Spawn fans have watched the superhero movie craze build on the horizon and become an unstoppable empire, all in the time since the first film came and went. The fated new Spawn movie might finally be making it to the screen, but the world might have changed too much for this 90s classic.


Entries in big genre franchises have been getting canceled lately for various reasons. The two or three big superhero movie franchises seem to plan their outings well in advance. That can lead to some projects falling through or undergoing radical changes, but what happens when a new competitor struggles for years to enter the arena?

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It seems almost inevitable that a character as popular as Spawn will get a film adaptation in the modern era of superhero movies. Devised by Todd McFarlane in the early-90s, Spawn is the perfect edgelord anti-hero and the flagship character of Image Comics. The character feels like an excitable combination of all of Todd’s favorite things. Spawn was born Al Simmons, a skilled assassin employed by the CIA. After his handlers betray and murder him, Al finds himself with a Faustian deal. He can return to the land of the living and see his wife again, but he’ll have to submit himself and his skills to the devil Malebolgia as a “Hellspawn”. After discovering the downside of his deal, he becomes a gritty anti-hero, using his demonic powers and honed skills to deliver justice and avenge his murder. The story wasn’t exactly groundbreaking in 1992, but, the subsequent 30 years haven’t exactly helped.

Spawn has been a popular character in the comics for decades, but he’s also had his fair share of merchandise. McFarlane is arguably a better toy mogul than he is a comic book artist, so his most iconic character has enjoyed more action figures than the average 80s cartoon franchise. Spawn has been the star of five video games of wildly varying quality, and a special guest in a couple more. The HBO Spawn animated series was a groundbreaking and well-received piece of superhero history that could’ve gone on to inspire a world of comparable franchises. Perhaps most notably, the 1997 live-action film brought Al Simmons to the big screen for the first time, expanding the fanbase by several large increments.

Spawn was not well-received when it came to theaters. It was heavily driven by visual effects, visibly hacked apart to meet an unnecessary PG-13 rating, and far too dumb to be memorable. It was many current fans’ first introduction to the franchise, but it probably wasn’t the best showing one could hope for. Superhero movies didn’t have the cultural cache they carry today. They weren’t exactly rare, but most of them weren’t very good. A modern audience knows what they’re getting with any given MCU production, but any given viewer wouldn’t have that level of expectation in 1997. The film did little for the era’s opinions of the genre. It was compared unfavorably to The Crow and Tim Burton’s Batman Films. Paradoxically, it benefited very little from being released alongside the widely disliked Batman & Robin. A modern take on the concept would enter into a very different world with new issues to contend with.

It was a struggle to shove Spawn into a PG-13 film. Superhero cinema is still dealing with the battle between the reduced risk of a PG-13 rating and the bold statement of a hard R. Spawn wouldn’t be the only R-rated superhero movie anymore, but it could lean into the horror elements of the franchise and secure a unique identity. This era of superhero fatigue might seem like the wrong place for Al Simmons to try to join, but fans are still desperate for anything new. Look at the success of comic book adjacent properties like Joker. Even direct adaptations of beloved graphic novels can escape the symptoms of fatigue. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman received a hugely popular adaptation that was almost universally beloved. That Netflix series is arguably the best argument in favor of going ahead with a Spawn movie. Fans may be sick of the big names, but they still want to see their favorites played out on the big screen, as long as the adaptation gets it right.

Spawn was always a favorite among a very particular type of young teenage fan. Given Marvel’s unwillingness to delve into an R-rating and DC’s rebuke of Zack Snyder’s deeply toxic fanbase, those edgelords need something to flock to. The Crow is coming back, why shouldn’t Spawn? There are still several audiences that would love to see Spawn in theaters. Hardcore fans who’ve been waiting for decades, ironic appreciators who have been mocking it since the beginning, and a new crop of teens who’d love a new R-rated anti-hero. If Spawn can ever finish crawling out of development Hell, he’s likely to receive a warm welcome.

MORE: Spawn Movie Reboot Finally Lands A New Writer

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