Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Defenders of the Night!

In 1994, Disney Animation came out with a television series called Gargoyles. This show quickly became one of the best damn things ever. Instead of trying to come up with a recap of the show’s premise, I’ll just paste the second season opening credit voice over (for best effect, imagine Keith David’s rich, deep voice reading it):

“One thousand years ago, superstition and the sword ruled.
It was a time of darkness. It was a world of fear.
It was the age of gargoyles.
Stone by day, warriors by night, we were betrayed by the humans we had sworn to protect, frozen in stone by a magic spell for a thousand years.
Now, here in Manhattan, the spell is broken, and we live again!
We are defenders of the night!

When it first started, it had a TMNT vibe that I, a young, nerdy teenage comic aficionado, could easily get into. As it progressed, however, it became more and more awesome. By the time Season 2 was underway, the show had it’s hooks in me DEEP.

Why? Well, for a kids show, it didn't pull any punches. There was a good deal of violence. While most of the worst happened off-camera, people still died on this show. Most of it was the standard Disney "fall to the death", but still, this show let you know right up front that they played for keeps.

Second, there was a good deal of moral ambiguity. The good guys weren't always good, and the bad guys weren't always bad. Indeed, characters shifted allegiances all the time on this show. Which leads me to the biggest thing- the story. This show had a tight continuity which was rare for Western animation at the time and virtually unheard of in Disney Animated series. Each show naturally built off of what was established in previous episodes, and things would change. There was little in the way of status quo. It was essentially a comic book brought to television. Over the top sci fi and fantasy elements, subplots, melodrama, all of this came together to make a stew that held me in its thrall.

Still, it didn't last. After a third season (which, aside from a few standout episodes, WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT), it was cancelled. Disney seemingly wants to forget this show existed. Despite critical praise, they do nothing to exploit the property. The reruns aren't shown on Disney XD (formerly Toon Disney) until 4 in the goddamn morning, and they've released on DVD Season 1 and ONE HALF of Season 2 with no intention on releasing the second half. ARRRGH!

Then, a few years ago, something wondeful happened. Disney licensed out several properties to SLG for comic purposes. One of these was Gargoyles, written by co-creator Greg Weisman. An odd combination- Disney is known for family friendly, whereas SLG is the company that brought us Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Still, gift horse, mouth. They put out new Gargoyles stories, plus they made one of the planned seven (!) spin-offs into a miniseries. Of course, Disney being Disney, they couldn't let it last. They recently raised their licensing fees, putting a halt on Gargoyles stories again. That sound you hear is me banging my head against the wall. Still, SLG is trying to renegotiate, and there is still a sizeable fan presence (you wouldn't believe how many Garg pics are on Deviant Art), so there's always hope. I do my part by bringing attention. So, check it out. If your a fan of the show, let Disney know to utilize the property. If you haven't, check it out. There are two dvds and three trade paperbacks available, so there you go. According to the show's backstory, the Gargoyles were trapped in stone for a millenia; a delay of a few years between new stories doesn't seem so bad by comparison.

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