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Chapter XIV: "Leader of the Pack"

I've already dealt with the changes between the first and second seasons of GARGOYLES. (See a previous ramble on that subject.) And hopefully you've all read the serialized postings of the memo I wrote to Michael Reaves in July of 94. Note the date. I was writing that memo to Michael a good three months before the first season of the series would actually premiere. Meaning, Michael, myself, all of us, were just guessing.

Now, finally, I have the time to sit down and ramble about my recent re-viewing of "Leader"...

STORY EDITOR: Michael Reaves.
WRITER: Steven Perry.

Some things were coming to fruition in this episode. A CY.O.T.I. robot had been part of the original development of the show and the Pack. Six characters seemed like a bit much, but the main reason we left CY.O.T.I. out of "Thrill of the Hunt" was because of the way we wound up intro-ing the Pack, that is as a group of T.V. super-heroes. Giving them a realistic robot in that context didn't seem to fit. By the time we got around to introducing the show's version of the Coyote robot (note the NORMAL spelling) much had changed in how we conceived the thing. And yet many of the original elements were still present, if altered. The orignal CY.O.T.I. (CYber-Operational Technical Individual -- or something like that) was a hovering robotic head. But not a Xanatos head. It was a dog-faced head. The head could attach to multiple different robotic bodies, as well as lock into various vehicles as a kind-of autoMATED pilot. One of the robotic bodies was four-legged, dog-shaped. Another was bipedal. But in either case there was never any question that the robot was a robot.

But by the time, we got to "Leader" we had learned so much more about our characters, that our whole conception of CY.O.T.I. changed into the Coyote you know. Part of the change came right out of how sophisticated Xanatos himself was. David constantly made Michael and I jump through hoops to come up with trickier and trickier plots. Plots that would allow the Gargoyles to generally triumph, and yet allow Xanatos to snatch some real victory out of seeming total defeat in what had become our trademark Xanatos Tag sequences. The one in "Leader" is one of the best, which brings up another thing that came to fruition in this episode. When we first created the Pack, I had NO IDEA that Fox and Xanatos were an item. That was a complete discovery, a revelation that came to us during the making of "Her Brother's Keeper": akin to, "Ohmigod, Fox is in love with David!!!" I don't know if it shocked you guys, but it sure came as a surprise to me, their so-called creator. Another instance when I think of myself less as a writer, and more as simply the guy who was tapping into what was really going on in the GARGOYLES UNIVERSE. When did you guys figure it out? During "Brother's Keeper"? During "Leader"? Or not until the end of "Leader" when it was objectively revealed? (Obviously, any of you who saw later episodes first are disqualified from voting on this one.)

Anyway, since we knew they were destined for each other, and we had this semi-top secret plan for them to marry and extremely top-secret plan for them to procreate, we knew we had to get Fox out of jail. And not break her out. But have her out more-or-less scott free. So that would be Xanatos' plan. All the subterfuge would lead to that. Having the robot pose as Xanatos in armor, allowed us for the kind of multiple surprise onion-peeling kind of story that I just live for. Plus it would leave us with a more wieldy five-man Pack again. Fox would graduate. Coyote would take her place.

One tricky thing was electronically futzing Jonathan Frakes' voice when Coyote was wearing his helmet. We wanted to alter it enough so that no one would know it was "Xanatos" until after he took off the helmet. But we didn't want to alter it SO much that you couldn't register Jonathan's standardly and casually wonderful acting AS Xanatos inside the armor. I think we succeeded. (Credit for that goes to the guys at Advantage Audio, who mixed the show. Real unsung heroes.)

We also gave Jamie Thomason, our voice director, and Jonathan the key note that would differentiate the true Xanatos from Coyote. And that was Coyote's fairly primitive desire for vengeance. If I do say so myself, I thought this was a terrific clue, a great moment of fair play, planted in the story. I wanted people to be a little surprised that Xanatos would care about vengeance. But I also figured most would buy into it, because we're all so trained to think of villains in a certain way. But then when Xanatos calls revenge a "sucker's game" at the end, the audience would feel "Oh, of course. That's OUR Xanatos. The other guy was just a cheap imitation." Who was fooled? Who wasn't? I'm curious to know.

When Coyote first took off his helmet at the end of Act One, my three year old son Ben yelled out "Xanatos!" He was truly and wonderfully surprised at that moment. It was fun.

Random observation: Wolf's not doing real push-ups. Not fully extending, either up or down.

Another thing we did do for the NEW SEASON start up was feature the gargs EXPLODING out of stone. Another of our series' trademarks that we wanted to be sure to get into the first episode of the new season.

Coyote clearly has a "quip chip" installed. He's got some great very Xanatosian lines. "Exact change". "Wanna see what I can do with both hands." Etc.

