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Antiyonder writes...

I have been picking up issues of Captain Atom recently. Nice writing from you and Cary. Just had two questions.

1. I do plan to pick up any available issues as I get the money to afford them. That said, are there any stories you'd recommend? So far for reference I have #1-32, 42-47 and Annual #1.

2. I read in your Captain Atom section that one of the stories you wrote for Captain Atom featured an appearance by Batman and Scarecrow. Which issue(s) did they appear in?

Greg responds...

1. Well, I kinda like them all, so I'd recommend you pick up 33-41 and 48-50. As with Gargoyles, you get more out of the stories by reading them in order.

2. I'm afraid it's been so long that I can't remember. And I don't have the info here at the office. Sorry.

But know that I'm thrilled that Captain Atom's getting some attention. I'm very proud of Cary & my run on the book.

Response recorded on December 14, 2007

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Jason Aiken writes...

Just picked up #5 from my LCS today, loved it!

The Clones Vs the Clan was pretty cool.. that sneaky Thailog got his share of genetic samples again. He's really a great character.

Also, the end bit with Brooklyn was funny... if I didn't know about the canon in training stuff I would be feeling extra sorry for the guy.

The Illuminati ranking system is pretty cool... And man.. what a surprise member! You really have to give it to those Gathering people for loyalty and keeping those tidbits under wraps.

Speaking of comics.. have you seen what they are doing to Captain Atom.. err Monarch in Countdown? If everything with him is resolved and he somehow returns to his status quo, would you consider pitching a Captain Atom mini or one-shot?

The era of DC Comics when you wrote for them is probably my favorite.. a lot of great stories being told in the individual books, without all the crossover stuff they try to force on people today.

Take care,

Jason

Greg responds...

I've made it very clear to the folks at DC that I would love to do Captain Atom again. Ball's in there court.

Response recorded on August 14, 2007

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Antiyonder writes...

Knew I was forgeting something. I figured I'd comment on the JLE/Captain Atom/Gargoyle Crossover.

I enjoyed all of the stories in JLA Showcase #1, but just the same, your story alone was worth the cover price. I'm just sorry I haven't stumbled onto it sooner.

Everything from Behemoth and clans Awakening, to the introductions is hilarious. My favorite line though:

Metamorpho- I thought he said they were an endangered species?

Captain Atom sure had his priorities straight alright. Anyway, I hope my commenting was ok.

Just a few questions considering others take on the issue.

1. Did you get any complaints for those who might not have appreciated the humorous nature of the parody?

2. Did Beth, Erin and Ben read it?

2a. If yes, what were their comments.

3. Have you considered doing a ramble on the story?

Greg responds...

1. Nope. There was an earlier draft without the Flash, and my editor asked me to do a rewrite so that the JLE membership didn't come off as quite so feeble.

2. I don't think so.

3. I haven't. But maybe I will someday.

My favorite word in the entire story is "Thomeheb."

Response recorded on March 13, 2007

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Chris writes...

Hi Greg,

This probably isn't the right forum for this, but I don't know how else to contact you!

I was wanting to speak to you about the possibility of having you as a guest of honor at CONvergence, a Science Fiction convention I help to run. It's held the first full weekend in July each year in Minnesota, with an attendance of just under 2000 people. If you'd be willing to discuss the possibility, please contact me at cajones@winternet.com.

By the way, I'm also a penciller for DC Comics and was the artist on your Exercise in Self-Indulgence story with Captain Atom and some familiar looking beasties.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks for your time,

Chris

Greg responds...

Chris,

You did great work on that Captain Atom/JLE/Gargoyles parody story in JLA SHOWCASE back in February of 2000. Thank you. I think the story turned out great. Self-indulgent as planned and as noted, but pretty darn funny to Gargoyles' fans.

Of course, I'm not sure if your offer still stands to attend the con, as two years have past.

Response recorded on November 02, 2004

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Zelandonii writes...

You've mentioned here on "Ask Greg" that you used to read Sandman. Has that influenced your Gargoyles stories? Have you ever worked with Neil Gaiman? If you haven't read "American Gods" yet, go for it!

Greg responds...

I've never worked with Neil Gaiman, though I once used Death in an issue of Captain Atom. An appearance that I've been told he hates, though I think it was misinterpreted, since I made a tremendous effort to be careful and respectful.

