- Awesome Art: It's widely agreed the comic worked because average storytelling was hugely augmented by Todd McFarlane's pencils.
- Complete Monster: While an incredibly dark comic from The Dark Age of Comic Books, Spawn has several monsters who stand out:
- Mammon operates as The Man Behind the Man to the devil Malebolgia. A Fallen Angel known as the lord of The Forgotten Ones, Mammon desired to create the perfect Hellspawn to assist him in ascending to rulership of all creation. To this end, Mammon haunted the bloodlines of Al Simmons and Wanda Blake, sowing death and destruction to create more Hellspawn and always leaving corpses and ruined lives in his wake. Mammon proves himself to be Spawn's greatest, most intelligent and most dangerous enemy, condemning the souls Spawn would seek to protect to hell to use them as leverage for their loved ones, and making deals to consolidate his power. When Satan returns and is furious at Mammon for claiming the throne, Mammon gets back in his former master's good graces by proposing to detonate the San Andreas Fault to kill and add the souls of many mortals to Hell's legions. After Satan is removed, Mammon unveils his master stroke- with heaven and hell sealed off from the world, Mammon sets about to conquer it from behind the scenes with Spawn's demonic daughter Morana, the product of his grand ambition.
- In life, Billy Kincaid was a sadistic child killer. After being freed from jail, he lured a small girl into his ice cream truck and then murdered her. He then proceeded to chop off the girl's fingers and glue them onto a board as a trophy. After Spawn discovered Kincaid's brutal crimes, he killed Kincaid, sending him to hell. Dead, Kincaid became even worse than ever, given the task by Hell to gather more souls for them. Kincaid did this by possessing people and making them act out their worse impulses. This resulted in the murder of dozens of innocent people and the damnation of several more people to Hell, though Kincaid was having far too much fun to care. Kincaid also delighted in torturing the souls of children, especially one young boy part of the legion inside of Spawn himself.
- Clown/Violator was Spawn's Evil Mentor, sent by Malebolgia to train Spawn to be a soldier in Hell's army. However, rather than train Spawn, Violator had a tendency to commit horrible crimes, such as ripping the hearts out of random mob bosses, just for fun. Later, Violator kidnapped Cyan, the 3 year old daughter of Spawn's widow Wanda. Violator framed Spawn for the kidnapping and then tried to kill Cyan by giving her a glass of poisoned milk. Spawn rescued Cyan and killed Violator in his clown form, sending him back to Hell. Violator later returned from Hell and possessed Jason Wynn, turning him into a Serial Killer. Wynn, under Violator's influence, would hire prostitutes that looked like Wanda and then murder them. Violator eventually gained complete control over Wynn's body and used his powers to turn random citizens into "clowns," transforming them into Brainwashed and Crazy psychopaths. Violator then ordered his clowns to go an violent rampage, resulting in massive property damage and several deaths. Violator later saved the life of a man of Barney Saunders, but this was no act of charity. Violator needed a new body to possess and chose Saunders. After possessing Saunders's body, Violator uses his powers to force the residents in Saunders's apartment complex to commit horrible crimes, including murder. Violator was able to use the violence in the apartment complex to further empower himself and then attempted to open a portal to Hell, which would allow his demon brothers to wreak havoc on Earth.
- Creepy Awesome:
- Probably a large part in what makes Spawn such an appealing character.
- The Violator. Also sometimes dips into Crazy Awesome.
- Dork Age: The period after Spawn killed Malebolgia, where he teamed up with Ab and Zab and fought vampires and British cannibals.
- Ensemble Darkhorse: Burkles and Twitch. To the point they ended up with their own comic.
- Growing the Beard: Like other Image Long Runner, The Savage Dragon, the earliest issues are considered the weakest.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Twitch's first name is Max. And since his partner is named Sam, it evokes another New York police duo.
- Jerkass Woobie: Al Simmons, the main character himself. He ended up this way because he died, was sent to Hell for murdering innocents and being an abusive husband and got his powers from making a deal with a demon. In other media, people have been labelled asshole victims for less.
- Nightmare Fuel: Almost everything in the comic. Even some of the regular humans are scary just to look at.
- Awesome Music: Satan by Orbital, the song in the opening credits. The soundtrack version with Kirk Hammett is cool, too.
