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Max update

The "second" episode of Max Steel, "Sacrifices", should air this Saturday morning on the WB (check local listings).

For those hopeless few attempting to keep track continuity-wise, this one was designed to fit between the two you've already seen, i.e. after the pilot episode (set in Berlin) and before the origin/flashback episode (set largely in Paris).


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Chapter IX: "Enter Macbeth"

Another episode by episode ramble. Feedback encouraged.

So here's where all that great continuity got us in major trouble.

The episodes were all designed to play in a certain order. But I didn't tell my bosses that in advance. I know it sounds sneaky, but it wasn't really. We wrote the darn things and sent them off in order. It never occured to me they wouldn't be able to come back and air in order. I mean, how could a newer episode get the jump on an older one? How could an older episode not be ready before a newer one? Then the footage came back on "Enter Macbeth".

This was the first episode not animated in Japan. And immediately we knew we were in trouble. I'm not talking about the version you all have seen. The one that aired. I'm talking about stuff you never saw. Much of the original footage we got was unusable. This wasn't about just calling retakes. This wasn't about us bitching how "Thrill" wasn't as well animated as "Awakening". This was a major disaster. So my bosses said: "Air the next one." And I responded, "We can't."

And not just because they were all designed to air in order. It was a horrible coincidence, but this episode, this episode that was unairable, was a tentpole. Yeah, if Thrill or Temptation had been reordered it would have been sad. Same with "The Edge" and "Long Way To Morning". But big deal, right? Better to get a new episode out and not make the audience deal with repeats this early in the season. (Remember, we had aired our first five episodes in one week. This was only week five. In those days, week five was considered way too early in the year for reruns.)

But this was the follow-up to Elisa's injury. It was important to us that we continue our policy of "repercussions". We put her on crutches to show that a gunshot wasn't something that was solved in twenty-two minutes. This was an ongoing recovery. If you pulled the crutches out by airing Edge next, you blew out the sense of repercussions.

But that wasn't the clincher. Of course, the clincher was the Clock Tower. This was the episode where the Gargs were "banished" from the castle and moved to the Clock Tower. That was a major shift. If we cut straight to Edge, the audience would be lost. Fortunately, Gary was convinced. In a way, I was lucky that our first crisis of order came on such a pivotal "tentpole" episode. We couldn't reorder these. So we went with reruns. But it was a lesson learned. And it would effect the way we approached the second season.

But meanwhile, we had the problem at hand. We couldn't reanimate the entire show. So we picked shots to redo judiciously. There are still some awful looking scenes. When Goliath says, "How Dare You?!" to Elisa, he looks like an Animaniacs parody of Goliath. And that sarcophogus/iron maiden thing that Goliath follows Macbeth through looks like a prop out of CHIP N DALE'S RESCUE RANGERS. (Another perfectly good series, but with a slightly different art style, if you know what I mean.) Or how about the GIANT remote that Macbeth pulls from his duster in order to summon his ship? "Enter Macbeth" is still, as aired, the worst looking episode of the first season. And that really killed Frank and I, because we both really loved this story. We were sure that the bad animation would kill any interest in Macbeth. The fact that generally, the character did catch hold of fandom's collective imagination is a true testament to the work of Steve Perry, Michael Reaves, John Rhys-Davies and Jamie Thomason. And, oh, yes... William Shakespeare.

The weak picture forced us to use a lot of little tricks to get a final cut. One thing we did, which I regret, is reuse dialogue. Elisa says "You aren't safe here" like three times. And it isn't three different takes. It's just the exact same take reprinted and reused. Lex & Brooklyn also reuse lines to get Bronx to find Goliath. That sort of thing drives me nuts.

There is one really nice moment in the animation. When Macbeth chooses his sword off the wall, the reflection effect is quite sweet. And I also like the down shot of Bronx running right down the middle of Broadway (the street not the gargoyle). I also love how Goliath makes no attempt to hide. That really spoke to the Gargoyles attitude about living among humans. They wouldn't hold press conferences, but they would not cower.

