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Missed this at the AMA so I thought I would try my luck here!
I was wondering what made you choose to have Vandal Savage motives being a grand vision for humanity in a more thoughtful way then his more well known appearances did you get this from a particular story in the comics? Usually he is more an immoral sociopath or world conqueror and I am glad you made him more well rounded. And do you see any overlap with Peredur Fab Ragnal and the Illuminati in Gargoyles and did that inform how you portrayed the Light and Vandal Savage?
1. This came out of discussions with Brandon Vietti and myself. It felt right for an immortal character who had been around - already - for thousands upon thousands of years.
2. I haven't revealed enough about Peredur to not make this a spoiler question for Gargoyles.
Warning: This is going to deal with some heavy topics (specifically antisemitism), but I was encouraged to ask for your opinions. Please do not take this as accusatory, I'm just a long-time fan who's been thinking about some serious issues over the last few years.
When I watched Gargoyles as a kid, there was a villainous organization called the âAlu Minadi.â I later learned it was correctly spelled âIlluminati,â and that it was a staple of all sorts of genre fiction about secret societies, where it was largely interchangeable with the Freemasons. It was also commonly used as a metonym for any sort of behind the scenes string-pullers, what Angel would call âThe Powers that Be.â All well and good, until I was reading an article about Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind series. I found out he believed the Illuminati was a real, very dangerous thing. I learned that they were sort of a real group that disbanded centuries ago, but many people believe they still operate in secret. Worst of all, they are almost always at least implied to be Jewish.
I was horrified to realize that Nazi rhetoric about an international conspiracy of Jewish puppetmasters was so prevalent in popular discourse. Over the last few years I've seen more and more conspiracy theories enter the mainstream, and if you scratch the surface of any of them, there's almost always antisemitism underneath. Even truly absurd ideas like âthe lizard peopleâ are often just âwink and nodâ references to supposed Jewish conspiracies. The biggest right now is Qanon, which claims powerful people do all sorts of depraved things with kidnapped children. This is, of course, just a modern reworking of the ancient âblood libel.â Many of its adherents go beyond coded messages and outright say Jews (or possibly âZionistsâ) are behind it all. So now whenever I hear anyone talking about âthe Illuminati,â even as a joke, my antisemitism radar pops up. Sadly, it's usually right.
All that said, what am I to do with shows I love that rely on such conspiracies? Of course, I'm not accusing you of antisemitism (I can think of several reasons that'd be ridiculous, starting with your own ethnoreligious identity), but I didn't know anything about you or any of the other creators when I first saw the show. There is some irony that the character obsessed with the Illuminati is himself Jewish, though I didn't know âBluestoneâ was a Jewish name at the time. Where I eventually came down is that Gargoyles has such clear anti-racist themes that it's hard to imagine anyone taking an antisemitic message from it. On my recent rewatch, I noticed the punks in M.I.A. were basically reciting Brexit talking points about immigrants ruining England, 20 years before Brexit was a thing. âGolemâ puts Jewish characters in the heroic roles and opens with what I now recognize as a pogrom. Also, the characters we see involved with the Illuminati do not appear to be Jewish. Malone is presumably Italian (though I suspect his wife was Jewish), the upper leadership in the comics are mostly from Arthurian legend so probably a mix of Christianity and paganism, Shari is Arabic, and Thailog is... Thailog. And they partner with a clear KKK analog, which I doubt any Jewish organization would do. Still, people do often take perverse readings of shows. I've seen people read white supremacist messages into My Little Pony of all things. And on rare occasions I've even seen people say that Gargoyles was trying to tell the truth about the âreal Illuminati.â
This all ties in to a bigger question of how much responsibility creators and artists have for the audience's interpretation. There are shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad that clearly condemn their villain protagonists, yet some fans still admire these âantiheroes.â Alan Moore has said fans tell him they identify with Rorschach, at which point he wishes he were somewhere else. I myself am worried the âsex traffickingâ plotline in my unpublished novel might contribute to harmful ideas. Sex trafficking is real, to an extent, but its reality is nothing like popular beliefs, and those beliefs were part of both the 80's Satanic Panic and its modern iteration, Qanon. These questions are enough to make me (more) neurotic.
I don't exactly know what I'm asking here, just getting out some thoughts I've been kicking around. I guess the question is: what do you think your responsibility is when making a show that mostly children watch? I know you were very concerned with your portrayal of gun safety in âDeadly Forceâ and managed to do it in a way that âconcerned parentsâ groups praised. There was also the need to avoid âimitableâ violence, hence Duncan getting killed by a magic glowing electricity bomb. Are there any similar conversations that take place around how conspiracy theories are presented? In the 90's, conspiracy theories existed, but they were more fringe. Today, they are much more mainstream, and you're making a show whose villains are âThe Light,â which is just an English translation of âIlluminati.â Even without the antisemitic baggage the name âIlluminatiâ has, I still worry about giving people more reason to be paranoid. I don't know how I would approach something like that, so I guess I'm tossing the question to you. Thank you for reading and for whatever response you have.
Let me start with one quibble: Angel used the term "The Powers that Be" as some equivalent to the Heavenly Hosts, not as an equivalent to a very earthly - if magically infused - Illuminati, as we had in Gargoyles.
Beyond that, I think you raise a number of good - or at least interesting - points.
