role of TheObiWan and AllPowerfulBystander.

Spawn befriends some bums in an alley, and becomes a urban-based vigilante. He fights [[ActionGirl Angela]], an angel trained to slay Spawns, who he later befriends as she becomes a DefectorFromDecadence. He also interacts with his former best friend and Wanda's current husband Terry. After receiving antagonism from Violator (who is determined to see him keep to his obligations with Malebolgia), using his Green Goo powers to save Terry's life by curing his cancer, and presenting Wanda's daughter Cyan with a cursed shoelace, he goes back to the BonusLevelOfHell and re-visits his former foes. Malebolgia also mentions that his memories may be fake.

Unsure of his past life and having trouble with his costume changing and becoming wild all the time, Spawn starts to interact with former cops [[ThoseTwoGuys Sam and Twitch]], and finds out Mammon sent [[CatchphraseSpoutingDuo Ab and Zab]] to release a soul-destroying demon that makes its enemies DeaderThanDead. After turning it into SealedEvilInACan, Spawn {{handwave}}s his way back to Hell and, with the help of Angela, kills Malebolgia.

[[YouKillItYouBoughtIt It turns him into the lord of (that piece of) Hell]], but he refuses to take Malebolgia's mantle and goes on fighting evil on Earth, with little success. His position is eventually robbed by Cogliostro, who performs a FaceHeelTurn and reveals himself to be [[CainAndAbel Cain]].

Suddenly, the whole story suffers a SnapBack and Spawn is revealed to be not just Al Simmons, but actually a mix of thousands of souls that died at the same time Al had. Spawn fights both Heaven and Hell as an independent warrior during the Apocalypse, and at the last minute, he manages to re-create the world. But in doing so, he discovers that, as Al, he intentionally caused his pregnant wife's miscarriage by ''punching her in the chest''. Additionally, she was planning to finally leave before he died. It turns out that his [[TraumaInducedAmnesia amnesia]] and [[SelfInflictedHell current form]] were actually subconsciously caused by his [[SelfInflictedHell unresolved guilt]], ''not'' by Malebolgia. He then retreats to the alleys to live out the rest of his life as TheAtoner, having [[BittersweetEnding saved everyone but himself]]. Since then, his universe has [[GrowingTheBeard evolved into]] more of an GothicPunk-focused CrapsackWorld. Al Simmons himself seemingly commits suicide, and the [[LegacyCharacter mantle of Spawn is passed on]] to a man named [[AndNowForSomeoneCompletelyDifferent Jim Downing]].

While ''Spawn'' was really popular during the DarkAge, holding the title of best-selling independent comic for 15 years, the writing was full of {{Retcon}}s and {{SnapBack}}s. Spawn's Power Counter that informed the reader of how much Green Goo energy he had left before he had to return to Hell was also abandoned after a few issues, angering many fans. It's definitely gotten [[GrowingTheBeard much better]] over the years. There were definite cases of ScheduleSlip, but far less so that most of the initial Image Comics (as of January 2010, 196 issues will have been released in 211 months, missing only 15).

Furthermore, the heavily-publicized idea of creator rights surrounding {{Image}} in the early [[TheNineties nineties]] was, unfortunately, muddled when creator Todd [=McFarlane=] stopped writing and drawing the comic himself, and even had legal problems for using characters created by NeilGaiman (Angela and Cogliostro). However, he has since announced his intention to return to the main series, and is in the credits as co-writer and inks for the next few currently-unreleased issues.

''Spawn'' is also TheMerch, as [=McFarlane=] Toys became popular for being skillfully detailed (and, according to some people, for using higher-quality material) and made the creator a fortune selling hundreds of toys, costumes, clothing, related comics, tatoos, Spawnmobiles (actually, those are just for show) and bumper stickers, amongst others. Additionally, the Spawn toyline had a massive impact on the toy industry, starting the careers of the Four Horsemen and other sculptors who introduced greater detail and articulation into mainstream superhero toys (even though the Spawn toys were notoriously unarticulated).

