Commandant Edwin Spangler, played by Daniel von Bargen, is a retired U.S. Air Force general best known for his former status as the commandant of cadets at Marlin Academy. He suffers from dozens of injuries and is missing his right eye, his left hand, his right ring finger, and is permanently paralyzed in his right leg. Ironically, none of these injuries are combat-related, as he has never served in wartime. This may imply that they had something to do with how Spangler unnecessarily treated the former janitor, revealed in Malcolm Babysits.
Edwin Spangler received an officer's commission in the United States Air Force at an unknown date many decades in the past, and went on to serve in the Air Force for more than twenty years. He participated in four campaigns during the Vietnam War and deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm during the Gulf War of 1990-1991. He rose to become a four-star general before his retirement. Sometime after retiring from the Air Force, Spangler was hired by the Marlin Academy in Alabama to serve as its commandant.
- Badges: Master Parachutist Badge
- Medals/Ribbons: Army Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star with "V" device, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal with bronze campaign star, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze campaign stars, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.
For the first two seasons and beginning of season three, Francis was Spangler's most rebellious student and clashed with him on many occasions. He has even told Hal that in Mini-Bike, that because he likes causing chaos with his rebellion, he has often had to discipline him. This was evident when he called out a cadet for an untucked shirt violation. Soon Francis calls him out for unnecessarily punishing him for hugging his father and his shirt became untucked. However, Hal soon realized how unreasonable Spangler was to the cadets and that Francis did the right thing in standing up for his fellow cadet.
In the third season, Spangler reveals that he was about to quit his job from boredom, but Francis gave him a purpose in life in trying to discipline him. He affectionately presents a ceremonial sword in recognition to Francis, who then accidentally cuts off his right hand. After that incident, Spangler's life goes downhill as Francis leaving stood out as his only failure. He is fired from the academy because a cadet reported him being drunk in his office and charges were filed.
In Dewey's Dog, Spangler tracks Francis to Alaska, and attempts to kill him at first. Taking pity on him, Francis attempts to get him a job but the former commandant is fired on the first day by showing up drunk. Eric makes him realize the only thing that ever made Spangler remotely happy was tormenting and bullying helpless students' and without that purpose there's no hope for him. They quickly find Spangler another job at the Snow Haven Retirement Home where he has the freedom to bully the elderly. In turn, the elderly group despises him in the same manner as Francis and Eric did during their time in Marlin Academy. Because of this, Spangler has found a reason to live and be happy again. After this, he is never seen again.
Spangler is a strict and unyielding man, even after retiring from the military. He demanded much from the cadets at Marlin Academy and was obsessed with maintaining order and discipline among the cadets. Spangler was willing to drive the cadets relentlessly if he saw fit to, such as when he kept them cleaning and drilling for 36 hours straight. He hates disruption to his order, which caused him to clash with Francis so much because he is rebellious. He also idolized Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, referring to him as "one of the last true heroes." Spangler was, unsurprisingly, greatly disliked by most cadets and, later, the residents of the Snow Haven retirement home once he joined the staff as an instructor. He also had a significant problem with alcohol, as his inability to separate his drinking and his work got him fired by Marlin Academy.
- Stock Car Races
- The Bots and the Bees
- Water Park
- Dinner Out
- High School Play
- Old Mrs. Old
- Krelboyne Girl
- New Neighbors
- Dewey's Dog (final appearance)
- Clip Show #2 (Flashback)
- In Stock Car Races, he used to own a vicious pet terrier named Patton, whom all of the cadets hated. Unfortunately, Francis had hidden a snake named Otis in his locker. Otis escaped and made quick a meal out of Patton before escaping into freedom. Of course, Spangler's blame was towards his most rebellious student because he was the owner of Otis and punished the cadets for Francis' insurrection. However, none of the cadets minded, since Otis ate Patton, bringing the dog's reign of terror to an end.
- Near the end of Dewey's Dog, it's revealed that the elderly residents of Snow Haven have started despising Spangler the same way as Francis, Eric and the other cadets did in the earlier seasons, after Mrs. Meektjuk (Kotoko Kanawura) stood up to him by telling him that she had arthritis.
- In Malcolm Babysits, Francis finds that a dead janitor had a voodoo doll of the Commander; this doll has needles on its right eye, left hand and right leg, suggesting that it was the cause of the Commander's injuries.
- At certain times in the series he met and interacted with Francis's parents, Hal and Lois, when they went to visit him at the academy, although he meet them separately in different episodes, in none of the episodes of the series he met and interacted with Reese, Malcolm or Dewey, Francis's brothers, which is because they haven't visited Francis at military school.
- The title of "commandant" is often misunderstood/misused in popular culture; the commandant at a military school is in charge of discipline in the corps of cadets. The title is frequently used instead of "president" or "superintendent" to mean the head of the school. It is unclear which one of these Spangler is at Marlin Academy, as popular culture also frequently shows high-ranking retired officers having a closely-involved role in day-to-day cadet life despite serving among the school's top administrators.
- Spangler is a veteran of the Vietnam War and the Gulf War, but is described as having never served in wartime.
- Spangler wears the Marlin Academy crest on his uniform hat, something which would not be done by a former member of the Armed Forces, as wear of the uniform does not change after military service. He also wears two U.S. Marine Corps marksmanship badges. The Army Service Ribbon he wears is exclusively awarded to U.S. Army personnel.