Jim Downing is a mystery to everyone, including himself. Very little is known about his past, in fact “Jim Downing” may not even be his real name. What is known, is that he was comatose in a New York City hospital for years and when he finally awoke, he became the newest Spawn.
St. Anthony's Convalescent home on Long island was the home of Jim Downing for at least 4 years. As far as the staff could figure out, he had been there longer than any of them and his medical history file (if there ever was one) must have gotten misplaced or not transferred to the new computer system. No one even knew the extent of his condition or how he got there, the only information they had was the name Jim Downing and the identifier Patient 47.
One of Jim's nurses developed something of a crush on him. Despite him being unconscious she seemed to feel a connection to him and made it a point to spend extra time looking after Jim. The nurse was called “Sad Sara” by her coworkers because she was so quiet and isolated, but Sara took comfort being with Jim and she prayed for him every night.
One night, without warning, Jim awoke screaming – Sara's prayers had apparently been answered. She comforted Jim as he came to understand where he was. He awoke with no memories of his past whatsoever, not even his own name. Sara informed him that the name on his file was Jim Downing and that he had been in a coma for years. They also discussed her prayers, for which Jim was very grateful (186).
Unbeknownst to Jim or Sara, Jim's awakening triggered a staggering series of events. Within minutes of hearing the news, a lawyer in upstate New York named Bill Winston committed suicide (185). This led to an investigation led by detective Craig Rowand (186) that would eventually lead to involvement with Sam Burke, Twitch Williams and Jim Downing. A number of mysterious parties wanted Jim killed for some reason, and they sent hit men such as the Extractor (186) and Malcolm (198) to do the job. Every attempt failed, however, as it soon became clear that Jim Downing was more than just a man.
A New Hellspawn
The night Jim woke up was the same night that Al Simmons committed suicide. In that moment, the mantle of hellspawn was somehow passed from Al to a new host (185). But before the transfer occurred, Al spoke briefly with Jim in Sanctuary. Jim was apparently one of the Legion of Lost Souls, hidden within Al Simmons while his body was maintained in his hospital room. In fact soon after Al appeared on earth as a hellspawn he attempted to use his powers to look human. While the trick worked, he appeared not as himself but as Jim Downing (2-3). When Al decided to end his second life, all of the other Legion left with him, save for Jim. He felt as though he couldn't leave Sanctuary empty, in case another soul were to show up and they would be there all alone. Al seemed pleased by Jim's decision and may have planned on it in some way – he mysteriously told Jim that he needed to “teach them a lesson” (200).
Jim awoke with no memory of his past life or his time spent in Sanctuary, although fragmented memories of Sanctuary eventually began to come back to him sporadically. Soon after his awakening, however, the powers of being a hellspawn began to manifest themselves and his symbiote began to bond with its new host. Jim first discovered his new powers when he was attacked in the hospital by a hitman named the Extractor. Though he was confused, Jim relied on instinct (and the will of the symbiote) to kill the Extractor and decimate the hospital in the process (187).
Afterwards, Jim began to practice with his new abilities and learn about what he had become. He found himself drawn to Rat City but had no idea why. He found that he could survive falls from great heights (189), summon insects and creatures of the night (188), harness enormous strength and destructive ability (187), and he could travel “through the shadows” - essentially teleporting to wherever he wished (206). Jim also quickly learned that he was now a part of a great struggle between Heaven and Hell and that there were many supernatural beings interested in controlling him.
A Prize to Be Won
Immediately after this new hellspawn appeared, many interested parties began jockeying for his allegiance. Dark creatures like the Violator and Malebolgia found themselves competing with forces from Heaven as well as outside groups like Bludd and his legion of vampires. All wanted to control Jim, and more importantly his symbiote.
The Violator was one of the first to enter Jim's life. He cleverly positioned himself as a friend and mentor to Jim, much as Cogliostro had been to Al (192). He took special care to only appear in front of Jim while in his Clown disguise and led Jim into believing that the Violator was someone else (193). The two “worked together” to defeat the Freak and an one of the Omegas in the alleys (200) but secretly Violator was planning to use Jim to gain control of his symbiote, Leetha. He believed that because Jim's creation was unique – he was the only hellspawn created while Malebolgia's throne was empty and he was the only hellspawn created from a living human, it had somehow made the symbiote incredibly powerful (212). He believed that he could use Jim's symbiote to not only claim the throne for himself, but also to conquer Heaven (189).
To accomplish his plan, the Violator would need the help of others. He began enlisting a number of fringe players, including the vampire lord Bludd (197). Bludd reluctantly agreed to join forces with Violator, but he also decided to toy with Jim on his own. He revealed clues to Jim's past as leverage to force Jim into obedience (201) and also sent the Old Guard to test Jim's new powers (203,205).
Malebolgia was the first to appear to Jim, in the guise of the Freak (192). He tested and examined Jim for a while without revealing his identity – he seemed to be confused by exactly what Jim had become. Finally, Malebolgia revealed himself when he ordered an Omega Spawn to attack Jim and the Violator. In the midst of the battle, Jim was knocked unconscious and his symbiote took over, easily defeating the Omega Spawn and proving to everyone just how powerful it had become (200).
