Shadows of Spawn is a licensed Japanese manga adaptation of Todd McFarlane's Spawn comic series, written and drawn by Juzo Tokoro. It was originally printed in Japan from 1998 to 1999 in the monthly manga magazine Dengeki Comic Gao!, published by MediaWorks. The manga series takes several elements of the original comic, but puts a very different spin on the Spawn mythos.
The star of the series is a young man named Ken Kurosawa, a Japanese-American, who is a street thug who hires himself out for money in order to care for his younger sister Mariko, who was very sickly before the time of his death. He was known by the nickname Double K. After promising his sister to be with her for her birthday, Ken is murdered by his latest clients after he ends his contract with them. Seven years later, Ken is brought back as a Hellspawn. (It is heavily implied that Ken returned to Earth at the exact same time as did Al Simmons, as many events in the manga seem to directly take off from events in the original comic book.) Like Al Simmons, Kurosawa initially has no memories of his previous life, and is confronted in short order (almost immediately after awakening on Earth as a Hellspawn, in fact) by the Clown. Clown briefly leaves the manga, replaced by a faerie-like creature calling herself Beelzebub. He returns as the Violator, however he is much smaller, as one of his arms is cut off from his body while the primary body is trapped for a time in Clown form, and becomes the entire body of a smaller version of himself, imbued with a reduced amount of his full power.
The new Spawn, living in California, holes up in an abandoned church. He discovers his sister has overcome her illness and is slowly becoming a major star in Hollywood as a teen actress. His greatest desire since his rebirth is to protect her. Ironically, she is now the target of many supernatural creatures because of that very desire.
- Ken Kurosawa : A street thug-for-hire, Ken works for gangs to help pay medical costs for his sister, Mariko. He is killed when a bomb explodes in his car, after switching to another gang for more money. He is compared to Al Simmons by Violator when he is not around, and is said to be extremely powerful by various characters.
- Mariko Kurosawa : After the death of her older brother, Ken, she became better from her illness and became a movie star after moving in with her aunt and uncle. She has been saved by Ken twice, although she doesn't know who her savior really is. She perceives her rescues as murders, because the people who were trying to kill her are people she knew.
- Clown / Violator : The Violator is a minion of Hell, and is loyal to Malebolgia, even though he swears to rebel against the devil. He leaves for New York to train Al Simmons part-way through the first manga, and returns smaller than his original size, due to Malebolgia's doing.
- Beezlebub : Preferring to be called "Bee", she is supposedly the little sister of Malebolgia. She acts as Ken's mentor during Violator's absence. She taunts both Ken and Violator almost every chance she gets, but has well-intended comments about Ken when he's not around.
- Malebolgia : Playing a very small role, the devil himself only makes one or two appearances in the manga.
- Tremor II : A nod to Al Simmons' own Tremor, Tremor II is a Los Angeles mob boss, infused with psychoplasm. He can only grunt or roar, until he melds with Terry Jones.
- Mikaela : A nod to Simmons' Angela, Mikaela is a freelance spawn-hunter. After Ken saves her from Violator, she wants to fight and kill him, claiming he stole her dignity. She flies away, wanting a rematch, until she shows up to save Ken from Scourge, a demon summoned from hell.
- Cheveyo : A mentor-like Spawn who has resisted Malebolgia for over five hundred years. Based upon the McFarlane toy, "Zombie Spawn". He thinks little of the minions of Hell and tries to destroy Kurosawa in their first meeting. He does not seem to have the familiar mask of Hellspawns, but instead has rotting, hanging flesh.
- Caleb : An 18th-Century pirate, Caleb is a vane, female Spawn. Her "need" for psychoplasm continues to grow as she gets older, as she sucks Spawns dry from their power. She intentionally tries to kill herself in a battle with Cheveyo. She also does not seem to wear a spawn's mask. She has distinct markings on her face, but her mouth is clearly visible.
- Mangler : A wolf-like Spawn. It is unknown what time period it is from, however, Cheveyo explains that "even animals don't escape from Malebolgia's doing". It can communicate with Kurosawa through telepathy. It does not wear a mask, but has markings near its eyes that seem to remind the reader of its status.
The manga also introduces three other Spawns who are also active, and who have been on Earth for some time. The first is actually a Spawn introduced in the McFarlane toyline, Zombie Spawn, who has been "alive" for about five hundred years, doing his best to resist Malebolgia and give as much grief as possible to the lord of the eighth circle of Hell. A female spawn from the 19th century is also introduced, as is a creature which may or may not be a wolf, resurrected and transformed into a 'werewolf' Spawn. Unlike Kurosawa and Simmons, these Spawns do not wear the now iconic armor which is associated with the character, though the female pirate spawn and the werewolf spawn both have markings on their face which are the same as those on the cowl of the Spawn mask. The Zombie Spawn does not wear any version of the markings or armor at all.
There are several references to the Al Simmons incarnation of the character, who is implied to be active simultaneously with Kurosawa. There are, however, no references to the 'Youngbloods', a group of heroes that Image comics produced, and which Simmons was mistakenly believed to be by at least three to six people in the beginnings of the American comic. Simmons himself does not appear in any way in the manga, except for a one-panel shot of his arm after the battle with Violator. Malebolgia is also briefly shown in some panels. A new angel is introduced in the manga as well: Mikaela, who appeared to be designed in homage to Angela.
Only three volumes of the series were released; the Japanese edition was canceled on a cliffhanger. The manga is not intended to have any direct relationship with the normal comic continuity.
One other key difference between the original comic and the manga version of Spawn, was that the Hellspawns in the manga are said to not die off completely and return to Hell, as was supposedly going to happen to Simmons at first, but rather they would be recharged and sent back to Earth, potentially losing more and more of themselves as each time happened, supposedly growing ever stronger, but also becoming just flat out evil, or else simply losing touch with that which made them originally wish to return to life to begin with. Cheveyo is the eldest active Spawn out of the four in the manga, and Cogliostro himself, as he is five hundred years old. This is another key difference, because in the American book, A Spawn is only born once every four hundred years and they lose power eventually, but none of them are supposed to be able to live the full four hundred years between each birth, let alone a century past it. Since Kurosawa is brought back to Earth seven years after his death, he apparently is 'born' as a Spawn literally simultaneously with Al Simmons, as, again, events in the American comic book, at least partially, had an effect on a character in the manga (namely Clown/Violator), and thus the Spawn manga may be viewed to be an alternate universe that has unofficial, but still partially visible ties to the original material.
On a side note, images of the reporters in the American Spawn comic can be seen on TV screens when Kurosawa is studying with Cheveyo.