For over a decade now, the eighties has basically become the strip-mine of popular culture, with Hollywood shilling out massive production budgets and promotional campaigns to appeal to a generation who has just now come of age into the peak of their spending power. These IP’s include, but certainty aren’t limited to,
- Transformable action figures (Transformers *duh*)
- Graphic Novel Superheroes (The Avengers, Watchmen, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, X-Men, etc.)
- Saturday morning cartoons (The Smurfs)
- Acclaimed children books (The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who, Where The Wild Things are, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, etc.)
- Even action-adventure comedy series’ and perfectly good movies that didn’t need a remake (The A-Team, Red Dawn)
- And of course the tremulous ghost of things to come (Future Robocop, War Games, and Videodrome remakes, not to mention the absolutely unthinkable,*shudder* an AKIRA adaptation. In NEW YORK.) and I swear if I hear one more back to the future rumor, one more time…
Not to insinuate that there aren’t other factors, (viewer interest, studio ability to ascertain certain properties, fluctuating domestic/international gross, etc.) But my point is that major studio production schedules are saturated with 80’s affectation and the pallet of films that I’m actually looking forward to seeing is beginning to blur into an one big indistinguishable BLAH at this point.
Just because I love boneless mango-habanero buffalo wings doesn’t mean I want to eat them ALL THE DAMN TIME. Because seriously.
The point of this tangent is not to gripe about the presumed stagnation of original intellectual properties in Hollywood (because really, there are far more comprehensive, perceptive, articulately written, and intimately informed accounts of this to be found all over the rest of the internet), but rather to frame what I’d like to call a passionate request, nay a modest proposal, for one Intellectual Property in particular to be adapted.
Which one, you might inquire? Why, the mid-90’s animated series Gargoyles of course. Why, you might ask?
Because it’s Fucking. Awesome.
“Oh no, here comes another nerd-soapbox session colored by the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.” –inner-dissenting voice. Shut it, I’m trying to make an argument here.
Yes, I’ll admit that part of the reason why I’m writing this article in the first place is because, once upon a lazy Saturday morning a doe-eyed, Fro-headed Toussaint Jr. sat down in front of a television in his PJ’s and forgot what time Batman: The Animated Adventures was supposed to come on. But another reason is because despite being produced for an audience of children in order to compete with the aforementioned Dark Knight, It was in reality SUPER-VIOLENT and holds up surprisingly well considering how the years treat most similar shows from that era.
I’m going to talk about a number of the reasons for why that is and why, coincidentally, this show deserves it’s long overdue translation to the big screen. No further adieu…
Reason #1: It Draws Heavily from Arthurian and Shakespearean themes and storylines, enmeshing them into an Urban Sci-Fi Fantasy Environment
I don’t know about you anonymous online reader, but the broadening journey of my literary palate growing up was dotted with many a video-game cameo and cartoon allusion. Hell, one of my favorite piece of interrogation dialogue from Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory prompted me to learn more about the origins behind the fall of the Holy Roman Empire. And if there’s any writer who traffics the most weight when it comes to pop-cultural allusions and modern-day adaptations, It’s William Shakespeare.
The Bard produced an extraordinary body of work during his lifetime, producing approximately 38 plays, a massive slew of sonnets, and an assorted pile of apocryphal texts and rough drafts. Shakespeare has been inextricably installed into the canon of Western Literature, he casts a long shadow far and wide in the number of his contemporary admirers and for shaping many of the idioms and unconscious vernacular of modern-day English.
