In the pantheon of great ’90s cartoons, Gargoyles deserves special mention. The series, which ran from 1994 to 1997, followed Goliath and his clan of titular gargoyles as they emerged from several hundred years spent as stone statues to life in modern New York City.
This fish out of water tale had everything: Keith David’s mighty voice talent (as the aforementioned Goliath); poignant but kid-appropriate lessons about community and finding your place in the world; and bang-up toys galore.
The series also previously made its way into comics, including runs at Joe Books and Slave Labor Graphics in the mid-2000s (each in part from the series’ writer/creator, Greg Weisman). And now the Gargoyles are taking flight on comics pages once more with a brand-new series from Dynamite Entertainment.
Also penned by Weisman, and now with art from George Kambadais and letters by Jeff Eckleberry, this latest book is reportedly “in continuity with the epic television classic.” Here, we get to reunite with the “Manhattan Clan” at a time when “each member…has begun to go their own way.” But they’ve got to work together when baddies “attempt to steal that rarest, most precious of possessions…an unhatched Gargoyle egg!” If you grew up with the Gargoyles cartoon, it’s sort of like coming home again.
Before issue #1 drops on December 7, we caught up with both Weisman and Kambadais via email. There, we talked about the comparisons between the show and the comics, the story’s visual look and development, their favorite characters, and other topics and tidbits.
AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for this “chapter” of the Gargoyles story?
Greg Weisman: Gargoyles rarely take elevators. Sometimes they make use of elevator shafts, but generally they can’t be bothered. You know, since they have wings. But the in-flight pitch is that we’re really establishing what life in Manhattan is like for the (expanded) Gargoyle Clan now. It’s about family. And it’s about power.
AIPT: How does the comic compare to the TV show? How much should folks know (story- or lore-wise) before they dive in?
GW: The goal is to make this an entry point for potential new fans, while giving old fans more of what they loved about the series. So, there’s no real difference between our storytelling approach in the comic than there was in the television series, and yet one doesn’t have to know anything before diving in. Still, it can’t hurt to have seen the 65 episodes of the original two seasons of the Gargoyles television series (now available on DVD or Disney+) and the 18 issues of the SLG Comics run of both Gargoyles and Gargoyles: Bad Guys. But it isn’t necessary.
AIPT: Is there something about this story — fish (or fishes) out of water in a weird new world — that seems more relevant now?
GW: I think the concept that’s really at the heart of Gargoyles has entered the mainstream. As a global society, we’re beginning to realize (very belatedly) that we don’t all have to be alike, look alike, act alike. That there’s a glory in our differences and that none of those differences render us any less human. Or to steal a line from another series I’ve worked on: “We are all Outsiders!” The idea of empathy for the Other is an essential key to Gargoyles and Humans learning to live together, just as it’s essential for all of us, here in the (so-called) real world. (Stepping down off soapbox, now.)
AIPT: What was your collaborative process like?
GW: Editor Nathan Cosby and I discuss story. I write a full script. It gets handed off to George, who delivers some truly gorgeous pages.
George Kambadais: I get the pages by Greg and our editor (Nathan Cosby), go into a spiral of not believing my luck and harshly judging my self and then I get to work hoping it will be the best it can possibly be while trying to get my self to not freak out by the fact than I am working on the coolest project ever.
AIPT: Greg, how have your perceptions or relationships with these characters changed over the years? Do you think you know them better?
GW: Hmm. I don’t know if I know them better, because I knew them pretty well back in the day. But I do believe I’ve gone deeper with all of them in the interim. In a way, I’ve never stopped working on Gargoyles. I’m constantly coming up with more ideas for stories. I have composition books filled with my notes. So, starting up again feels very organic. The toughest part is deciding which stories to tell first.
AIPT: From the art itself, are there any specific references or inspirations?
GW: I try to supply George with all the reference he might need. And for hardcore fans, the books are jam-packed with easter egg references to the old show. In turn, I take inspiration from what George is drawing and try to apply it to the next issues.
GK: I am tempted to answer every question I have with just “Gargoyles!” in this question in particular referencing the TV series. But in reality, Greg has given me much to go on and for my self I have been looking at a little bit of medieval art so as to better get the way they should move ( I guess judging from the sculptures I have seen thus far they probably shouldn’t but you get what I mean… ). I have also tried to look to other more modern animation for the art. I want it to have a dynamic look and feel.
AIPT: And speaking of the art, was it important to remain close (or close enough) to the show’s overall look and/or feel?
GW: From my point of view, I want to liberate George – or any of our cover artists – from feeling like they need to exactly emulate the design style of the series. Their styles should be their own. We simply would like the details to be correct. Gargoyles have three fingers and a thumb. Goliath is taller than Lexington, etc. But how each artist interprets those details is up to them.
GK: The animation was stellar I wish I could say I could stay true to it. I am trying to, as much as possible, as I feel there is not much room for improvement.
AIPT: What are some of the challenges of adapting or working with material from a TV show and putting it into comics? What about any unique opportunities?
GW: One challenge is simply story density. A single issue of a comic book, I’ve learned, is about the equivalent of one act of a three-act half-hour television episode. So, it takes about three issues to tell the equivalent story of one episode, else the stories feel much thinner than those our fans have grown accustomed to. But, yes, there are opportunities, as well. Because a book is in one’s hand – whether on paper or a digital device – it can actually be more complex – as one can turn back and reread in a way that television viewing doesn’t naturally allow.
GK: The unique opportunity I get is that I am in it! But really, working with characters so beloved and established is both a great opportunity and a huge challenge! The reader already knows who Goliath is. I get to tell more with less. We don’t need to explain a lot (though we try to be fair to the new readers), people know and love him already. But at the same time I have no room for error I will get scrutinized in a way I wouldn’t be working on a new character. I am tampering with someone’s favorite show here.
AIPT: Do you have a favorite character and why they’re your #1?
GW: I don’t, really. They’re all like my children. But without a doubt, the series centers around Goliath. He’s the fulcrum in the void. The Frank Furillo. The Tony Soprano. We have an enormous cast of very interesting characters, but Goliath holds the center. He has the gravity and gravitas to do that. Everyone else orbits him.
GK: As a kid I tended to gravitate towards the underdog. On the other hand, This show made it hard not to like Goliath best, but still I have to say that Brooklyn a close second or even my favorite, depending on the episode. He is very important in the story I am working on now too which is super cool for me!
AIPT: What can we expect from the series as a whole (with as many spoilers as you’re comfortable sharing, of course)?
GW: I’m somewhat famous for #NoSpoilers. But if I’m doing my job right, you can expect exciting new adventures that continue to advance the lives of some pretty great characters. We open with the birth of Talon and Maggie’s child, and we introduce a new major villain, who will attempt to take over the New York underworld and won’t let anyone – Human or Gargoyle – stand in his way.
GK: I am working with Greg in this!! So… you can guess that it is going to be freaking awesome … As far as spoilers go I am getting them almost as you are getting the issues (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much), so I am not very useful in that regard!
AIPT: Why should anyone pick up issue #1 of Gargoyles?
GW: So that they can walk it up to the cash register and pay for it, of course. I mean, duh, right?
Variant covers courtesy of Amanda Conner and George Kambadais, respectively.
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