How 'Deadpool' Opened the Door for the Return of 'Spawn'

Todd McFarlane has finished the first draft of a new movie, and the timing couldn't be more perfect.

McFarlane, Image Comics

On Valentine’s Day, Todd McFarlane told ComicBook the script to a new Spawn movie is finished. There is no official Spawn movie in production and McFarlane does not have any known support from studios or producers for the project, but that he’s laid the groundwork couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I’ve finished the script, and I’m in the process of editing,” the veteran comics writer, illustrator, and toy magnate said, who’s hoping it can be edited into “a spot where I can walk this into Hollywood and start hooking the actors.”

His first draft of Spawn, a modern film adaptation of his cult favorite demonic superhero from Image Comics, will have to shrink from its current 183 pages to a producer-friendly 120.

“I still think it’s going to end up being about 140 [pages], because I’m putting in details for myself,” he said. The extra 20 pages is from the script being a “director’s script,” meaning it will be loaded with information since McFarlane is hoping to direct it himself.

“I want to keep it small, keep it tight,” he was quoted, referring to the overall scope of the project “I need to get him back up on the big screen again to make him relevant in a big way, which we will do.”

To anyone who follows McFarlane on his official Facebook page, they will know how long he’s been at work in bringing Spawn back to the big screen. The first and currently last Spawn feature film was released in 1997, almost 20 years ago.

Created in 1992 by Todd McFarlane for then-upstart imprint Image Comics, Spawn is Al Simmons, a decorated soldier who is promoted to an elite CIA branch that deals with fringe affairs. After Simmons learns too many of the government’s secrets, he is murdered and his soul sent to hell. He makes a deal with the demon Malebolgia and comes back five years later as the superpowered Spawn.

Spawn has been published monthly in his own comic book series and has been adapted into numerous video games and animated TV shows. In 1997, Spawn starring Michael Jai White was released in theaters, and though it performed modestly at the box office, it failed to launch a franchise.

After the breakthrough success of Deadpool, the timing is red hot for adult-skewing R-rated comic book movies, even if McFarlane is aiming Spawn away from that current trend.

“I’d put it more into horror/suspense/supernatural genre,” he told ComicBook in an interview at New York Toy Fair during Valentine’s weekend. “If you take the movie The Departed meets Paranormal Activity, something like that.”

Though it’s an important distinction for McFarlane creatively, to studios and the general moviegoing audience Spawn will still be an R-rated comic book superhero. Pre-Deadpool, that would be inconceivable notion. There have been R-rated superhero movies before, like Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, but mostly superhero movies are popcorn fares because of their merchandising potential. Even now after Deadpool, it will be a big deal if studios let a dark character like Spawn be the R-rated anti-heroes they’re meant to be.

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