Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Diana's Adventures in TV Land: Gargoyles

Note: This review refers specifically to the first two seasons of "Gargoyles" - since series creator Greg Weisman has taken surprisingly drastic steps to disavow the third season, I might as well do the same.

First, my thanks to kazekage for introducing me to this series.

The basic premise of "Gargoyles" is as follows: a thousand years ago, humans enjoyed a peaceful (if uneasy) relationship with Gargoyles, stone warriors that came to life after sunset and protected their shared homes. In 994 AD, one such home - Castle Wyvern in Scotland - is invaded by a horde of Vikings during the day. The helpless Wyvern Clan is decimated, leaving only six survivors. These survivors, including clan leader Goliath, are then frozen by a magic spell "until the castle rises above the clouds".

A millenium later, "eccentric" millionaire David Xanatos transplants the entire castle, brick by brick, onto the top of his corporate headquarters in Manhattan. The skyscraper's added height puts Castle Wyvern - and its Gargoyle statues - above the cloudline, and when the sun sets Goliath and his clan are released into a very different world.

As might be expected, the first season (13 episodes) deals with the Gargoyles orienting themselves in the modern world: they befriend Eliza Maza, a police officer, and make quite a few enemies as well. Goliath ultimately decides to declare Manhattan the Gargoyles' new home, and dedicates them all to defending the city from criminals and supernatural threats. And plenty of both emerge in the much-lengthier second season (52 episodes).

To better explain why I find "Gargoyles" so impressive, I've put together a little list of Things I Never Thought I'd See in a '90s Disney Cartoon (in no particular order):

1. Blood. Characters don't bleed often, but when they do, it's a significant moment, like Demona clawing Gillecomgain's face (thus giving birth to the endless vendetta of the Hunters) or Broadway accidentally shooting Elisa in the back with her own gun.

2. Character development. For everyone. Take a look at this "group photo" for the Disney Afternoon: "Tale Spin", "Darkwing Duck", "Gummi Bears", "Ducktales" - all amusing series in their own ways, but they all followed very strict status quos. Not so with "Gargoyles": the protagonists evolve, as do most of the antagonists.

2a. Most of the villains have a rather surprising amount of depth and growth. Demona is completely axe-crazy (and how's this for cognitive dissonance: she's voiced by Marina Sirtis, who probably only raised her voice two or three times throughout the entire run of "Star Trek: The Next Generation") but once her backstory is revealed, it's hard not to feel sorry for her, even though she refuses redemption at every opportunity. Xanatos seems to be the Gargoyles' archenemy (and i now understand why it's called the Xanatos Gambit: he's a brilliant Thrawn-level manipulator) but by the end of the second season he becomes a husband and a father, and finds common ground with Goliath (the one Gargoyle who hates him the most). Even Macbeth manages to let go of his hatred during his last appearance.

3. The Gargoyles are frozen in 994 AD and wake up in 1994; the natural assumption is that we're focusing on the present day. For the most part, this is true... until we discover that two storylines unfolded during the interrim, both of which have major ramifications on the present. The "City of Stone" arc flashes back to Demona's life after the fall of Castle Wyvern - a fittingly tragic tale that continues to reverberate throughout the second season. And then, later in the season, we learn what happened to the human Wyvern survivors and the Gargoyles' unhatched eggs. The series makes excellent use of its timeline.

4. Halfway through the second season, Goliath discovers he has a daughter, Angela... and he rejects her. Granted, it's more to do with how Gargoyles view family: children belong to the entire clan, so it doesn't really matter who the biological parents are. But it's still a shocking moment that taints our hero, especially since Angela does see him as her father. Of course, when he finally comes to love and accept Angela as his own, she's injured by the newest incarnations of the Hunter. Skip to 5:10
here and tell me you don't get the chills.

5. Much has been made of the series' surprisingly high number of loans from "Star Trek": Nichelle Nichols, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Kate Mulgrew, Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn all had recurring roles, while others such as Colm Meaney, LeVar Burton and Avery Brooks turned up for guest-spots. So for someone who's even moderately familiar with the Roddenberry franchise, it's pretty much a constant string of "Hey, I know that voice!"

5a. But that tends to overshadow the fact that the rest of the cast were excellent as well, particularly Keith David, John Rhys-Davies, Tim Curry (brr!) and Jeff Bennett, who totally channeled his QFG4 Ad Avis voice for Owen.

6. Various episodes take turns exploring Scottish, Irish, English, Native American, Nordic and Greek mythologies, with a line of dialogue summing it up perfectly: "All legends are true." But it's Shakespeare who gets the most love from the series' writers: Puck, Oberon, Titania, Macbeth and the Weird Sisters are all major players in the mythology, while Coldstone and his companions were apparently once known as Othello, Desdemona and Iago. Shakespeare and Disney - not a partnership I'd have anticipated.

Which isn't to say that "Gargoyles" is entirely without flaws. Pacing is a bit problematic throughout the series: for example, Puck is introduced very early in season 2 and doesn't turn up again for almost forty episodes; nothing much comes of Demona's ability to withstand daylight; the Illuminati are built up as major players but fizzle out towards the end; and the King Arthur subplot is practically an afterthought.

Also, while the World Tour arc had some great out-of-Manhattan adventures, the payoff was surprisingly lacking: almost twenty episodes are used to establish characters such as Cuchulainn, Natsilane, the New Olympians and the Gargoyle clans of England, Guatemala and Japan, but once the dust settles they never appear again. Granted, there were only six episodes left in the season once the World Tour ended, but I kept expecting Goliath's new allies to turn up during the Gathering or the Hunter's Moon - both major crisis points for the Manhattan Clan - and they're not even mentioned. Apparently the World Tour was meant to springboard an entire array of spin-offs, but to my knowledge none of them ever materialized so it all comes off a bit moot.