In fact lots of characters have great cutting lines in this one. Owen is wonderfully officious, even a tad smarmy in this one. You can almost see Puck smiling through, and this is before I knew Owen was Puck. But his, "Shouldn't you... be there." is just great.

Or Brooklyn's line: "Yeah, why should we stay up here... where it's safe." Great.

And Hyena: "I love a man who brings me weapons..." and "A robot?! Even better." Classic. And that was another discovery. Hyena would have the hots for Coyote. It wouldn't necessarily be reciprocated, but the mere fact that he was a robot wouldn't bug her. (I'm guessing she's used to using technology to satisfy her desires.) On some level, I think this was us (and Hyena) just being perverse for the sake of perverseness. But I also think it created an interesting parallel to Goliath and Elisa's relationship, if that doesn't sound to preposterous.

______

Another random observation: Hyena mentions Santa Claus. :) Ho ho ho.

______

CHARACTER CONTINUITY:
I think there was a semi-conscious desire to give every character something that new and returning viewers could use to hang their hats on, so-to-speak.

Lex is still so angry at the Pack for events in "Thrill of the Hunt" that he's literally HOPPING mad. Actually, that bit of hopping bugged me. Made Lex look silly and young at a point when I was hoping to present him as truly dangerous. Oh, well...

Brooklyn still feels the same way about Demona. And he's self-aware enough to know it. Though not mature enough to get passed it. (That'll come -- sometime in 2158.)

Broadway still hates guns and smashes them at every opportunity. (Lex obviously doesn't share his rookery-brother's opinion. Lex looks real tough holding that launcher. And I think it's a fairly shocking moment when that hole gets blown in Coyote's torso, and Lex is revealed -- through the hole, no less -- as the shooter. Even though we know by this time that Coyote is a robot, I still think it's one of the most violent images that ever appeared in our show. And it's all about context and attitude. You get the sense that Lex might just do the exact same thing to any of the human members of the Pack too.)

Hudson is still the observant guy who deduces events from what remains behind. "There's been a struggle here..." is right in keeping with his tracking skills and the way he examined that tampered-with bow back in "Awakening, Part Two".

Bronx is still a good judge of character. And he hates robots with fearful abandon. We decided he could literally smell when something isn't human. If it talks like a duck and walks like a duck, we naturally assume that it's a duck. But for Bronx it better smell like a duck or he's going to rip its face off, eh? That was another great shocking moment, I think. There's a little bit of WESTWORLD homage going on. Or FEMBOT homage, depending on how old you are. (I'm old enough to remember both.) It's pretty cool. And I love Coyote's head rocketing off at the end. It's so cool and sick. I fell in love with that head, and decided to use it in all future Coyote's -- one way or another.

Nietzche, Sartre, Kafka. That exchange was pure Perry-Reaves. And people tell me _I_ write to old for the demographic. Geez.

I love that moment when the phone rings at PackMedia Studios. (Also have I mentioned I love the name PackMedia. It's so perfect.) Anyway, Broadway's tentative response, before picking it up. And Owen knowing someone WOULD just pick up. It kills me.

As most of you know I favor one word titles. But "Leader of the Pack" WAS in fact one of mine. It was just irresistible.

The fight between the Gargs and the Pack aboard the oil tanker was very well-choreographed in script. But this was an instance where, in my opinion, our board artists lost the forest for the trees. The fight in storyboard went off on some wonderful tangents -- that wound up creating problems for those interested in keeping track of our combatants. Who was where and when just became a mess. We basically were able to fix those problems in film editing. But that's accomplished by keeping the fight well-paced. In the script, I actually think it's well-choreographed. In particular, Broadway freeing Lex, Brook and Bronx made a bit more sense in the script.

Coyote's perception-warping weapon is very cool. We probably didn't use it enough. Mainly because it was too effective. Too hard to stop.

I wanted the gargs to have to swim back to shore from the sinking tanker. But no one else agreed with me.

The head of Fox's parole board is voiced by Jim Cummings (aka Dingo, Darkwing Duck, Bonkers, etc.), doing his best Orson Wells imitation. Which is damned good by the way. Jim Cummings and Jeff Bennett in the same show. Man, were we blessed or what?

And coming full circle, we have our great Xanatos Tag. The villains kiss passionately. You don't see that too often in cartoons, I think. I love Xanatos' great line "That was merely the icing, you're the cake." And also his "true love is so much harder to come by." But here's my question for you guys. At the time, did you really think Xanatos was truly in love with Fox, or did you think he was merely being glib? I knew by that time, but even David didn't. Wasn't until "Eye of the Beholder" that HE realized how deep his feelings were for Fox.

So, comments?


