Spike Spiegel is the main protagonist of Cowboy Bebop anime and manga.
Spike is a slightly lazy, big eating, easy-going sort who has used his skills honed from years as an assassin, gangster, and martial artist to become a bounty hunter. He's the type that always takes life easy except for when the adrenaline kicks in while taking down a bounty. And he certainly doesn't take anything personally or all that seriously, in fact, about the only thing that can spark an emotional reaction from him are the names Julia and Vicious. In truth, Spike has endured so much heartache over the years that there's practically nothing left for him to care about but living from one pay-day to the next. Even a look into his eyes betrays his mellow exterior and reveals something deeply wrong under the surface.
Much of the story is a series of slow revelations about Spike's past, why he has the skills that he does, who Julia and Vicious are, why Spike has a ruthless enemy that will stop at nothing to kill him, and whether, in the end, he can truly leave that life behind.
In the AWA fics, Spike is part of the AWA and serves as the Class Adviser of Class 7.
In the TWA fics, Spike debuted in the Twisted World Animania - Cowboy Bebop.
Spike is tall and lean in appearance; he has black hair with a green tint and brown eyes, one of which is later revealed to be artificial and lighter than the other.
In a flashback in Session 6 it's revealed that his right eye was surgically replaced by a fully-functioning cybernetic eye (although Spike himself may not have conscious recollection of the procedure since he claims to have lost his natural eye in an "accident").
Spike is usually dressed in a blue leisure suit, with a yellow shirt and Lupin III-inspired boots. He also occasionally wears a long brown trench coat. He is often seen with a cigarette between his lips, even if it's raining or there's clearly a 'No Smoking' sign where he is sat, standing or walking through. Spike's constant smoking is a homage to Lupin III, as Lupin's partner, Jigen, smokes cigarettes that are usually in very poor condition, similar to Spike.
There is also quite a distinctive reference through Spike's rebellious demeanor and fluffy hair to the famous musician Bob Dylan.
His appearance was primarily based on the main protagonist of Tantei Monogatari, portrayed by famous Japanese actor Yusaku Matsuda. Although Yamadera was a fan of Matsuda's, he avoided imitating his distinctive manner of speaking, noting that it "wouldn't have sounded right" for Spike.
Spike is a slothful, nonchalant, indifferent, and lazy character. He passes the vast majority of his time on the Bebop lounging, watching TV, or sleeping. In a few rare occasions, he is also seen practicing Jeet Kune Do, a martial arts practice he is very skilled in, being among other things passionate of Bruce Lee and his philosophies (for example, he follows Lee's "water" analogy for his style of fighting). He is a hardened smoker, shown with a cigarette in his mouth in practically every shot (the poor conditions in the cigarettes that are depicted recall those of Daisuke Jigen.) Although he rarely acknowledges it, Spike has very little patience. He repeatedly states he hates dogs, children, and women with attitudes, and is anything but happy when each one of the three joins the Bebop, but as the series progressed, he warmed up to Edward, Ein, and Faye, all three of which fall in the category of the three things he particularly hates. He also claims to dislike cats. Spike is rarely seen excited about something and, even less frequently, says he likes something.
He usually behaves phlegmatically and walks slouching almost as if he is sleepwalking. He appears to be tormented by the ghosts of his past and has frequent nightmares of his life in the Red Dragon. He considers he already died once and therefore doesn't show the slightest fear of the possibility of being killed, often acting as if to challenge death, so to prove he is still alive. However, in a conversation with Faye, he admits to not wanting to die because of "the hate to."
One of the recurring themes surrounding Spike's character is how he views himself and his life. Following the implant of an artificial eye, he says his left eye, the real one, sees the present while the synthetic right eye sees the past, making the past indelible in his mind, not allowing him to get rid of or forget about it. Despite that, he usually encourages others to forget the past as "not important." Spike's star sign is Cancer, which fits with his inability to let go of the past.
When he is not working, Spike is very laid back, sarcastic, and lively to the dismay of his crew mates. He is typically found either resting on the couch or reading magazines. Spike's philosophy seems to be based on the ancient samurai ideals of immediacy, such as considering oneself as dead and the idea of death as being an awakening from a dream, which are both elements of bushido illustrated in the Hagakure.