Time travel is another headache-inducing issue here: the series takes the familiar stance that history has already been written, so whenever Goliath or someone else goes back in time, they only end up doing whatever they were meant to do all along. This becomes especially frustrating once the Archmage makes his comeback, because his future self saves his past self from death and tells him he knew how to do it because his future self told him, etc. It all gets a bit too recursive for my tastes.

Still, there's a lot to love about "Gargoyles": solid writing, a cast without a single weak link, bold (and successful) attempts to push beyond the standardized limitations - both technological and "moral" - of animation at the time, and a rich, consistent mythology that holds up under scrutiny. All of this from a mid-'90s Disney cartoon.




He took such great steps to disavow the third season because it is titanically awful. Not just saying that because they killed off one of my favourite characters, but that didn't help.

1. One of the things that blew me away about the show when it first came on (watching as I was on a fairly week UHF station) was just how unmerciful they were with the consequences. Not long after you get the "rules" on how the Gargoyles exist, we're told they were crushed when the Vikings stormed the castle. Genocide by the second episode, I think.

2. Very true. I wouldn't have thought that Owen, f'rinstance, ends up the way he ends up since he's initially just a flunky.

2a. "The password is . . .alone." Damn, when you consider that she'd spent most of the episode straight-up murdering people that shouldn't be as affecting as it is, but that's a testament to the skill of the storytelling, innit?

And all you need to know about how skilled Xanatos is at manipulating folks is in that ep with the first appearance of Coyote. :)

3. In terms of how it handles both time travel and magic (two notoriously difficult storytelling devices) Gargoyles does amazingly well.

4. Poor Angela doesn't get an easy time of it at first when she gets to New York, does she? Rejected by Goliath, manipulated by Demona, fought over by the guys . . .

5. Did rather turn into the Star Trek Welfare Program for a bit there, didn't it? ;)

5a. Keith David is the man. You can especially tell his skill when Goliath and Thailog are in a scene together, because he voices them as similar in terms of his general voice, but there's enough difference in terms of speech and idiom that you could tell who's who with your eyes closed.

6. It may, in fact, have been the most literate Disney cartoon ever, eh?

I have seen the whole run of Gargoyles multiple times and I cannot tell you what in the hell was the point of the whole Illuminati thing. I mean, it was built up as this huge thing and apparently in the end all it meant was that Goliath buggered around a fun house for a whole episode.

I think the New Olympians showed up in the third season (it wasn't very good)but by and large, yeah, it was a petri dish for potential spinoffs and oh lord it dragged and dragged. That said--the dark future episode was pretty awesome. :)

As to time-travel, I thought actually they did pretty well with it. Sure, they abuse the ontological paradox (that you go back in time to do something you were always meant to do) but by making time-travel essentially a closed circut, you end up avoiding stuff like those interminable issues of Dark Avengers where Morgan LeFay kept dying and immediately time-traveling back to the present.



Just so you know, the third season was replaced by 18 issues of comics written by Greg Weisman that have been released by SLG over the past 4 years. There were 12 issues for season 3 and 6 issues for 'Bad Guys', which is actually a spin-off. You were right that one of the purposes for the world tour arc was to greatly expand the universe for spin-offs that never materialized on TV.

Here are the new comic trades all written by the original Gargoyles creator: Amazon link

There's also a still-vibrant community of Gargoyles fans here: http://www.s8.org/gargoyles/index.php

Diana Kingston-Gabai


Just as well, really: "Hunter's Moon" is more than adequate as a series finale. Just out of morbid curiosity, who'd they kill off?

1. Which made Demona's rampage during the "City of Stone" arc even more chilling, like when she blasts the arms off a petrified woman and leaves the rest intact...

2. To be honest, the Owen reveal didn't quite work for me. Partly because they infodumped the whole thing during Oberon's attack, but also because it's one of the few twists that weren't foreshadowed properly: aside from a similarity to Preston Vogel, there's no reason to suspect that Owen's anything more than he is, especially since he kept carrying that stone hand around for no reason.

2a. I'll admit that line made me a little verklempt. :) I also loved the callback at the end of "Hunter's Moon", when Jason Canmore accidentally shoots his brother and repeats, word for word, Demona's first line after Wyvern fell: "What have I... what have they done to you?"

It's even more tragic when you realize the Canmores' vendetta can never be fulfilled, since Macbeth is the only one who can kill her. And he doesn't particularly want to anymore.

That was indeed the moment that made me sit up and go "Ohh, so that's why it's called the Xanatos Gambit." :)

3. This is true, though the time travel does get a bit too loopy for my tastes, especially with the Archmage. It got to the point where I cringed just a bit whenever the Phoenix Gate turned up.

4. Oh, she could've easily turned into a Mary Sue (or worse, a Dawn Summers), but they wisely kept her from "saving the day" too often, and she got smacked around as much as any other Gargoyle.

5. When I noticed the pattern, the first thought that came to me was "PATRICK STEWART AS OBERON/ARTHUR/MERLIN/ANYONE!!!" No such luck, though...

5a. And, of course, he was also especially good at selling those moments where Goliath is on the verge of crossing a line, like that scene in the episode with Elisa's gun when he's ready to kill Tony Drakon, or that utterly shocking "I will kill them."

6. Granted, it probably doesn't have a lot of competition in that particular department, but still, quite an achievement.

I actually thought the Illuminati were the Big Bad for season 2, since Xanatos was a member. I guess they just didn't get around to doing anything with that concept.

Some of the World Tour episodes were necessary, at least those revealing other Gargoyle clans in the world ("We're not the last, we're not alone") but I couldn't tell you the point of the Loch Ness, Ireland, Africa or Egypt sequences...

