Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, also known as Spawn: The Animated Series, is an American noir adult animated television series which aired on HBO from 1997 through 1999.
After being betrayed and murdered by his employer, a government trained assassin named, Al Simmons, is resurrected as a Hellspawn and is forced to become the reluctant leader of Hell’s army.
Also known as Spawn (original title), Todd McFarlane’s Spawn 2 (US second season title) and, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn 3 or Spawn 3: Ultimate Battle (US third season title).
Part of the Spawn franchise.
The series centered around the story of an ex-Marine Lieutenant Colonel named Al Simmons, who fought as a commando and government assassin in covert black ops. He was betrayed and killed by a man whom he believed to be his close friend (the man, later to be revealed as Chapel, burned him alive with a flamethrower during a mission). Upon his death, Simmons vowed revenge on Chapel and hoped that he would one day return to his beloved wife Wanda.
Because of his life as an assassin, Simmons’ soul goes to Hell. In order to accomplish his vow, he makes a pact with the devil 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 a “Hellspawn” or “Spawn” for short) in return for the ability to walk the earth once again in order to see Wanda. However, Simmons was tricked by Malebolgia: his body was not returned to him and he is returned to Earth five years after his death. He had been given a different body which was a festering, pungently cadaverous, maggot-ridden walking corpse that had a massive living red cape attached to it. Because his new body had been rotten for some time and was in an advanced state of decay, his face had become heavily malformed, to the point that he barely appeared human, which led to Simmons donning a mask in order to cover its grotesque appearance.
Upon his return to “life”, Spawn seeks out Wanda, who had apparently got over the grief of having lost Al and married another man, Al’s best friend Terry Fitzgerald with whom she seemingly had a daughter, Cyan. Terry, a respectable man, works as an analyst for a man named Jason Wynn. Wynn is a powerbroker in the CIA and secretly a black-market arms dealer, amongst other things (such as the head of secret government organisations within the NSA and National Security Council). Wynn is revealed to be the man responsible for the death of Al Simmons due to a disagreement that the two had between each other concerning their “work.” Jason’s actions would also prove dangerous to the lives of Terry, Wanda and their daughter as well. Realising that he is no longer the man in Wanda’s life, Al swears to protect her and her new family.
The series depicts Spawn nesting in the dark alleyways, killing any who invade his new-found territory. Rejecting these actions as unworthy of Spawn’s time and power, Malebolgia then dispatches another of his minions (a demonic creature known as the Violator that assumes the form of a short, obese clown) to try to persuade Spawn to commit acts of violence and savagery in the name of Hell.
Spawn struggles to fight the lure of evil, as well as seeking to escape being hunted by not only the forces of Hell, but by assailants from Heaven, who have a need to destroy the Hellspawns in order to cripple the forces of Hell so that they do not gain an edge in the escalating war between the two spiritual hosts. As the war intensifies, the line between the forces of good and evil become increasingly blurry. Spawn finds help along the way in the form of a dishevelled old man named Cogliostro who was once a Hellspawn that overcame the demonic powers resting within, amongst a number of other characters.
In the last episodes of the series, Spawn learns how to shapeshift and, appearing as Terry, makes love to Wanda, impregnating her. It is revealed that there is a prophecy that the child of a Hellspawn will play the deciding factor in Armageddon, and may be the real reason Spawn was allowed to return to Earth.
- Keith David – Al Simmons/Spawn.
- Richard Dysart – Cogliostro.
- Dominique Jennings – Wanda Blake.
- John Rafter Lee – Jason Wynn.
- Michael Nicolosi – Clown (human form).
- James Hanes – Violator (demoniac form), Overt-Kill.
- Jennifer Jason Leigh – Lilly.
- Victor Love – Terry Fitzgerald (episodes 1-12), Bobby (episodes 1-12).
- Michael Beach – Terry Fitzgerald (episodes 15-17), Bobby (episodes 15-17), and additional voices.
- Kath Soucie – Cyan Fitzgerald and additional voices.
- James Keane – Tony Twist, Sam Burke.
- Michael McShane – Maximilian “Twitch” Williams, Gareb.
- Denise Poirier – Merrick, Bounty Hunter, Angela.
- Ronny Cox – Billy Kincaid, Senator Scott McMillan.
- Victor Brandt – Chief Banks.