Being that he was (mostly) able to summon and hide the symbiote at will, Jim was able to hide his true nature from humanity. He quickly developed a close relationship with his nurse Sara and within days she offered for him to move in with her (188). Together they tried to recover any memories of his past, but to no avail (190). Soon a young reporter named Marc Rosen entered the picture and all of their lives changed.
Marc was researching the aftermath of the destruction of St. Anthony's hospital and discovered that everyone who had come into contact with Jim had been miraculously healed of all illness (196). Eager to exploit the story, Marc befriended Jim and began acting as his manager, Jim even moved into Marc's apartment (199). Marc acted quickly and booked Jim on the Karlene Philips talk show. There Jim was miraculously able to cure a young boy with a terrible disease and word began to spread quickly of Mr. Downing (201).
It wasn't long before Marc was fielding an unending stream of phone calls to book Downing appearances, and Jim himself was being hounded by paparazzi. But neither of them could have expected what would happen after Jim was videotaped saving the life of (or apparently resurrecting) a photographer (204). The video spread around the world and Jim Downing became a full-blown celebrity.
Word of his healing powers and the resurrection of the photographer inevitably led to religious questions around the world. Some people began to believe that Jim could be the second coming of Jesus. Not everyone was excited by the idea however. The Vatican took notice and the Pope himself sent representatives to try and get in touch with Mr. Downing (212). During another television appearance, a crazed man lept from the crowd and shot Jim at point blank range. The murder attempt failed though as Jim stood up unharmed and the would-be assassin was taken into custody (215).
Jim hoped that his media appearances would not only earn him some money to live on, but also that it might provide some clues to his past. When new information failed to materialize but his stardom exploded, Jim altered his plans and decided to use his new-found celebrity status and healing powers to help others. He set up the Jim Downing Foundation through which he would seek out people with illnesses that were untreatable by modern medicine (213).
Excited by the prospects of being able to help people and his increasing control over his powers, Jim found himself with a newfound confidence. He confronted Bludd and demanded financial backing for his foundation – claiming that he knew he was being used by Bludd and Violator, but for it to continue, the foundation must be paid for by the Ramus Corporation (214).
Hoping to share his excitement with Sara, Jim returned to her and asked her to come with him to help change the world. To his disappointment, however, all the chaos had become too much for Sara and she sadly accepted a job in upstate New York to escape (213).
When Jim discovered that the Violator and the Clown were one and the same, he was furious (211). He brazenly marched into the alleys and demanded the demon show himself. A bloody (but fruitless) battle ensued. Afterwards, the two reluctantly came to an understanding and agreed to help each other defeat Malebolgia (212).
Although his TV appearances didn't provide any new information about his past, Jim did learn fragments of who he used to be through other means. Following the trail of the hitmen who had been sent to kill him, Jim discovered that all clues pointed towards the notorious crime leader Carlos Nortego. In a dramatic confrontation, Jim learned that he had been part of a series of genetic experiments trying to develop super-humans. Not only that, but Jim was in charge of the experiments himself. After 46 failed attempts (including Tremor, Freak and Malcolm), funding was pulled from the program and Jim decided to attempt one final experiment on himself (196).
Bludd revealed that Jim had been married at some point in the past (202) and Jim tasked Marc with trying to find out who his bride had been. In a series of flashbacks we discovered that Jim (or Kramer as he was called) was in a partnership with Jason Wynn of the USSG to provide funding for Kramer's genetic experiments. The pentagon wanted Kramer's research to yield super-soldiers, and when they failed to see results, Wynn pressured Jim to extract more information from his wife – a leading geneticist named Professor Gebhard. Jim murdered his own wife to complete the task (216). After his coma of course, Jim had no memory or knowledge of his past life and seemed to be an entirely different man than he once was.
After becoming acquainted with detective Twitch Williams (207-209), further confusing details about Jim's past came to light. Apparently his fingerprints were a composite of 10 different known murderers. All of them were caught, imprisoned, and died while incarcerated (215). Jim and Twitch had no idea how or why he came to share their fingerprints.
On top of everything, Jim seemed to have some sort of connection with Heaven in his past. In a confrontation with an Angel Investigator, she briefly confused Jim with an elite male angel and tried to seduce him. When they touched, however, everything changed. She started ranting about how Jim was a traitor who had been banished from Heaven for what he had done to God (191). The angel's story was corroborated later in a confrontation with Malebolgia.
After the defeat of his Omega Spawn, Malebolgia set out to retrieve the portions of his power that he had hidden away. Eventually he crossed paths with Downing once again and attacked. Much to Malebolgia's surprise, Downing sprouted wings of light and his powers still functioned within the Dead Zone in the alleys (218). Suddenly Malebolgia seemed to believe he knew who Jim really was – a traitor from Heaven just as the angel had said. He elaborated that Jim had attempted to murder God and was banished for his treachery. Afterwards, God had traded him to Hell in exchange for 1000 souls.
Before Malebolgia could elaborate further, Jim's symbiote overtook him and spoke with Malebolgia directly. It revealed that it planned to use Jim as a means to an ultimate end – vengeance against Malebolgia, rule over earth and the asassination of God. The symbiote then proceeded to extract Malebolgia from the body of the Freak and slice the corpse in half with new leathery demonic wings (219).