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SEASON TWO

Well, my plan had been to finished transcribing the "Leader of the Pack" outline memo. Then start on my new ramble on seeing the episode last week. However, I'm at home today and the only copy of the memo is still at the office. So I'll finish the memo soon. Meantime, here's a ramble that "Leader" inspired with a little background info on the transition to Season Two...

So the second season begins. And we had a new system in place. Tiers and tentpoles. As you may recall from a previous ramble we had run into huge scheduling difficulties with "Enter Macbeth". The animation had come back very problematic and the nature of the story was such that we couldn't air it out of order. I received a mandate to make sure in Season Two's fifty-two episode killer schedule that we do everything possible not to run into that kind of problem again.

Trouble was, I liked the sequential nature of the series. If all the episodes could air in any order with no effect on each other then how could the characters grow, evolve, change? How could the situations?

My solution was tiers and tentpoles. We would create tiers of episodes that could air in any order as long as they aired BETWEEN their tentpole multi-parters. We'd pay special attention to the Tentpole episodes to make sure THEY didn't get into production trouble that would derail the entire airing schedule. But if an individual episode within a tier ran late, we could skootch another one forward without causing any harm.

Tentpole One was retroactively set as the "Awakening" five-parter. Tier One was retroactively everything between that and "Reawakening", which became Tentpole Two by default. (Now obviously the Season One airing order was very important, but they had aired already, so I didn't have to worry about them anymore.)

Tentpole Three would be the "City of Stone" four parter. Tier Two would include eight episodes: "Leader of the Pack", "Metamorphosis", "Legion", "A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time", "The Silver Falcon", "The Mirror", "Eye of the Beholder" and "Vows". In theory, I was supposed to make sure that these eight could air in any given order.

In practice, it never turned out to be that simple. For example, how could I air "Vows", the episode where Xanatos & Fox wed before "Eye of the Beholder" the episode where they get engaged? I wound up having a strong order preference for ALL 65 episodes. Tiers and Tentpoles be damned. But the truth is, the system served us well. It did tend to keep us on track. Creatively, it allowed us to build to strong multi-parters. And we rarely ever HAD to air episodes out of my preferred order. We only screwed up twice. "The Price" aired too soon. "Kingdom" aired too late. But only someone paying VERY careful attention would notice that. (Of course, anyone fanatical enough to be reading this was probably one of those people paying VERY careful attention.)

So anyway, "Leader" was my choice to open the new season. Lots of action. Some really great twists and turns. Some great character moments. It all seemed like a great way to intro potential new viewers to the series. BTWE, is there anyone out there for whom "Leader" was their first GARGOYLES episode? I'd love to hear from you here at ASK GREG.

We made other changes off the first season, as well. We had rebuilt the opening titles sequence to include some new footage. Keith David/Goliath's narration was added as well. This was written by Gary Sperling and myself. And hotly debated around our offices. Hotly debated inside my own brain as well. Frank Paur and I both felt that the titles were more powerful, more dramatic WITHOUT the narration. But we wanted to make sure that the series was still accessible to new viewers. The narration would serve the same function as the GILLIGAN'S ISLAND theme song. If you missed our pilot, you could still get the set up. Frank & I could see the wisdom of both positions. Even our boss, Gary Krisel, could. He left it up to me. I finally decided to err (and air) on the side of caution. I needn't have worried about "drama". Keith's voice, as usual, was so dramatic, that the opening narration became a classic -- reprinted on nearly every garg website I've ever seen. My kids love to shout out "WE LIVE AGAIN!" in chorus with Keith.

Another thing we did was to permanently install those "Previously on Gargoyles..." recaps at the head of EVERY episode. This was done for three reasons. One, see above, we wanted new viewers to have a chance to get what was going on without requiring them to see every episode that had come before. So the salient points could and would be summed up in those recaps. Two, since at some future time there was the possibility that the episodes WOULD air out of order, the recaps would help ground a viewer in when this particular episode was falling. And most important, three, it helped us in editing.

You see, footage would come back from overseas. And sometimes it would be great. And sometimes not. But no matter how good it was there wasn't a single episode that couldn't be improved by trimming a few frames here, a few frames there. No scenes were cut wholesale, but timing was improved and sped up. Mistakes were edited out. The recap gave us thirty extra seconds per episode of editing flexibility.

Now, on some level, the recaps may have backfired. Though they provided useful information, they may have given new viewers the IMPRESSION that there was too much to learn. I'm not sure it's true, but I've heard that argument. Also, I started hearing from the Disney Afternoon mailing list that everyone hated the recaps, because what they included tended to give away too much in the episode that was about to air. We fixed that problem midway through the season. Me, I still have no regrets. As I've mentioned before, HILL STREET BLUES was a major influence. The "Previously on..." format (which everyone uses today) came right out of Hill Street, so I was comfortable with it. And that 30 seconds of editing flexibility absolutely helped the shows play better.