I would've loved to have seen "Future Tense" as a two-parter, really give Lexington his due as the Gargoyle that outwitted David Xanatos. But Broadway's death scene was utterly heartbreaking.

Fair enough, but when you have the Archmage telling the Weird Sisters "Look for me in 975 years"... eh. I just didn't have the energy to parse the damn thing.

Diana Kingston-Gabai


Lumpmoose: Thanks for the info. :)

I'd heard about the SLG series, but apparently it got cancelled before the stories really took off. As I note above, "Hunter's Moon" is fine as a series finale as far as I'm concerned, so I don't feel like I'm missing out. :)

It's good to know there's still a community out there, given that it's a 16-year-old show I've only just discovered - a testament to the series' strengths, I think. It's aged remarkably well.



Oh the Gargoyles fandom is a hardy bunch. There's no getting rid of them. :)

Y'know, I've come to think so myself--really, everything seems to come to a perfect resting place and almost all the loose ends are tied up (the Canmore stuff plays out in the third season but not very well) and better it end there than how it did end. Oh, and they killed off Thailog and clones. :)

1. "Capitain, I sense . . .sadism." ;)

2. I dunno--Owen got to smack some folks around with the stone hand, which was pretty cool. I just liked it as a twist, really--even though Puck was not a favourite of mine and I liked it better when Owen was being the stoic badass dragon.

2a. It's a great illustration of how these destructive cycles can perpetuate themselves until you have generation after generation marching down the same suicidal course, innit?

And also . . .Coyote was a favourite of mine. He was awful jovial when it came to being a badass.

3. I got the same way when I saw the Phoenix Gate, too. They probably shouldn't have been done as much as they did, especially since their rules were so rigid.

On the other hand, I love the elegant reasoning of "Goliath, I command you to act as though you weren't under a magic spell for the rest of your life." :)

4. I was pretty impressed by how evenly they handled her--it would have been all too easy to upset the established ensemble, but they did pretty well with it, I thought.

5. And yet, he's Stan Smith's boss. I don't get it either. :)

5a. There is something about that voice that makes everything he says carry the impression that "shit just got real." It even worked when he was Spawn.

6. It was actually the capstone of a pretty good run of Disney cartoons, I thought. It was going off in a different direction than the comedy/adverture stuff before it, but that was a really creative period.

I thought that's what it was building up to, but . . .nahh. *L* Kinda fell apart, really.

It dragged on way too long, but I have the feeling that once they got on that track, the temptation was to keep world-building as long as possible (as one way or another, I suspect most of the one-shot guys would have been back) but yeah, taken in isolation it feels a little . . .biity, I guess.

It's a bit much at times, innit? ;)

Diana Kingston-Gabai


That's truly a comforting thought. :) And who knows - there's a "Thundercats" revival in 2011, maybe "Gargoyles" isn't that far off either...

They brought Thailog back after "The Reckoning" just to kill him again? As I said over at the Prattle, I much prefer the idea that Demona took him down for targeting Angela - especially since that would've been the last act of compassion we'd ever get from her.

There were really only a few loose threads that were never resolved, mainly to do with Oberon and Titania - she seemed to have some kind of plan involving Fox and Alex, but they never got beyond basic foreshadowing on that. Also: where did Arthur and Macbeth disappear to? Who was Merlin? But in the grand scheme of the series those were minor subplots - some resolution would've been nice, hardly necessary for closure.

2. It was the other way around for me: I loved Puck in "The Mirror", especially because Brent Spiner was doing a higher-pitched version of Lore and I just found that hysterically funny; but I never warmed up to Owen. Maybe it was because he was just the stoic Dragon - I kept expecting him to do something whenever Xanatos wasn't around, even if he wasn't a Starscream; just to show some kind of agenda that went beyond serving Xanatos. And that never happened.

2a. Absolutely. It was handled in the best possible way, even to the extent that neither side knows what the feud is really about: Demona doesn't even remember Gillecomgain, and the Canmore kids wanted revenge for their father, not Duncan or the original Canmore who started the whole thing.

I loved that every time Coyote turned up he looked a little less human. Really drove home what Wolf, Jackal and Hyena did to themselves when they were upgraded.

3. Silly moment, sure, but at least it wasn't the typical "break the spell through the Power of Love" bit. :)

4. I think a major factor in her success as a new character was that they went to a lot of effort to differentiate her from the rest of the Manhattan Clan: she'd been raised by Katherine and Tom, so she wasn't even aware of the complicated relationship between Gargoyles and humans, but on the other hand she was more adaptable and got over her "fish out of water" phase a lot faster than even Lexington.

5. Seriously. The Simpsons, I can understand, but American Dad? Ugh.

5a. I guess the downside to that is that you never really hear Goliath laugh or take a lighter tone... on the other hand, when he finally told Elisa he loved her... yes, I'll admit it, my spine got a bit tingly. :)

6. I recall seeing the potential in some of their other projects - I adored the 1920's adventure-esque atmosphere in "TaleSpin" but could never get past the sanitized storylines; "Darkwing Duck" had a delightful pulpy touch but ye Gods those voices, those puns... They were different, certainly, but I can't help feeling that that kind of originality might've been more welcome, and could've gone further, a decade later.

Diana Kingston-Gabai



To their credit, though, they were far enough in the background that the dead-end wasn't too conspicuous...

Just a matter of timing, I guess - if they'd done it earlier in the season, maybe? The premise of the World Tour was that Avalon was sending them "where they needed to be", and they did accomplish a few things that directly affected them, but I kept expecting Avalon's true purpose to be cultivating allies for the Gargoyles who'd return the favor by coming to Manhattan and helping them defeat Oberon or the Canmores. Granted, it would've diminished the clan's sense of accomplishment, but a Big Damn Cavalry moment would've been a nice climactic cap to the whole saga.