For example, Captain Atom asks Death who she is relative to the Black Racer. She asks him (in essence) to guess. He guesses. I heard (third hand) that Neil really disliked Cap's interpretation, but that's why I didn't put it in Death's mouth. It's only Captain Atom's guess. If it's wrong, no harm done. Or so I thought.

It certainly was okay with Karen Berger, Neil's editor on Sandman, who was shown the appearance before it was published. In my defense, I had permission, and we were all working in a shared universe. I would have been happy to have talked with Neil about the appearance in advance. But all I got from Karen and Denny O'Neil (my editor) was a go-ahead, so I figured it was all right. I certainly didn't write it to piss him off.

But after he protested, I know that I was forbidden from using Death again later.

Was I influenced by Neil? I don't think so, but I think we both share influences, obviously. Shakespearean and mythological influences for example. There's one way that I know Gaiman's work effected Gargoyles. When I was interpreting the Weird Sisters for the series, my first thought was to do the traditional Maid, Mother and Crone moon goddess. But because Neil was using that in his books, I went with the Triplet version that you saw.

I haven't read much of Neil's work beyond the comics he was doing in the 90s. But I liked that stuff -- a lot. I somehow doubt the feeling is mutual.

Response recorded on May 27, 2003

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Galvatron writes...

Since we're discussing comic books, what other comics have you written besides Captain Atom and that JLA/JLE/JLI issue?

Was it DC that ordered you to reinovate Captain Atom?

Was Dr. Manhattan suppose to be Captain Atom? Why didn't DC allow the Charlton characters to appear in Watchman?

Greg responds...

Let me handle your questions in reverse order.

When Alan Moore first suggested Watchmen, he was indeed planning to use the Charlton Characters. My memory is hazy, but I think it broke down as follows...

Dr. Manhattan = Captain Atom
Rorshach = The Question
Night Owl = Blue Beetle
Comedian = Peacemaker
Ozymandias = Peter Cannon?
Silk Spectre? = Nightshade?

Dick Giordano, who was executive editor at the time, was fond of the Charlton characters (having worked at Charlton way back when) and didn't want Alan to decimate the line-up that he had worked to get DC to acquire. He suggested that Alan create new heroes for the story, and I think everything turned out for the best.

Meanwhile, DC was reinventing all those old Charlton characters, and the job to revamp Captain Atom fell to Cary Bates and Pat Broderick. Cary brought me in to help.

As for other comics I worked on, well, there were many entries in Who's Who. Many letter columns for Tales of the Teen Titans, JLA and others. An issue of DC Challenge that I ghosted (the only time I've ever ghosted). Some Secret Origins stuff. And a bunch of stories that never got published. My one and only consistent comics writing gig was Captain Atom.

Response recorded on March 13, 2003

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Anonymous writes...

This may seem like a dumb question considering I don't read comics, but where did the alien metal that bonded with Captain Atom and Major Force come from? Did it belong to one of the races of the DC universe?

Greg responds...

The alien metal was the skin and substance of Silver Shield, one of the so-called "Quantum Fish" aliens that exist as part and parcel of the quantum field. The metal is composed of pure quintessence, which was bonded to Cap (and later to Major Force) by atomic power.

Silver Shield was a Quantum Fish stranded on the material plane.

Or so I recall without looking it up. It's been awhile.

Response recorded on February 24, 2003

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Amer writes...

Greg, I've always been a fan of your work. I luv the Gargoyles series, but even more I luv'd when you did Captain Atom. Unfortunately, I haven't seen much of the character since we last saw him in Kingdon Come II. Have you heard of anything up coming involving Cap and if so, are you going to play any part in it? Plus, do you miss doing Cap at all? Thanks.

Greg responds...

Aside from a single flashback story (involving Captain Atom and the JLE, meeting gargoyles in Paris) I haven't done any work for DC Comics since 1991.

I do miss working on Cap. Next to Gargoyles, it's the series I miss the most. But I long ago stopped following the character. The stuff they did immediately following my departure was as out of character for Cap and his supporting cast as Goliath Chronicles was for Gargoyles. More, maybe. (Simon Del Monte, are you out there to confirm?)

I have more than once expressed an interest to DC to coming back to either the character specifically or the DC Universe to play. But so far there hasn't been much interest. And I'm definitely not privvy to their plans.

But I'm glad you liked the stuff.

Response recorded on February 21, 2003

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Chapter XXXIV: "Avalon, Part One"

There's no memo, outline or script for this one on my computer, so we'll head right into my ramble on...