NEXT TIME ON GREG'S RAMBLES...
More from my original memo to Michael Reaves and my specific responses to reviewing "Leader of the Pack"...


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Batman vs. Gargoyles...

As I believe I've mentioned before, there was once some fear at Buena Vista (our distribution arm) that GARGOYLES would be perceived as a rip off of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Now, that seems all but laughable, but then it was a sincere concern at BVTV. (The fact that we had Frank & Michael on our show, both of them major contributors to B:TAS, probably didn't help.) So they asked me to write up a memo showing the differences. That memo follows, unedited. Note the date.

(6-14-94)

Random thoughts on the differences between Gargoyles and Batman:

--Batman was traumatized as a child, by witnessing the death of his parents, which left him totally alone and psychologically scarred for life.
--Goliath had a major tragedy occur in his life, but it happened when he was an adult. He was not left totally alone. He is mature enough to realize that bad things can happen to good gargoyles and he is creating a positive life for himself and his clan.

--Batman fights criminals because of a deep-psychological need to stop their evil.
--Goliath and the gargoyles protect the innocent because they are protective by nature. It is a very primal instinct to them. They are not taking eternal vengeance.

--Batman is one man in a suit. (Two men if you count Robin.) He wears a mask to protect his secret identity.
--There are six gargoyles, each with unique personalities. And they are a different species -- monsters. Nothing put on. No secret identies. No posing as normal. Very little technology.

--Gotham City is New York at it's worst. Dark, ugly, cynical.
--Goliath's Manhattan is a dangerous but beautiful place, w/a rich colorful palate. A place of Hope.

--Batman faces a colorful array of villains, all with their own separate backstories.
--The Gargoyles face a colorful array of villains, whose backstories intertwine with the gargoyle's own rich history in ancient Scotland and modern Manhattan.

--Batman is reality based w/a few exaggerations and sci-fi elements thrown in.
--Gargoyles is more fantastic. Magic is quantifiable, but it exists. Immortals and sorcerers walk the earth.

--Batman is a man for his time.
--The gargoyles are creatures who are displaced in time trying to adjust to the modern world.

--Batman has no regular female character (unless you count villains like Poison Ivy or the occasional use of Batgirl.)
--The gargoyles are supported by Elisa Maza, a strong, capable but tender, female New York Police detective.

--Batman wears a cape.
--The gargoyles have wings which can fold over like a cape, but can also be used to glide through the air, simulating true flight.

--Batman wears a utility belt with gadgets included.
--Gargoyles don't. Hudson wears a sword though.

--Batman wears boots.
--Gargoyles are barefoot.

--Batman doesn't have super-human strength or powerful claws or a tail.
--The gargoyles do.

--Batman doesn't turn to stone every morning and then explode out of stone every night.
--Gargoyles do.

--Batman doesn't have a dog.
--Gargoyles have Bronx.

--Bruce Wayne has nearly unlimited wealth to subsidize his heroics with technology.
--Xanatos has nearly unlimited wealth to subsidize his villainy with technology. The gargoyles have a medium-sized t.v. set and a used barca-lounger.

--The Batcave is a high-tech top secret location located underneath stately Wayne Manor.
--The clock tower is a low-tech place to hide above the police precint in Manhattan.

--Batman has a butler.
--The gargoyles don't.

I hope this is helpful. Though I don't know why it would be.

As you can see, I didn't take the assignment too seriously. The only real key point for me is the first one. The differences between the tragedies and the heroes' reactions to those tragedies. Also that Xanatos is the anti-Bruce Wayne. But c'mon... "Batman has a butler. The Gargoyles don't". Was I stretching or what?


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Joxter the Mighty writes...

Recently, when someone asked you what other cartoons you liked, you mentioned among them, "Old Development Bonkers"... What did you mean by that?

Greg responds...

There were two versions of Bonkers. One that I developed which featured Bonkers, Jitters, Sgt. Grating and Miranda Wright.

There were some problems on the show that came to light when episodes first came back from overseas. Disney panicked. Over-reacted. They basically took everyone off the show and started from scratch with a new developement and production team.

They tossed everything but Bonkers himself. Brought in Detective Piquel, and I think, watered down the premise. Some of the episodes might have been individually better -- and I think the art direction was definitely improved, but the ideas that made the show unique were flattened or ignored.

Then to add insult to injury they aired all the NEW episodes first, and created a "Transition episode" to transition from the Piquel episodes to the Miranda episodes, making it appear as if our stuff had been an afterthought. Given that our show didn't LOOK as good, it made us seem like a poor replacement, when in fact I think our stories were better (just my opinion).

