Until I decide on a banner for “In Defense Of” articles (if I make it a recurring series…and this isn’t the first one I’ve done) you get intro.
Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles was the third season of the popular Gargoyles cartoon. The series follows the adventures of a clan of gargoyles who through a very long story find themselves in Manhattan dealing with numerous science fiction and fantasy menaces. It took elements from Scottish and other myths (the Gargoyles come from Scotland, although only Ed Asner’s Hudson had a Scottish accent) and even Shakespeare’s more fantasy-based tales. The show aired for two seasons as part of the Disney Afternoon lineup. Unlike other shows in the programing block it was darker and often edgy, but only to serve the story, and it was intended for older audiences than the rest of the lineup. It was barely acknowledged by the rest of the block though if memory serves. Disney wasn’t even comfortable putting their name on it like they did for Ducktales, Tailspin, Darkwing Duck, or the rest of their shows.
Then Disney began their takeover of all media by purchasing Capital Cities, which included the ABC network. Thus they decided to move Gargoyles to their Saturday morning block, naming that season The Goliath Chronicles, mostly because they added Goliath opening each episode with some comment that setup the episode. For whatever reason Greg Weisman, the show’s creator left the show and I have no idea who took his place. Finding info on this show is harder than the other two seasons because fans don’t seem to care. Weisman only wrote the first episode and a few lines in another episode. He doesn’t consider it canon and neither does the large, passionate fanbase. And don’t get me wrong, I do understand why. However, I don’t quite agree because while it wasn’t as good at the first two seasons I grant you…I still like what they did.
Why wasn’t it as good? I don’t think it was just Weisman. He’s worked on enough Saturday morning cartoons and none of them were as good, especially to those of you out there who seem to hate any kids show that doesn’t also cater to adults. I on the other hand can sit through Elena Of Avalor and be just as entertained. But let’s face it, I’m weird like that daring to think a good story is where you find it and not insisting everything has to be dark and edgy to not be crap. The show was created for older kids and was supposed to be dark and edgy, but not for the sake of being so. That was the story Weisman wanted to tell. The problem is Saturday morning cartoons don’t work the same as weekday afternoon cartoons due to parent groups and censors and have different requirements. That’s why it bugs me when something like Thundercats is referred to as a Saturday morning cartoon. Also because some people consider that an insult because they lack the understanding of SatAM versus weekday. That’s a post for another time though. My point is Gargoyles was created for a different audience and did suffer a bit from the changeover.
But that doesn’t mean the stories were bad, just lacking a bit of its edge. (Also the animation suffered a bit, or at least the art style was less shadowy to match the tone.) There were some good tales in there. We’ll be seeing the direction Weisman would have taken his creation and you can judge what you’d prefer. Also note that I don’t know if the new showrunner ignored what Weisman would have done or if the SLG comic stories came from his original plans or not. The Goliath Chronicles (TGC from here out to save my typing fingers and word count) took a direction I didn’t mind. The Gargoyles had been revealed to the world and now had to deal with that, as they now had to win humanity over to accepting them. How would this affect the other clans Goliath, Elisa, and Angela ran into during their trip? Or the other mutates that were created by Silvarus? Heck, TGC even killed off the clones while within the SatAM limitations. Comics tells me that’s always a positive thing, right? Killing characters someone may like is supposed to be very edgy and adult and all that. Weisman will still have them as part of the stories we’ll be seeing in the SLG comic reviews.
Yeah, I haven’t seen it in years so I don’t know how well the deaths were handled and I’m long past uninterested in shock deaths. Still, if handled well it could work. And since there are other gargoyle clans around the world the Gargoyles (the wiki–because of course there’s a wiki–refers to them as the Manhattan Clan but I just use the capital G) aren’t alone anymore. If the writers couldn’t think of a use for them I hope they at least go out properly. Also there was a way out built-in as they could potentially be restored from eternal stone. Marvel did that with Venus and who even cared about her? I know I didn’t. You can even make the case that the show did that with the original Gargoyles when they were awoken from being locked in stone form by Xanatos breaking the spell. And speaking of the Xanatos family…
Probably the biggest disagreement I have with the fans and even Weisman…and I know, it’s his creation and all, this is personal preference here…is the reformation of David Xanatos. Fans hate that he changed his ways but you know me, I love a good redemption story. He found happiness with his wife and child and opted to not be evil anymore. Old habits die hard and seeing him find new and less villainous ways to achieve his goals, which now included protecting Alexander, his son with Fox (who I guess nobody minds not being a mercenary anymore), are a great potential story source. There was an episode where Fox, a former TV star when she wasn’t a mercenary, tried to use TV to improve the Gargoyles’ public image. And it’s not like there weren’t other villains left. What remained of the Pack, the Illuminati, the New Olympians and of course Demona were still threats to deal with, while a new enemy, the Quarrymen, had arisen from the Hunters to also cause trouble. There is a lot of potential here that I feel was ignored.
The only other thing they’ll keep from TGC is that Hudson’s blind friend reveals he knows what Hudson actually is and has known all this time. This is in a story where Hudson is losing his sight and the pair have to protect everyone from the Quarrymen while he gets an operation to repair his sight. Two blind men against an anti-gargoyle KKK? That’s not a good story, even under the mandated lighter tone?