Anyway, we ran reruns. Awakenings. And obviously all five episodes on five consecutive weeks. That might have been a good thing for people who had heard about the show by word of mouth in week two or later and needed to catch up. But for anyone who had been following the show from its premiere, it was a long time to wait for new episodes. By the time we came back, so much time had passed since "Deadly Force" that we felt the need to put a "Previously on Gargoyles" at the head of the episode. Another trick I cribbed from HILL STREET BLUES. Cartoons rarely did that sort of thing. Sure multi-parters had to. But single episodes... For some reason, it made me feel very grown up. (Which only proves how immature I really am.) The "Previously" also allowed us to cut 30 more seconds of bad looking footage out of the episode. That little bonus was something I'd remember for season two as well.

HOME

As we pushed guns in the previous episode, this one is laced with the imagery and language of home. What is it? What makes it? What price is one willing to pay to keep or secure it? There are four homes depicted. Well, really five. The Gargoyles' castle. Xanatos' prison. Macbeth's mansion. The Clock Tower. And the Castle again, once it is reclaimed by Xanatos and thus becomes a very, very different place.

I tried to make sure, as much as possible, that every episode had that kind of underlying theme. (I recently tried with very limited success to do the same thing in MAX STEEL. Someone asked me once, why the one-word S-Titles for all the Max Steel episodes. They were my attempt to make me and the writers focus on the theme of each story.)

And how do all these homes turn out? Macbeth is so obsessed that he loses his home to a fire. Xanatos finally gets out of prison. (Not on Halloween by the way, or that would make the dates depicted in Double Jeopardy innacurate. Obviously, Halloween was circled on his calendar because the guy just loves Halloween. And after all, Owen specifically says in a LATER scene that Xanatos has one week left before he gets out. The wall calendar had shown only a few days.) The Gargoyles lose the castle, gain the clock tower, but realize that home is literally where the heart is. And Xanatos... well all other concerns of Grimorum and gargoyle of destruction and competition pale next to the simple pleasure of being back home.

And how many of you were suprised that the Gargoyles lost the castle? That was supposed to be another pretty shocking development. I mean, sure, Batman might lose the Batcave for an episode, but for 56 episodes? When Goliath said "We'll be back to claim that which is ours" at the end, did most of you think he'd be back next week? Next month? By the time, the gang finally did return in chapter 65, did anyone still remember Goliath's vow?

MACBETH

I've discussed this before, but Macbeth's origins (at least in terms of our series) were (ironically) an early attempt to play the notion of THE HUNTER. I was looking for someone human who could physically take on the Gargoyles as prey. Someone smart, with an agenda. We actually started with the notion of trying to create our own KRAVEN THE HUNTER type character. But it quickly moved in its own direction. Frankly, away from Kraven and more toward BATMAN. In those days, we were constantly being told that we would be accused of ripping off Batman. So Frank, Michael and I decided to create a villain who, at least in M.O. would be our Batman.

I had a semi-separate idea to add a human to the cast who was from Goliath's time. Thus creating a good thematic nemesis or opposite for him. (The key to creating a good villain, in my opinion.) But this villain would have lived through the centuries. So that he was familiar with the very latest in technology. This dove-tailed with our anti-Batman, and was also exactly how we viewed Demona. So it soon became clear to Michael and I that the two characters must be connected in some way. That suggested that he shouldn't merely be 1000 years old. He should be Scottish as well. All that was left was a name. And given my love of Shakespeare, I'm surprised it took me so long to figure it out. Our nemesis was Macbeth himself. An immortal Scottish King. What Scottish King was more immortal than Macbeth? More mortal too for that matter.

This was the beginning of countless Shakespearian references that I would either slide (or force) into the show, or that the writers would stick in knowing I was a sucker for them. And I love the little exchange between Lex & Brooklyn...

[dialogue approximate]
LEX: "Wasn't "Macbeth" the name of that play by that new writer Shakespeare that Goliath was talking about?"

BROOKLYN: "Have you read it?"

LEX: "No. Have you?"

BROOKLYN: "No. But maybe we should."

This was my little way of trying to encourage our viewers to read or at least learn about the play. If they wanted to know who Macbeth was, it wouldn't hurt to go to the primary source.

