Tag Archives: greg weisman

NECA has acquired the Gargoyles License!

He lives….again! Check out NECA’s Twitter page for more images!

It was announced one week ago in a post timed for midnight on the east coat that toy maker NECA had acquired the licensing rights to produce action figures based on the Disney Afternoon classic Gargoyles! NECA had begun teasing a new intellectual property had been acquired back in January and the only clues provided were that it was a 90s property enjoyed by kids that had yet to experience a revival of any kind. This had heads spinning, including my own, and I nearly made a blog post on the subject itself. The reason I did not is because it started to become apparent that it was indeed Gargoyles. That wasn’t due to anything NECA said, but what it didn’t say as fans tossed ideas at the company’s official Twitter account and the Gargoyles suggestions were left untouched. Gargoyles just also made sense for NECA, who originally made a name for itself in the collector space with its horror themed releases. While not horror, Gargoyles is certainly horror adjacent with its gothic imagery and fright-inducing main cast. It also fit the description provided by NECA perfectly as no one has attempted a modern toyline, even though there’s an obvious fanbase hungry for more, and because there just weren’t a lot of other options. The best non-Gargoyles thing I could come up with was Captain Planet, a certainly remembered franchise, but one I’m not sure has a rabid fanbase. Though with NECA’s recent Defenders of the Earth toyline selling out I suppose it’s hard to figure out just what doesn’t have a fanbase eager for modern toys these days?

The Twitter announcement came with some delightful images of the line’s first figure: Goliath. For Goliath, and likely the line as a whole, NECA took the basic cartoon aesthetic and applied some artistic licensing in bringing the figure to life. He is far more detailed than the character model from the show with realistic (though exaggerated) musculature and textures to his skin and claws. He looks really cool, but it’s understandable that some fans were left wishing he better matched-up with the animated version, since that’s the look most remember. NECA’s approach does remind me of classic toy lines which were often more detailed than the cartoon source for the simple reason that cartoons have to dial down the details in order to keep costs down. This figure, which I’m judging based off pre-release images, looks like Goliath to me so I’m fine with the approach. Should the line find success it wouldn’t shock me to see NECA double-dip and add a toony line, especially as it pumps out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures at a tremendous pace potentially hastening the end of that line.

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And the early returns suggest the line is off to a fantastic start. Preorders opened up the day of the announcement at all of the usual online spaces. They sold well enough that NECA sent out a press release to its retail partners saying it needed to cut-off preorders earlier than expected and set a date for that to take place of April 2nd. It’s possible fans will be able to order Goliath figures past that date as that is the date for retailers to get their orders in. If a retailer like Big Bad Toy Store sees Goliath selling well, it might submit a higher order on that day than what it’s sold, especially since large retailers rarely submit an exact order. It does mean that once places start closing orders following April 2nd, Goliath will be unobtainable until the figure’s official release expected sometime in July. NECA has stated the figure will be sold, and I quote, everywhere so there should be no shortages of places to go toy hunting, but I for one definitely prefer to secure an order early rather than later.

And Goliath will not be the only figure from Gargoyles the company releases. NECA has yet to show off any other figures, but has stated there are five finished and more in development. The company hopes to reveal a new one each month and stagger the release in the same fashion. That means if Goliath is coming our way in July, then figure number two should follow in August, and so on until all five are out. And that certainly has fans speculating who will be among the five to follow in Goliath’s footsteps. The Manhattan Clan from the show included fellow gargoyles Brooklyn, Hudson, Lexington, Broadway, and Bronx. That’s five right there, but I’d be quite shocked if rogue Demona is not part of the initial launch. I’ll even go so far as to say I’ll be surprised if she isn’t number two behind Goliath. There are certainly plenty of other characters for NECA to turn to such as ally Elisa Maza and villains like Xanatos, MacBeth, and The Pack. It’s possible NECA will try to offset the development costs of the tooling intensive gargoyles with humanoid characters that might lend themselves well to parts reuse, either with each other or from other NECA lines.

We can probably expect the original Manhattan Clan to come to plastic, and more!

