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Hellboy Vs Spawn

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Thomas O'Connor
This is going to be one hell of a fight. Sorry, we had to. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re pitting two of comics’ most infernal heroes against one another to see which demonically-empowered hero comes out on top. Will it be 90s comics superstar Spawn or the blue-collar demon Hellboy? We’re mostly looking at the versions of the characters from the comics, but we will make sure to take their cinematic and TV adaptations into account.

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This is going to be one hell of a fight. Sorry, we had to. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re pitting two of comics’ most infernal heroes against one another to see which demonically-empowered hero comes out on top. Will it be 90s comics superstar Spawn or the blue-collar demon Hellboy? We’re mostly looking at the versions of the characters from the comics, but we will make sure to take their cinematic and TV adaptations into account.

Round 1: Origin

The man who would become Spawn was once Al Simmons, US special forces operative and decorated soldier. But after being betrayed and murdered by his superiors, Simmons’ soul was sent to hell for the countless murders he had committed for his country. Desperate to return to his beloved wife Wanda, Simmons made a deal with the devil Malebolgia that would let him return to Earth in exchange for becoming a soldier in Hell’s army. Unsurprisingly, this deal with the devil didn’t quite go well, and he returned to Earth years after his death and with a fractured memory. To make matters worse, Al’s body was both horribly burned and encased in a living costume with a variety of powers. Determined to reclaim some semblance of his humanity and make up for his past mistakes, he became the dark superhero known as Spawn.

Similarly forged in war, Hellboy first came to Earth as a result of a ritual carried out by Nazi occultists in an effort to turn the tide of World War 2. But rather than gain dark powers, the Nazis instead caused an infant demon to arrive on Earth. This child was taken in by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, who trained his adopted son to fight against his own kind as a member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence, an agency Bruttenholm himself had created to hold back the tide of darkness.

While both heroes have great origin stories, Spawn’s tale of damnation and redemption is just too classic to pass up, perfectly establishing the character’s motives and goals and setting the stage for the countless stories that have followed. Round one goes to Spawn.


Hellboy 0 / Spawn 1

Round 2: Powers

Like all soldiers of Hell, Spawn is wrapped in a living, parasitic costume that responds to the wearer’s commands as though it were a part of their own body. Able to change its shape and physical properties, the suit is an incredibly versatile piece of equipment that can be used offensively or defensively in a wide variety of forms, even turning the wearer invisible. Spawn’s cape is especially versatile and can be used to grasp objects and even glide. Spawn is also capable of manipulating necroplasm: a magical energy with a staggeringly wide range of applications. This glowing green substance can heal others, create offensive blasts or even create matter out of thin air. Spawn has a limited amount of Necroplasm at his disposal, though, as indicated by the meter often seen in his comics. Spawn is also a highly trained soldier and stealth operative and frequently uses high-tech weaponry to augment his Hellspawn abilities.

Hellboy, meanwhile, is much more of a bruiser. With speed, strength, and endurance far beyond those of normal humans, he’s more than equipped to go toe to toe with the things that go bump in the night. And that’s not even touching on the Right Hand of Doom, the massive stone appendage that serves as his right hand. It’s virtually invulnerable to harm and blows from this stony fist pack quite a wallop. Hellboy also frequently carries specialized weapons and gear designed by the BPRD to eradicate demons and other paranormal foes. His years as a paranormal investigator have also made him an expert in the supernatural and the best methods to combat it.

While Spawn’s sheer versatility is impressive and deadly, he also suffers from a problem seen in many magical characters: the ability to pull whatever power he needs to solve the problem at hand out of thin air. In our books, this makes him less interesting than someone with a strictly defined power set, so we’re giving round two to Hellboy.

WINNER: Hellboy

Spawn 1 / Hellboy 1

Round 3: Allies

Being a denizen of the Image Comics universe, Spawn has rubbed shoulders with the likes of superhero team WildC.A.T.S and the monster cop Savage Dragon, but we’re going to focus in on his regular supporting cast. While he definitely plays the brooding lone wolf card, Spawn has a number of allies that come to his aid in times of crisis. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Cogliostro, a former Hellspawn who acts as Spawn’s mentor. There’s also the duo Sam and Twitch, a slovenly police detective and his much more fastidious partner. Spawn also later allied with Angela, a warrior angel who first aimed to kill the dark hero.