And at the time, Shakespeare was my primary source for Macbeth. This was long before Tuppence Macintyre and Monique Beatty did all their research for me for "City of Stone". Back then, the only Macbeth I knew about was Shakespeare's.

We gave him a sense of honor, but a twisted one. And we gave him a very interesting motivation. I didn't yet know the particulars, but this guy was after Demona in a major way. He had stained glass windows in his home depicting the two of them. He was the man who named her. It was all pretty intriguing stuff to me. I love the exchange between him and Goliath. Goliath is a pawn. Mac wants the queen and believes that endangering Goliath is the surest way to ensnare Demona. And how does Goliath respond? By gum, if he doesn't laugh -- MANIACALLY!! And watch how the tables turn. Macbeth is not infallible and suddenly Goliath has him on the defensive. Goliath even uses a MACE!! Great stuff.

Incidentally, we had in the script described Macbeth as wearing a thin layer of exo-armor. And Goliath was supposed to dig his claws into it. Macbeth would escape by detaching from the armor. Instead, the artists did the bit with the duster coat. But I remembered the claws in armor thing and eventually found a place for it... in HUNTER'S MOON, PART THREE.

Finally, watching the episode tonight, my five year old daughter said she spotted the Mona Lisa on Macbeth's wall. I didn't see it. But I believe her. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if that was the original. Too bad about that fire.


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A quick Max Steel update...

Last Friday and Saturday, the Max Steel pilot, episode #1: "Strangers" aired on the WB... twice.

Unfortunately, the rest won't be airing in order. For a change, this isn't being caused by some bizarre scheduling perversion. The truth is that episode #2 isn't ready yet. Almost. But not quite.

So instead, this coming Saturday (March 4) the WB will present episode #3: "Shadows", written by Lydia Marano.

As the writer of episode #1, I do want to point out that I do know that the Berlin Wall was torn down over a decade ago. After Max says, "I can see the Berlin Wall from here." He was supposed to listen to 'Berto and say, "Oh, right. Some other wall then." I haven't been participating in the post-production on this series, so I'm not entirely sure why the second line was cut. And normally, I wouldn't mention it. But I think it makes me look like an idiot. So I'm gonna be petty and set the record straight.

I will say that the "Developed by" credit I get on the opening titles is without a doubt the COOLEST-LOOKING credit I've ever had.


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Stephen R. "Coldstone" Sobotka, Jr. writes...

Hi Greg! Even though this may not get seen for a while, I had to submit it anyway... so here's a comment and a question:

First, I find it wild that Gummi Bears were one of your major influnces. I can only assume you're talking about the candy or the animated show, for that I wish I could show you the one story I wrote that crosses Gummis with another group of characters... well, you fill in the rest. :)

Now, my question: You mentioned a series called Max Steel that you've been working on. Is this in any relation to a toy line called "Max Steel's Robo Force", or is this something completely different?

Anyway, will talk at you later! Maintain and Check Six!

Greg responds...

I was of course referring to the Disney TV series, not the candy.

Max Steel IS based on a Mattel toy line. It's called MAX STEEL and became available in Stores in the US starting in January of this year. I don't know where you got the "Robo-Force" tagline. Are you sure you're not confusing the name with something else?

Response recorded on February 23, 2000

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Todd Jensen writes...

I read your little piece about the new "Max Steel" series that you're working on, and found myself wondering one odd little question.

Is there any particular reason as to why all the episode titles begin with an S?

Greg responds...

There's a greater parallel between the titles then simply the Ss.

But honestly, the main reason was to amuse myself.

Response recorded on February 09, 2000

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Zeliard writes...

Hi mr. Weisman!

1.Are you still in touch with Michael Reaves, Frank Paur and Laura Perrotta?

2.Do you know what they're doing now since Gargoyles was cancelled?

Greg responds...

I haven't seen or talked to Laura in some time. She left Gargoyles between the first and second season of the series to become an Associate Producer on SANTA BUGITO at Clasky-Czupo, I believe. I ran into her in a restaurant once since then, but that's it. I think she told me she had moved to Warners, but I can't remember.