All that is to say this line could have serious legs. There are a lot of characters from Gargoyles to mine and I suspect NECA will be eager to do some of the clone characters, like Thailog, since they’re just redecos. The tooling in this line looks like it could be costly, but Goliath is being solicited for the extremely reasonable price of $33 in most places. That price gets you an 8″ tall gargoyle with a 16″ wingspan. He has multiple face portraits and extra hands to go along with a book accessory and the ever important jalapeno. The part where NECA will save some money does rest with the accessories as most of these characters require little to none. Hudson brandished a sword while Demona often had some heavy artillery, but the rest were just gargoyles armed with tooth and claw. I am supremely excited for this line though and I just wanted to share that with the world before the preorders close. Fans of Gargoyles have been waiting for something like this for a long time and hopefully it’s the start of a revival of sorts. If it only leads to an extensive toyline though, I’ll be plenty satisfied.

If you want a Goliath figure of your very own, here is a non-exhaustive list of some places where you can do just that (I receive no compensation from these websites if you do choose to order from one of them):

Big Bad Toy Store

Dorkside ToysLowest price of $30, not sure what the shipping charge is.

Entertainment Earth


#8 Best in TV Animation: Gargoyles

disney-has-gargoyles-legally-streaming-on-youtube-socialWhen I started this feature I swear I did not intend to list the best cartoons aimed at children, that’s just how it’s worked out so far. I promise the next few are going to trend older. That said, Gargoyles is a pretty terrific show whether you’re 8 or 18. The show borrowed heavily from comics and was obviously influenced by the likes of Batman and X-Men. Like most cartoons geared towards boys, the show featured plenty of action but also contained plenty of drama. It asked a lot of its viewers, opting for a more serialized narrative structure with numerous callbacks to older episodes. Sometimes, plots required multiple episodes to develop and pay-off which is probably one reason why the show aired weekdays as opposed to Saturday mornings (though the final season was moved to Saturdays). Lastly, as a Disney produced and developed cartoon show, the program featured slick animation and stellar production values all around.

Gargoyles first began airing in 1994 and centered around the character Goliath, the leader of a clan of Gargoyles displaced by time and forced to adapt to life in New York City. The premise for the show was established over the first five episodes and the lore of the world is firmly established here. Gargoyles are beast-like creatures that are active at night, and stone by day. During the middle ages they protected a castle inhabited by humans in Scotland but were betrayed with most of the gargoyles destroyed while they slept. Magic is also a part of this world, and the remaining gargoyles that survived the attack were placed under a spell that would keep them stone until the castle they inhabited rose above the clouds. Of course, this would happen when a man by the name of David Xanatos purchased the castle and placed it atop a skyscraper in New York.

MacBeth is one of the more prominent antagonists in the series.

MacBeth is one of the more prominent antagonists in the series.

Over the resulting episodes, the gargoyles would come to view Xanatos as an enemy, as well as many others. Surviving outside of the curse is Goliath’s old flame, Demona, a female gargoyle who is like the Magneto to Goliath’s Xavier. She wishes to exterminate humanity while Goliath sees value in forging alliances with people and serving as their protectors. Goliath and his clan, consisting of fellow gargoyles Hudson, Broadway, Lexington, Brooklyn, and Bronx, forge a bond with detective Elisa Maza and basically become protectors of New York. They don’t run around like Batman, but their presence draws out and attracts the attention of various foes, many from the past. Some are more interesting than others. Throughout the series, Demona is a worthy foe for the clan. She’s ruthless and cunning, and even though she often finds herself on the losing side the writers manage to maintain her credibility as a villain. MacBeth is another stand-out foe. He and Demona share a bond as a result of a curse and neither one can die unless the other is killed which makes for an interesting dynamic. MacBeth is no friend to Goliath and company, leading to numerous instances where the gargoyles are caught between MacBeth and Demona, who despise one another.

Stylistically, the show is quite dark. This is to be expected since the primary protagonists are only active at night. The gothic influence in the look and music invite comparisons to another well-regarded cartoon; Batman: The Animated Series. So natural was the likeness that Batman producer Bruce Timm was asked about the show more than once and was said to be not a fan of Gargoyles. The tone of the show was certainly quite serious, even melodramatic. The serialized nature of the show and the human/gargoyle dynamic make it seem more comparable to X-Men, particularly the first two seasons. There’s even a beauty and the beast vibe going on (and the allusions were quite literal in one episode) between Elisa and Goliath. Their relationship starts off professional early on and gradually develops into something more. If you’re looking for pay-off though, you’ll have to consult the not safe for work fan-fiction of a few a diehards (you may want to enable safe search between doing a google image search of Elisa and Goliath) scattered across the internet.

