Today's superheroes are too sugar-coated. Bring back Spawn

Back in the '90s, Spawn carved a scar into teenage minds everywhere

24 March 2019 - 00:00

Superman. Spider-Man. Green Lantern. Catwoman. Yawn. Maybe I'm a cynical old git but the superhero has never done it for me. I know this genre may appeal to some - many actually - but the idea of bionic beings dressed in what I can only describe as erotic sleepwear, roaring around a city at night saving people, seems achingly juvenile to my adult mind.
Look, I'll freely admit that I owned a Spider-Man outfit when I was six but by age eight I had moved on. So, yeah, like with chocolate, I wouldn't shed a tear if the superhero genre disappeared tomorrow.
Though after writing this, returning from a somewhat contemplative coffee break, maybe there is one superhero that deserves to be saved from the Great Purge. First published in 1992 by Image Comics and created by a Canadian named Todd McFarlane, Spawn carved a scar into my sweet suburban teenage mind for many reasons.
The first being that the main character, Spawn - duh - was born out of seriously messed-up circumstances. I won't bore you to death with elaborate details (you can hit Wikipedia if you're really interested) but he was basically a Vietnam War commando betrayed and burnt alive by his best friend using a flame-thrower. Nice.
To ensure revenge on said "friend", he cuts a deal with the Devil himself and returns to Earth as a Hellspawn: a frightening, cadaverous humanoid attached to a large red cape with a life all its own.
This was no cutesy Marvel special your mom would buy you to read over a glass of milk and a few cookies. Nope, in the early '90s Spawn was the comic book equivalent of listening to Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar while drinking that bottle of Ouzo stolen from your dad's drinks cabinet.
Then there was the HBO animated series. Previous exposure to animated TV shows included Captain Planet, Mask and the Ninja Turtles: KTV stalwarts that ensured good, clean fun and the promotion of wholesome values to impressionable Saturday-morning minds.
Spawn's world was different. His dark neo-noir alleyway was home to evil characters: a shape-shifting clown, depraved priest and child-killing ice-cream man, to mention a few.
Then there was the ultra-violence you could never "unsee". Explicit scenes of sex and suicide, not to mention a policeman being blown apart by a hand grenade that totally messed with my perception of what a cartoon was and could be. I guess you could say that HBO and McFarlane were using a medium of innocence to destroy innocence.
Spawn was the proverbial eye-opener, a game changer: a not-so-subtle reminder that the world is not all cotton candy and unicorns and rainbows. Most importantly of all, Spawn wasn't lame.
And down in Superheroville where it's becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between Captain Underpants and Captain America, that's an impossible act to follow.

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