Honestly, I just had no idea what was going on during the initial Avalon arc. Why are the Weird Sisters working for the Archmage? Where did the second Archmage go before the final battle? How did the Sisters know where to look after 975 years? Finally I just said "Whatever" and watched the pretty explosions. :)



It is one of the enduring mysteries of our time that "Thundercats" is getting a revival, I mean, really.

But that aside, given that the regime at Disney seems to be embracing some of their less-Disney experiments from the Dark Times (and they have an apparatus to do so without damaging the Disney brand) anything's possible. . .

Yep! Thailog and the rest of the Clone Clan died off because . . .well, I've seen the episode a number of times and I still couldn't tell you why. It was utterly diabolical and we're all the better for having it deleted from continuity. Your idea is so much better it;s OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND. :)

Macbeth popped up again in the third season, but not to any great effect--given that they'd transferred to another network and gotten out of syndication, I'm pretty sure the word came down to not make so many explicit allusions to continuity, which meant introducing a new threat and building everything around that to not every successful effect, which kinda sucked, as the resolution to the Hunter thing was tied up in it.

2. I think I'm just a sucker for the hyper-efficient, hyper-loyal second in command--to use the TVTropes term, he was less a Starscream and more of a Cyclonus. :)

2a. It really ramps up the drama when you can play up what a destructive cycle it is and how they never flinched from how brutal they ultimately become. I also like that neither of them ends up with much of a justification for what they're doing to the other.

I noticed that too--they were quite clever with the whole thing of upgrading the Pack using technology nicked from other baddies like Sevarius and the Steel Clan I quite liked the fact that Coyote was basically Xanatos permanently locked in Deadpan Snarker mode as well. :)

3. I quite enjoyed it in a sort of "cut the knot in half" kinda fashion. :)

4. Well, one could argue that her lessened adaptation time probably had more to do with the fact that she wasn't locked in stone for a millennium, so while there was some culture shock, it wasn't as much as Lex's.

5. I think he just enjoys acting insane in his old age. If you'd been in X-Men 3, you prolly would too. ;)

5a. I'm trying to think . . .no, Goliath never did laugh, did he? Thailog, of course, laughed all the time, which was a level of difference I never even thought about. That was a rather wonderful scene, though--it felt like an earned moment.

6. I have a deep and abiding love for Darkwing Duck mainly because it was as hilarious a superhero parody as we had before Freakazoid! came along. Talespin I never warmed up to quite as much . . .I always felt like it was something I should like more than I ultimately ended up liking. But for awhile there, that was about as close as you could get to anything "adventurey," as pretty much all the 80's cartoons were dead and gone by then.



(Part 2!)

Man, that would have been an ideal plotline, as I always thought the Oberon stuff could have used a little more scope and a little bit "bigger" feeling (mind you, I do like how Xanatos holds Oberon back for most of it) given what had happened before. You could still have had the fight with the Hunters be more personal and all, but I always felt like The Gathering could have use a little more.

It's been some time since I've seen that episode, but I seem to remember than whenever the Weird Sisters showed up, it inevitably led to bafflement. Oh sure, there was the cool cure-thing they laid on Macbeth and Demona, but the Avalon thing, well . . .I was never quite sure what they were doing there.

Diana Kingston-Gabai


Oh, the situation's more dire than you can possibly imagine. Consider the following four words: "Japanese studio. Cat people." Pleasant dreams. :)

It would be nice if, just once, one of these retro comebacks could involve something that was actually good the first time around...

I hadn't been exposed to that particular meme. Thanks for the giggles. :)

From what I heard, they actually took the X-Men approach for the third season, racism metaphors and all. Not very appealing...

2. Or a Colonel Tigh, minus late-stage Final Five BS, of course. :)

2a. Absolutely - and as I said before, it's all the more shocking when you realize this is being done properly on a bloody Disney series.

Although I do wish they'd clarified Coyote's relationship to Xanatos after the Pack struck out on their own - at the end of the day, it was still Xanatos' robot, it spoke with his voice, but you'd think Coyote would've given the power of Anubis to his creator rather than the Emir...

3. Quite so. :)

4. I don't know about that - she was still transplanted from medieval Avalon to present-day New York. I think the only real advantage she had was that she knew how to live with humans, whereas most of the Clan's positive interactions were just with Elisa.

5. Ah, X-Men 3, where they write off Patrick Stewart and keep Halle Berry. Yea verily, thy shark is jumped. :)

5a. I loved how subtle they played it - instead of doing a Ron Perlman/Linda Hamilton "Beauty and the Beast" thing with the overwrought violins, you don't really know what Elisa's thinking until she turns Jason Canmore down because there's someone else in her life. The line that launched a thousand squees. :)

6. Oh, it had its moments - some of Darkwing's smoke-accompanied introductions were truly amusing - and I loved the neo-pulp design. But they really needed better voice acting to pull it off. Goslyn in particular was just... ugh. I could not stand to listen to her talk.

TaleSpin scored a few points with me by having the late great Tony Jay voice Shere Khan. I do miss that English baritone...

Well, the appeal of the Oberon storyline as it actually happened had more to do with the characters than the world itself: he was coming after Xanatos' kid, and suddenly Xanatos himself was turning into a sympathetic character, and Goliath could finally put that particular hatred behind him. But you're right, the Gathering had been built up as such a tremendously important event, and yet... well, exactly what happened after the Fair Folk returned to Avalon? What was the point?

I'd have settled for some basic explanation as to who they are and who they're working for, given that their loyalties seemed to shift multiple times throughout the second season without anyone noticing...



My response is "Again?" Thundercats has been pretty anime-ish all along, really--I think either TMS or Toei was animating it even back in the 80's.

Or could at least tap into the joie de vivre that inspired people to remember it in the first place. :)

We're all better off pretending it never happened. At all. :)

2. Man, that little bit really screwed things up for that show. I really couldn't get over how arbitrary and ultimately meaningless it all was.