Goliath and Elisa share a bond bordering on love that only intensifies as the series goes on.

Goliath and Elisa share a bond bordering on love that only intensifies as the series goes on.

One thing that Gargoyles did that I can appreciate is that it added to its cast. In X-Men, several mutants and other heroes would cameo on various episodes. These characters, like Archangel and Nightcrawler, were members of the team in the comics but would never join the roster on the television show. This used to bug me, though I understand why the show runners would want to try and keep the cast as manageable as possible. Gargoyles expanded its roster during the second season and it was cool to see. Villains were also eliminated or changed while others, like Xanatos, would become grayer as the series progressed.

Where the show opens itself up for criticism is within its tone and scope. Two things that I consider a strength, do sometimes bog it down. The show is so grim at times it feels joyless. There’s moments for comedic relief but not a lot when compared with contemporary programs. The show also became burdened with the lore it created, particularly during the last half of season two, and sometimes the show felt like it was becoming too big for its own good. It’s no surprise that the show kind of fizzled out towards the end and the final third season is rather poor.

Gargoyles earns its place on my list of top animated television shows because it scores very well across the board, even though it doesn’t quite knock-it-out-of-the-park in any one category. Though maybe I should amend that last sentiment because I’ve underplayed how stellar the animation is for a televised program. The first season especially is borderline feature-film worthy, which is something Batman can’t even boast. Gargoyles is a really unique program when compared with the other Disney Afternoon shows and it would be nice to see Disney try to revive the franchise in at least a small way (cough KingdomHeartsThree cough).

If you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts on Gargoyles, you can fine reviews for the three DVD releases here, here, and here as well as read my arguments for why it should be included in a popular gaming franchise here. Enjoy.


Gargoyles: Season 2 – Volume 2

Gargoyles:  Season 2 - Volume 2 (2013)

Gargoyles: Season 2 – Volume 2 (2013)

It was a long wait for fans of Disney’s Gargoyles in between DVD releases.  Volume 1 of the second season was released back in 2005 in an attractive three-disc set.  Apparently the sales for the set were not up to Disney’s standards and volume 2 of the set was either pushed back or outright cancelled.  Volume 2 was only recently released this past summer, nearly six years following the release of volume 1 and it was done in a quiet fashion.  Now Disney has its own movie club which it uses as a vehicle for delivering to people DVD sets of their less popular shows as movie club exclusives.  These sets are cheaply done but for fans of the obscure it is currently the only avenue for them to get a physical copy of their beloved programs.  Such was the fate of volume 2 for Gargoyles.  The movie club exclusive contains a minimalist jacket with a gaudy yellow border.  The DVD case itself is like that of a standard DVD with a larger central tab where all three discs are stacked one on top of the other.  The only insert is an ad for the movie club and a number to register the DVD with.  The actual DVDs contain no bonus features of any kind, just the episodes and a mostly ugly DVD menu.  It’s about as bare-bones as it gets, but for fans waiting six years for the episodes, I suppose it’s better than nothing.

The set contains the final 26 episodes for season two.  It starts with the episode “Monsters,” which if one were to look at an official episode list for the show, should have been the final episode of volume 1.  Instead, the episode “Kingdom” was moved to volume 1 for pacing issues with “Monsters” getting pushed back.  That’s because these episodes comprise the World Tour section of season 2 where Goliath, Elisa, Angela, and Bronx are being sent to all parts of the world by the island Avalon for unknown reasons.  As a result, much of season 2 does not include the other characters such as Broadway or even Xanatos.  Often times, Goliath and co. will encounter a villain from back home while on their travels but just as often they’re paired with someone new.  They also encounter many new gargoyles as Goliath gradually learns that gargoyles are alive and well all around the globe.

Angela is added as a member of the main cast in the second half of season two and plays an important role in the development of the Goliath character.

Angela is added as a member of the main cast in the second half of season two and plays an important role in the development of the Goliath character.