Hellboy’s circle of allies is mostly made up of his co-workers at the BPRD. His most iconic counterpart is without a doubt Abe Sapien, a blue-scaled fish-man with a mysterious past. Also along for many of HB’s adventures is Liz Sherman, a woman with pyrokinesis, the ability to control fire. The BPRD has expanded to include characters like paranormalist Dr. Kate Corrigan, a homunculus named Roger, and Johann Kraus, whose body is made entirely of ectoplasm.

While Spawn certainly has some stalwart allies, the sheer variety of Hellboy’s supporting players helps the big red pull out ahead.

WINNER: Hellboy

Spawn 1 / Hellboy 2

Round 4: Enemies

They say you can judge a hero by their enemies, and Spawn certainly has an impressive Rogue’s Gallery. Chief among his adversaries is Malebolgia, the demon who granted him his powers in the first place. Being a lord of Hell, he’s on the powerful side and commands massive armies of loyal Hellspawn. But while he may the big bad in Spawn’s saga, he’s not seen quite as much as his two other main enemies: Jason Wynn and Violator. Wynn is the sinister government director who betrayed Al and sent his soul plummeting to Hell. A master manipulator and planner, he’s pretty much the quintessential mastermind villain. Also dogging Spawn’s heels is Violator, a demon sent to torment him and ensure Spawn uses up his Necroplasmic energy as soon as possible. While his natural form is that of a powerful demon, he more often takes the form of the disgusting and capering Clown. Throw in supporting baddies like the cyborg Overtkill, the mob boss Tony Twist and numerous others and you have a robust array of villains to pit against the Hellspawn.

Hellboy, on the other hand, has far fewer recurring villains. His most iconic enemy is Rasputin, the Mad Monk of Russian history and a powerful occult practitioner. A disciple of the Lovecraftian entity known as the Ogdru Jahad, his goal is to use Hellboy to bring his terrifying master to Earth. Hellboy’s also had encounters with a race of terrifying frog monsters as well as an assortment of folkloric creatures like the witch Baba Yaga and even Satan himself.

While Hellboy’s enemies are certainly imposing, Spawn’s expansive cast of nemeses is just too huge to pass up. This round goes to the Hellspawn!


Spawn 2 / Hellboy 2

Round 5: Adaptations

Spawn’s sole cinematic outing to date is, well, not great. Critically panned upon release, the 1997 Spawn movie starring Michael Jai White in the title role is not well regarded by fans of the franchise or moviegoers in general. With a cut-down, PG-13 version of the story and incredibly dated CGI effects, especially the shockingly rare appearances of Spawn’s iconic cape, it’s one of the poster children for bad 90s comic book movies. But you’ll notice we’re not talking solely about movies. If you want to see a great rendition of the character on screens, look no further than HBO’s Spawn animated series, which ran for 18 episodes starting the same year the film was released. Dark and atmospheric and sporting a much-deserved R-rating, this fan-favorite series is what helps Spawn even put up a fight in this round. A new Spawn film starring Jamie Foxx is also in development.

Meanwhile, Hellboy has been the star of two feature films directed by genre auteur Guillermo Del Toro. Starring Ron Perlman in the lead role, Del Toro’s Hellboy movies may be less dark than the comics but are true to the spirit of the character. Throw in some phenomenal creature and makeup effects and you’ve got two of our favorite cult superhero hits. We’re just sad we never got a third installment to cap off the trilogy. A new film directed by Neil Marshall and starring David Harbour in the title role is also slated for release in April of 2019. Hellboy also starred in a series of short animated films, which saw the BPRD agent fighting Japanese monsters and more.

While the Spawn animated series did a lot to even the odds in this round, we just can’t give it to anyone other than Hellboy. Del Toro’s films will always have a massive place in our hearts, and no matter how the new movie turns out, 1997’s “Spawn” will likely remain the worst movie either character’s been a part of.

Winner: Hellboy

Spawn 2 / Hellboy 3

It was an extremely close fight, but the big red fella from hell managed to pull it off by being tough as nails and positively magnetic on the big screen. There’ll always be a place in our hearts for Spawn, but spikes, guns and plenty of 90s style is just no match for the Right Hand of Doom.

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