Twenty years ago, Todd McFarlane’s comic series Spawn was adapted in 1997 as a film that was not very well received. Written by Alan B. McElroy and directed by Mark A.Z. Dippe, the movie starred Michael Jai White, John Leguizamo, and Martin Sheen, who agreed to be in the picture because he wanted to be in a superhero movie.
Since then, McFarlane has been very open about wanting to reboot the franchise, given that Spawn 2 went into development hell shortly after being announced in 1998. Now, with Stan Lee’s support, McFarlane shed some light on where his project now sits during a panel at Emerald City Comic Con.
GeekNation’s Clare Kramer, moderating the panel, asked about the possibility of seeing a Spawn movie. His response is that he hopes to have a big announcement for a new film by the time San Diego Comic Con opens in July. He continued on with his vision for the movie, especially now that there’s a new trend of R-rated superhero films.
Listen, I’m going to paint it for you. The movie is going to be a dark R. If here’s PG-13 and here’s Deadpool and here’s Logan, we’re going to be here. It’s going to be dark. It’s going to be nasty. I’ve already talked to Stan, and he’s going for it.
And speaking of Mr. Cameo, McFarland also has a vision for how Lee can appear in the film:
Stan Lee is in this building, and it’s a rundown building, and you kick open the door, you catch him by surprise, and he’s dressed in a wife-beater shirt. He hasn’t shaved for four days. He’s got a beer in one hand, and he’s got a big stogie in the other hand. That’s just the set-up. He always looks nice in his movies – I just want to do that crusty old curmudgeon. Basically, what his wife sees in the morning when he wakes up. The real Stan Lee. I want you to come into that movie and really act. I want you to just be nasty. It’d be awesome.
Of course, Lee is all for appearing in movies, as long as it’s a minor bit. He states, “I don’t get roles that are too big in movies, because everyone is afraid I’ll get mistaken for Clark Gable.”
Spawn was created in 1992 by McFarlane after his split from Marvel Comics. It’s the story of Albert “Al” Simmons, a Black Ops soldier whose soul is sent to Hell after he’s killed in the line of duty. There, he makes a deal with a malevolent being called Malebolgia. For a price, he is promised the opportunity to see his wife and child one more time. He returns to Earth as a hideously disfigured being, finding that five years have passed and his wife has moved on with another man. He mistakenly thinks this is the price he had to pay, but soon finds that per his contract with Malebolgia, he has become a Hellspawn, a weapon for Hell.
Columbia Pictures was the first production company to approach McFarlane about a live action movie, but he said no, feeling they wouldn’t give him enough control over the project. He finally sold the rights to New Line Cinema’s Michael DeLuca, who promised him a dark gritty film that was true to the comic. However, the final project ended up with too much cheap humor and genre clichés.
Since then, McFarlane has not given up hope for a new film. In the early 2000’s, he did have some legal issues over Spawn trademarks and characters. But that didn’t stop him. In 2011, McFarlane gave a little update about the story, saying that “in this new version, there are no super-villains, archenemies or any of that. It’s just a spook movie, something scary going bump in the night.”
Now it appears he has a game plan and he wants to stay in charge. Last year in an interview with ComicBook.com, McFarlane stressed he wanted to direct his vision, but he knows that Hollywood will not simply hand over $100 million to a first-time director. He simply wants $10 million “make a little horror movie and see if we can scare some people.”
And maybe he will.
Based on the comments at Emerald City Comic Con, it looks like he may have a big (small budgeted) announcement this year at San Diego. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.