Ultimately, I go back to something my former boss Gary Krisel once said to me. We had received one letter on DuckTales protesting an episode where Magica DeSpell used a magical circle, claiming we were promoting Satanism - that any use of magic in the show would be promoting Satanism. (The letter literally said, "Walt Disney would be rolling over in his grave if he saw what you were doing in his name." To which I wanted to reply, "Have you SEEN Snow White?") Gary said something like, "We're not going to give magic to the Satanists." Meaning, it's part of storytelling and fantasy and myth, etc. It's one of OUR tools as storytellers. And we won't give it up, neither to any one who wants to use those trappings to promote evil nor to anyone who wants to inhibit our creativity.
So along those lines, I come down on the side of "I'm not going to give Conspiratorial Villain Organizations to the Anti-Semites." And, as you noted, I hope it's obvious that I'm not an anti-semite and that neither is Gargoyles' Illuminati nor Young Justice's Light. (Q-Anon clearly is, though I know of plenty of Jews who believe in Q-Anon and don't see it (or only see a few bad apples using it for anti-semitic purposes). Go figure.)
Note: Most of what you're describing goes back to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a false text, blatantly anti-semitic, that has been used for over a hundred years to persecute Jews. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protocols_of_the_Elders_of_Zion).
So, to your main question, what is my responsibility as a creator? I think it has to be the responsibility to, in part, reclaim the tools of storytelling and fiction from fascists and hate groups of all stripes - including but not limited to the anti-semites. I don't think it's always possible. You can't reclaim the swastika, for example, even though that predates Naziism. But I think magic circles and fictional villain groups still have hope. Of course, if you are going to use these things that have been, shall we say, compromised, you need to make it clear that you aren't feeding into the negative stereotype associated with the trope. Hence, Gargoyles' Illuminati is being investigated by a Jew and is comprised of mostly non-Jews, including many characters from Arthurian Legend.
I also personally believe it's patently obvious that there is no real world equivalent to the Light or the Illuminati. The world is too damn disorganized for me to believe that ANY one organization is secretly running things. Or if they are, they're doing no better a job than the actual governments they are theoretically trying to supplant. I mean, what's their goal? Just to make everyone miserable? If so, then maybe they're doing just great.
I looked and I couldn't find this question so I thought I ask: Why are you interested writing about secret societies like the Light or the Illuminati?
I'm interested in writing about most everything.
In "Revelations," Martin Hacker told Matt "Your job was to get him (Goliath) there (to the Hotel Cabal). It's not your fault if old Mace couldn't hold him." In fact, since Matt gave Goliath the key and physically stopped Mace from shooting Goliath, it was indeed Matt's fault that old Mace couldn't hold him.
Was Martin unaware of Matt's involvement in Goliath's breakout, or was he deliberately lying to Matt?
For now, that's up to your interpretation. Matt assumes that no one but Goliath knows about Matt's complicity. Is he right?
Okay so I have to be REALLY careful about how I ask this question. If you cant understand my meaning then its probably my own fault and for that I'm sorry, but I thought this was a very interesting concept. It's about xanatos's letter to himself.
Here we go. So in Vows, Xanatos travels back in time and sends himself the coin that he will eventually use to amass his fortune. He also sends a letter that is to be delivered to himself twenty years after the coin which explains how he has to get the coin, which as he said in the episode he received that very letter a week before the wedding. So I guess the best way I can phrase this is, is that the EXACT same letter and by same I mean the same piece of paper. The way I see it that letter is over a thousand years old and must be pretty worn(unless of course it was carefully preserved). So when xanatos gets the letter, does he just send back the same one he got or copy the information on a new piece of paper and send that back instead? If its the first one then that piece of paper must keep accumulating age to it. He sends it once, its over a thousand years old. He sends it a second time, its another thousand years old, and so on. So the piece of paper could eventually become so worn that it would be either unreadable or destroyed. So does xanatos just make a new letter every time he gets it or send back the one he received? PS loved rain of ghosts, hope you get to make all nine books.
It was carefully preserved by the Illuminati.
In the past, he wrote the original. He doesn't reuse it.
Glad you liked Rain! If you haven't already, could you do me a favor and write up a review on Amazon?
So, hoping I catch you in the mood...
As of "Phoenix" what are Fiona Canmore and Falstaff's Illuminati numbers?
SPOILER REQUEST. NO COMMENT.
After "Revelations" do Elisa and the gargoyles now believe in the existence of the Illuminati?
Are the jewels that Mace Malone and Dominic Dracon heisted together currently being kept in the treasury of Eastcheap Isle?
Probably - unless they were sold.
In "Revelations", Mace Malone managed to get Goliath into the Hotel Cabal. The episode made it clear that the hotel (and Mace as it's caretaker) existed to extract information from individuals and Mace specifically told Goliath that he wanted answers from him.
I'm curious, what exactly did the Illuminati want to know so badly that Goliath knew? The existence of the Manhattan Clan and their link to Elisa was provided to them by Xanatos. If they wanted more of their backstory and how and why gargoyles from 10th Century Scotland ended up in 1995 Manhattan, it seems it would've been easy enough to simply ask Xanatos for that information, assuming Xanatos hadn't already told them that stuff as well. And the existence, purpose and nature of gargoyles in general hardly seems like something the Society wouldn't already be aware of. So what else is there? What else did the Illuminati think or know that Goliath knew that was so important that it would need to be forced out of him?
I imagine this question is just begging for a "SPOILER REQUEST. NO COMMENT.", but I thought I'd ask just in cause I've missed something or you were feeling generous.
In any case, thanks.
"SPOILER REQUEST. NO COMMENT."
1. Does John Castaway know his Aunt Fiona is an Illuminatus?
2. On your timeline you wrote that the Illuminati approached the Canmores seeking an alliance and Jason turned them down:
Was this Fiona?
1. SPOILER REQUEST. NO COMMENT.
2. SPOILER REQUEST. NO COMMENT.