Spawn was one of the biggest, most successful comics of the ‘90s. It was one of the things that got me into comics. But it was a success that was sort of confined to the decade. The release of the film was sort of the peak of that success, and it tapered out in the early 2000s. Now, many people I talk to are surprised to learn that the comic is still going. Spawn was much more than just a pop culture fad. I still love that mythology and I still love that character and just the mood and grit of that world. It’s Batman meets The Crow.
I love that, for all of its flaws, the original film is being re-evaluated through streaming services, alongside the truly fantastic animated series. But there hasn’t been much to truly drag it back into the mainstream spotlight, even in this huge oversaturated climate of comic book movies.
Todd McFarlane has been working on the script, or at least the idea for the script, for another Spawn film for over a decade. In that amount of time, I suppose it’s right for people to be skeptical of the project ever actually happening. Except for the fact that, in all that time, the Spawn reboot had never been officially announced. No one had picked it up. That’s just how long it took McFarlane to get the script together because, I have to admit, he knew what he was doing with this.
While he hasn’t said much about the plot, McFarlane has talked an awful lot about the tone and style of the project, and he was smart enough to keep the budget low while writing so that whatever investors he took it to would be willing to take a chance on someone who had never directed a film before.
The idea itself is incredibly intriguing to me. I think it’s something to be excited about provided people understand that it will be completely different from the previous film. 1997’s Spawn is a bit of a mess, but very representative of some of the style of the early comics. It’s all action, monsters and gun-fu. But there was a very specific shift that happened in the comic after it had been around for about fifty issues.
Spawn took a more serious, scaled-back direction after the title character went to Hell for the first time. The scope couldn’t get bigger after that, so it went appropriately smaller and became much more of a pure horror comic. That’s worth noting, I think, because the horror element has always been a part of Spawn, but never made it into the original movie.
Spawn is not much of a character in McFarlane’s upcoming movie, he’s been very up front about that. That’s going to jar fans, as Spawn’s not even going to have a speaking role, it seems like. But I love that idea. The character works terrifically in the shadows. We’re going to be seeing it from a different perspective. This is still the Spawn story, but told through the perspective of Twitch, a cop who’s a major character in the comics.
I’m in the bag for this. A lot of people won’t be, and I understand that. But a unique take on Spawn from its original creator has every potential to be something fierce, gritty and awesome. There’s something really cool about this New York cop story that’s completely within the realm of the real, but then there’s just this thing in the shadows. And the great thing about it is that it’s almost what Batman would be like in the real world. There’s something picking off criminals at night and nobody has any idea what the fuck it is.
It definitely doesn’t sound like a movie where we’ll get to explore the richness of Spawn as a layered, tragic character, and in some ways that’s certainly unfortunate, but it’s a different take. Not even necessarily that, actually. It’s simply a different perspective. The last film was told from Spawn’s POV and this one is not. He’s an entity. A ghost. While I’m sure they won’t go this route, I think they could even get away with making this found-footage if they want to.
If anything, this new Spawn could be fantastic because it means we don’t need comic book movies to cost $80 million and up. These stories have all kinds of scope on the page and don’t always need the biggest possible treatment. Even the original film was a little too big for its own good. A small-scale, visceral horror that gives us just enough of this universe to make fans happy could be just what the doctor ordered. If its influential enough, it might even get Marvel and DC to start moving in this direction. That’s the best possible outcome I can imagine.
Sure, I’m excited as hell for a new Spawn movie. I’ve missed Spawn being a part of my life. But if it works, it could pave the way for things like Morbius or Swamp Thing or Werewolf by Night. I bet Blumhouse making a kick-ass Spawn flick is exactly the right push to finally get Hack/Slash on the screen.
To keep the comic bubble from bursting, we need to see different types of comic book movies, adaptations of all shapes and sizes. Spawn could be just what we need to finally get horror comics on the screen in a cool and consistent way.