2a. Yeah, it always seemed like there was something vital that we never quite got, because Xanatos doesn't seem like the type of person to just let a robot he created that looks and thinks like him just run around . . .

4. But there was ultimately less culture shock for her than the others, I think, at least insofar as she was dealing with humans in a non-violent way for a longer time than they were, it probably wasn't as much of a wrench for her.

5. Fun fact: Halle Berry spent the 200s tanking franchises. James Bond and X-men in one decade? Woof.

5a. It also made for a much more hopeful ending to what was a hellaciously dark three-parter . . .and led to more fanfic than one might imagine.

6. I wonder. Now that it's on DVD, do I dare re-visit it?

Shere Khan's voice said "Damn I'm smooth" on a subchannel, yes. :)

Well, it just felt like there was this big "nothing will be the same" feeling after this, but really the Hunters story accomplishes that far more than Oberon and them did. Maybe it was one of those things that would have been covered in the season 3 that didn't end up sucking?

Well, they were always more a means to an end without an actual end in mind, when you get down to it.

Diana Kingston-Gabai


This might be a misconception, but I'd always thought the tradition of beating your enemy to a pulp and then leaving instead of finishing him off was entirely alien to anime sensibilities - it seems like such a Western convention, combined with the whole commercial aspect so the fight is literally "neverending"...

A lot of that is rose-colored glasses, though - very few shows I remember fondly from childhood were actually as good as I originally thought they were. "Jem" makes me cringe these days, though I'm amused to find myself still rooting for the Misfits after all these years. :)

And that's the up-side to discovering older, long-dead series: you know where to stop, so your first viewing experience really becomes your best viewing experience because it isn't tainted by later mediocrity.

2. Still not over it. :) I know the typical defense is to cry "fan entitlement", but right now my feeling is that if you get your audience to spend years following your series, then yes, you do owe them something. It doesn't have to be a great ending, or a happy ending, but you need to make your audience feel like it was worth their time.

Granted, that sort of thing's probably easier when you don't have Myth Arcs to contend with - the TNG series finale is a good example of that - but it's not impossible. Eleventh-hour asspull aside, "Avatar: The Last Airbender" ended well; so did "Daria" and "Batman Beyond" (if you take the stance that "Return of the Joker", rather than that JLU episode, was the actual finale for Terry McGinnis). Even if you fail due to time constraints, ie: "Pushing Daisies" or "The Sarah Connor Chronicles", it's still enough that you tried and that that attempt is visible.

2a. On the other hand, Coyote's plans never seemed to have any blowback on Xanatos, so maybe he just figured it was worth having someone else around for Goliath to worry about...

4. She also had the benefit of the Manhattan Clan's experience - they probably would've adapted faster too if they'd had mentor figures after waking up...

5. You're forgetting "Catwoman". Not that I blame you. :)

5a. I refuse to go in search of it. If only because I know Rule 34 is in full effect and there is Goliath/Eliza porn out there and I don't want to see it. :)

6. Tough call: preserve nostalgia or face the cold, hard truth? I guess it depends on what you have to fall back on should DD let you down. :)

Heh, his IMDB credits read like a Who's Who of Great Villains: Magneto, Megabyte, Shere Khan, the Elder God of Nosgoth, Galactus, the Grim Reaper...

That, or they were saving it for one of the World Tour spin-offs that never materialized.

Fair enough. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai


This might be a misconception, but I'd always thought the tradition of beating your enemy to a pulp and then leaving instead of finishing him off was entirely alien to anime sensibilities - it seems like such a Western convention, combined with the whole commercial aspect so the fight is literally "neverending"...

A lot of that is rose-colored glasses, though - very few shows I remember fondly from childhood were actually as good as I originally thought they were. "Jem" makes me cringe these days, though I'm amused to find myself still rooting for the Misfits after all these years. :)

And that's the up-side to discovering older, long-dead series: you know where to stop, so your first viewing experience really becomes your best viewing experience because it isn't tainted by later mediocrity.

2. Still not over it. :) I know the typical defense is to cry "fan entitlement", but right now my feeling is that if you get your audience to spend years following your series, then yes, you do owe them something. It doesn't have to be a great ending, or a happy ending, but you need to make your audience feel like it was worth their time.

Granted, that sort of thing's probably easier when you don't have Myth Arcs to contend with - the TNG series finale is a good example of that - but it's not impossible. Eleventh-hour asspull aside, "Avatar: The Last Airbender" ended well; so did "Daria" and "Batman Beyond" (if you take the stance that "Return of the Joker", rather than that JLU episode, was the actual finale for Terry McGinnis). Even if you fail due to time constraints, ie: "Pushing Daisies" or "The Sarah Connor Chronicles", it's still enough that you tried and that that attempt is visible.

2a. On the other hand, Coyote's plans never seemed to have any blowback on Xanatos, so maybe he just figured it was worth having someone else around for Goliath to worry about...

4. She also had the benefit of the Manhattan Clan's experience - they probably would've adapted faster too if they'd had mentor figures after waking up...

5. You're forgetting "Catwoman". Not that I blame you. :)

5a. I refuse to go in search of it. If only because I know Rule 34 is in full effect and there is Goliath/Eliza porn out there and I don't want to see it. :)

6. Tough call: preserve nostalgia or face the cold, hard truth? I guess it depends on what you have to fall back on should DD let you down. :)

Heh, his IMDB credits read like a Who's Who of Great Villains: Magneto, Megabyte, Shere Khan, the Elder God of Nosgoth, Galactus, the Grim Reaper...

That, or they were saving it for one of the World Tour spin-offs that never materialized.

