Al Simmons was your ordinary government assassin, until one day he was killed in the line of fire. Making a deal a demon lord named Malebolgia, Simmons is promised that he can return to Earth to see his wife Wanda but he must become a Hellspawn and serve in the demon’s army. Now Spawn has a choice: give in to his darker side and commit acts in the name of Hell, or overcome the evil that’s inside of him and become a hero.
Today I’m looking at the second episode of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, “Evil Intent.”
1. The McFarlane Zone
I didn’t bring this up last week, but each episode of Spawn beings with a short live-action scene featuring Todd McFarlane. He’s sitting inside a spooky church, surrounded by boxes of “Todd’s Toys” while drawing some Spawn pages. McFarlane then turns and directly addresses us, asking a series of hypotheticals that are related to the episode; “Are you sure you know the difference between good and evil?”
I get that they’re going for a Rod Sterling, Crypt-Keeper kind of vibe but they don’t add anything to the episode. They come off as stilted and a bit condescending, like they need to expressly state the show’s themes and concepts because the audience won’t “get” it. It sends a mixed message; it’s a cartoon expressly for adults that treats you like a child.
At the very least you get some cheesy moments like this:
2. Crime Alley
In “Evil Intent” we’re introduced to child killer, Billy Kincaid, along with his father Senator McMillan who is begrudgingly working with Wynn and Tony Twist. They’re keeping Billy’s monstrous crimes under wraps and in return McMillan is using his political influence to help their criminal empire.
So how does Spawn play into this? Jeff Stevens, one of the homeless man killed at the start of the first episode, was a communications worker who overheard something he shouldn’t have. They don’t say what it is in the episode, but I assume it’s related to Wynn and Twist because their goons are the ones who try to kill Stevens at the start of “Burning Visions.” The homeless people sharing the alley with Spawn aren’t happy with him either. They’re anxious that they’re sleeping next to “something out of goddamn Stephen King” and his presence leads to more of Twist’s men shooting up the alley and killing a couple of the homeless people living there. Al Simmons picked the wrong alleyway to call home.
The big moment of this episode is Spawn facing the Clown’s true form: the demon Violator. His transformation is one of the best bits of animation in the series so far, with the Violator’s demon body growing from inside the Clown’s body, bursting out of his human disguise like an ill-fitting shirt. There’s a nice blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bit of foreshadowing just before the fight where the Clown’s shadow is in the shape of the Violator.
They use a different voice-actor for the Violator, which is an effective touch. The loud, obnoxious voice of the Clown is now this chilling whisper that seers your mind. The fight is pretty short, but it’s a great way to show just how outclassed Spawn really is. Sure, he can tear hired goons apart like they’re tissue paper but he’s a small fry when it comes to fighting demons. He gets his ass handed to him something bad. His Spawn Counter is now down to 9:9:6:2 from 9:9:9:9. Cogliostro briefly explains that Spawn’s powers are limited, but the significance of those numbers isn’t exact. Is it Years:Months:Days:Hours?
4. Great Power, Great Responsibility
The episode ends with Cogliostro warning Spawn that there’s a responsibility that comes with his new powers. While killing violent gangsters solves the problem in the short run Spawn’s actions have repercussions. He’s reckless, using violence as an easy solution without any forethought. He assumed the Clown wasn’t a threat and look how that turned out.
The more thugs Spawn kills, the more Twist will send and the more innocent people will die because of him. It looks like things are about to ramp up because Twist has hired Overkill, an ex-CIA killer turned ruthless cyborg mercenary to take out Spawn once and for all. Gangsters are one thing, but is Spawn strong enough to fight a cyborg that only seems to speak in cartoony bad guy quips: “The rumors you’ve heard about me? They’re all true.”, “The pain was cleansing.”Continued below
Spawn’s perchance for violence also runs the risk of finally giving into his darker side and becoming the Hellspawn warrior that the Clown wants. For how long can he hang onto his humanity, and what happens when it’s gone? Will his good intentions ultimately lead him down a darker path?
5. McFarlane’s Adventures in Animation
Spawn wasn’t the only animation work keeping McFarlane busy in the late nineties. He co-directed the amazing music video for Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution” in 1998 with Batman: The Animated Series alumni Kevin Altieri. He also co-directed the video for KoЯn’s “Freak on a Leash” with Graham Morris and directing team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks), which won an award for Best Short Form Music Video at the 2000 Grammys. This wasn’t McFarlane’s first time working with KoЯn either; he collaborated with Spawn artist Greg Capullo to create the album cover for the band’s multi-platinum album Follow the Leader.
So here’s a question for you: Is Spawn the grunge rock or nu-metal of comics?