By the way, the Miranda/Bonkers relationship was a clear precedent for Elisa/Goliath. (Doesn't that seem strange?) And because I didn't get to play out all my HILL STREET BLUES inspired cop ideas in Bonkers, it gave impetus to making Elisa a cop so that I could play that stuff out in Gargoyles.

Response recorded on April 07, 2000

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Siren writes...

I didn't happen to see this one, but if it is there and I missed it, I am sorry...but here it goes...

In 1972 there was an old movie called Gargoyles. One of the names of the gargoyles is Goliath, though not mentioned in the movie itself, I believe it is on credits. The whole story being gargoyles have been persecuted by man for centuries and now their back for revenge (B-movie, but I like it). And a few gargs in that resemble Disney's Gargoyles. Was this pure coincidence or was that partially your inspiration?

Greg responds...

This was NOT an inspiration. I have seen it. (The Cornell Wilde tv movie, with Bernie Casey as the lead garg, right?) We all watched it at Disney after we had developed our GARGOYLES, to see if it might cause us any legal problems. We decided there was nothing to worry about. The gargs in that movie may have felt persecuted, but as I recall they were spawns of Satan, kidnapping humans, etc. I definitely don't remember any GOLIATH in the film, though I never studied the credits.

Response recorded on April 05, 2000

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Theseus Addendum

One more thing, Aris,

About the Helen thing. I'm not trying to defend it, but I think the motivation wasn't any desire to possess a barely-pubescent Helen. I can't believe a guy who loved Antiope, wanting that. I think he was trying to stick it to all those young heroes of the new generation. I don't approve of his methods, and he wasn't able to pull it off even. But it was an act of rebellion. An act of societal perversion (as opposed to sexual perversion).

Anyway, that's my take.


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Ambrosia writes...

Hi Greg!! I was just reading your interview with Lexy. You said that you hoped Gargoyles would inspire people to learn more about sujects you touched on... and I realized that it has done exactly that for me. In fact, I don't know if I realized the magnitude of an impact Gargoyles has had in my life until I thought about that...
In The Mirror when the clan is trying to explain to Elisa who Oberon's Children are (I thought everybody knew this??), Brooklyn says, "Yeah, that guy Shakespeare wrote a play about them: A Midsummer Night's Dream." The next day after I saw that episode, I had the play in my possession and began poring over it. This began a love/obsession for Shakespeare- particularly that play.
Also, I read your ramblings about Theseus and decided I needed to learn more about him. Mary Renault's The King Must Die stuck out in my memory one day between classes and I found it in the library. I'll post again when I'm finished with it.
In ancient history 103, I could be tired and completely tune out my professor, but I'd hear the word "Scotland" and snap back awake and pay perfect attention.
I never really thought about these things as they were happening, but looking back I can see that so many things I've learned or done came from gargoyles: I'm teaching myself to draw, I want to visit New York... stuff like that. I wanted to say... thanks!

Greg responds...

And I want to say "YOU ARE VERY, VERY WELCOME!" As a former educator (who's about to start teaching again tomorrow) your message really warmed my heart.

Shakespeare and Renault are two of my favorite authors. It thrills me that I turned you on to them.

But you know what? The show had the same effect on me. I've fallen in love with Scottish History as well. I knew nothing about it before GARGOYLES. Now I'm fairly well-versed and, at the very least, very interested.

HEY! TELL YOUR TEACHER!

Response recorded on April 04, 2000

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Aris Katsaris writes...

Well if *you* can ramble about Theseus, so can I. :-)

I think that his lifepath began even before his conception. Childless Aegeus, goes to the Delphi to ask how he may get children - the oracle warns him *not* to drink wine; tells him how *not* to have children (which implies that it predicts either Aegeus's own death due to Theseus or Theseus' other deeds)

Aegeus doesn't understand the oracle, but Pittheus does - he gets him drunk and has him sleep with Aethra, Pitheus's daughter. It seems he desires to have his grandson on the throne of Athens - and for that cause he doesn't mind using his daughter. So Theseus is a "bastard" - but not the bastard of a love relationship, not even a bastard caused by lust such as Arthur was. He is a bastard whose birth was just a means to an end, a product of politics.

This *has* to screw him up in some ways. His father figure Pittheus is using him. Aethra never cared for Aegeus, and was herself used by her father in the worst way imaginable - could she subconsciously resent her own son because of that? And his relationship with his real father Aegeus begins through the test he places on him to see if he's worthy - talk about conditional love! Given the relationships which created him, it's no wonder that all the relationship he gets into are twisted and diseased in some way.