Fair enough. :)



Well, back in those days, a lot of work like Thundercats and its related shows (and a few others) were farmed out to anime studios, who brought some of the sensibilities to the action scenes and staging, and paved the way for acceptance of the real(er) thing.

In most Japanese superhero shows (even the really kiddie ones) the bad guys usually get the hell killed out of them ten times out of ten. Of course, if they really misbehave, they get beaten down and given the Not Worth Killing speech . . .

That's because their songs really were better, Diana. ;)

Or you try to love it despite its descent into mediocrity. Transformers, I'm looking at you . . .

2. Well, the role of every writer is to ideally provide a payoff (or "Catharsis" for you English majors out there!) that justifies the time put in by the reader or viewer. However, in our post-modern bullshit times nowadays, the "in" things to seem to be to flick the finger at the viewer and refuse to give any catharsis . . .oh, how hip we are.

2a. Plus, it'd just end up with him yelling "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR FAAAAAACE?!?" So it's probably better they never met again. ;)

4. True, and they did have Elisa, but even she couldn't cover everything for all of them . . .

5. Catwoman wasn't a franchise. It was a calamity.

5a. So very wise, so very very wise. ;)

6. I'm a glutton for punishment--been on something of a retro kick lately anyways. :)

The man had a niche which he ably filled. I miss the days when you just knew a certain voice actor was on the show by just hearing him once.

More than likely. Things were apparently in a hell of a state of flux near the end there. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai


What I want to know is who's to blame for foisting Pokemon on us. Because those were dark years. :)

I wonder, though, did that extend to anime? Because the trend of not killing your enemies is still running strong in Western animation, more often than not resulting in ridiculous contrivances like what happened with "Avatar": three years building up the big fight between Aang and the Firelord, all of Aang's past incarnations (including the most spiritual of them) demanding that he set his personal feelings aside and do what has to be done, and at the end of a truly epic battle, we get a retconned Bonus Power that stops the Big Bad without killing him. It was the one black mark on an otherwise stellar finale.

I know! :) Every single one of Jem's songs was about love and sharing and Sally Struthers-style "Won't Someone Think of the Children?!?!", and the Misfits were all about empowerment and confidence and not waiting around for a guy to give you something you can take yourself.

Well, I imagine it's easier for Transformers fans since there are several bodies of canon: as far as I know, there's no direct connection between the original series and the films, so if you go to a Michael Bay movie you really only have yourself to blame. :)

2. I think the problem is that these writers are misinterpreting postmodernism: when you boil it down to its essentials, it's to do with multiplicities of meaning and such, and that's fine if you want to give your audiences a bit of ambiguity and let them make up their own minds (ie: the UK "Life on Mars"). More often than not, though, it becomes an way for California TV writers to justify laziness.

2a. That half-face was all sorts of disturbing. :)

4. Especially because, at the end of the day, her duties came first. Come to think of it, Goliath and the others only started fighting crime because that's who she was - if they'd stayed with Xanatos, who knows what they might've become.

5. Of epic proportions, no less. :) Michelle Pfeiffer is still the live-action Catwoman for me - for all that Burton went a little too far into his BDSM fetish for my tastes, there's something so perfectly screwed up about his version of Selina Kyle that makes her a perfect match for Bruce Wayne.

5a. Oh, there are entire swathes of the Internet where Diana fears to tread. :)

6. Oddly enough, so have I, though in my case it's black-and-white '40s movies like "Casablanca" and random selections from that old Hitchcock series where he'd start each episode with "Gut evenink"...

Depends on the actor, I suppose: I can peg Mark Hamill, Jennifer Hale, Michael Ironside or Clancy Brown pretty much anywhere...

I think they overestimated the series' ability to actually become a franchise: it was certainly a fertile, imaginative world, but not quite rich enough that it could split off into a dozen directions at once. Of course, very few properties can support that sort of thing, so that's hardly the fault of the creators...



Nintendo. :) I blame them for killing the mid90s animation renaissance. Once they figured out people would watch Pokemon and their legions of clones, they generally stopped trying.

It's a situational thing in my experience. Killing legions of mooks seems to be OK, as does killing the monster of the week. Beyond that, it very much depends on the genre and how the show approaches its subject. If it's generally positive--bad guy gets beaten and joins the good guys. If it's in the middle--bad guy dies and the hero goes into a Heroic BSoD. In darker series, the villain kills himself so as to not give the hero the satisfaction of defeating him. And sometimes they just fall over and explode.

It's amazing how the few people I've encountered who know what Jem even was are completely on the Misfits' side once they reach a certain age. You never see this sort of thing happen with She-Ra, y'know. ;)

I could map out all the various Transformers continuities, but it would involve fourth-dimensional quantum fractal mapping to accurately chart them, and the technology plain doesn't exist yet. :) Just copy and paste what I said about the Legion of Superheroes and add "Autobot" and "Decepticon" in the appropriate places. ;)

2. I've a feeling your probably right there. I think the whole business of slapping labels on your approach to things is inherently dangerous (and the kind of think you should really grow out of by the time you're in your junior year of English courses) and serves as little more than an excuse to deflect criticism by slapping an important-sounding label on what they do.

2a. Made worse by the fact he never seemed to be bothered by it.

4. The glib answer is "The Steel Clan, only competent." ;)

5. You know, for all the crap people talk about Batman Returns, I think she comes off pretty well in it. I think her dispatching of Max Shreck is rather a crowning moment of badass.

5a. You and me both. You. And. Me. Both. ;)

6. My retro kick hasn't quite had that level of pedigree, alas. :) But I am a big fan of Casabalnca, not least because the best and worst lines in movie history sit cheek by jowl.

I can pick them out, plus pretty much every journeyman voice actor from the 80's like Michael Bell, Frank Welker, and Jack Angel, who just worked on every damn thing back then. And still do, on occasion.