It later had an AnimatedAdaptation for {{Creator/HBO}} that viciously battered the AnimationAgeGhetto, and is often seen as being of [[AdaptationDistillation higher quality than the comic]]. [[Film/{{Spawn}} The movie]] (1997) placed Creator/MichaelJaiWhite in the lead role, TheresaRandle as his wife, MartinSheen as Wynn and JohnLeguizamo as arch-foe Clown/Violator. The film was somewhat cartoonish, but it is said the sequel, still in DevelopmentHell, will have a high MindScrew level.
!!Tropes this character is famous for:
* AllMythsAreTrue: Spawn's taken on everything from vampires to rampaging deities to God and Satan themselves.
* AntiHero: Type III or Type IV, DependingOnTheWriter.
* TheAtoner: Spawn for... well, a lot of things.
* BadassBiker
* BadassCape: Forget about all the others. Spawn has ''the'' cape.
* BatmanGambit: In the HBO Animated Series. During the final season, it's revealed that Malebolgia never intended to use Al Simmons to lead hell's army on earth, [[spoiler:but as a sperm donor to impregnate Wanda with a demon seed. He knew Al would give into temptation and find a way to mate with his ex-wife. He does so by making himself look like Terry, Wanda's current husband.]]
* BlackAndGreyMorality: Spawn's morality is questionable, but clearly better than Hell. WordOfGod says that heaven was made intentionally ambiguous. Their final agenda is good, but they recognize that to stand up to the forces of hell they have to recruit people capable of being just as ruthless. In the audio commentary of the TV show Todd [=McFarlane=] compared the ideal heaven and hell going to war as consisting of Atilla the Hun fighting church bingo ladies. The comic, paralleling this, confirmed that heaven had successfully recruited Atilla at some point (mostly to keep Hell from getting him).
* BullyingADragon: Numerous examples.
* ButtMonkey: Clown is Spawn's ButtMonkey in the early parts of the HBO series. [[NotSoHarmlessVillain Then he turns into Violator.]]
* CardboardBoxHome: Spawn was homeless and lived with other homeless bums, some of whom, were depicted as living in a cardboard box.
* CastFromLifespan: His powers have a price - After X uses, he goes straight back to {{Hell}}.
* ChainPain: Has chains that pop out of his cloak and are under his control; most often seen in the HBO Animated Series.
* CheerfulChild: Cyan.
* ColorMeBlack: On one occasion Spawn used his power to turn a [[TheKlan Klan]] leader black, leaving him to be lynched by his own men.
* ContractOnTheHitman: Rebelling against {{Hell}} will have this effect.
* TheCowl: Probably the best example other than Franchise/{{Batman}} himself.
* {{Crossover}}:
** Speaking of Batman, he's has a few crossovers with the guy, with one written by FrankMiller and the other by all three main ''Batman'' writers of the '90s (that's to say, Alan Grant, Chuck Dixon ''and'' Doug Moench all chipped in.)
** Spawn himself is a GuestFighter on the XBox version of ''[[VideoGame/SoulSeries Soul Calibur II]]''.
* {{Cuckold}}: Al Simmons finds out that his wife has remarried his best friend, had two children with him, and is much happier with him than she ever was with Al.
* DarkIsNotEvil: Spawn.
* DarkerAndEdgier: The ''Hellspawn'' run was this to the main series.
* DeadGuyPuppet: The spinoff ''The Violator'' features a disturbing series of scenes in which The Violator uses the corpse of a former Cosa Nostra member as a puppet.
* DeadpanSnarker: Twitch.
-->'''Twitch''': Just checking some details. How's the chili dog?\\
'''[[FatBastard Sam]]''': A little light on the onions.\\
'''Twitch''': That may signal [[{{Gasshole}} an improvement in air quality.]]
* DeadToBeginWith
* DealWithTheDevil: What Al Simmons made to start the series.
* DoomMagnet: Well, that's a given.
* DrillSergeantNasty: Clown/Violator can be seen as something of this. His job is to incite Spawn into committing evil, violent acts in the name of {{Hell}}, and he's willing to endanger Wanda and her new family, devise criminal schemes with Wynn and do various other things that torment and anger Spawn.
* EatMe: "[[VerbThis EAT THIS!]]" *[[AudibleSharpness SHINK]]*
* EnlightenmentSuperpowers
* EvilAllAlong: [[spoiler: Cogliostro is actually [[CainAndAbel Cain]] and wants to rule hell, so he trains Spawn to defeat Malebolgia.]]
* EvilVersusEvil: [[spoiler: God Vs Satan]]
* EvilTwin: Inverted, ''{{Heaven}}'' creates a good-infused anti-Spawn with The Redeemer.
** [[LightIsNotGood "Good" being a highly subjective term here...]]
* {{Expy}}: Spawn is more or less ComicBook/{{Venom}} (another [=McFarlane=] creation) with Comicbook/GhostRider's [[ChainPain chains]] and supernatural powers, topped off with a [[BadassCape big scary cape]].