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The scene with Clown wearing a cheerleading costume doing a dance number which comes out of nowhere, serves no purpose and which the protagonist doesn't even see happening. The devil himself ends the moment by dragging the clown back to hell to tell him to quit fucking around.
- Complete Monster: The film incarnation of Clown/Violator is as monstrous as his comic counterpart. The chief lieutenant of the devil Malebolgia, who sent him to Earth to start Armageddon, he's a revolting demon who gets off on violence and depravity, even at the expense of his allies. He makes a deal with black ops security chief Jason Wynn by offering him dominion of the world in exchange for creating a bioweapon that would kill most of humanity, after first having it tested on thousands of people. Malebolgia can then use the souls of the dead as his army to invade and destroy Heaven. Clown initially orders the death of Al Simmons/Spawn at Wynn's hands, recruiting Simmons after his return to Earth to lead Hell's army. He convinces Wynn to attach the virus to his heartrate after letting Spawn kill Wynn's top assassin, Jessica Priest, then manipulates Spawn into killing Wynn to release the virus. When this fails, the frustrated Clown tries to rape Spawn's ex-fiance Wanda in front of Spawn while forcing him to watch, and promises that he'll slaughter the rest of his family (including Spawn's 4-year old daughter Cyan) when he's done.
- Ensemble Darkhorse: While the film had mixed reactions from moviegoers, fans, and critics alike, one character that stood out was Jessica Priest, who was liked enough that she later became a Canon Immigrant. The fact that she wasn't hard on the eyes didn't hurt either.
- Harsher in Hindsight: Spawn is very close with Cyan, with the obvious implication that she's his daughter. But later in the comics, we learn that she is not Al's daughter and he had been in denial about the fact that he was an abusive husband who caused Wanda to miscarry when she was pregnant with his child.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- John Leguizamo playing someone of little-person size as The Clown; he would play a little person a few years later in Moulin Rouge!.
- Martin Sheen as Jason Wynn, considering in another comic book movie, he's played someone who's Wynn's opposite in many ways.
- This wouldn't be the last time Michael Jai White butted heads with a Monster Clown. Although the second time wouldn't go as well for him.
- Ham and Cheese: John Leguizamo as the Clown.
- Idiot Plot: Especially the last third of the film. Clown has convinced Jason Wynn have the trigger to a bio weapon implanted that will be set off if his heart stops beating, which he plans to have happen by having Al Simmons do the deed. Later Simmons goes to rescue Wanda and her family when Wynn shows up for little to no reason and then Clown starts a fight with Simmons which prevents him from being able to seek to kill Wynn.
- Malebolgia's master plan is to choose a skilled operative to lead Hell's army and jump-start the apocalypse. In order to do that he has to have that operative killed, sent to Hell, and then make a deal with him to turn him into a Spawn and then return him to Earth to kill Jason Wynn. The entire plan hinges on getting Simmons to kill Wynn, but Simmons still has a conscience and a living family to consider, and so the plan fails. If Malebolgia had instead simply chosen someone skilled who was completely amoral and had no human connections, and was possibly also power-hungry, this plan would have gone off without a hitch. In fact, Malebolgia had just selected Jessica Priest to be Spawn instead of Simmons the forces of evil would have won. She would have been perfect.
- Narm: Jason Wynn's Establishing Character Moment, which tries way to hard to show him as Obviously Evil; he has scorpions in his ashtray, his henchwoman plays with a tarantula, and his office has pictures of nuclear explosions. The ridiculously over-the-top of this scene was mocked by both ERod and Doug Walker.
- Special Effect Failure: The computer effects—the majority of which were done by ILM—have not aged well since the movie's 1997 release. Spawn's cape only appears when in use (either for dramatic effect or when he makes use of its shapeshifting power), since it was difficult to animate. Plus, Malebolgia'snote mouth does not remotely sync with his words, and Hell just looks like something out of a (subpar, mind you) Playstation 1 game. Michael Jai White's burn makeup still holds up as well-done, however.
- Squick: You know the part where Clown eats a piece of pizza he found a dumpster? The one covered in maggots? Leguizamo really ate that.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Leguizamo's portrayal of Clown is one of the most consistent complaints of the film. The Black Humor and unsettling aspects of his character were removed and replaced with him constantly cramming in vulgar humor, sometimes during moments when Simmons is lamenting about the situation he has found himself in, that is simply annoying instead of funny.
- Visual Effects of Awesome: Despite the failures of most of the CGI, the animation on Violator is actually pretty well done.