"AVALON, PART ONE"
DIRECTOR: Dennis Woodyard.
WRITER: Lydia Marano.
STORY EDITOR: Brynne Chandler Reaves.

THE RECAP

...is all over the place. So much was coming together in this three-parter. The Weird Sisters, the eggs, the Archmage, Tom, Princess Katharine, the Magus, Macbeth, Demona. This was our most ambitious story yet. Which given episodes like "The Mirror" or "Vows" and multi-parters like "Awakening" and "City of Stone" was saying something.

Of course "Avalon" was never designed to be the cohesive single story movie that "City of Stone" was. It was designed as a tryptych. Part one would bring our heroes up to date. Part two would bring our villains up to date. Part three would pit them against each other.

"Avalon I" also represented the first episode in our fourth tier. The three-parter was what we called a 'tentpole'. We knew we couldn't air it until all the Tier 3 episodes had aired. And we knew we couldn't air any other Tier 4 episodes until this three-parter had aired. Despite the fact that "The Price" aired out of order, generally our Tentpole/Tier system worked very well. Out of 66 episodes that I worked on only two: "The Price" and "Kingdom" aired out of order, hopefully with minimal damage to the continuity.

THE TITLE

The title was one of mine. But initially I wasn't sure that we were going to call the island Avalon. Now, it's mind-boggling to me, but I actually had my assistant Monique Beatty (who's now a producer in her own right) research Brigadoon to find out if that name was created only for the musical, or if it was something pulled from legends. I was thinking of Avalon, but looking for something from a Scotish tradition as opposed to British. Fortunately, Brigadoon was created for the musical. So we were 'stuck' with Avalon. Which made including King Arthur a natural.

Many series don't reveal that an episode is going to be a multi-parter until you get to the 'To Be Continued' line at the closer. "Avalon, Part One" could have just been titled "Avalon". The conventional wisdom is that people are reluctant to commit the time to a multi-parter in advance. That it is better to hook them on the story before revealing that they HAVE to come back to see the end. I always felt that was cheating. What is your reaction to seeing "Part One" attached to a title?

OPENING

Another cool shot of our gargs waking up. Always nice to reiterate that at the start of our bigger stories.

Bronx gets left behind. Of course, this often happens. It was one of the things that the World Tour would set about correcting in a BIG way. But we made his getting left behind a bit more obvious here. Usually, he just doesn't go. This time they won't take him and he's sad. We were laying pipe.

My 5-year-old son Benny asked where Hudson and the Trio were going. I had to think about it. "On Patrol, I guess."

OLD FRIENDS

Then the GUARDIAN shows up. I love his cool, Goliath-inspired armor. My 7-year-old daughter Erin immediately demanded to know who he was. I wouldn't tell her. (I'm so mean.) Did any of you guess?

Of course he immediately encounters BRENDAN & MARGOT. (What would one of our multi-parters be without him?)

Then comes the three gang-bangers from "AWAKENING, PART THREE". As usual, Keith David does the voice for one of them -- making it distinctive from both Goliath and MORGAN, who's about to come in and speak. The problem is we got a touch confused. In Awakening, Keith voices the bald white guy. Here he does the same voice, but it's assigned to the black guy. Hard to say which is wrong, except by virtue of which came first. It annoys me though.

Morgan's fun in this. I really like him. No one but Simon DelMonte will get this, and I don't know if he even reads these rambles, but Morgan kind of reminds me of Jeff Goslin, a character that Cary Bates and I created in Captain Atom.

Anyway, I like how Morgan talks Guardian down. And I like how the sword is much heavier than he thought it was going to be. His cop buddies tease him, but he maintains his sense of wonder and goodness when talking about the Guardian to Elisa.

That's kind of a cool scene. First off he describes Guardian's armor: "Real armor. King Arthur stuff." Anyone think this was a clue to what was coming in the next episode? Even with the Avalon title? Then he tells her the guy's looking for Gargoyles. Elisa of course discourages her fellow officers from taking Garg reports seriously. Everyone who's seen one must be a nut-case. These guys should form 'a club'. Then she finds out that this Guardian was asking for Goliath by name. BOOM.

BELVEDERE CASTLE

Site of our last encounter with Demona and Macbeth. Another clue.

Once Elisa got a look at the Guardian's armor, she must have thought -- yeah, there's a Goliath connection here all right.