To say that Shakespeare gets adapted a lot is like saying the Earth has a habit of orbiting the sun every once in awhile. What I believe Gargoyles does extraordinarily well in its adaptation of Shakespearean drama is that it appropriates the characters and subtextual themes of his work in a way that is not only done well but is above all else, easily accessible to audience without extensive previous knowledge of the originals. For example, take these characters…
- Macbeth: Yes, That Macbeth. The former King of Scotland and reluctant immortal makes for not only one of the most obvious and provocative allusions to the works of Shakespeare (his first appearance was in the first season episode “Enter Macbeth”), but he’s equally one of the most tragic figures I’ve ever seen in an animated series. His immortality is eternally linked to that of his nemesis Demona, Goliath’s former lover and one of the Manhattan clan’s greatest mutual enemies. All of his friends and family are dead (either from obvious old-age or having been murdered at the hands of Demona just for funsies). His role as an obsessed Gargoyle hunter and man of mysterious origins brings to mind the character of Alexander Anderson from Hellsing, so much in fact that I would not be surprised if they were the former somehow tangentially inspired the latter. To see this version of Macbeth realized on-screen would be a treat for any audience.
- Oberon: Yes, That Oberon. Patriarch and King of the Third Race (Magical Otherworldly Beings that populate the world of Gargoyles) made famous by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Oberon is an arrogant, amoral and prideful figure for good reason, he commands tremendous power over not only the third-folk but also in the world of the humans. Merciful only when it suits him and unapologetically capricious and hypocritical, Oberon is an immensely powerful figure who has clashed against the human world over the most superficial of slights and ill-reasoned claims to authority. Imagine if Odin warred with the Avengers. I would love to see that play out.
- Puck: Y’know the drill. Court Jester of Oberon’s domain, a trickster fae of the Third-Race with a peculiar obsession with humans. Puck stands at a crossroads of forked connections, the center of the Gargoyles mythos for no less than three main characters (Goliath, Demona, and David Xanatos) His secrets are his own, his powers nowhere near the magnitude of Oberon but terrible and impressive nonetheless. I’ll just say this; Tom Hiddleston would make an exceptional Puck, and I’m not just saying that because I like most of the science-fiction fan community loved him in his role as Loki in Thor/The Avengers. Hiddleston has an on-screen demeanor, manic one moment yet chillingly placid the next, that I think would go a great length to bring the character of Puck to life. All sides of him.
Those are only a few of the mythical Shakespearean characters that would make a film like Gargoyles something to remember. Not to mention the Weirding sisters(The anthropomorphic aspects of Vengeance, Grace, and Fury), the wizard Merlin, who taught the Magus of Wyvern Castle (who was directly responsible for the imprisoning of the Gargoyles),
Oh. and don’t forget about King Arthur. In case it wasn’t obvious already, this show is the shit.
Reason #2: David-Machiavelli-Xanatos is the Villain that We Deserve
“Pay a man enough and he’ll walk barefoot into Hell.”
No, That’s not a quote on the tragic malleability of the human spirit by George R.R. Martin or Cormac McCarthy. That’s one of David Xanatos’ many memorable lines of dialogue, from the first damn episode of the show. I sincerely believe that there is not one animated villain from the 90’s who gave less of a fuck than David Xanatos.
This guy is so fucking rich he air-lifted a 400-plus year old castle from Scotland and settled it on top of his private penthouse/sky-scraper in the middle of downtown New York. Had he not instigated a perpetual proxy war against Goliath and the Manhattan clan, he’d probably would’ve had enough free time to reinvent Nikola Tesla’s lightning cannon before grafting it onto the side-arm of his giant galaxy-smashing robot, Tengen Toppo Gurren Lagaan Xanatos-sai.
Xanatos is the kind of guy who no matter what batshit-insane scenario the writers of the show throw at him and the main cast, he always comes out on top, smelling like roses, in a way that’s not only believable but almost frustratingly obvious in hindsight. Seriously though, you have a villain who’s so super-humanly Machiavellian that he has a trope named after him dedicated to the immensity of his foresight. Goddamn.
He’s built an army of automaton Gargoyles and an a flight-propelled exosuit to go to war with Goliath, married a half-magic werewolf assassin and had a kid with psychic AKIRA-level powers, resurrected Goliath’s long-dead brother with arcane magic just to flip him the bird, and was just *this* shy of almost attaining immortality. But if that wasn’t enough, here’s this moebius strip of origin story awesomeness.
