Following years of starts and stops, comic book legend Todd McFarlane is finally hitting the ground running with his own film adaptation of Spawn — and it's because of the success of another, controversial comic book movie: Joker.
At FAN EXPO Vancouver in February, Spawn creator and Image Comics co-founder Todd McFarlane discussed the prospects of getting production started on a new film adaptation of his '90s icon. He credited the success of Joker, the DC super-villain movie that gave Joaquin Phoenix the Oscar for Best Actor this year, for allowing Spawn to finally move forward. The popularity and acclaim for Joker convinced Hollywood big wigs that there's meat in dark comic book movies after all.
"Everybody in Hollywood wants an R-rated, dark comic book movie, and Spawn is at the top of their list," McFarlane said at a panel at FAN EXPO in Vancouver (via ComicBook.com). "The phone calls are coming in fast and rapid. I've been talking to a couple of Academy Award people, I've got the investors getting lined up. It's changed ever since the Joker from being me begging them to do Spawn dark and creepy, to them asking."
McFarlane said something similar to Georgia Straight the weekend of FAN EXPO. "The last two-and-a-half months, my phone has been ringing quite constantly," McFarlane said, "with people going 'You know what, Todd? We need to do that dark, R-rated Spawn movie you've been talking about for two years that we pooh-poohed you about.'"
While McFarlane is just happy people are talking about Spawn again, it is bizarre that it is Joker kicking off the next wave of dark comic book movies. This is despite superhero movies ruling the box office for over two decades, and R-rated hits like Deadpool and Logan already proving there's an audience for adult material. For whatever reason, Hollywood seems resistant to pursuing those kinds of projects. Until Joker.
In his interview with Georgia Straight, McFarlane further revealed the uphill battle to convincing studios an R-rated Spawn could work.
"Everybody was in the PG-13 superhero mode because those films were making a billion dollars for everybody," explained McFarlane. "So, you can imagine, in Hollywood—whatever's working, you do it a dozen times. I'd been saying, 'No, it's a lower-budget, R-rated, super-serious movie.' And they're like, 'Nah, it needs to be Captain America.' In October, when I went to New York Comic Con, I said 'Everybody go to this movie called Joker.'"
McFarlane has publicly talked about writing and directing a new Spawn movie for years, going as far back to 2016. Over the last three and a half years, McFarlane has revealed how he envisions his movie to be a low budget, dark horror where Spawn (set to be played by Jamie Foxx) is a shadowy presence lurking in the background, haunting the human characters who investigate a rash of strange murders. McFarlane has described the film as the antithesis to modern comic book movies.
“What I can tell you is what I’ve told everybody else: it will be a definite R,” McFarlane told ComicBook.com in 2016. “I’m not going for the same crowd that Marvel and DC is going for. I’m going for the same crowd that horror film releases going for. People who want to take their boyfriend or girlfriend or go out with the girls and go to the movies and get spooked.”
At San Diego Comic-Con in 2017, McFarlane announced his movie secured a deal with Blumhouse Productions. But production on the movie has stalled for years. Now in 2020, it seems Spawn is finally going to unleash hell. And it's all thanks to the Joker.
It remains to be seen if Spawn will also net any Oscars.
There is currently no release date for Spawn.