Then there's his idol: Heracles. While Theseus is still a kid Hercules comes to Troezen - among the children Theseus is the only one who is not terrified by the lion-skin that Hercules is wearing. He has to have noticed the admiration that everyone was giving to Hercules.

And even if Theseus can't know love, he *can* know admiration. So, when he grows up he goes out of his way to do heroic deeds - most other heroes of antiquity (Jason, Bellerophon, even Hercules to a large extent) had their quests forced on them - others like Odysseus simply stumbled upon heroism. But Theseus pursues heroism. He kills the robbers. But his sickened sense of relationships manifests itself: He 'ravishes' the daughters of both Sinis and Cercyon. One could think of a version where this is consentual - but in my mind it seems more reasonable to think that he saw them as trophies and rewards and didn't care what they thought.

He goes to Athens and once again pursues heroism by going to Crete: so as to kill the Minotaur, he doesn't hesitate to promise marriage to Ariadne - manipulation through lust once again - even though he already had a lover (Periboea) among the young women on the ship. He kills Ariadne's half-brother (the Minotaur) and her full brother Deucalion. And then he abandons her because of the wishes of the gods - but even if it was his own idea I don't mind that one - a woman who'd cause her brothers' death isn't one I'd like sleeping next to me - after all Medea was the last famous woman who did that, and Jason would have been better off if he had abandoned her also...

I agree that Antiope is the most 'equal' relationship he gets into, the most genuine one - Antiope seems to truly love or atleast be attracted to Theseus. But we can't forget that Theseus' mission to the Amazons was originally nothing more than another of his heroic quests: He went with the goal of kidnapping their queen - she was (in the beginning atleast) just another trophy... And in one version of the story he treats her as such abandoning her and marrying Phaedra (though in most versions Hippolyta dies
fighting on his side)

His wedding with Phaedra is once again loveless - no need to expand on that. And after his son's death he has to simply not know what to do but fall back to his own habits seeking something he can't have, vainly pursuing happiness through "heroism": And in the case of Helen, all his negative traits, his lovelessness, his rashness, his viewing women as trophies all manifest themselves...

So in my opinion he *is* a tragic character - His deeds seem to have been sprung through the situation which bore him - I can have pity and understanding for him as the product of an extremely disfunctional family. And he's a fascinating character: But if he's a hero, then I see him as providing a dark vision of what heroism can do when it's sought after, rather than stumbled upon.

Greg responds...

Aris, as always, please ramble all you like...

You're version of the myth however, includes things that mine doesn't. This creates two obvious possibilities:

1) My version is whitewashed.

2) Your version is biased.

Either way, we've got some propaganda going.

Now it would be easy to assume that 1 is more likely than 2. After all, most of what we know from Greek myth, we know via the Athenian culture, where Theseus was a hero. One would tend to think that they'd want to present their guy in the best possible light -- thus the whitewashing. It's also possible that the Athenians told the story straight, and that the whitewashing came down the centuries as people tried to make Theseus more of a roll model than he really was.

But I'm going to argue (from a pro-Thesean bias that I'll admit up-front) for #2. Because I think both versions of the myth come from Athens. Take the negative slant on Pittheus, for example. That sounds like propaganda to me. Aegeus has a kid out of wedlock. Don't blame the Athenian king, blame that Troezen trickster Pittheus. But the trickster (or villain label) doesn't sit with the old man that well. There's no hint of godly justice taking him down for that bit of nefarious business. No hint in the myths that he was trying to push young Theseus to claim the throne of Athens or to unite the kingdoms under Troezen control. So I prefer to assume something different. I prefer to think that there was something real between Aethra and Aegeus. I won't necessarily say love, since they hardly knew each other. But I'd like to think they made a real connection. And they made love. I'd also like to think that after Aegeus left, Poseidon showed up in Aegeus' form, and that he and Aethra made love too. That way NONE of them (including Poseidon) really know whether Theseus is the son of a king or of a god.

At any rate, Aegeus and Aethra didn't marry. Marrying a king is big business. Again, I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. He was straight with her. She still wanted him. They swam out to the island. Shared a sweet night together. And he swam off, but not before leaving provisions as to what to do in the UNLIKELY event that the union resulted in issue. (Remember, he thought he was sterile.)

She didn't throw a fit. And even after she discovered she was pregnant, she let things ride. Pittheus raises the boy without complaint. Teaches him to be a man. At any rate, I don't believe he grew up not knowing love. I think his mother loved him. I think his grandfather loved him. So I won't give him that excuse for anything he did, good or bad.

