What happens when you have people defect from Marvel and DC to write their own comics? You get Image Comics. While they’re not widely known in America (they don’t have any kind of cinematic universe), they do have a character that has made his way to some of the best comic books in the industry. This character’s name is Spawn.
Al Simmons was once a military operative (highly ranked) who was assigned to start killing innocent people. After he began disagreeing with his orders, one of his buddies was assigned to kill him. Simmons was then sent to Hell for his crimes, but begged the demon Malebolgia to send him back to Earth so he could see his wife at least one more time. The demon agreed and sent Simmons to the mortal world, but as a Hellspawn with incomprehensible powers and a mission from the Underworld.
Unfortunately for Simmons, he was sent back five years after his death. He had no proper recollection of his past, and he remembered his wife only to discover that she had moved on and married another man. Spawn was then assigned to take the lives of many and bring them to Hell. However, Spawn swore that he would only kill those that deserved it. Eventually, this would lead him to fight the demons that created him.
Becoming an anti-hero, Spawn has a pretty heavy fan base. With his amazing abilities and combat prowess, there’s a lot to love with this character. He’s not quite as big as the Avengers or Justice League, so here are 15 things you might not know about him.
15. Soul Calibur 2
Soul Calibur 2 is the most balanced fighting game of all time and is one of the greatest ones ever made. It originally came out for the Playstation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, and Xbox. Both the Playstation and Gamecube versions had console exclusive characters in the form of Heihachi and Link. However, Microsoft didn’t have an exclusive character they could include in their version, so they decided to reach out to Image Comics, who gave them the rights to use Spawn. He is a powerful fighter in the game, but doesn’t use his classic cape, due to the hardware not being powerful enough to properly render it. Instead his cape was transformed into an axe that he used in combat. He also had a unique fighting style that set him apart from the rest of the cast. In the game’s context, Spawn wanted the Soul Edge as a means to take down Malebolgia and free himself from the shackles of Hell. Alongside Heihachi, Spawn was brought back into the game for the HD re-release on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
14. Created by a Spider-Man Artist
It is often said that legends inspire other legends, but in this case, it was the legend who manually made himself even more legendary.
The reason Image Comics was able to become so successful is that it already had established comic artists backing it up. The creator of Spawn was a man named Todd McFarlane (perhaps you’ve heard of him). McFarlane was famous for his work on X-Men, Batman: Year Two and the Incredible Hulk, but became most renowned for his work on The Amazing Spider-Man. He was often the go-to artist and drew the first full body appearances of the symbiote Venom, and knowing how much detail that character has, it’s no secret that job would be incredibly challenging. His work with Marvel and DC essentially put him on the map and allowed him to pursue Image Comics. It was there that he created his first original character Spawn. At first, he even created a lot of the art for the character and his comics, but over time, his time and energy was devoted to other projects. That doesn’t stop many from having a deep fondness for Spawn because he was created by such a famous artist.
13. Advised by a Hobo
Spawn was very well-known for his moral code. He killed, but would only take the lives of people like murderers and child molesters. Along the path as a servant of Hell, he was guided by a demon taking the appearance of a clown. This character was named the Violator and he often contended with Spawn when he chose to be defiant. That said, the Violator was still Spawn’s guidance down the path of the “Dark Side.” However, the more Spawn took down heinous criminals, the more he got recognition from the homeless people of New York. One of these hobos that liked him actually attempted to advise him on many of his missions. This spiritual advice was strange coming from a homeless man, but it was revealed that the old man was actually a Hellspawn himself. After this revelation, Spawn heeded the man’s words much more carefully, and this newfound guidance began leading him down a much more righteous path. Still, this did not stop a lot of the challenges the character would face and, arguably, caused even more problems for the future. That didn’t stop Spawn from doing what he wanted and continuing to meet with the hobos, though.
12. He Battles Heaven and Hell
Because Al Simmons went straight to Hell and was assigned to do the bidding of demons, it’s not hard to believe that there would be a lot of spiritual forces at work in the story of Spawn. However, because he officially worked for Hell, this attracted the attention of Heaven and the Angels. Some of them were even hunters of the Hellspawn and caused many problems for our favorite character. That said, Spawn eventually grew sick of being a lackey for Hell and killing those that didn’t deserve it (similar to what he did in the military before his death), so he defected from the demons. This sent the forces of Hell after him as well, and he often found himself in the middle of heavy spiritual conflicts. What makes both of these worlds so threatening to Spawn is that they can create weapons capable of killing him, considering that they operate outside of the mortal realm. In a way, this puts him right alongside people like Sam and Dean Winchester, yet he’s not quite as attractive as either of them.