I last talked to Frank, last summer. He was trying to get to the Gathering 99 and was having flight trouble. Instead of calling the Gathering staff, he kept leaving messages for me at my hotel room. I called him back at an airport payphone. He had just finished work on season two (three?) of SPAWN. I'm not sure what he's been doing since. Maybe more SPAWN?

Michael Reaves and I worked together fairly recently. He wrote a couple of the STARSHIP TROOPERS and one of the MAX STEEL scripts that I edited.

Response recorded on February 03, 2000

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Airwalker writes...

How did you get Tom Wilson and Sheena Easten for the show? Did they come to you, did you call them?

Greg responds...

Tom auditioned for one or more of the Trio. He wasn't right, but I really liked him, and I suggested him to Jamie Thomason when we created Matt.

I am now a HUGE Tom Wilson fan. I created the role of Pete Costas in MAX STEEL with Tom in mind. (Originally it was a bigger role, but the WB cut it back. He's still great in it though.) And I think the work he's doing on NBC's FREAKS & GEEKS is brilliant. He does so much with so little. Taking a cliche that we've seen a hundred times before (remember Robert Picardo in THE WONDER YEARS) and investing it with so much humanity. I can't tell you how great I think he is. Someone should really give this guy his own live action show.

As for Sheena, she was my original choice for Princess Katharine. She wasn't available and Kath Soucie who I had never worked with before was terrific. But Sheena was always in my head to give something to. Finella seemed a great opportunity. So we brought her in. She was great. So we brought her back. She was astounding as Molly/Banshee, so we brought her back again. I was prepared to build the entire BAD GUYS series around her and Jim Cummings (with some help from Jeff Bennett, Jim Belushi and William Devane) but I couldn't sell it. I tried to cast her in as Molly McGrath in Max Steel, but again she wasn't available.

But I'd work with either Tom or Sheena again, anyday.

Response recorded on December 30, 1999

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UPDATE

Hi Gang,

I'm back. And determined to pour through these questions. I can't believe I'm still backlogged until JULY!!!

But first, let me give you a quick update on what I've been up to recently.

STARSHIP TROOPERS
Post-Production has been completed on my first arc of stories. They are all set on the jungle moon TESCA NEMEROSA. I think they turned out wonderfully. I'm still very proud of the writing, but I'm wildly impressed with the CGI. (And yes, there are a few small things that bother me, but...) Overall, I think it's a very powerful set of stories.

MAX STEEL
We've completed writing and recording all 13 episodes for the first season. Post-production should begin after the first of the year. The CGI series should premeire in February on the WB's Saturday Morning. And now that the heavy lifting is done, I'm all but unemployed, which means I should have plenty of time for ASK GREG.

NAZCA
A good friend of mine did the English dub for this Japanese Anime series. Thom Adcox does the voice for one of the leads, and I do a few incidental voices here and there. (Yes, the man who brought you "Nice Mask!" and "Father, the rockets aren't working!" is back behind the microphone. God help us all.) It's available on home video in stores starting mid-January.

JUSTICE LEAGUE GIANT
As many of you already know, I did a CAPTAIN ATOM/JLE/GARGOYLES parody team-up for this comic book. I wrote it a year ago and I still haven't seen the final result, but I'm told it turned out all right. And every copy you buy puts about a tenth of a penny into my pocket... Seriously, it wouldn't hurt if this issue sold out and was followed by a letter writing campaign asking DC to do an actual Gargoyles comic. Don't know if it would work, but it wouldn't hurt.

UCLA EXTENSION
For those of you living in the L.A. Area, Kevin Hopps and I are teaching a twenty week course on writing for Television Animation through UCLA Extension's Writer's Program at Universal CityWalk starting this Spring and running through the Summer. Hope to see some of you there.

Now, back to your questions...


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Captain Atom & the Gargoyles

Reprinting (for posterity) what I just posted in the comment room:

Just a quick response/explanation to Alex (aka Simon).

I couldn't really do a full-on Captain Atom story. I was limited to 10 pages (and it takes a lot of time to write that short) and it was a JLA GIANT, so I was obligated to include the JLE from that era. Those were my marching orders.