I often wonder if it weren't a matter of corporate policy as well--Disney had just bought ABC, whose Saturday morning schedule was in just a godawful state and were looking for anything to perk it up, and Gargoyles seemed to have some potential, so they stuck it in . . .and given the restrictive content rules, it died a death. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai


I think that was the moment animation became completely dominated by commercial considerations; Transformers and GI Joe and the like were all major sources of merchandise, but Pokemon and its inbred cousins had in-universe shilling (ie: gotta catch/collect them all) in lieu of an actual narrative.

Those would be Made of Explodium, yes? :)

Probably because the Misfits were active (rather than reactive) characters, in a medium where the tradition was to sit on your butt and wait for the other team to make the first move...

Does that make the Michael Bay version equivalent to the Bierbaum run? :)

2. Exactly. I think that, at the end of the day, it's just a bunch of monarchs running around in the nude; what amazes me is how many people fall for it, in that "Lost" is still being heaped with praise for its deep and complex storytelling when, to me, you could've gotten the same result by running a Random Plot Generator for six years.

2a. Well, Coyote never seemed to care much for human appearances, which probably explains why his aesthetics for the Pack revamp veered more towards "Cover Models for HR Giger Monthly"...

4. Indeed. :)

5. I always felt her best scenes where the ones where Selina's on the brink of total collapse - the masquerade ball, her first transformation scene where she rips her old life to shreds... still gives me goosebumps after all these years...

6. I'd always been a bit skeptical of its reputation, but having seen it again recently, I can certainly understand why it's considered to be one of the best films ever made...

I've been contemplating whether "Gargoyles" could have succeeded, or lasted longer sans executive meddling, had it been conceived today; on the one hand, there's so much more freedom in terms of what animation can depict, both technologically and in terms of "ethics" (ie: yes, we can now use the words "die" or "kill" instead of some vague, colorful euphemism), but given the attention span of an average viewer, constructing a 30 or 50-part epic seems beyond the pale.



Well, despite all the shit the 80's and their merchandise-driven cartoons get, writers were doing some interesting stuff in the margins and got to do whatever they wanted provided they hit all the usual beats. When it became easier to just do the bare minimum and translate the show (not very well, either) everything started running to zero and that ultimately killed Saturday mornings.

Oh yes. I think it's actually based on the way duded died in samurai movies--two guys attacks, one guy turns around, other guy in background looks wounded and falls over dead. The explosion's relatively new, but that's the precedent. :)

Or in Jem's case, turn pink and sing a terrible song. ;)

Yes, with the added sting of the fact that one particular schism in Transformers continuity was the first evidence of Dan DiDio's mania for messing stuff up.

2. I think everyone just has the same random plot generator, because we ended up with "God did it" yet again, didn't we?

2a. "Yeah, y'know what? I'm so awesome I'm not gonna fix my face. And my legs will fold the other way. Over my head."

5. I don't know, I really like her line about "I'd love to live with you in your castle, but I couldn't live with myself." That and "Does this mean we have to start fighting?" God, I wanna watch that movie again now.

6. It's a zippy, efficient, movie that builds a world, populates it with a bunch of characters you can't stop watching and kinda want to learn about after the movies over. Plus, midgets were used as a special effect. :)

Well, the key to it surviving would have been a slot that would allow it to be more grown-up (Adult Swim f'rinstance, but for Disney) and would allow it to play out, but I'm not sure if that's do-able--The Adult Swim shows have a bit more freedom and time to find an audience because they don't cost so much. Trying to do Gargoyles on that budgets would be awful.

Diana Kingston-Gabai


Which isn't to say that the subsequent creative freedom didn't produce some positive results, of course - for every SquareBob Spongepants or Pokemon, we got Samurai Jack, Justice League, Powerpuff Girls, X-Men Evolution, Avatar...

Magnificient. :)

Wow, don't remind me. Even as a preteen I remember thinking there was something very wrong about the way she was flirting with her own boyfriend while pretending to be someone else - at the height of his "prick" years, I don't think Silver Age Superman was ever quite that cruel to Lois Lane.

DiDio seems to have slept through the second half of Creative Writing 101 - he got as far as "Feel free to mess things up..." and missed "... just remember that you'll have to put them back together in some fashion."

2. Well, that Magical Water Wheel Lady was either God or Alanis Morissette. Doesn't work for me either way. :)

2a. "And for maximum creepy value, I will still sound like Will Riker skinny-dipping in the Dark Side of the pool."

5. I think Pfeiffer figured out, very early on, that the key to this particular version of Selina is that she's equal parts berserker rage and stark terror - she knows what she's becoming, and it scares her, but she's so angry at her boss and Batman and the world that she can't stop herself. If you want to see it again, go for it - it's held up remarkably well over the years. :)

6. One of my favorite aspects of the film was precisely that it didn't overstate its messages: it's subtle, and clever, and it lets the audience connect the dots without being anvilicious. That's a rare feature, especially these days.

The thing about Adult Swim, though, is that it gives the impression of being rather restrictive in terms of what it airs: from what I've seen, it mostly consists of imported anime and parodies/satires such as Robot Chicken. Fair enough, but it does lead me to wonder if they'd even be capable of including and promoting a series that doesn't fit into an easy category...



*waves hand* And Invader Zim, Mrs. Kingston! ;)

Perhaps Jem suffered from some kind of maddening syphilis because the music wasn't the only thing that was contagious. :)

DiDio thought Plant Transformers were a good idea. Yes. Plant. Transformers. And yet, a multimillion dollar company looked at him and said "there's a creative mind!"

2. Moronic, don't you think? ;)

2a. He was Thomas Riker to Xantos' Will. ;)

5. It very much sounds like Selina Kyle by way of Christine Spar--a legit grievance gets fanned into an all-consuming apocalyptic rage she can't comprehend or control.