During a trip back to the middle ages in a fluke of spontaneous time-travel, while helping to devise a way back home for himself and the Manhattan clan, Xanatos inducted himself into the high-council of the Illuminati and knowingly bequeathed a medieval copper to his future, young adult self in 1975. The copper, near worthless in the time of its printing, will estimate in worth of up to 20 thousand dollars upon arrival. A second envelope, to be delivered twenty years after that and directly prior to this precise time-traveling trip, will reveal the identity of young David’s angel benefactor as himself, with detailed instructions as how to once again successfully instigate the chain of events that led to his fortune.
David Xanatos, through his twisted hair-brained machinations in gaming a spur of the moment time-paradox, is literally a self-made man.
Reason #3: Mutha-Fuckin’ Keith David
Just look at this guy. Look at him. You probably remember watching him in something that you love. That’s because Keith David is not only one of the most magnetic on-screen character actors of color, he is also one of the most prolific voice actors of his time. The guy’s certainly not throwing around the leading-man weight of folks like the ubiquitous Nolan North or the rising superstar darling Troy Baker, but he’s served his time and paid his dues and it shines through in every one of his performances. I think that David’s role as Goliath (that never gets old) in Gargoyles may have been one of his first and only mainstream starring roles, and he brings the gold home in every session.
Goliath’s brooding intensity, his internal obligation to do the right thing juxtaposed against his wrathful indignation at his clansmen being wronged, the pathos of his estranged relationship with Demona and his begrudging respect and latent affection for Detective Elisa Maza, None of these would be there in the full extent of Goliath’s presence were it not anchored by Keith David’s confident baritone, as clear as glass and heavy as a cinder-block.
Any live-action incarnation of Gargoyles MUST have Keith David involved in some capacity, he may not be as indelible of an identity attached to the film as I would like to believe, but he deserves props nonetheless. Either in a cameo role or as a voice overlaid on a computer-generated Goliath, Keith has got to have a role.
Reason #4: The Potential for Epic Set-Pieces and Awe-inspiring Aerial Battles
Gargoyles can fly. I don’t know of if I’ve mentioned that in this article before, but it’s kind of important to this point. The Gargoyles’ origin story is so fucking epic it takes a total of FIVE half-hour episodes in order to bring them up to speed in the present day. During the climax of “Awakenings: Part Five”, the Gargoyles have discovered Xanatos’ duplicity and elect to leave Castle Wyvern to strike out on their own. As you can expect, Xanatos doesn’t take this news particularly well. Since awakening them, Xanatos has been collectin their physical data in order to program a new host of robotic drone gargoyles, codenamed “The Steel Clan.” Xanatos sics the entire host of the steel clan on the Gargoyles and leads the charge in his Crimson Exo-suit.
What ensues is an epic dogfight clash of titans between the forces of legend and technology, a battle on par with anything on a biblically-apocalyptic scale that leaves massive pillars of cinder block debris and ammunition casings raining down on the unsuspecting populace of New York from Xanatos’ modern Ivory tower of Babel.
Tell me you wouldn’t pay to see something like that!?!
A live-action Gargoyles has the potential to be the epic sci-fi urban fantasy equivalent to the Dark Knight series, but it’s too busy being squandered in obscurity by property owners who can’t even be bothered to release the series on DVD in its entirety, which is a massive injustice to a show that manages to transcend its target audience and become better than it ever rightly deserved to be.
Obviously, if by some superhuman feat of patience you’ve made your way to the end of this article you can tell I’m pretty passionate about this (probably overwhelming so, admittedly). “Dude, it’s just a cartoon. WTF would you write this huge-ass article for?”
Because, I sincerely I want to see this made into a movie. So much so, I’d be willing to write a spec-script condensing the origin story arc into a two and a half hour feature length movie just to know that such a thing actually exists in world in some form. Disney, get off your ass and give this series the movie that it rightfully deserves. If not, stand aside and pass the baton to someone else . There’s stories to be told and money to be made. Get on it.
*Drops the mic, walks away from the keyboard.*