** Even though [=McFarlane=] has claimed to be Venom's creator in the past, the character was the result of many writers, editors, and at least one other artist (Mike Zeck, the designer of the black costume that Venom would later wear). [=McFarlane=]'s influence was limited to Venom's famous grin and the name only. Interestingly enough, the third incarnation of Venom, Mac Gargan, was drawn as having glowing green eyes inside the symbiote's white eye-patches, making ''him'' an expy of Spawn.
*** Spawn also bears not-insignificant resemblance to the Prowler, another black anti-hero that [=McFarlane=] had previously drawn when he was still pencilling Spider-Man comics. [[http://www.headinjurytheater.com/article75.htm This hasn't gone unnoticed by some of the fans.]]
** Sam is pretty similar to [[Franchise/{{Batman}} Harvey Bullock]].
* FauxAffablyEvil: Clown
* FemaleAngelMaleDemon: Technically, Spawn compared to Angela. [[spoiler: Inverted when God and Satan are incarnated as Terry and Wanda's twins; ''Satan'' is revealed to be the female twin.]]
* FilkSong: {{Iced Earth}}'s ''Dark Saga'' album. [=McFarlane=] even did the album artwork for them.
* FiveBadBand: Violator and his brothers, prior to Violator's banishent anyway.
** BigBad: Violator
** TheDragon: Vandalizer
** TheBrute: Vaporizer
** TheEvilGenius: Vindicator
** TheDarkChick: Vacillator
** BiggerBad: Malebolgia
* [[GodIsEvil God Is A]] [[JerkassGods Jerkass]]
* GodAndSatanAreBothJerks: Oh yeah. Even The Creator of All is disappointed with their petty rivalry, and both of them are absolute monsters. Even when they're reincarnated as humans, forgetting their true memories, they show their true colors by violently attacking each other, torturing Wanda's hamster and otherwise causing all manner of havoc.
** Arguably averted given the nature of the Mother of Existence who is pretty much an over deity who is actively trying to help humanity.
* GothicPunk
* GlowingEyesOfDoom: Most demons have [[RedEyesTakeWarning red eyes]], Spawn has green eyes as a way of differentiating between demons and hellspawn.
* GreenLanternRing: There is almost no limit to what Spawn is capable of, but bigger supernatural feats expend more power.
* HealingFactor: A lot of supernatural creatures, up to and including Spawn himself.
* HeartbrokenBadass: BIG TIME. Poor Spawn.
* HellInvadesHeaven: This is Hell's grand plan, with Hellspawn in charge of gathering souls for Hell's army.
* HeroicHost: Spawn himself, once he discovers he contains 6000 souls inside of himself.
* HeroWithAnFInGood: Spawn's heroic actions often fail disastrously. One prime example is when he ends up stranded in the DeepSouth after a mission with Angela, where he finds himself rescued by two brothers with a physically abusive dad. Outraged, he tries to scare him straight by mugging him and branding "I beat my kids" all over his body, then leaves -- he never learns that, far from stopping his abuse, the man then goes home and attacks his kids in fury, resulting in his older son shooting him dead to protect his little brother.
* HeWhoFightsMonsters: According to the TV series, [[LightIsNotGood Heaven]] is pretty much this.
-->"And what are we left with? Monsters killing monsters?"
-->-- Todd [=MacFarlane=]
* HollywoodAtheist: Averted, arguably Inverted, with Grandma Simmons. [[spoiler: Even after she is Raptured into Heaven by God, who openly mocks her belief in him as a kind and gentle savior figure before sending her out to slaughter demons and Hell-Raptured humans alike, she doesn't lose her faith. When Spawn traps God and Satan in their personal hell and she is resurrected, she is seen spitting that there ''is'' a God as per her beliefs and that "evil child-thing" she saw was ''not'' God.]]
* HorrifyingHero: Spawn is a HumanoidAbomination. What did you expect.
* IHaveManyNames: Mother of Existence (also known as Man of Miracles, Jesus Christ, Gaia, the Keeper of the Green World, Kali, to name a few)
* IronicNickname: Twitch. Because he doesn't. [[ImprobableAimingSkills Ever.]]
* JesusWasWayCool: Despite the fact that God and Satan are mutually evil here, Jesus was a true Messiah. [[spoiler: Because he was actually the Mother of Existence incarnated as a human to try and lead humans away from the plan of God and Satan; God's faith swallowed and diluted/corrupted Jesus's teachings to ensure that humans were instead enslaved by following Jesus' teachings instead of freed.]]
* {{Kneecapping}}: Twitch shoots Spawn in the knee to stop him from escaping. He is rather shaken when Al doesn't even slow down.
* LawyerFriendlyCameo: Subverted, and got [=McFarlane=] into deep shit later on.
** To elaborate, one of Spawn's primary antagonists was a {{Mafia}} boss named Tony Twist, whom [=McFarlane=] named after a real-life NHL player. The player was not amused.
* LickedByTheDog: [[TearJerker His wife and best friend don't recognize Al, but his dog does]].
