Follow TV Tropes


Western Animation / Todd McFarlane's Spawn

Go To

And now, Spawn. So turn off your lights.

Todd McFarlane's Spawn is a Animated Adaptation of the Spawn comic book series. Airing on HBO from 1997 to 1999 (in conjunction with the release of the 1997 movie), Spawn/Al Simmons was voiced by Keith David.

Simmons, now a veteran of The Vietnam War who was betrayed by one of his closest friends, makes a Deal with the Devil to lead Hell's army in exchange for being able to walk the Earth again.

This show provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Angela only appears a couple of times before being abruptly replaced with another angel named Jade. Likely because of the rights issues concerning the character of Angela going on at the time.
  • Accidental Adultery: Upon coming back as the titular character, Al discovers that his wife, Wanda, has since remarried with his best friend, Terry Fitzgerald. He is initially enraged at both of their lack of loyalty until he regains part of his memory and realizes that, knowing that his was a dangerous profession, he actually asked Terry to take care of Wanda should anything happen to him.
  • Adaptation Distillation: While the plot of the series is generally the same as the comics, a fair number of details were changed, certain characters never appeared, others were given only cameos, etc.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Chapel from Youngblood (Image Comics) was renamed "Jess Chapel." In the comics, his real name is Bruce Stinson, with Chapel serving as his superhero codename.
  • Apologetic Attacker: The Affably Evil Serial Killer in Send in the KKKlowns apologizes to his victims for feeling that he needs to kill them, explaining that it's Nothing Personal.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • An establishing shot of Washington, D.C., during Jason Wynn's dialogue with Tony Twist, is all over the place. The U.S. Capitol is much closer to the Potomac River, both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are to the east of the Capitol instead of the west (with Lincoln's statue facing away from the Washington Monument and the Capitol instead of towards them; there is also a clear view of the Capitol from the Lincoln Memorial, which in real life is blocked by the Washington Monument), and the Supreme Court building seems to be twice its real-life size.
    • Overtkill sets a rendezvous for midnight, and then immediately shows up saying "It's exactly 12 midnight- in Nairobi." Nairobi is eight hours ahead of New York; midnight in Nairobi would be 4 PM in New York, which, unlike the scene, is never night at New York's latitude.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals:
    • At one point we see Jason Wynn, Spawn's former boss when he was human, talking to someone on the phone whilst holding a dalmatian puppy. Casually, not even stopping his conversation, he walks over to a fish tank and drops the puppy in... said tank is full of piranha, who start ripping the puppy apart. There's no reason why he had to do this. He just does it because he can.
    • In one scene, The Clown confronts Spawn on a church's roof. We see he's stroking a cat...then he snaps its neck and throws it off the roof.
  • Batman Gambit: We find out during the third and final season that Al is the victim of this by Malebolgia. Instead of being used to lead Hell's army, he's actually used as a sperm donor to impregnate Wanda with a demon seed who'll be the real human general of Hell's army.
  • Bed Trick: After Terry leaves Wanda to keep them safe from Wynn's goons, Al does this to have sex with Wanda by disguising himself as Terry. This act plays into Malebogia's plans and causes him to conceive a child that is the target of Malebogia's plans for Armageddon.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: When Al disrespects the Clown one too many times, the latter transforms into his true demonic form as the Violator, whoops Al's ass, and his dialogue eerily changes from vulgar and loud to formal and soft-spoken, which still does nothing to mask the monster he is.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Both The Clown and Jason Wynn. However, Wynn has a larger role since The Clown is more active just in the first season, while Wynn's dirty deeds prevail in the whole series.
  • Bowdlerize: A VHS "Special Edited Edition" compiled several episodes from seasons 1 and 2 while cutting out the gory violence, nudity, and profanity to make it relatively child-friendly.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Discussed by the Clown regarding one of the men Al kills in the opening scene.
    Clown: Check his shorts. Bet they're brimmin' over.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The series rarely lets a sentence go by without using an F-Bomb, regardless of whether it makes sense or not. Quite different from the comics, where the word is either censored or replaced by a similar euphemism.
  • Cowboy Cop: Sam and Twitch. Sam fits this a bit more than Twitch, but both generally act outside the rules and registrations of their precinct. This makes them probably the most honest and ideal cops in the series and a constant thorn in the side of the dirty cops working their precinct.
  • Crapsack World: Somehow more so than the comics and the movie, the series is set in an incredibly dark, twisted, nihilistic and violent world where the bad people are the worst of the worst, plenty of people die in brutally violent ways and Heaven is nowhere near as good as you think it is. If there is one positive, the characters who are awful people get their well deserved comeuppances.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the comic or the movie, the animated series is a lot more lacking in humor, and has an overall far grimmer tone. And considering the original comic's grimdark tone, it says a lot.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Wanda Blake is a a deconstructed of a Crusading Lawyer. She's presented with a case with fraudulent evidence against a client for the murder of several children and finds out the evidence was falsified by Jason Wynn and others like a US Senator to cover up the fact the Senator's serial-killing pedophile son Billy Kincaid was responsible to help the Senator's presidential campaign. Even when Wanda has enough evidence to vindicate her client she still digs deeper to find out all the ones responsible despite warnings from others to stop while she's ahead, which gets her daughter, husband, and herself attacked by Wynn and his associates to silence them and they would have been most certainly killed if not for Spawn's intervention.
  • Dirty Cop: A large number of the police force in the city are dirty cops, especially the police chief. He nearly killed Twitch by shooting him between the eyes.
  • Disposable Vagrant: The homeless people in the ally are viciously abused all throughout the series by mobsters, policemen, mercenaries, drug dealers, and whoever else happens to be affiliated with Spawn.