Goliath shows with Bronx, who gets to come along and come along and come along for once. Bronx always seemed underutilized to us. We knew we couldn't bring the whole clan along. (Too many characters and no poignancy.) But Bronx was an easy addition. Of course, Bronx is also useful as a kind of living personality test. If Bronx likes you, it's a damn good sign. Bronx likes Tom. Does he remember him? What scents do you figure the Guardian carried back from Avalon. Anyway, Bronx engenders immediate trust in the Guardian for Goliath.

I love this scene. Guardian gives everyone so little time to catch up. He talks about the Archmage, reveals that he's Tom and talks about 'the eggs' being in danger. *That was a fun idea. Keep you guys thinking in terms of eggs for twenty minutes and reveal that it's just a pet name for the Avalon Clan.*

Benny asked: "What kind of Eggs?"
Erin: "Gargoyle Eggs."
Benny: "I didn't know Gargoyles hatch out of eggs." [Well, keep in mind it's been a year since he saw the first thirty episodes. And he's too young to remember the first time he saw the ones we're watching now.]

Then there's the skiff. Elisa: "Where'd that boat come from? ... To where? The other side of the lake? ... Wait for me!"

This all sounds fishy to her. Nothing makes sense. I wanted to get a clear shot in there of the pond in Central Park so that you could see objectively that it doesn't go anywhere. But I never quite managed that. I wanted you guys to be confused. Or at any rate to have a million questions. But like Elisa, no matter how suspicious, I figured you'd want to go along for the ride.

FLASHBACK

Mary, Katharine, the Magus and young Tom are all reintroduced. It's very clear that the first three have all learned their lesson from Awakening. They've all really become better people. Tom, of course, didn't need to learn that lesson. But he does learn to be a hero. He officially becomes the Guardian. It begins, I believe, as just a nice gesture on the part of the Princess. Later, of course, it'll become the truth. Then there's the long journey. I like the montage there. Hardship. We never had the time to show enough of the hardship of tenth century life.

Our gang heads into Edinburgh. Constantine's followers are all over the place. They all seem to look like Disney storyboard artists for some reason. ;)

VOICES

There's some stellar voice work in this ep. Morgan Shepard as King Kenneth II. Sheena Easton making her Garg Premiere as Finella. Ian Buchanan as Constantine. (I've already mentioned Keith's versatility.)

But as usual, real props must be handed out to Jeff Bennnett and Kath Soucie.

Jeff plays Brooklyn, the Magus and Maol Chalvim. (No Bruno or Owen or Vinnie in this ep, I'm afraid.)

Kath plays Katharine, Mary and all three Weird Sisters.

They're amazing.

SOAP OPERA

Benny saw Finella and said: "That's one of the witches."

A year ago, Tom was his favorite character. Now Tom barely registered. And he really is fascinated with the Weird Sisters. Anyway, I corrected him, but I was glad that they were appearing later.

Ian Buchanan, once of General Hospital, is playing a cad here. We have to very quickly set up a lot of politics, sexual and otherwise. This story was as historical as we could make it based on the available research, the fact that we had to fit in a few fictional characters and eggs, and screen time compression.

Believe it or not, we also had another character originally that we cut early on because it was just getting too damn complicated. Katharine and Maol Chalvim's cousin: the future King Kenneth III. The father of Bodhe. Yep. That Bodhe. The father of Gruoch.

Kenneth III winds up being made High King of Scotland after Constantine is killed. To get a sense of their relationship, at least as I see it, you might want to check out "Once upon a time there were three brothers..."

(Or to give you a hint, ten years after the events depicted here, King Kenneth III would be murdered by Maol Chalvim's operatives during a civil war. Maol Chalvim was also known as Malcolm Forranach, the Destroyer. We used the Maol Chalvim version of his name so as not to confuse him with Katharine's father Prince Malcolm. Just as in City of Stone we emphasized Malcolm Canmore's Canmore name for the same reason.)

Anyway, Maol Chalvim seems intense but right on the money here. He's even kind of heroic when he and the Magus bring Tom back to Katharine's apartment, and he begs Katharine to go. Kind of heroic. He still leaves her. We were trying very hard to balance out his minor role here with his future roll as the grandfather of and major influence on Duncan. (Of course, he's also Macbeth's grandfather, as well.)

After Katharine tells Maol to go, there's a weird cut of him just standing there smiling. We needed some kind of transition before he took off running, and I guess that was the best we could do. But it's still awkward as hell.