As for the Herakles stuff... Well, sure young Theseus might have been impressed, but he always took Herc with a grain of salt. Yes, Herc inspired him to "Great Deeds", but I'm not sure that's as bad as you make it sound. And Theseus was always the thinking man's hero. Always using brains as often as -- or more often than -- brawn. And always in control of his faculties, never going mad and slaughtering loved ones mindlessly. Later, when Herc and Theseus went on a few adventures together, he helped keep the big man from going berserker.

Did he rape the bandits' daughters? I hope not. I'm not sure they ever existed. They're not IN every version of the myth. Again, keep in mind, Athens (or at least Athenians) would have been of two minds on Theseus. Yes, he was their hero. But he also abandoned them. Do you love him for the good days? Or do you revile him for the bad? Maybe, a little of both. And maybe both sides twist his story a bit to suit their interpretations. I can't help thinking the truth is in the middle.

Because, NO, I don't think Theseus is a good roll model. He's clearly more fascinating than flat-out heroic. And he didn't end nearly as well as he began. And there's no divine redemption either. No Herculean ascent to Olympus. No godhood. He is human right until the end. And probably after. He is a bastard. In all the negative and misunderstood and put-upon and over-coming connotations of the term. ALL OF THEM.

But back to the narrative...

Was it rape? Were they even the bandits' daughters? Or might they have been slaves that he set free (after a party)? I don't know. But again, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Because, I see this YOUNG Theseus as a guy struggling to be Lancelot. He's not like Lancelot. He's too damn clever for his own good to really play the Lancelot roll. Too much of a bastard. But he's trying, I think. Inspired not by the true Herakles but by the big man's press, he's setting out as a knight errant to do right. So that he can walk into Athens as a MAN. As someone who DESERVES his birthright. That's the kind of boy that I think Pittheus and Aethra raised. (As I've mentioned before, my thinking is heavily influenced by Mary Renault.)

It's the noble Lancelot in him that sends him to Crete. And yes, of course he kills the Minotaur. The New Olympians may have gotten us to look at this another way, but from his point of view the Minotaur is an out-and-out monster, literally eating the youth of Athens. And the people of Crete, who keep their dirty secret locked up and feed it on the tribute children of their conquered enemies aren't much better (or are arguably worse) than the creature itself. So I shed no tears for Ariadne's brother. This was a rebellion of slaves against their evil masters. If Deucalion got in Theseus' way, so be it.

As for his Athenian lover, well, again, I'd like to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. I'm assuming, for starters, that by custom if not inclination, that Theseus was bisexual. That most of the Athenian youth were. That desperate people in a desperate situation reached out to each other for comfort doesn't trouble me. That they had multiple partners over (do I have this right?) seven years, doesn't bother me either. I think that Periboea may have been one of many lovers. And that she may have had many herself (of both sexes). This doesn't get in the way of him having sincere feelings for Ariadne. Feelings he believed at the time were true love. Romantic infatuation. A Lancelot looking for his Guinevere, and thinking he has found her.

And I don't need the "Medea-excuse" to justify him leaving her later. I've read enough versions of the myth where Dionysus didn't give Theseus a choice in the matter. And that was before I saw Renault's version wherein -- SPOILERS HERE -- Theseus is horrified to see what Ariadne does during the Dionysian rites. He does still love her. But he won't bring someone capable of that back to Athens as his bride.

And I'm not troubled that his intentions en route to battle the Amazons were less than honorable. After all, he was a king, setting out to conquer. It was part of the job description. Besides, it's what he ultimately did, not what he originally intended that truly frames his character. And I think here, as I've said before, he truly fell in love. A love of equals. One of the ONLY Greek heros to fall for a woman who truly was his equal. Instead of conquering the Amazons, he allies with them. He does right by Antiope, until she dies in battle, by his side. This is the true Theseus. Not the kid looking to be a hero. Not the bitter guy he'd become. This is the hero -- in fact, not by design or default, but defined by his actions. The man who loves equally. Who brings constitutional monarchy to his people. This is the great man. But then she dies. And so it can't last.

Phaedra. Yeah. A political marriage. I like to think he was, at least, fond of her. That maybe he hoped to see a bit of Ariadne in her. But she f**ked with his head. And, yes, he was open to it. He let himself be rashly used. He clearly sinned here. I refuse to absolve him for Hyppolytus' death. But that doesn't mean that I don't think he wasn't more sinned against than sinning. Antiope's death killed something in him. He didn't truly know how to raise Hyppolytus without her. I think he indulged the kid and wound up distanced from him. And he indulged his new young wife and wound up a stranger to her. And then he indulged his own bitter temper. And wound up broken.

Broken, but ironically not bent. He's no longer young. But he's still virile. And in a way, that works out very BADLY for him. No sitting back and enjoying the fruits of his labors. He's got too much damn energy for that. So the energy gets channeled into bad friends, stupid choices and wild schemes.

