Since Todd McFarlane's Spawn's debut in Spawn #1 back in May of 1992, McFarlane has tried to make his character as big as his Marvel creations. Within just a few years, Spawn launched into television–-winning two Emmy Awards in the process--a feature film, and video games. Spawn has now been featured in nine video games, four of those being non-Spawn titles including Mortal Kombat 11 as a DLC addition. Spawn will soon be a part of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II with operators having Spawn-themed skins in the Season 6 battle pass--rather than being sold as a separate bundle, as is usually the case with crossovers like The Boys and Godzilla. And that might be due in part to just how good of a match Spawn is for Call of Duty, as Todd McFarlane told GameSpot.
McFarlane created the hellish mercenary when he was a teenager and is the key figure in the Todd McFarlane brand–-even the logo of this company is a stylized version of Spawn's mask. McFarlane talked about how Spawn has been seen as just a video game character instead of a comic book character by the younger generation, but it doesn't bother him how you found the character.
"The malleable part of Spawn is also part of my sinister master plan because I don't care how you get into the door to the world of Spawn. If it's cool because you saw something cool in the comics? Cool. If it's something you saw from video games? Cool. 'Oh I saw the HBO show!' Fine! I don't care," McFarlane explained.
"We started from humble beginnings with the goal to see if we could make cooler looking toys for an older audience and if we could, if it was successful, others should follow the blueprint," McFarlane said. "We got a lot of good press early because we were the only ones in the pool at that point. Fast forward now and if you walk around the floor here now, there are maybe 80 companies of all sizes that do what we do: make nice, high-end, cool, detailed stuff for the majority of customers over the age of 15. They're buying this for themselves. It's phenomenal with what you see now."
The Spawn creator praised the Call of Duty team calling them generous with making sure he gets final approval, but said he lessened the reins during production. "They were showing me everything and telling me I needed to approve things but at some point, I said, 'This is all good, if anything let's get crazier. Do cool stuff, you know your audience. Don't worry about being loyal to the comics, go, go, go.'"
The character of Spawn was Al Simmons in his former life, a military mercenary who was betrayed and sent to hell when he died. He was given another chance at life as one of the devil Malebolgia's heralds on Earth. McFarlane felt like that alone made Spawn an almost perfect fit for this type of game.
"Al Simmons could integrate very well into that game because he's a military guy. I've had other similar interactions of Spawn like Commando Spawn and such so when we were having conversations with [Infinity Ward] we could offer a wide array of this character that can touch on all sorts of tastes. If you want ultra-militaristic, I think we've got a few good hooks for you. If you want the fantasy stuff, we're going to have that, too. There's also going to be stuff in between those as you level up."
McFarlane added, that during design and integration, he wanted to keep visuals in line with one rule: make it look cool. Spawn's arsenal in the comics is more than guns that fire supernatural bullets, but also his cloak is almost sentient, and he can summon chains from his body as offensive and defensive as well.
"The goal is how do you make him cool so when he integrates into other mediums he still fits, right? When we started working on him being part of Call of Duty, I'm going to assume that 95% of people have no idea who this character and/or know nothing about me. That should be your starting point. So the question is what does he have to look like for your audience to react in a positive way? Whatever that is, I need you to start with those designs first and bring them to me," he said.
"We're not a huge corporation," McFarlane added. "Spawn doesn't bring in billions of dollars like Batman or Spider-Man so I don't have to be precious with him and can be more flexible how we move him forward in other places. I think that's a little bit of his secret sauce because the Call of Duty dev team was almost taken aback when they asked if they could do this or that and me saying 'Yeah, do whatever you want. As long as it looks cool! It's got to be cool and badass!' If he hits that, I think people will at least give him a look."
Spawn's popularity has ebbed and flowed throughout the decades but is still the focal point of McFarlane's universe. The Spawn comic book is now the longest-running American independent comic book series of all time, but McFarlane mentioned that keeping his creation relevant isn't exactly as easy as it seems. "My job is to keep him alive and relevant. He had a big 2022 in comics, he's about to have a great 2023 with Call of Duty, and more plans are to be announced."
The Image president noted that they were so close to finishing the Spawn movie script until the WGA strike happened, but now that the strike is over so, they're going to race towards getting some big news out there. "If we do this right though, the brand gets even bigger," he continued. "So then, hopefully, people can say they know Spawn from the movies and not just comics, not just video games…that's how you keep a brand alive for 30 years. If the movie works, that will only be a catalyst for keeping it going for another 30. For him to be relevant and true brand, he has to get outside of that bubble in a meaningful way."