THE MURDER

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We establish early on that Katharine doesn't think much of Constantine. You wouldn't know it from Awakening, but obvioulsy she's learned to be a decent judge of character.

Kenneth isn't quite so sharp. Everyone can see that he's a fool for Finella. And he doesn't recognize Constantine's threat (despite the fact that Constantine's father was a bitter enemy and) despite the fact that his son flat out tells him to beware. My thinking was that the crown had kept bouncing back and forth between different branches of the royal family. Kenneth had hoped that by taking Constantine in, instead of banishing him, he'd be able to be a positive influence on the boy. A nice idea perhaps, but maybe Kenneth was too innattentive to pull it off. And Maol probably was too covetous to really be a brother to young Con.

Anyway, Constantine tricks Finella and kills the king. We hear Finella sobbing, just to prove that she was neither in on it nor that she would approve of it. (Though one wonders what her reaction would have been down the road if Constantine hadn't spurned her in favor of Katharine. Would she have adjusted to the crime? Or did Constantine become an unredeemable villain in her eyes immediately? I hate to say it, but I tend to think it's the former. Actually, I don't hate to say it. She's more interesting to write that way.)

Erin asked: "He killed King Arthur? Why?"

That's a tough question. So first I had to explain that it was King Kenneth, not King Arthur. Then my wife Beth helped out by explaining that Constantine wanted to be king.

We come back from the act and we see that Constantine was ready for the takeover. The Banners are immediately changed in a scene clearly inspired by the Ian McKellan (spelling?) movie version of Shakespeare's Richard III. (A version I heartily recommend, by the way.)

We also continue to set up the Magus' own tragedy. He loves Katharine. Has loved her since before Awakening. That feeling is shown to deepen here when she is once again in danger. And when Constantine tries to coerce her into marrying him. (The astute Mary and Tom have to hold him back.) Here, we sense that maybe Katharine might some day return that love. That's what I wanted you all to think anyway. Did you?

Constantine takes his crown. Originally we wanted to stage this with the Stone of Destiny as we did with Macbeth. But again, I think we just had too many sets.

Michaelmas. I just like that word.

Constantine is fairly astute himself: "You have 36 very good reasons to obey." We kept reiterating the number of eggs for what was coming later.

THE ESCAPE

The Magus disguises broken pots as eggs and vice-versa. But it always seemed to me that the kitchen staff at Edinburgh sure broke a lot of pots. I mean a LOT!

I like the lines: "Taking the wee bairns for a walk?" and "I don't think I like Gargoyle eggs." Very menacing.

Princess K burns her wedding dress. She feels she cannot leave because C will follow her to "the ends of the Earth." So the Magus responds: "Then I will take you beyond them." Again. Very romantic moment between them.

Finella joins the troop. The WOMAN SCORNED. She's really fun now. Dangerous. I always laugh when Constantine drinks the brew and collapses so abruptly.

Erin: "The Weird Sisters". My kids are just fascinated with this trio. I wonder if they still will be by the end of this three-parter or if like many fans, they will be disappointed?

They get turned into owls. But the Magus worries about giving up the source of his power. K doesn't care about that.

And Finella and Mary agree to take the book. I love these two. I think they'd make a totally kick-ass team. I doubt it would be commercial enough, but I'd love to do a spin-off show just with these two women. At any rate, there was the plan to include them as recurring characters in TimeDancer.

Tom has to leave his mother and his childhood behind. Now his role as the Guardian is a way for Katharine to make him accept the loss. It is the start of their relationship, though neither knows it. I watch this now, and I can't help thinking of the Anakin & Padma relationship and where that's destined to go.

AVALON

Back to the present. We see the impressive shores of Avalon. Very cool painting.

Bronx reacts. Guardian: "He's found the eggs..." And the music swells and two gargs and a garg beast appear on the cliff.

Now is that a cliff-hanger or what? What was your reaction?

Erin and Benny wanted "to see ther rest!" I told them they'd have to wait a week and we got a lot of protesting. Just what I was hoping for.

Anyway, that's my ramble. Where's yours?


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Vic writes...

hi,
What shows or properties did you work on before gargolyes?

Greg responds...

Many, many. All the Disney stuff, primarily DuckTales and Darkwing Duck and Bonkers and Raw Toonage, but most of the rest in some capacity or another too.

Before that I was at DC Comics, where my main claim to fame (though not much fame) was Captain Atom.

Response recorded on November 29, 2001


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