11. He Saved the President’s Life
Al Simmons was a highly decorated officer in the military and even took orders directly from the President of the United States. But how did he end up ranking so high? The short answer is that he saved the President from an attempted assassination. This made the country leader so grateful to Simmons that he promoted him. However, with the territory came some horrible knowledge about what tghe government was really about. The President would often have Simmons on very morally obscure missions, to where he would kill those that didn’t deserve to die and save the lives of those who shouldn’t have lived either. While this was certainly an awful experience that eventually cost Simmons his life, it is the setting for how he became such a powerful being. These memories of all the lives he took are also the motivation for his code once he becomes a Hellspawn. That said, he still tries to rectify his past mistakes by doing right by the world in his reincarnated life, making the character’s story all the more poetic. It’s sort of like a reverse version of Dante’s Inferno.
10. Necroplasm is His Power Source
Every powerful superhero has a source of their powers. Whether it be from a technologically advanced suit, a sort of DNA mutation, or something else entirely. For Spawn, his powers come from the substance of Necroplasm. Whenever you see a picture of Spawn that has green stuff all around him, that’s what the substance looks like. When each Spawn is created, they are given a consumable amount of Necroplasm. As they use powers that require its consumption, it slowly goes down. If they use it too much, they will run out of Necroplasm and not be able to use many of their abilities. Because of this, Spawn chooses to conserve his Necroplasm by utilizing a lot of mortal weaponry, like guns. Considering the fact that he was once a high-ranking military assassin, this wasn’t a terrible decision on his part. Furthermore, Spawn also has a few other abilities that don’t require Necroplasma, still giving him an edge on the field of battle. Other Hellspawns have no doubt used up their quota of Necroplasm, making them completely ineffective for the uses of Hell and the demons.
9. Endless Abilities
Spawn himself is a powerful character with a host of interesting and damaging abilities. That said, the more he fights, the more abilities he seems to learn and use. He can fly, teleport, run very fast, and do so many more things they could probably each get their own entry on a future list. Spawn’s powers are no laughing matter either; they give him such an edge in fights that he can often take down creatures that are much bigger than him. This was shown off in Screwattack’s Death Battle series where they pitted Spawn and Kratos against each other. Spawn’s impressive roster of abilities won him the fight, and after seeing him in action in the comics, it wasn’t a shocking result either. Spawn only seems to get stronger with each passing issue, and any creature, Angel, or demon that comes to fight him will definitely think twice unless they have an unhealthy dose of arrogance. When he needs an extra boost in power, he can also sap the evil that resides in the physical world with the help of his trusty suit. How this works I’m not sure, but knowing that he resides in New York means that he will have no shortage of that power source.
8. His Suit is Alive
Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit is no doubt impressive, but when compared to the suit that Spawn wears, it’s simply a Fisher Price toy. Spawn’s suit is named Leetha of the 7th House of K, and it bears this name because it is a living organism. Furthermore, it’s not even a weak organism. Leetha has bound itself to Simmons by implanting itself in his central nervous system. Every alteration on the costume, from the skulls to the armbands, are all parts of Leetha’s body. Because the suit is connected to his nervous system, Spawn can control it however he pleases. This also gives the suit an edge over the symbiote enhancements from the Marvel Universe. Spawn, unlike Venom or Carnage, is in complete control of his actions and works with the suit. Make no mistake, Leetha will also operate when it deems necessary. If Spawn has been knocked unconscious for any reason, Leetha will gladly get up to defend its master. The two of them work together to perform impressive feats, and because it doesn’t take up any of Spawn’s Necroplasm, he relies on it frequently to get him ahead.
7. He Can’t Be Damaged by Mortal Weapons
The Wolverine, Hulk, Superman, and Iron Man all have the benefit of being extremely hard to kill, but it can be done. Furthermore, if you can manage to hit them hard enough, you can still deal serious amounts of damage. Spawn, like them, is also very hard to kill, but when on Earth, he’s practically invincible. The demons created the Hellspawn to be impervious to any weapon created by mortal men, and as such can only be harmed by things created in the Spiritual Plane. This means that only creations of Heaven and Hell can damage Spawn. No doubt these problems did face him at some point, but until then he was impossible to harm as he carried out his sinister deeds on the Earth. Because Hellspawn can only be damaged by weapons crafted in a spiritual realm, some of the Angels took it upon themselves to become Hellspawn hunters, and they had numerous run-ins with Al Simmons as a result. As a player of the powerful Spawn in Soul Calibur 2, I often wish this feature would’ve been implemented in the game because I’m not very good at it.
6. More Than One Person Held the Mantle
Al Simmons dealt with a lot of traumatic experiences before he became Spawn, but all of his problems massively escalated after his death and rebirth. Eventually, all of it became too difficult for Spawn to handle, and he chose to commit suicide as a result.
Enter Jim Downing. He was an unfortunate man who had been in a brutal coma for many years. Then one night, he simply woke up. Little did he know that he had woken up the same day that Al Simmons had killed himself. He hadn’t remembered much about his past and wasn’t sure where he was, but more questions arose once he realized he was given unnatural abilities. The death of Al Simmons had spread across the levels of Hell, but once they heard that a new human had taken the mantle of Spawn, there was great interest all around. Bloodthirsty demons like the Violator and Malebolgia both wanted to recruit this new Spawn and they placed themselves strategically in his life to offer a lot of influence. Jim still desired to be normal though and discovered a way to conceal his identity as Spawn in order to instead build relationships with humans and run away from the powers he had.