- Ming-Na Wen – Jade (Lisa Wu).
- Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Jess Chapel.
- Robert Forster – Major Forseberg.
- James Hong – Gen Soon/Zhang Lao.
- Debbi Morgan – Granny Blake.
The score and opening theme was handled by Shirley Walker, who also composed background music for Batman: The Animated Series. While Batman: The Animated Series featured traditional movie orchestra-type music, the producers of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn requested that Walker give the series a more organic and subtle electronic soundtrack, with only minimal usage of orchestral sounds.
The series has achieved a small but loyal cult following who praise the animation, writing, voice acting, music and dark tone, whereas the graphic violence and intentional unresolved cliffhanger has attracted criticism.
All three seasons have been released separately on DVD and VHS as three two-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 24 July 2007, HBO Video released a 4-disc 10th-anniversary signature collector’s edition on DVD with all 18 episodes and multiple bonus features.
When the show’s first and second seasons were released on video they were released in two formats. The first format was called the “Uncut Collector’s Edition”, which is the version that was shown on TV and held a TV-MA rating, and the other was a special edited version called the “Special Edited Edition” which held a PG-13 rating by toning down the violence and sexual content.
The first movie was also released in the UMD format for Sony’s PSP handheld video game system, but the other two movies were not.
On 05 July 2016, HBO added all three seasons to its streaming services, HBO GO and HBO NOW.
- It has also been released on DVD as a film series.
- The show is based on the Spawn character from Image Comics, and won an Emmy in 1999 for Outstanding Animation Programme (longer than one hour).
You can find a full index and overview of the Spawn franchise here.
- Series 01 (1997):
- Series 02 (1998):
- Series 03 (1999):
The above series were also known as:
- Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.
- Todd McFarlane’s Spawn 2.
- Todd McFarlane’s Spawn 3: The Ultimate Battle.
Production & Filming Details
- Creator(s): Todd McFarlane.
- Developed By: Alan B. McElroy.
- Narrator(s): Riichard Dysart.
- Jennifer Yuh Nelson … (4 episodes, 1998-1999).
- Mike Vosburg … (3 episodes, 1998-1999).
- John Hays … (2 episodes, 1997).
- Thomas A. Nelson … (2 episodes, 1998).
- Chuck Patton … (1 episode, 1999).
- Brad Rader … (1 episode, 1999).
- Frank Paur … (unknown episodes).
- Eric Radomski … (unknown episodes).
- Maryann T. McClure … producer (6 episodes, 1997).
- Laura V. Perrotta … associate producer (6 episodes, 1999).
- Christopher Brewster … post producer (unknown episodes).
- Jeff Fino … animation producer (unknown episodes).
- Terry Fitzgerald … co-producer (unknown episodes).
- Karen Horne … co-producer (unknown episodes).
- John Leekley … co-executive producer (unknown episodes).
- Alan B. McElroy … co-executive producer (unknown episodes).
- Todd McFarlane … executive producer (unknown episodes).
- Hali Paul … co-producer (unknown episodes).
- Randall White … producer (unknown episodes).
- Catherine Winder … producer (unknown episodes).
- Todd McFarlane … (18 episodes, 1997-1999).
- John Leekley … (9 episodes, 1998-1999).
- Alan B. McElroy … (developed for television by) (6 episodes, 1997).
- Rebekah Bradford Leekley … (5 episodes, 1998-1999).
- Larry Brody … (3 episodes, 1998).
- Gerard Brown … (3 episodes, 1998).
- John Shirley … (3 episodes, 1998).
- Gary Hardwick … (1 episode, 1997).
- Victor Bumbalo … (1 episode, 1998).
- Shirley Walker … (12 episodes, 1997-1998).
- J. Peter Robinson … (6 episodes, 1999).
- Paul D. Calder … (unknown episodes).
- Lynn Hobson … (unknown episodes).
- Scott Jeffress … (unknown episodes).
- Eric Mahady … (unknown episodes).
- HBO Animation.
- Home Box Office (HBO).
- Image Comics.
- McFarlane Films (as Todd McFarlane Entertainment).
- Distributor(s): Home Box Office (HBO) 1997-1999 (US).
- Release Date: 16 May 1997 to 28 May 1999.
- Running Time: 30 minutes (per episode).
- Rating: TV-MA.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.