After Hyppolytus' death, well, I have to agree that it's all downhill. (Though I'd change the subconcious motivations, based on my interpretations.) He doesn't care any more. He's empty. This is the third Theseus. Not the young Lancelot. Not the true hero. But the guy left over. The good-looking, well-trained, virile, vital, empty wreck. He did some truly stupid stuff here. But even with the wildly nutty Helen stunt, I can't help loving him all the more for it.

But that's my problem, I guess. :)

Response recorded on April 03, 2000

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Todd Jensen writes...

Oh, one thing that I forgot to mention in my reply to your "Awakening Part Two" ramble, but I was intrigued by your mention of how you were deliberately going for "Gargoyles" being different from "Batman", and that list of differences that you drew up. I can see a few of those differences, of course (some you mentioned in that Gargoyles Bible for Season One, but a few I can come up with myself - I've seen some episodes of "Batman:TAS" myself, although I never quite got into it as much as I got into "Gargoyles").

1. (One of your points). Batman is a crime-fighter because his parents were killed by criminals in front of him when he was a boy, and so he HAS to fight crime as a means of coping with his loss. Goliath was himself grieved by the slaughter of his clan, but that's not why he fights crime in New York; it's because it's a natural evolution for the 1990's of his "Gargoyles protect" role.

2. (Also from your Gargoyles Bible, or inspired by it). Gotham City is a gloom-ridden, cheerless city, overrun with crime and with bizarre freakish criminals such as the Joker, Two-Face, and Scarecrow. The gargoyles' New York is a more balanced city, where there is something of a crime problem, but coming from more "mundane" criminals like Tony Dracon (whose only bizarre trait is that white streak in his hair), and where there's wonders and beauty to be found rather than just misery and despair. (Although Jackal, Hyena, and Wolf all strike me, particularly after "Upgrade", as definitely Arkham Asylum material).

3. Batman's entire life is focused on crime-fighting, with Bruce Wayne as just a necessary mask that he wears, something of a facade. (I recall reading once in a book about the making of "Batman:TAS" that in the production team's view of him, his temptation isn't to give up being Batman and lead a normal life as Bruce Wayne; it's to discard his Bruce Wayne identity and become Batman full-time). The gargoyles have been able to find lives outside of just patrolling the city and protecting it: Goliath reads (particularly the classics such as Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky), the trio go to music concerts and movies, Lexington also pursues his interests in technological matters, Broadway and Hudson learn how to read, the trio all court Angela when she joins them, etc. Quite different from Batman's grim, driven single-mindedness.

Well, there are probably some more, but these are the ones that I could immediately think of. Are there any, in your opinion, that I've missed?

Greg responds...

I once wrote an entire memo for Buena Vista listing tons of differences. (I'm sure I've got it around here somewhere.) But you got the main ones.

But I'd nuance your first one a bit with one important point. The Waynes were murdered before Bruce's eyes, when he was a CHILD.

Goliath's clan was massacred out of his sight when he was an adult. And some of the clan was saved. I'm not trying to quantitatively weigh one tragedy against the other, but once Goliath survived his "suicide attempt" and was reunited with the other gargs, you can see how, as an adult, he could find it much easier to cope.

Batman's scarred for life. Goliath has a horrible tragedy in his background. He'll never forget it, but he has moved on. Bruce can never move on. Never.

And fundamentally, there was one other major structural difference. Batman wound up with a large extended cast of characters. But that series was fundamentally about a single hero.

Gargoyles was always written as an ensemble piece, a la HILL STREET BLUES. Goliath was our Furillo. He was never our Batman.

Response recorded on March 31, 2000

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Aris Katsaris writes...

What are your own beliefs concerning the validity/truth of myths out there? For example do you believe there was once an Atlantis? People corresponding to Agamemnon, Theseus, Minos, Hercules? That Osiris and Seth may have been historical figures that were later deified?

My own thoughts is that there's more historical truth in some myths than is generally believed - for example I wouldn't be surprised (though I *would* be fascinated) if there was a historical Theseus and Agamemnon - while in other cases I tend to think that people like Minos and Pasiphae seem to represent entire dynasties/titles rather than specific individuals...

Greg responds...

I tend to agree with you. It's clear to me, for example, that Hippolyta is actually "The Hippolyta," female King of the Amazons. A title. Not an individual.

Had to be a flood. Too many myths about it in too many cultures. Yeah, these people existed. Stories may have been majorly skewed over the years. But nothing comes from nothing.

Of course, in a thousand years if Aris-3000 is asking Greg-3000 whether he believes there really was a Goliath and an Elisa, whether Demona was an individual or a hereditary title, well... we can figure we were full of it.

Response recorded on March 26, 2000


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