Look, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind here. If you hated it when this article started you may still hate it now. As far as I know I’m the only one who didn’t like it, since the show was never released on home video that I know of and the fanbase seems to have agreed to hate it. But while I enjoyed the original show I don’t follow the fandom. In fact I’ve grown to fear fandoms over the years, especially the Star Wars fandom. My point is to point out that The Goliath Chronicles wasn’t that bad despite the lack of Weisman or the lighter tone of the series. There’s still good storytelling being tossed aside here and that disappoints me. I’m also curious if there are other fans of the show who did enjoy the show as a kid (I was not a kid, this show came out after I graduated high school) and still like watching it now. And it also gives me something to refer to as I continue to go over the SLG Publishing books that Greg Weisman created and give my readers a point of reference as to what the hell I’m thinking when I disagree with something in the comics. I’m not pulling what Star Wars fans did to George Lucas, and the stories in this comic were good. I just don’t think they should have tossed aside the stuff the show did well and instead built on it. But that’s another thing I’ve gotten over…retcons. Too many bad ones I think.
And I am not here to change your mind. But here’s the thing about Xanatos, and why the depiction of him in the third season doesn’t work.
I was wondering why some people thought Xanatos genuinely reformed, because it’s baffled me for years. I suspect that some of it comes from them assuming that, since Xanatos had made peace with the gargoyles by the end of the second season, complete with letting them back into the castle, that he’d mended his ways (particularly since most cartoon antagonists have as a major reason for being antagonists their feud with the heroes). But when I thought about it, I noticed that the clash with the gargoyles was never the main goal with Xanatos – they were always a means rather than an end. His goal was to increase his power, wealth, and influence, and to gain immortality – which wasn’t mutually exclusive with conflict with the gargoyles.
And that’s not mutually exclusive to being a good husband and father, either.
So to have him become, as Greg Weisman described in an interview once as “Mr. Sappy Good Guy” just wasn’t true to the character. He has a far more nuanced relationship with the gargoyles now. And isn’t nuance more interesting?
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Oh I don’t expect him to be a perfect angel. I would find it interesting to see him try to figure out how to be a better person and stumbling along the way since he’s never been the nicest guy, I would think he’d at least trying to be good for his family’s sake, especially with Fox seeming to have reformed, but trying to relearn old habits and occasionally falling back on them. Imagine him actually manipulating the Illuminati to be better? Or having him going against them to protect his family. “Mr. Sappy Good Guy”, and I have to watch them again to see how accurate that is, would not be interesting and maybe the re-reads of the comics will win me over, but my point was the potential TGC offered. The specifics of the SLGs I’ll get into as I go on.
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I do not recall anyone saying that Fox ever reformed. She’s still a new mom in the actual canon, so that’s taking up her time. But she is still ruthless and likely still has her own plans and schemes.
Greg Weisman puts so much thought into how his characters think, their history (even if we don’t know it), and their psychology. He treats them all like real people.
The new team at TGC didn’t have time to get to know them, and mostly treated them like props to tell write their scripts and collect a paycheck.
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It may be my personal interpretation based on memories. I don’t think Fox reformed the way Dingo did, but she’s not the same as she was before. Her priority is her family and I think she’s softened a bit.
I do agree that Weisman knows his characters better, and how he writes them is what makes his stories so good. I even see he did a good job with Spectacular Spider-Man, even if I personally couldn’t connect to it. And I love his take on Young Justice. My real complaint is that there ideas the show got right that Weisman could have fleshed out or worked with and chose to ignore it. I’m sure he had his reasons and I don’t have a problem with that as a creator myself. I’m not telling him how to run his universe. I’m just saying the show had enough good qualities and plots that could have been worked in.
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My problem with season 3, it’s nothing the Gargoyles do in the episode will matter in the next. It’s forgotten and/or ignored like any most animated TV series. While seasons 1&2 had continuity references here and there, S3 barely does that with its own episodes. Anyway, the SLG comic did it better
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Considering what NBC did to Flash Gordon’s second season I’m almost willing to bet that was ABC’s doing if not the showrunners. Marketing hates continuity because it means they can’t do theme weeks and other gimmicks. This way they can air things in whatever order they want without paying attention to recurring plots. That bugs me because some shows benefit from that continuity.
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“Considering what NBC did to Flash Gordon’s second season I’m almost willing to bet that was ABC’s doing if not the showrunners. Marketing hates continuity because it means they can’t do theme weeks and other gimmicks.”
But you don’t know that, you don’t know what went on behind the scenes. In fact, Greg Weisman (who was working post on season two while The Goliath Chronicles were in pre-production) outright said that the “dumbing down” of TGC wasn’t a network or a studio note.
Here’s what he did say in s8 a few years back: “no executive EVER asked me to dumb down the series. Whether they asked my replacements to do that, I can’t say for certain, but it seems unlikely. There was no controversy over subject matter though – so it’s a bit silly to think that an executive would ask anyone to change the series to avoid a controversy that never existed. ABC’s S&P executives were less understanding than Adrienne Bello had been on the first two seasons, but you can’t blame everything on S&P. Executives did insist on the opening and closing Goliath narration — I was told in an attempt to separate the series a bit from its predecessor.”
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“Executives did insist on the opening and closing Goliath narration — I was told in an attempt to separate the series a bit from its predecessor.”
An executive decision I agree with. Rare but happens. But that’s personal taste and look at some of the shows I grew up with. As for the rest I know NBC did that to Flash Gordon because it was outright stated in the commentaries for the DVD. (By the way, if you don’t mind Filmation’s animation I totally recommend season 1 of Flash Gordon.) Plus with all the stories I have heard about S&P for all three original networks when it comes to Saturday morning lineups over the years you can understand why that would get the blame.
As for ABC and Gargoyles that was new to me and thank you for that. So it was most likely the new showrunners’ decision to tone things down, and it does suffer compared to the first two seasons. It’s a shame. I wonder if the story ideas that did work in the show would have been better received had tone and continuity remained as it was?
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