Although people often talk about cowboys in an almost heroic sense, his image is far from the idea of one and, on the contrary, has characteristics typical of an antihero. He never acts to protect anyone, but only for interest, so he often has to be persuaded to commit himself to a hunt he considers only a little exciting, has a rather sharp and cynical sense of humor, when he pursues a bounty, he throws himself headfirst into action, regardless of damage caused to people and buildings, and doesn't have the slightest moral scruples of having to kill someone. In the movie, he even tells an old woman that he and the Bebop crew don't serve and protect and that their work is strictly business, though Jet doubts that he actually means that.
In spite of all this, Spike still has a good heart and, whether he admits it or not, is more caring than he lets on and more than willing to help out others without expecting anything in return, which is rather ironic considering his line of work. A good example of this is in Session 7, when Victoria Terpsichore offered him a wad of cash, and he only took a single note while saying the rest was for her husband. He has also shown compassion for Rocco's blind sister in Session 8, even buying flowers when he went to visit her in hospital and being saddened and sympathetic by the loss of her brother. He treats Ein as kind of emergency food and Ed as a burden, but in reality, despite never showing his companions appreciation, Spike nurtures an obvious affection for each of them and often seems willing to help them. This affection is shown through his constant choice to not interfere as they face their past, even if meaning he has to pass up a bounty. In particular, Spike shares a genuine brotherly affection with Jet, and it is safe to say that they consider each other their best friend. In fact, they are often seen talking together like two old friends. Although they often fight because of the excessive stubbornness of Spike, occasionally resulting in him being banned from Bebop, these arguments are always resolved in short time. Jet is also the only person Spike confides about his past.
Spike's most complex relationship in the series is the one he has with Faye. Most of the time they usually bicker, however, in moments of danger, Faye has always shown concern for Spike, and Spike has shown some empathy for Faye's situation, but perhaps due to their stubborn natures they can't outright admit to this. Faye has also always taken care of Spike when he was injured, although she still kept a bitter attitude. The affection between them is quite obvious, and many people have speculated that Faye could be in love with Spike and desires to find a connection with him. Watanabe has addressed the subject, saying, "Sometimes I'm asked the question, 'What does Spike think of Faye?' I think that he likes her quite a bit. But he's not a very straightforward person and makes sure not to show it."
Spike has many talents and abilities, including very sharp eyesight, abnormally acute perception, and extraordinary luck. It's implied he has little trouble recovering from even fatal injuries after a few days and usually has strong endurance against pain during fights. Spike makes use of sleight-of-hand techniques to win card games, pick pockets, and even to slip things onto other people unnoticed. He is well-versed in weaponry (such as his personal Jericho 941, or Ruger P85, as well as other guns and explosives) martial arts fighting, and hand-to-hand combat skills due to his past employment with the Red Dragon crime syndicate and occasional training on the Bebop. He follows Jeet Kune Do, the mindset developed by Bruce Lee, though he has a penchant for high kicks of French boxing. Spike is also a pilot, and flies a converted Asteroid racer called the Swordfish II, which is armed with four machine guns, multiple missile launchers, and a single plasma cannon. Spike has repeatedly demonstrated an exceptionally sharp intellect, although he has a habit for neglecting to plan ahead, as noted by Jet. Spike has repeatedly been able to outwit the entire Red Dragon syndicate, predict the moves of his opponents (whether in combat or in the casinos), and use lateral thinking to get out of virtually every situation life throws at him. Spike can also regurgitate objects he swallows at will, like a casino chip or cigarette and spit them back out.
- His past and background is similar to Eric Draven in The Crow (portrayed by Brandon Lee, son of Bruce, in the 1994 film) as both were thought to be dead. Both were in love with a beautiful woman with whom they were supposed to be together, and both set out to avenge their loved ones. They also both fought their rivals in an abandoned church and succeeded in killing them in a violent and poetic manner, and both are experienced in fighting with weapons and martial arts.
- Spike's age 27 is a reference to the 27 Club, comprised of many famous musicians who have died at the age.
- The reason why Spike’s hair appears to be a green color is due to the lighting in the anime. It is actually close to being a dark brown or black shade.