The Devil and Todd McFarlane

Spawn's creator revolutionized the comic-book industry. But did he survive Hollywood with his soul intact?

Ironically, one of the characters that got whitewashed is Terry Fitzgerald. Played by D.B. Sweeney in the film, Fitzgerald is the best friend who marries Simmons' wife after Simmons is dead, adding to Spawn's anguish. Simmons' wife in the movie is played by Theresa Randle, who is black. "So, basically, they created an interracial couple," says the real-life Al Simmons. "You tell me where the logic is. But that's Hollywood. When I first heard they thought there were too many blacks in the movie, I was like, 'What do you mean there are too many blacks? Is that what you tell Spike Lee--"Uh, Spike, I'm sorry, you're going to have to get some more white guys in there."' But that's just the way Hollywood is, dude. They thought there were too many brothers. But they're okay with a white man kissing a black woman onscreen. Far as I'm concerned, it just made the movie more cutting-edge."

McFarlane wouldn't talk about the color changes in a recent interview, except to say this: "I didn't create Spawn as a black superhero. I created him as a cool superhero who happens to be black. His race isn't the key to his character, just like it isn't the key to any of the other characters in the comic. But if you have to look at the situation in racial terms, look at it this way: I got the big movie made, and created a role that can now be played in two or three sequels by a black actor. So it was more of a victory to me to have a big movie with a big budget with the lead being a black man than to have a little movie with more black characters that the studio wouldn't promote, and that would never get a sequel. But, again, I truly don't think the color of the actors is that big a deal. It's what the characters stand for that's important."

McFarlane has also used that argument in the letters pages, and at least one Spawn reader didn't buy it.

"That's like saying making a movie with a purple Incredible Hulk or a movie about Jaws where the main character is a squid is not a major issue," wrote 25-year-old Jason Williams. "Altering race for the movie to avoid it being labeled as a 'black movie' just shows who you are catering to. Don't you see how this is selling out?"

By that argument, McFarlane shares one last trait with the character that made him rich. When the stakes got high enough, and a voice started whispering in his ear, he listened. If every man truly has his price, Todd McFarlane's was around $50 million.

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