The Violator/Clown is probably Spawn's most recognizeable villain. He serves as Malebolgia's henchman and lackey. His purpose is to guide Hellspawn towards fulfilling Malebolgia's desire: to cultivate evil souls on Earth for Hell's army. He's been Hell's guide for multiple Hellspawn, his latest charge being the current Spawn, Al Simmons. Violator is the oldest of five hell-born demons known as the Phlebiac brothers. He views humanity as weak, and so asserts that demons should lead the armies of Hell, not humans. Accordingly, much of his terrestrial activities, sanctioned by Hell or not, are aimed at proving his superiority to his master. The Violator's current disguise is that of The Clown.
The Violator is not a demon to be taken lightly: he has shown many times that he is more than a match for a young Hellspawn. His hands are tied by his role, though, as he cannot kill a Spawn without an order from his superiors. His role is not to kill the Hellspawn, but to weaken them and cause them to waste their powers in wreaking havoc. His chief purpose is to groom and prepare the young Hellspawn for their service in Hell's army.
He has been killed multiple times, each time to be returned to Hell and reanimated by his master.
After suffering a humiliating defeat in Hell during Spawn's return to claim the throne of the 8th sphere, the Clown reappeared on Earth on the order of Mammon to wreak havok in Spawn's life as part of the larger plan to give Nyx an opportunity to betray Al. He was a "mental adviser" to Jason Wynn, his former contact and partner in the deal that cost Al Simmons his life. He helped Wynn regain his sanity and return to the NSA, but had other plans, rather than being charitable. He has assumed the dominant role in Wynn's psyche and when Wynn was vulnerable, hanging from a steel girder many stories up, he caused him to fall to his apparent death. Clown then took over Wynn's body and used it as his new vessel. He turned Wynn's body into a fanged, bloated parody of his former self. The Clown then began to attack and 'mark' citizens of New York, turning them all into blue face-painted Clowns.
It was revealed that the Violator was possessing hundreds of civilians and forcing them to run amok, committing acts of violence and vandalism, all with a smile on their faces. After their attacks brought Spawn to the brink of death, leaving him bleeding and broken on the streets of New York in his Al Simmons persona, the Clowns vanished. The Violator has not been seen since, but has revealed that he has been turned loose on Earth with no strings attached, and it is only a matter of time before he returns to plague Spawn anew.
In Spawn #167, a new clown emerges, who is thin and agile, and fond of using knives. The clown hijacked the body of Barney Saunders, who had been having an affair with a married woman named Wilma Barbera. Trying to escape discovery by Wilma Barbera's husband, Barney Saunders jumped down the garbage chute only to be trapped there a couple of days before the bright light event (Spawn's destruction and recreation of the world), and was trapped in a garbage chute and doomed to be eaten alive by rats and roaches. The new clown easily escapes and frequently uses a knife to attack his enemies. He also can still change into his demon form when he wishes.
The Violator is revealed to be the cause of all the havoc of an apartment complex, freeing the residents of restraint and allowing them to fulfill their desires and violent urges. This allowed the Violator to create a portal to hell from which the other Phlebiac brothers could enter the earth. Violator was confronted by Spawn, but easily gained the upper hand in the battle.
Mere moments from Violator's victory, Barney Saunder's spirit gains control when his body sees his lover Wilma. Barney Saunders decides to go through the portal into hell, knowing that the only way to close the portal was to trap himself and Clown on the other side while he could still maintain control over his body. Barney reveals that he was angry at his lover for not coming to save him when he was starving in the garbage chute and takes her with him, stranding The Violator, Saunders and Wilma in Hell.