When Black Panther arrived in cinemas, Marvel was rightly praised for creating a comic book movie dominated by strong black characters.
Most saw the film as the first example of this – but that wasn’t technically true.
Wesley Snipes may have set the standard with 1998’s excellent Blade adaptation but, in truth, the first major African American comic book movie came before that.
A year prior to that, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn arrived on the big screen. Adapted from McFarlane’s darkly gothic comic centred around antihero Al Simmons, the film saw action star Michael Jai White stepping up in the central role.
The story focuses on Simmons, a special ops government assassin who betrayed during one last job and killed by his allies-turned-foes. Resurrected as Spawn and hand-picked as leader of Hell’s demonic army, Spawn eventually escapes those shackles to live his life as a supernatural force for good rather than evil.
Bloody, violent and incredibly dark, the original Spawn comic book series was McFarlane’s finest hour, following a career working on titles like Spider-Man, where he helped lay the foundations for the character of Venom.
The film didn’t quite live up to the billing though. A messy, mishmash of dated special effects and a predictable, Spawn just wasn’t dark enough. Though it made a profit at the box office, McFarlane has held off releasing a sequel, evidently keen to make sure this one cuts the mustard.
A short-lived animated series arrived on HBO in the interim and did a far better job of bringing the comic book series to life. Now, after two decades in development hell, another Spawn movie is on the way – and it’s going to be brilliant.
Deadline has revealed Jamie Foxx is set to star in the new Spawn, with McFarlane writing and directing the new instalment, which is being produced by Blumhouse – a studio with a burgeoning reputation for distinctive, reins-free, filmmaking.
“Jamie came to my office five years ago, and he had an idea about Spawn and we talked about it,” McFarlane told Deadline. “I never forgot him, and when I was writing this script, you sort of plug people in, and he was my visual guy and I never let go of him. When I got done and my agents and everybody was talking about what actor, I said, I’m going to Jamie first and until he says no I don’t want to think about anyone else because I’ve never had anyone else in my head. Luckily, he hadn’t forgotten either.”
According to the report, McFarlane is working with a $12 million budget, to create a dark, R-rated, film that won’t rehash Spawn’s origins.
“We’ll eventually do some of the background if we make a trilogy, but that’s not this first movie. The first movie is just saying, do you believe? And if you believe than that’s good because I’m hoping to take you for a long ride with this franchise.”
Though Spawn is unlikely to crack wise in the same way Deadpool does, this film nevertheless offers Foxx a unique opportunity to bring one of the genre’s lesser celebrated icons to the cinematic fore. And if anyone can deliver that kind of performance, it’s Foxx.
In a world of increasingly polished, super-safe, universally appealing Marvel movies and overblown DC duds, Spawn could be about to take things in a very different direction and we can’t wait to see the results.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.