So Dan Raspler (my editor) and I decided to do something fun. Something with Captain Atom elements, but something more in the tone of the JLE of that era -- admittedly, a sillier mag than the CAPTAIN ATOM book I used to write back then. But even in those days, when I put the JLE into Cap's book, I tried to split the difference on the tone, so that the transition wasn't too jarring.

I suggested making it a real exercise in self-indulgence by including a bit of a GARGOYLES parody. He went for it.

Now, in my first draft, I did open the story by showing the Funeral-At-Sea of Heinrich Megala. But my editor felt that it was too serious. That it clashed with the tone of the rest of the story. I didn't disagree. (I just didn't care.) But he didn't like it. So we went with what you saw.

Or so I assume. I haven't seen it yet. I called Dan yesterday, and he promised to send me a copy. Originally, Pat Broderick was supposed to do the pencilling -- a reunion of sorts. I don't know exactly what happened, but Pat didn't end up doing the story. So I can't even imagine what it looks like. And I don't know how much or how little I was edited. I hope it plays.

And I hope that clears things up.

By the way, I'm almost done with the writing and editing of Max Steel. I promise that after the first of the year, I'm going to try to MUSCLE through the backlog here at ASK GREG.

Sorry for the delays.


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Where have I been...

I can't believe I'm still answering questions from back in July.

Please have patience with me. I have been completely swamped working on a new series for SONY (makers of MIB & Starship Troopers) and the WB (the network of BATMAN BEYOND). It's called "MX1: MAX STEEL", and if I survive the production process it should be a pretty cool show.

Here's a little info:

I'm the story editor and one of the producers.

It's not the same job/responsibility/freedom that I had on Gargoyles, but it is the closest I've come to it since way back then.

The Executive Producers are Richard Raynis and Jeff Kline.

The other Producer (on the art side) is Bob Richardson.

Sue Blue is our voice director.

We've got an order for 13 episodes. Each stands alone, hopefully, but as usual with my stuff they'll play better in sequence. I hope they air in order someday.

As of today, the writing breaks down as follows:

1. "Strangers" by Greg Weisman.
2. "Sacrifices" by Greg Weisman.
3. "Shadows" by Lydia Marano.
4. "Sportsmen" by Jon Weisman.
5. "Seraphim" by Michael Reaves.
6. "Spear-Carriers" by Kevin Hopps.
7. "Snow-Blind" by Mike Ryan.
8. "Sharks" by Katherine Fugate.
9. "Sabres" by Cary Bates.
10. "Sphinxes" by Gary Sperling.
11. "Swashbucklers" by Jon Weisman.
12. "Scions" by Cary Bates.
13. "Shattered" by Kevin Hopps.

The voice cast is pretty impressive to, with quite a few names familiar to Gargoyles fandom...

Our five regulars...
Christian Campbell
Jacob Vargas
Shannon Kenny
Chi McBride
Lauren Tom

Recurring & Guest Cast includes (in order of appearance):
John de Lancie
Keith Szarabajka
Jean Gilpin
Martin Jarvis
Thomas Wilson (aka Matt Bluestone)
Edward Asner (aka Hudson)
Jason Marsden
Jeff Bennett (aka Brooklyn, Owen, etc.)
Julia Kato
Obba Babbatunde
Cam Clarke (aka Young Gillecomgain & Eric Sturlesson)
Thom Adcox Hernandez (aka Lexington)
Greg Rainwater (aka Natsilane & Coyote Trickster)
August Paro
Robert Cait

And that's just after having recorded five episodes.

The show is 100% CGI. We have high hopes.

In other news, I just attended what could be called my first GARGOYLE wedding. Marc Perlman (our music editor) and Laurel Whitcomb (our publicist) met at the Gargoyle Premiere Party in 1994. They've been an item ever since, and finally made it official yesterday. The wedding was great fun, and I was singled out as being responsible for bringing them together.

Geez, talk about pressure.

I loved it.

I will get back to answering questions as soon as I can. Hope this little update tides you over a bit.



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