* LightIsNotGood: The demons of Hell are ObviouslyEvil, but {{God}} and the angels aren't exactly nice guys, either.
** [[spoiler:Jason Wynn]] as the Redeemer. It's guaranteed that this will happen when you give holy powers to TheSociopath.
* LikeABadassOutOfHell: All the fricken time!
* LoveMakesYouEvil: It's the reason Al strikes a DealWithTheDevil.
* MeaningfulName: Malebolgia. Named after the circle of fraud in [[TheDivineComedy Dante's Inferno]]. Fitting considering how well it turns out to make a deal with him.
* MindScrew: The many {{Retcon}}s and {{Snap Back}}s.
* MonsterClown: [[CaptainObvious Clown/Violator]]
* MoreDakka
* MoreTeethThanTheOsmondFamily: If it's from Hell, chances are [[FangsAreEvil it has these]]. Spawn himself has engaged in this when his mask splits open to reveal his mouth.
* MuggingTheMonster: Early on, a lot of people try pushing Spawn around because they think he's just some lunatic in a freaky Halloween costume. They learn how wrong they are soon after. Indeed, it's often the last thing they do learn...
* MythologyGag: In both the movie and the HBO series, someone sees Spawn's face and comments that they've seen far worse due to working for/being related to a mortician.
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Violator, and [[NamesToRunAwayFrom/{{DemonsOrAngels}} most names here]].
* NinetiesAntiHero: Actually played with. Spawn is an asshole, yeah, but he's a fair bit more complex than that, especially in the latter part of the comics and the HBO series. A lot of the latter's beginning is devoted to establishing ''why'' he's an asshole, as a matter of fact.
* TheObiWan: Cogliostro. [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]]: "All right, [[StarWars Yoda]]."
* OhCrap
--> '''[[GoMadFromTheRevelation Chapel]]''': He looked at me with those green eyes... that cloak...\\
'''[[TheSmartGuy Twitch]]''': *DoubleTake* Did you say cloak?
* OneWingedAngel: Clown transforms into the huge, demonic Violator for physical fights with Spawn.
* OurAngelsAreDifferent
* OurDemonsAreDifferent
* PaedoHunt: In the animated and comic book series, Wanda and the police are on the trail of a child killer [[spoiler: who happens to be Senator [=McMillan=]'s [[BastardBastard illegitimate son]] whom he covered up in order to not ruin his career or send his son to jail]], and it reaches its climax when Cyan is kidnapped.
* PowersDoTheFighting: Spawn can do this, but his powers are CastFromLifespan, so he usually either FightsLikeANormal or [[SuperheroPackingHeat uses guns]].
* [[KingOfAllCosmos Queen Of All Cosmos]]: Mother of Existence.
* ResurrectedForAJob
* ScaryBlackMan: Doubly Subverted. Al Simmons is viewed by the public as a [[BeautyEqualsGoodness handsome]] [[VillainWithGoodPublicity war hero who died sacrificing himself for his country.]] But in reality, Al was a paid assassin guilty of not just multiple murders but violently and horrifically beating his wife. Al was arguably scarier (and definitely far crueler) when he was alive than he is now that he's come back as an undead monster. [[spoiler:In fact that's why he came back looking like such a monster.]]
* ShoutOut: Early in the comics, Spawn is hanging out with two homeless men in an alley, one's named Frank, the other Alan. [[FrankMiller Frank's drinking Miller brand beer]], and [[Creator/AlanMoore Alan's drinking Moore brand beer.]] Alan also has an epic beard, like someone we know.
** Many of the more recent covers are shout-outs to other classic superhero comic covers, including SpiderMan and {{Superman}}.
** The effects of the war mask, at least in the HBO series, are possibly a reference to ''Manga/JoJosBizarreAdventure,'' where a similar mask results in vampires.
* SkullForAHead: There's really not much left of Al under the symbiote.
* SpikesOfVillainy: Spawn can project them at will from his body, and so can many other characters. [[LegacyCharacter Jim Downing]] took this UpToEleven earlier in his run by eschewing the cape for a carapace of thorns.
* TheSymbiote: Spawn's outfit. It acts on its own to save Spawn ''several times''. [[ClingyCostume And boy is it]] ''[[ClingyCostume pissed]]'' [[ClingyCostume when Spawn tries to get rid of it]] due to having been convinced it's killing people vampire-style while he's asleep.
* UglyGuyHotWife: Twitch and his wife Helen is a very straightforward example. Not that the difference in appearances seems to ever have put a damper on their passion - [[MassiveNumberedSiblings They have seven children.]]
* VariableLengthChain: One of Spawn's main means of offence.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: Angela appears in one episode during the HBO Animated Series in Season 1, and is presented like she'll become a big part of the story. Instead, she never appears again, and another bounty hunter named Jade appears to hunt Spawn during Seasons 2 and 3.