The HBO series:
- Awesome Art: The show's animation is amazing.
- Better Than Canon: The show is frequently considered to be the best part of the Spawn franchise, doing a better job of telling the story compared to the comic.
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Over-Kill's appearance in the series can be considered as a result of Adaptation Explanation Extrication. The comics showed that the mafia had advanced cybernetic technology at their disposal. The animated series never delved into this, merely suggesting that he'd been rebuilt by the CIA after an accident, and thus the cyborg hitman seems to be out of place in this supernatural series.
- There's a scene where one of Al's army buddies has PTSD flashbacks while having sex with a cowgirl-themed stripper, and he orgasms simultaneously screaming over Al's death.
- Complete Monster: Jason Wynn stands out in an already very dark show. Wynn is the director of the NSC. He is the one who ordered the death of Al Simmons by having him burned alive. He uses his position to protect child killer Billy Kincaid from the police by killing anyone who discovers Kincaid's brutal crimes. He is covering up Kincaid's crimes in order to extort favors from Kincaid's father, a corrupt senator. When visiting crime boss Tony Twist, Wynn has two prostitutes that were with Tony killed, so no one besides Tony would know he was there. Wynn is also using his position to steal weapons from the US Department of Defense and is selling them to various terrorists and dictators across the globe. When one of Wynn's employees, Terry Fitzgerald, discovers Wynn's crimes, Wynn frames him for these crimes, putting Terry's life in a tailspin. Wynn later orders a hit squad to kill Terry's wife Wanda and his daughter Cyan. Wynn also orders Chief Banks to shoot police officer Twitch Williams, when Twitch gets close to uncovering Wynn's crimes. After Terry reveals Wynn's crimes to the world, Wynn becomes a free agent and seeks the mask of Genghis Khan, which will give him the powers of Hell. We learn that Wynn had one his former subordinates, Major Forsberg, thrown into a cell and starved, when he tried to leave Wynn's services. Wynn threatens to kill Forsberg's family unless he tells him where to find the mask. When Terry tries to kill Wynn in revenge, Wynn has him dragged to an opium den and forcibly drugged, because Wynn thinks Terry slowly rotting away in this den is more of a fitting punishment then a quick death. Wynn later uses a knife to try and slowly torture Terry, while gloating about how he will sell his wife into forced prostitution.
- Creepy Awesome: Clown/Violator is terrifying beyond all reason in this series, but it's part of what makes him such an appealing villain.
- Cult Classic: Thanks to being much Darker and Edgier than any other Western Animation of its timenote and possibly the only Western Animation series to bring such genuinely mature and sophisticated themes to the table, the Spawn animated series fits this trope like a glove.
- Nightmare Fuel: The comic already had some scary stuff, but Violator's transformation (which depicts him as tearing through the body he has like its paper) and Creepy Monotone arguably make him more terrifying here than in the comics.
Billy Kincaid: Time to have that ice cream. Such a pretty one. Do you like the music? I like the music very much. Would you like to you dance? Just you and me. But first...I scream, you scream. We all scream for ice cream! Chocolate pecan, strawberry whirl! All...very good!
- Some of the human villains also count. Namely, Billy Kincaid. Especially when he kidnaps Cyan. His dialogue and behavior when he's talking to her make's him sound like a child molester. Not helped by the eerie echo his voice has.....
Chapel: Kill me... KILL me, Finish It! There's no going back.Spawn (Al): No. I'm going to let you live, longer than you like.
- Hell even Spawn gets one in the animated series, he basically had Chapel, his former partner and killer, dead to rights and Chapel realizing who Spawn is, tried to commit suicide, but fails since his gun has no bullets left. Chapel literally begs Spawn to kill him, knowing what he learned will forever haunt him, what does Spawn do? He let Chapel live, leaving him to wander away crying, knowing that death would have been kinder.
- Paranoia Fuel Walking into the wrong alley just might get you killed by a Hellspawn.
- Strangled by the Red String: The kiss Jade shares with Spawn and subsequent implied relationship between them... really comes out of nowhere. Even when she was shown to be sympathetic towards Spawn and having doubts about her job to kill him, they only briefly met in person once before and there was never any mutual attraction implied. Even Spawn and the Vampiress showed more chemistry, at least before she tried to kill him.
- The Woobie: Spawn is an even bigger woobie here than he is in the comics.