Because of the World Tour format, the second half of season 2 is even more episodic than the first half, meaning the episodes function mostly as stand-alone stories.  I suppose one could argue there’s an overall plot since it’s Avalon that is sending them to these destinations, but it’s a fairly loose one.  Having the setting change each episode is an easy way to inject variety into the show, but the format grows stale.  The stories often feel like filler, and as a viewer I just wanted the group to get back home or for Avalon to finally unveil it’s true intentions.  Not all of the episodes follow the Would Tour group, as there are a couple that take place back in Manhattan.  In one such episode, “Pendragon,” the legendary King Arthur and the gargoyle Griff, two individuals encountered by Goliath and co. during their travels, wind up in New York and interact with the remaining members of the Manhattan Clan.  The World Tour basically lasts for 17 additional episodes of volume 2, with the two-part “The Gathering” representing its conclusion.  It’s far too long, and getting through those episodes started to feel like a chore for me (hence why it took me so long to get to reviewing this set) which is never a good feeling for television viewing.

Thankfully, the remaining handful of episodes are pretty interesting, as is the two-part “The Gathering,” though it’s not as grand as some of the series’ other multi-part arcs.  In that story, the god Oberon is attempting to steal the newborn son of Fox and Xanatos for he possesses some unusual abilities for a mortal.  It is interesting to see Xanatos and the gargoyles take on a god, though the resolution felt a little too neat and tidy for my tastes, but I can’t deny the alternative would have worked much better.  We learn some interesting tidbits about some of the supporting characters of the show, which is one of its great strengths.  The writers never miss an opportunity to focus on a secondary character and add importance to it.  As a result, just about any character who ever had even a minor role in a prior story returns at some point, including one background character viewers likely never noticed in “Vendettas.”  This type of writing helps make the show feel more rewarding for loyal viewers and it does add depth to what would otherwise be shallow characters.

The production values for volume 2 are largely the same as that for volume 1, though the DVDs this time around are of a lower quality.  The colors aren’t as rich and sometimes the image can be grainy, but that’s expected considering this was done on the cheap.  There are still episodes where the animation is of a noticeable lower quality, while others more resemble the quality of season one.  The A+ animation is largely reserved for the bigger stories, but even a stand-alone episode here and there (like “Future Tense”) is given a more striking look.  The score remains excellent as well and the voice acting is the usual high quality Disney output.

The alternate future depicted in "Future Tense" is one of the more fun stand-alone episodes in volume 2.

The alternate future depicted in “Future Tense” is one of the more fun stand-alone episodes in volume 2.

While from an episode quality standpoint I enjoyed this set less than the previous two, there are still some excellent stand-out episodes.  I mentioned “Future Tense” already as being a stand-out in terms of production values, but it’s also a really fun story that looks at an alternate future for Manhattan.  “Sanctuary” is one of the better World Tour episodes as it includes MacBeth, Demona, and Thailog.  Thailog also makes an appearance in another strong episode back in New York, “The Reckoning,” which contains the long anticipated confrontation between Angela and Demona.  The Goliath, Angela, Demona triangle is an anchor in a few stories, and the tension between Goliath and Angela over her lineage is done well.  I don’t think it’s giving away anything to reveal that Angela is the biological daughter of Goliath and Demona, but the writers do a good job of explaining Goliath’s and the clan’s view on children, which is that all gargoyles are children of the clan.  Angela, having been raised by humans, has a human’s perspective when it comes to parents and longs for Goliath to acknowledge her as his daughter.  She has similar feelings towards Demona, though they’re obviously complicated by the fact that Demona isn’t the most likable person/gargoyle.

The Goliath/Elisa relationship is handled quite tastefully by the writers of the show.

The Goliath/Elisa relationship is handled quite tastefully by the writers of the show.

Another tension of the series is the obvious affection Goliath and Elisa feel for each other that largely goes unstated between the two.  The conclusion to the set, “Hunter’s Moon,” addresses it for the first time in a very satisfying way.  It’s hard to write such a relationship because it takes care to make it believable that an attractive woman like Elisa would have romantic feelings for Goliath.  The writers sell it well though, and while I’m not sure they could have ever pulled off a full-on romance for the two, they did find a way to get the point across.  That conclusion, by the way, is a three-part story that actually brings everything full-circle for the gargoyles.  It would have been a fine way to end the series, but a thirteen episode season 3 was picked up by ABC for their then Saturday morning block.  Series creator Greg Weisman wrote the premier for that season, dubbed The Goliath Chronicles by ABC, but had no involvement in the remaining twelve episodes.  As a result, they are not considered canon by Weisman and the series actually continued in comic book form years later.  I may look into checking out those comics but I need to know more about them first and if they’re worthwhile.  I’m pretty happy with “Hunter’s Moon” as a conclusion, as I don’t expect a season three set, and I may choose to just leave Gargoyles with how season two ended.