5. He Became a Villain
As Jim Downing was figuring out his footing as the new Spawn, that doesn’t mean that we had seen the last of Al Simmons. Image Comics decided to do an event called Image United, and Simmons had made his triumphant return. However, he wasn’t the same as many readers remembered him. After committing suicide, Simmons apparently went straight to Hell, but somehow rose through its ranks. Once he became powerful enough, he returned to Earth with a twisted moral compass and a desire to rule the world. As the writers of the comic explained, Al’s turn to the Dark Side was a result of all of the living Hell that he had gone through trying to fix his life and make it worth living again. Now that he realized all of his efforts were in vain and that he’d never be normal, he decided on the next logical course of action. When he came back to the mortal world and tried to take it over, it was none other than new Spawn, Jim Downing, who rose up to the occasion and tried to stop his predecessor. This move from Simmons went on to affect many aspects of the world of Image Comics.
4. Angel Form
One thing Spawn has going for it is how it completely embraces the ideas of spirituality as began by the worlds of Heaven and Hell. One thing they decided to do eventually was to portray the end times from the Bible, otherwise known as Armageddon. However, I must add a disclaimer that this version of Armageddon is nothing like what’s depicted in the Bible and is very much a comic imagining to fit the world of Spawn. It was revealed that God and Satan were actually children of the real creator of the universe known as the Mother. When the forces of Heaven and Hell begin to fight and nearly destroy the world, the Mother decides that Spawn is the only one who can save them. She instructs him to eat the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden, but is fought by versions of the Twelve Apostles. After being killed by Judas Iscariot, the Mother springs Spawn back to life but looking much different. Having imbued Spawn with the Forbidden Fruit, the character was then resurrected with a beautiful set of Angel wings. This form was much more powerful and enabled him to finish the fight.
3. Animated Show
Most of us are familiar with the lukewarm Spawn movie made all those years ago, but did you know that there was an animated show? Make no mistake, this wasn’t on the same playing field as Batman: The Animated Series or Spider-Man. This show was intended for adults and stayed true to the source material. It frequently showed blood as arms were ripped off, held many uses of swear words, and even had its own share of nudity. No doubt younger fans of Spawn were disappointed when their parents wouldn’t let them watch this cartoon. The show faithfully depicted Spawn’s character and struggle as Al Simmons was turned into a servant of Hell. Along the way, we were introduced to other adaptations of notable characters like Malebolgia. In the show, Spawn actually gets reunited with Wanda and together they have a child, which was prophesied to have an effect on Armageddon. However, the show ended before that payoff ever occurred. The series overall was very well-received and remains fairly high on many top 10 lists regarding animated superhero projects. Perhaps we’ll have to attempt something like that someday.
2. Ties to the Avengers
Spawn has no shortage of interesting and terrifying foes, and one of his more dangerous allies comes in the form of Angela. Being an angel for Heaven, she fights to destroy all things that come from Hell, and she took the role of a bounty hunter who tracked down and killed various Hellspawn. They fought for a while, but Spawn came out on top. After many adventures together in Heaven and court, Spawn and Angela began a romantic relationship. However, she was killed during a fight with Malebolgia.
Despite her prominence in Image Comics, her inclusion resulted in a lawsuit between Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman (the creator of Angela). Gaiman one and kept the rights to the character, and then sold them to Marvel, who incorporated her in the Age of Ultron storyline. After that, she played a big role in Original Sin where it was revealed that she was, in fact, the lost sister of Avenger and Asgardian Prince, Thor. She also has ties to the Guardians of the Galaxy and other Marvel heroes. Could you imagine if Image Comics could do a crossover with Marvel, how cool would it be to see Spawn and Angela interact once more?
Todd McFarlane was very well-known by both Marvel and DC, but despite his great work for the former, it was the latter company that reached out to him after he created Spawn. Working with Frank Miller (a match made in Heaven) the two created the comic titled Spawn/Batman. This comic takes place outside of the main DC canon and instead inside of Frank Miller’s universe which includes The Dark Knight Returns. In this comic, Batman comes to New York City after getting reports of human heads being used to control various robots. When he arrives, he runs into Spawn, and they both fight each other. After going a few rounds, they then realize that they should instead work together and work to stop the various robots from having any further impact. This crossover would be successful enough to warrant another called Batman-Spawn: War Devil. There were also plans to have the two characters team up another time after that, but the project was eventually scrapped. Batman is one of the biggest superheroes of all time, and having him crossover with Spawn no doubt brought a lot of attention to Image Comics and helped put Spawn on the map for general comic readers.