  • Evil Mentor: Violator acts as this to Spawn in order to allow him to kick-start the Apocalypse. He continuously mocks him and even attacks him to give him the incentive to fight and kill his enemies.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Spawn does this to Chapel, making him hallucinate people he killed who "won't stay dead." no matter how much he kills them. Ultimately driving him insane.
  • The Ghost: Malebolgia is mostly absent from the series and doesn't even get an on-screen introduction despite being mentioned by name even from the beginning of the pilot.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: When we first see Tony, he's in a suite where two practically nude prostitutes are making out with one another.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Wanda struggles with this after finding out she was pregnant and feeling something was wrong with the fetus. Despite being counseled to do otherwise by Granny Blake, her suspicions are fueled by her discovery of Al being able to shapeshift to look like Terry.
  • Government Conspiracy: A large portion of the plot involves illegal weapons transactions by Jason Wynn that has its influence to not only high-stakes politicians in Washington, DC but members of crime syndicates and policeman in the city. Even the nurse tending to Twitch tried to kill him with an epinephrine overdose because he was in on the conspiracy.
  • Honey Trap:
    • Jade once served as one in order to assassinate Genghis Khan via Out with a Bang.
    • The vampiress that Spawn encounters is someone who Spawn empathizes with over their mutually-cursed status, with him shielding her from sunlight when a window in his church is broken and expressing a seemingly mutual attraction... right up until she reveals she's an assassin sent by Heaven and tries to kill him.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: The clown witnesses Spawn's first kill once he's back from hell and feels positively orgasmic about it.
    Clown: Oh man, I love it. Especially the jerk with his head on backwards! That. Is. Sweet! Check his shorts, bet they're brimmin' over! I so enjoy the shameful details.
  • It Is Not Your Time: In the last episode, Spawn uses his shroud to allow Granny to see her late husband again. She begs him to take her with him, but he tells her that it's not her time and there are people who still need her.
  • Karma Houdini: Petey, Bobbie, and Frankie get no comeuppance for killing Mr. Ovetti or their former best friend Joey. Not even Spawn does anything to either stop it or punish the boys, Cogliostro reasoning all he'd do is make them into soldiers for Malebogia army.
  • Living Lie Detector: In the second season, the character Merrick is able to tell when someone is lying by the hesitation and inflections in their voice.
  • The Mentor: Cogliostro tries to teach Spawn to be more accountable for his actions, how to use his powers, and how to go about his business without bringing people down with him. He also tries to help him regain his humanity in order to restore his honor.
  • Mugging the Monster: When Angela is first introduced, a couple of thugs follow her into an alley to rape her. Naturally, only she leaves the alley.
    • The same happens with the vampiress in the third season.
  • Nerves of Steel: Twitch. Just like in the comics. The man is as stoic and pragmatic as a machine even when face to face with a murderous Spawn.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: This especially comes up in the Animated Adaptation, when Spawn dismisses and threatens the seemingly harmless Clown one time too many. Clown smirks and says "You don't know who you're dealing with...but it's time you found out," and proceeds to change into his true, One-Winged Angel form to give Spawn the Curb-Stomp Battle of his life, all while lecturing him on his role in the coming Apocalypse.
  • One-Winged Angel: Violator eventually changes from his Monster Clown appearance into a huge horned monster whenever he wanted to smack some stupid out of Spawn.
  • Opium Den: Jason Wynn keeps prisoners chained up in the basement of an opium den in something of a personal Black Site prison. When Terry tries to kill Wynn while at the den, Wynn captures him and forces him to smoke the opium.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • During Spawn's first battle with him, Overtkill uses the homophobic term "faggy" to describe Al's outfit.
    • Chapel also uses the term "gay" to mock Spawn's outfit.
    • A later episode sees Al deal with a serial killer targeting people due to race.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're apparently angels that have been killed by Hellspawn.
  • Out with a Bang: Jade seduced Genghis Khan and decapitated him while having sex with him.
  • R-Rated Opening: The animated series starts with a brutal scene where several people are messily killed, including one guy whose head gets twisted 180 degrees by the title character, another who burns to death in graphic detail, and another whose arm is snapped in half so that he blows his brains out with his own gun.
  • Save the Day, Turn Away: Spawn saved his widow Wanda's daughter Cyan from the clutches of pedophiliac serial killer Billy Kincaid, and defeated him without killing him. Spawn realizes Wanda is happy with her new husband and their daughter and that his dream of being present in Wanda's life would largely be a downer. So he lets go, but not before he hands Cyan his wedding ring and tells her she should go to her mother. Wanda is reunited with Cyan who simply tells her that she was saved by "the sad man." Wanda finds that Cyan is holding onto the wedding ring and realizes that somehow the "sad man" is her dead husband. Spawn watches Wanda's reaction from afar, then executes a textbook example of turning away and departing, a moment before she looks up to the rooftops and would have spotted him watching.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Some of the violent death scenes such as a Boom, Headshot! in the R-Rated Opening are rendered this way. Other times, we see all the messy details.
  • The Shadow Knows: Used at least once; in Episode 2, the fat little midget Clown casts the lanky, eerie shadow of the Violator, his true form.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: Al uses his shapeshifting powers to turn into Terry in order to have sex with Wanda for one night. Unfortunately, this is what Malebolgia was counting on and plans to use the child he impregnated her with as his pawn towards conquering Heaven.
  • The Teaser: Each episode begins with a live-action opening featuring Todd McFarlane giving an introduction relating to the events of the episode.
  • Trauma Button: Because of his own death by burning, Spawn has traumatic flashbacks when a man soaked in gasoline catches on fire from a spark in the start of the first episode, and when Billy Kincaid lights him on fire.
  • Visual Pun: The Violator shows up after Al finds out his wife has moved on eating rocky road ice cream. As in, it's literally made from dirt.

Alternative Title(s): Spawn