As for this set, it is what it is.  For those who just want the episodes, it’s the only option save for bootlegs that are probably even worse quality.  When it was released last summer, it was available for a short time on eBay through Buena Vista’s store but once those copies were gone the movie club and secondary market were the only options.  The movie club is actually worth looking into for those looking to start a Disney collection.  For those (like me) who already own a ton of Disney DVDs and Blu Rays, it doesn’t make financial sense.  Very quietly though the set moves to the traditional Disney Store website and is available there for twenty bucks.  The secondary market has yet to adjust, it would seem, as the copies are still routinely priced in excess of forty dollars.  Even so, this is likely not going to be produced in large numbers so if you’re a fan of the show it’s probably a good idea to get it while it’s relatively cheap.  Bland set or not, it’s still 26 episodes of a pretty strong show for twenty bucks and if you already have the first two it’s basically a must-have.  Gargoyles is among the elite action cartoons of the 90’s, and for me it ranks among Batman and X-Men as the best of the best.


Gargoyles: Season 2 Volume 1

Gargoyles_DVD_2The cover of the DVD release of Gargoyles Season 2 dubs it as Volume 1 of the second season.  At first glance, that may seem like a greedy way to release a show to DVD, but that is not the case.  A common practice of children’s animated television was to order 65 episodes as early in the life of the series as possible to make the programming eligible for syndication where more money could be made off of it.  I say “was” because I’m not sure if that is still the case with numerous cable outlets now providing a lot of the entertainment these days.  Gargoyles was not originally broadcast on cable though, which is why season 2 is 52 episodes long, which following the 13 episode first season, gets the series to 65 total episodes.  Sometimes networks are so confident the show will be a hit they go right from the pilot to a 65 episode order.  This was the case for the still popular Batman:  The Animated Series which featured a pretty bankable star in Batman, but Gargoyles was an all new intellectual property so Disney opted to go for a trial run with the first 13 episodes before going all in.

The process of large season orders seems like a win for fans of the show.  After all, a 52 episode season would theoretically allow for a new episode every week for an entire year, though this wasn’t the case for Gargoyles since it was an afternoon program.  It does usually mean shorter wait times between new episodes, but things can get a little erratic since the season will usually begin airing while a lot of episodes are still in production.  There’s also the other downside to a large season such as this which is these episodes need to get produced quickly, and more people are needed for production and story-writing.  The first season of Gargoyles was a tight, neat collection of episodes with high-quality animation for television.  Season 2 sometimes has the feel of “too many cooks in the kitchen” and episodes become more stand-alone in nature.  The animation is still among the best when Gargoyles is compared with its contemporaries, but there are some drop-offs and it’s apparent that the show had multiple teams for animation.  Some episodes feature sharp lines and tight animation while others are more rounded and toon-like with characters often making over-exaggerated gestures (those familiar with X-Men likely have an idea of what I’m talking about).  Which one looks best is a matter of taste though (I prefer the harder look for this program) at least, with the overall animation quality usually pretty strong from episode to episode.

There are some pretty interesting plot twists to find in season two.

There are some pretty interesting plot twists to find in season two.

Inconsistent animation is expected when a show requires a large amount of episodes be produced, but my main concern for Gargoyles was how the writers would respond when tasked with filling so many hours.  The first season largely operated in a serial format with each episode tied to one overall plot.  Some felt more stand-alone than others, but all plots were referenced at one point or another and the overall quality of the story-telling was quite good.  I knew season 2 would have to feature more stand-alone episodes, but thankfully very few feel like throw-away or filler episodes.  Many of these one-shots still contain plot devices that have repercussions on the episodes to follow, such is the case with the conclusion of the episode “The Mirror” when Demona gains a new power.  Many others choose to introduce new villains or allies that will pop up in later episodes, as is the case with the characters Doctor Sevarius and Jeffrey Robbins.  In short, the structure of the show remains rewarding for longtime fans.  This does come at the cost of making the show a little harder to jump into at any point for newcomers, but since it’s no longer on television, this is really no longer a concern.