6. Very true. And the people who made it deflected all accusations of having any propagandist purposes by shrugging their shoulders and saying "What? All we did was make a piece of slick shit." Humility is rare as subtlety nowadays.

Well . . .that's the paradox you fall into. Initially, when things are pretty malleable, AS was coming up with all sorts of weird stuff and built on the success of Coast to Coast. The problem being (in addition to the fact that for so many years the things that got the highest ratings were Family Guy & Futurama reruns) that eventually the pressure came in to conform the "house style"--reference based humour, limited animation, non-sequitur plotting.

That said, I will miss Boondocks when it finishes its run in a couple weeks.

Diana Kingston-Gabai


I haven't seen that yet, but you're not the first person to mention it. I really should add it to the list...

Oh, come on, how realistic would it be for a wildly popular artist with questionable talent to go completely off the deep end and shave her head and marry some hick from America's armpit and... what's that? When did that happen? Ohh. :)

Well, I suppose Plant Transformers could be interesting in theory: "Look at this beautiful rose! But wait, it's transforming... INTO OLEANDER! NOOOO!"

2. Yes, but fortunately I had the good sense to cut my ties during season 2, when I started to get the nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe, this show was losing its way...

2a. Ooh, nice catch. Indeed. :)

5. I think the main difference between them is that Christine's motivations involved other people - her murdered son, Brian's victimization - whereas Selina's grievances were all to do with her own life and what had been done to her directly.

6. It does seem that the more boastful and grandiose Hollywood productions get, the worse their products become...

Which is all well and good with the right dose, but an entire channel focusing primarily on toilet jokes... meh.



Put on the stack with Mad Men. I am a terrible influence on your DVD collection.

That would be Frank Millers: JEM. I think. ;)

It so wasn't. In fact, it ended up being the most ghastly retcon to Transformers canon that people continue to froth about it even to this day. Though people may like some of what came out of that show, mention it on a TF board and sit back and prepare to toast your feet on the resultant flamewar.

2a. When I'm good, I'm adequate. ;)

5. In a sense, those are the beginning of it, but I think over the course of her arc she begins to take it personally--"They will no longer tread on my life" and all that.

6. Just think of the potential horror contained in the following sentence: "Joels Schumacher's Gargoyles"

Toilet jokes and non-sequitur stoner humour. Don't sell them short: They are, in fact, two-note. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai


I'm pretty sure this covers it. :)

I don't even want to guess what Frank Miller would've done with the Starlight Girls. My skin's crawling. Ech.

I imagine it was retconned in turn, though, wasn't it?

5. Maybe it's just the difference between direct and indirect attacks: Max actually shoves Selina through a window, whereas Tujiro, Argent and Wiggins never engaged Christine directly until she forced them to do so.

6. "Say that again, Joel? You want us to put stone nipples on all of them? Even Bronx?" Forget crawling, my skin's ready to buy a plane ticket to Honolulu. :)

Not to my taste, though I do still get a kick out of Benny Hill's old antics and they weren't much higher up on the totem pole of humor...



I understand that's how most Marvel creative retreats go as well. How 'bout that? ;)

Nahh. Actually, everyone did the smartest thing they could and just ignored the damn thing once it was over and no one felt the need to revisit (if only comics could do this) people Really, retcons aren't a huge problem in Transformers, except for the G1 continuity, which is a goddamned nightmare of various people trying to foist their principles on things because dammit, if Simon Furman said Unicron was a god of chaos and not created by a little monkey-man, it must be so.

5. I suppose so, but in terms of the "people unleashing something they don't quite understand that will not relent until it messes them up completely . . ." that fits.

6. And the neon. It's the gayest of all the Noble Gases.

I was always more of a Blackadder man, myself. Something about being a razor-sharp sarcastic bastard spoke more to me. Does it show? ;)

Diana Kingston-Gabai


Somehow I doubt the collective brain power of Marvel's current talent pool would be enough to run a conveyor in the first place. :)

And thus we learn that there have always been Bendises among us, even before this latest incarnation. :)

5. Absolutely. And, of course, with the possible exception of Wiggins, whatever they unleash inevitably finds its way back to them and chews their faces off.

6. And now he's doing movies with Chase Crawford and 50 Cent. Not quite sure who ends up looking worse in that particular configuration...

You could do a lot worse. ;)



Maybe if you throw in a flashlight battery or two, but my hopes aren't high.

I know, right? What is the compulsion people have for giving them the keys to their entire fictional universe? It's like entrusting your Ferrari to the one guy you KNOW is gonna wreck it.

5. Of course, in Wiggins' case it kinda went from the inside out, dinnit? ;)

6. It adds a disturbing subtext to Fiddy's repeated declarations of how many times he got shot, for one thing . . .

I could be Blackadder I. *L*

Diana Kingston-Gabai


I'm sure the Energizer Bunny would take one look at them, shake its head sadly and move on. :)

In theory, having a single writer set the general agenda for various franchises might not be such a terrible thing... provided said writer is halfway competent and hasn't been blinded by his own fiat. I can't help feeling that if DC had given that kind of power to Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman back in the late '80s, comics might be in a much better place today...

5. Much like an Alien chestburster. :)

6. Maybe we'll get lucky next time and a few stray bullets will find and destroy Schumacher's Vault of Neon Horrors?

Or Percy Percy. ;)



"It keeps dwindling and dwindling . . ."

Yeah, the problem is what usually happens is the people that have the power to dictate marching orders to those underneath them don't really have the creative vision necessary to do a great job, which is why the era of X-Editors running the show is so reviled. No one that creative probably has the administrative skill in the right balance.

5. Or a fork to the eye. ;)

6. We should be so lucky really. Are rubber nipples flammable?

"I have created purest GREEN!"