Spawn has, for quite some time, being the grounding stone of Image Comics. Image is the third largest retailer in the US and UK. Marvel, the leader, has names such as Spiderman, X-Men, Capt America, Hulk and a never-ending list of other heroes. D.C., the second, has Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and a whole load more. And Image has Spawn. There are a few others, but most would not have heard of them. This is just a brief glimpse at the popularity of this single character whose sales in comics alone support the mammoth of a company that Image is.
The animation runs over three seasons (also referred to as three feature-length movies) and each season is split into six twenty-five minute episodes. On DVD, the seasons run as individual films. This is a total running time of a little over seven hours, as each film is about two and a half hours. And within these seven hours, is everything one could possibly want from Spawn. Without giving away essential plot points, it is safe to say that the basic, original story of Spawn which is covered over the first couple of dozen comics and the not-so-well-received movie, is covered in the first season. The second and third seasons are also true to the comics, but are a deeper insight into the legend of Spawn.
The animations are slightly in manga style (only very slightly, taking the few better elements of manga and mixing it with conventional western cartoons), but are also western enough so as to keep the gritty feel that the original comics generated. There is an abundance of blood (I would say gore, but it is all spurting blood and little guts), plenty of swearing and a whole load of nudity. Now, I am a fan of Justice League which is pure and innocent enough to be shown on day time TV. But if I'm going to go out of my way to watch an evening adult show, I do appreciate it when the makers go all out to MAKE it an adult show. It is not for the pathetic, faint of heart. It is brutal, it is hard core, and I love it to bits.
Spawn is voiced by Keith David who had the most brilliant, atmospheric deep voice which captures the purest essences of what Spawn should sound like, and likewise the rest of the voice-casting is outstanding at worst. The voice overs are half what make a show like this, and when they are so precision perfect and so fantastically scripted it's no wonder that watching the film like this draws you deep into the world.
And animation is well above par. Not the best I've ever seen, but that is rare and often a sure-fire sign that too much time and money has gone into too specific an aspect of the overall project. The colouring/inking and shadow work are perfect for Spawn. Most of the time the majority of the characters are cast half in shadow, and the more mysterious a character, the less you see. This applies to Spawn too, but we see plenty of him so it's fine.
All in all, I can only wish there are more programs like this out there. I do believe that the audience they aim for is quite small considering all the people out there who would rather watch feel-good daytime talk shows and shopping channels than a brilliantly conceived film-noir style animation. So if this is your thing, I cannot recommend it more strongly. And if you are a fan of Spawn, lock yourself in a room with plenty of food and water for a day, because you will not be able to tear yourself away.