There are many stand-alone episodes, but there’s also no shortage of multi-part arcs.  The first half of season two contains the four part “City of Stone” and the three part “Avalon.”  Both are heavily reliant on flashbacks as it seems one goal for season 2 was to flesh out the villains even further, specifically Demona and MacBeth.  We learn about their history together and how Demona has survived the centuries and remained largely the same in appearance.  In season one, we the viewers were basically left to assume that gargoyles are extremely long-lived given that Demona was not affected by the Masgus’ spell like the others, but we learn in season 2 that is not the case.  There are lots of other recurring characters in season 2 such as The Pack, Tony Dracon, Derek Maza, Coldstone, and of course Xanatos.  Xanatos is still primarily an adversary of the Manhattan Clan, but he’s also an unlikely ally in several episodes.  One could even suggest that the writers go to this well a bit too often, but such is the case when 52 episodes have to be written in a short amount of time.  Still, I like the role Xanatos plays on this show of the equal opportunist who has his own agenda that isn’t always clear.  By the end of the first half of the season viewers, and even Goliath to some degree, have mostly caught on to Xanatos and the game he plays making me wonder what role he’ll play going forward (as I honestly can’t recall from my days of watching this as a kid).  Xanatos is also paired this time around with Fox, of The Pack, as his love interest which is a rather interesting dynamic.

Now where have I seen that dress before?

Now where have I seen that dress before?

Another part of the plot the writers seemed eager to explore in season 2 was the relationship between Elisa and Goliath.  Elisa was Goliath’s main confident, along with Hudson, by season one’s end and he (as well as the other gargoyles) clearly feel a strong sense of protection with her.  In season 2 it’s becoming more obvious that they have a stronger bond than just friends.  Sometimes the show is pretty obvious about it, but for the most part they let it go unstated and attempt to keep things subtle.  It has a nice progression throughout.  Disney fans will also particularly enjoy a scene from the episode “Eye of the Beholder.”

Gargoyles was never a series afraid to introduce characters, and many new villains are brought into the fold in season 2.  New allies, as well.  A pet peeve of mine with X-Men was always how the writers would tease a new character joining the X-Men but would never go through with it.  Towards the end of season 2, the writers chose to add a new member to the clan.  To better introduce this character, the writers shrink the cast down to just Goliath, Elisa, Bronx, and the new-comer for the unofficially titles World Tour episodes.  These episodes spill over into the second part, and series creator Greg Weisman actually bumps up one episode from the second half, “Kingdom,” to serve as the final episode in this collection.  This final episode takes place in New York and we get to see what the rest of the clan is up to with Goliath missing.  This is probably something Weisman regretted not doing originally, as when these aired we went 10 episodes without seeing the other characters which seems much too long.  The World Tour will continue well into the second half though I do not suspect any other episodes were re-arranged as no one affiliated with the show had any say in the release of volume 2, that I know of.

The relationship between Demona and MacBeth is fully revealed in season two.

The relationship between Demona and MacBeth is fully revealed in season two.

Gargoyles:  Season 2 Volume One largely carries over the quality of the first season and only enhances the show’s reputation as one of the better animated programs from the 1990’s.  Season One is probably superior when judged on quality, but the second DVD release for the series obviously boasts more content.  The release itself is also much nicer and includes some bonus features in comparison with the bare-bones season one release.  Unfortunately, season two did not meet the sales expectations of Disney and volume two was never commercially released until just recently.  Volume two is even more sparse than the first season release, and is currently only available to members of Disney’s Movie Club.  I’m not a member of that club, but did find out Buena Vista has an ebay account that basically specializes in selling these exclusives and was able to get one from there.  I don’t know if they restock or not, but that is definitely the best bet for those who want a copy as the secondary market is a little inflated right now.


Gargoyles: Season One

Gargoyles - The Complete First Season (2004)

Gargoyles – The Complete First Season (2004)

In the early 90’s, Fox cornered the market when it came to television shows for young demographics, particularly boys in that 7-12 age group.  They had hit shows with Batman The Animated Series, X-Men, and Power Rangers and their Saturday morning programming was unrivaled.  Batman, in particular, ushered in an era of cartoons where the writers didn’t feel like they had to dumb-down the show to please its audience.  The stories were mostly grounded within the fantasy world the show created, while X-Men wasn’t afraid of creating serialized episodes that asked more from its viewers.  These weren’t stand-alone episodes with the same throw-away clichés prevalent in most children’s programming.  And while the shows were, first and fore-most, children’s shows they didn’t make adults feel like idiots for watching.

Disney, by contrast, had seen its viewership decline.  The once popular Disney Afternoon programming was mostly content to keep things the same.  Duck Tales and Tailspin were successful early on, and Darkwing Duck was Disney’s own answer to Batman but with a comedic core.  If Darkwing Duck was supposed to reel in Batman viewers then Disney missed the point.  Putting a cape and mask on a character and having him fight crime isn’t what people tuned into Batman for.  Those viewers wanted to see the show take itself seriously, present real threats, and overall just make it a credible show.  Disney needed a show that matched Batman’s tone and not his costume, so they turned to comic book writer Greg Weisman and from that relationship came Gargoyles.

Gargoyles could be described as modern fantasy mixed with Greek tragedy.  Stylistically, the show is reminiscent of the aforementioned Batman and X-Men with similarities to contemporary cartoon Jim Lee’s Wild C.A.T.S.  The color palette is muted with lots of deep violets and blues and plenty of black.  The first season has a split setting between modern-day New York and turn of the first millennium Scotland.  The gargoyles, lead by the hulking Goliath, are a humanoid, bat-like race that spends the daylight hours encased in stone and owns the night.  In 994 Scotland, they’re protectors of a castle inhabited by humans that, for the most part, view the gargoyles in an unfavorable light.  When the gargoyle clan finds itself betrayed by those it trusted, most are smashed to death during the day while the few survivors are magically encased within stone until the castle they inhabit rises above the clouds.

The Manhattan Clan (left to right):  Lexington, Brooklyn, Goliath, Hudson, and Broadway.

The Manhattan Clan (left to right): Lexington, Brooklyn, Goliath, Hudson, and Broadway.

The existence of the extraordinary gargoyle race is all but wiped away from history, but one noted wealthy individual by the name of David Xanatos, is well-aware of their past.  It is he who purchases the castle along with the gargoyles and moves them to Manhattan where he places it atop a massive skyscraper, thus ending the spell placed upon them.  The rest of the first season deals with the gargoyles coming to terms with what happened to them a thousand years ago and finding a way to relate to this new, modern world and find their place in it.  Themes of tragedy, isolation, trust, family, and acceptance help frame the show.  In this there are many similarities to X-Men as both the gargoyles and mutants find themselves as unwelcomed protectors of humanity.  Their isolation, seemingly alone in this world with the exception of their one human ally, Elisa, helps evoke the Batman similarities.

Detective Elisa Maza heads the short list of allies for the Manhattan Clan.

Detective Elisa Maza heads the short list of allies for the Manhattan Clan.

The remaining gargoyles, now known as the Manhattan Clan, are a small group of varying personalities.  Goliath is the unquestioned leader.  He’s noble, proud and a bit stubborn at times.  He’s always learning and isn’t immune to mistakes, but he does everything with purpose and conviction.  Hudson is the elder statesman of the clan and its former leader.  He prefers to stay on the sidelines and leave the fighting to the younger gargoyles.  Brooklyn, Broadway, and Lexington are the younger members of the clan and rookery mates, which is gargoyle speak for siblings.  Brooklyn is a curious sort who seems to model himself after Goliath while Lexington is consumed by modern technology.  The gluttonous Broadway is sometimes relegated to comic relief though the show mostly avoid slapstick and jokes.  Rounding out the clan is the dog-like Bronx who is the only gargoyle incapable of speech and lacking in wings.  Detective Elisa Maza is the sole ally of the gargoyles in season one.  She’s a strong-willed character who is able to give the gargoyles leads on the goings-on of their enemies while also sometimes acting as almost a mentor to Goliath.

Much like the clan itself, the rogues gallery for the show is kept fairly compact for the first season.  It’s dominated by Xanatos, who poses as an ally early on to the clan but is soon revealed as duplicitous and self-serving.  His main weapons are cunning and money, but he also possesses some high-tech weaponry including his own cybernetic army of gargoyles.  He splits time as the main foe for the clan with Demona, Goliath’s former lover who was complicit in the destruction of their clan a thousand years ago.  While her intentions were without malice, her persona is consumed with a bloodlust for humanity as she blames them for their near extinction.  She is the Magneto to Goliath’s Charles Xavier.  Other villains include the sportsmen MacBeth and the television actors turned criminals The Pack, a group of men and women who fashion their personas after wild canines.

Demona, Goliath's former lover, is one of the primary antagonists for season one and beyond.

Demona, Goliath’s former lover, is one of the primary antagonists for season one and beyond.

The show opens with a very ambitious five-part mini-series titled “Awakening” (it was also released direct-to-video as Gargoyles:  The Movie) that sets up the series.  Right from the start, viewers are able to get a sense of the large-scale story-telling the show is aiming for while also being able to take in the peak of the show’s production values.  The animation quality is a grade above the usual afternoon cartoon fare, making it possibly the best looking cartoon of the mid 90’s.  The score is also exemplary and the voice acting contains notable actors such as Keith David (Goliath, various voices) and Edward Asner (Hudson) as well as numerous vets of various Star Trek programs.  Following the five-part debut, the show mostly settles into stand-alone episodes that also call upon happenings in previous ones.  Each gargoyle, with the exception of Bronx, is basically given his own episode to star in which helps the viewers get better acquainted with each one individually.  It’s similar to the tactic utilized by X-Men in season two and is an effective way to flesh out an ensemble cast.  There are thirteen episodes in total for season one, and pretty much all of them are good.  Some standouts include “Deadly Force,” which stresses the importance of gun safety without being ham-fisted (possibly created because main character Elisa is shown wielding realistic weaponry as opposed to fantasy, laser type devices).  “Her Brother’s Keeper” helps define what family means to the gargoyles and how it’s not so different from what it means to humans.  “Reawakening” is the bookend for the season and is a satisfying conclusion for the show’s first major arch.

Xanatos would be the other main foe for the gargoyles.

Xanatos would be the other main foe for the gargoyles.

What I appreciate most about the show is its commitment to realism.  This is a show starring unreal creatures but it takes them very seriously.  Their culture is defined as is their biology when Goliath points out early on that they can’t fly, merely glide on air currents.  As previously mentioned, Elisa is armed with a realistic handgun as are most of the police force.  Many of the villains do use lasers and other such fantasy fare but they come across as credible, in part due to a willingness to throw around phrases like “Die!” at their targets.  And when it’s called for, the show is not afraid to show blood which helps add severity to a scene.  The show also wasn’t afraid to be a little progressive as it’s revealed (casually) that Elisa is of mixed-race, having a white father and black mother.  And if you’re a fan of keeping movies and television as they were, you’ll be happy to know that the numerous shots of the New York skyline have not been edited to remove the twin towers.  Recent shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Beware the Batman have mostly empty city streets and lifeless scenery, it was refreshing to watch Gargoyles with its fully realized and very much alive New York.

The DVD release for season one is fairly basic.  There are animated menu screens depicting the gargoyles emerging from their stone prisons accompanied by music and sound effects.  The transfer is of good quality for this type of release and the case is a standard DVD case with a hinged insert for the second disc.  Bonus features include the original show pitch by Weisman which is worth a look just to see the original designs of the gargoyles.  There’s also a brief feature on The Gathering of the Gargoyles, a convention that used to be held in the US for fans of the show, that I suppose is worth a look though it’s basically just a bunch of fanboys and girls gushing over the program.  There’s also audio commentary on the fist five episodes, but I have yet to check it out (and probably won’t as it’s just not my kind of thing).

The show did not shy away from placing its characters in real danger.

The show did not shy away from placing its characters in real danger.

Gargoyles felt overlooked during its hey-day and today feels kind of like a forgotten series.  This is due, in part, to Disney’s stubbornness over releasing the entire series on DVD.  Season one was released in 2004 with the first half of season two following in 2005.  The rest of season 2 was in limbo until recently when it was released quietly as part of the Disney Movie Club.  Still remaining are the thirteen episodes from the abbreviated season three, rebranded as The Goliath Chronicles .  While fans would likely appreciate having those thirteen released, all but the season premiere were done without Weisman and thus are not considered canon by him for the show’s storyline, which lived on in comic book form for a short while following the show’s cancellation.  Unlike many cartoons from my youth that I have chosen to revisit, Gargoyles still holds up and impressed me a great deal.  I would love to see Disney revisit the show with Weisman for either a short fourth season or direct-to-video movie to provide additional closure.  Expect to see more of Gargoyles from me as I make my way through both volumes of season 2.


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