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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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Anonymous writes...

You said that you were trying to develop a scarecrow character for the Gargoyles Universe so have you finished developing it? Does it resemble Marvel¡¯s Scarecrow character, which is a demon or does it resemble DC¡¯s Scarecrow?

Greg responds...

I'm unfamiliar with Marvel's and I was consciously trying NOT to emulate DC's, a character I'm fond of and have used in a Captain Atom/Batman team-up story.

I have to date, not succeeded in coming up with a satisfactory Scarecrow character for the Gargoyles Universe. Which is a shame, because Gargoyles and scarecrows clearly have a lot in common.

Response recorded on October 17, 2001

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JEB writes...

'Ello, Greg.

1) What years were you working at DC Comics? Were you there around the time they did CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS? (I'm assuming yes, since you worked on its 'cousin' WHO'S WHO IN THE DC UNIVERSE.)
2) If (1) was yes, did you work on anything Crisis-related (excluding WHO'S WHO)?
3) What did you think of the Crisis, story-wise? (I liked it, of course. Then again, anything with cosmic stuff and grand epic battles is guaranteed to be a favorite with me.)
4) Which did you like better, the pre-Crisis multiverse or the post-Crisis single universe? (I like them both, but I miss the former.)
5) What did you think of the Crisis' effects on DC Comics as a whole? Do you think it did more good, more harm, or do you think it didn't really do either? (I think it was interesting, and created many excellent opportunities for revamps (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain Atom being among the best). However, the continuity blips- especially those afflicting poor Hawkman- were a major long-term failing.)

Sorry if these questions are a bit annoying or disinteresting to you, but I just realized that you were in the offices around the time (at least) that the post-Crisis cleanup was underway, and I was curious about your views on that period. Thanks!

Greg responds...

1. I started freelancing for them in 1983. I joined the staff as an Editorial Assistant in 1985, toward the tail end of Crisis. I was promoted to Assistant Editor in 1986. And promoted again to Associate Editor in 1987. I quit my staff job in '87 but continued to freelance for them until late 90 or early 91 (overlapping with my Disney career for a year or two.)

2. No. I was a peon in those days. Unless you count xeroxing stuff. Of course, Crisis had ramifications that lasted for years, so you could say I later worked on things that were "Crisis related".

3. Some of the issues of Crisis are powerful great stuff. But the name Anti-Monitor never did much for me. And I have to say I miss the parallel universe stuff a bit. It wasn't so much Crisis as what came out of it that disappointed me. For me the results either went too far or not far enough. And there was so much well doing and redoing... It's all hindsight, and not like anyone at DC is asking me, but I'd do things differently.

4. Definitely the multiverse. I'd bring it back if I could. "Crisis on One Earth". I think it's what allows them to start over every twenty years or so, let the characters age normally. But then move on to a new Earth, where the old ones can still be reached, but we can see Superman, etc. young again. Let's us leave behind missteps without shattering continuity. Etc.
5. Well, I've kind of answered this already. But again, I don't want to blame Crisis. I think Crisis did ITS job. I just don't love all those revamps. (Except Captain Atom, of course.)

It's fun to revisit old stuff. That's why I'm here no need to apologize.

Response recorded on September 09, 2001

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Mutai Walker writes...

You said that you once had Death of the Endless in Captain Atom so was this the infamous issue where Death is seen as an equal to the Nekron and the Black Racer?

Greg responds...

I'm not sure about "equal". That's subject to interpretation.

But Death, Nekron and the Black Racer all appeared in the same issue. And yes, I wrote it.

I love that it's called "infamous". I heard that Neil was pissed off about it. I feel NO GUILT. His own editor had the opportunity to comment on the script. Hell, she could have sent it to him for his comments. Had either she or he notified me with concerns, then of course I would have changed the script to address those concerns. But there was no comment until AFTER the thing was published. And then suddenly, I was "in trouble".

The one thing I do feel bad about is that Death was miscolored in the issue. But that was beyond my control. I never saw the color proofs.

Otherwise, I tried to be faithful, and even intentionally vague. Death never says what she is. Captain Atom guesses at her function and at her relationship to the other "death" figures (i.e. the Racer and Nekron). No one in the issue says that he guessed right. So even if what he said was completely off-base, there's still nothing in the issue that contradicts anything that was established about the Endless. At least not to my mind. One can always choose to believe that Captain Atom was simply wrong.

And if the problem is that she even appeared on the page with Nekron and the Racer, then I have no sympathy. Neil chose to set his characters in the DC Universe. He even absconded with Destiny. I have no problem with that. But it's a shared universe by definition. There were death concepts in it that pre-dated his.

Now, here's the thing. Neil and I have never met or spoken. I don't actually have any conflict with him, and I definitely don't want to generate one now. I'm a huge fan of Sandman. Heck, I don't know if he even remembers the issue at all. I don't know if he ever really had a problem with it. I just heard he did.

(So do I have a chip on my shoulder about it or what?)

Response recorded on July 01, 2001

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Mutai Walker writes...

Did you know that the Captain Atom you knew and wrote about has been retconned to a quantum clone of Nathaniel Adams?

Greg responds...

Geez, that's original. How Swamp Thing.

No, I didn't know. Feel free to stop telling me things now, Mutai.

Response recorded on June 30, 2001

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Mutai Walker writes...

Did you have any part in the writing of Armageddon 2001 where Captain Atom was to become the evil dictator Monarch/Extant(that was later given to Hawk once someone leaked it)? If so did it influence your writing of Future Tense where Lexington was to become the dictator of New York?

PS You should see the new General Eiling who is now presently in the body of the Shaggy Man.

Greg responds...

No. I had left Captain Atom a few issues before that mess began. My last issue was #50.

And I'd heard that they did that to Eiling. It's a travesty, frankly. I don't know who did it, but it's someone who had no respect for the character that Cary and I created.

Response recorded on June 30, 2001

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Siren writes...

With the different series you have done, like Starship Troopers, Max Steel, and MIB, have you ever thought of bringing Gargoyles in?...sneaking it I mean. As you did with the JLA comic. It might have worked especially in MIB, alien race of gargoyles ;)

Greg responds...

I've snuck garg references into almost EVERYTHING I've done. It's kinda pathetic in a way. 3x3 Eyes. Buzz Lightyear. Team Atlantis, etc.

Response recorded on June 27, 2001

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Anonymous writes...

Who is Captain Atom?

Greg responds...

Who is Captain Atom?!!!

<sigh>

Years from now, someone's gonna ask me, "Who is Goliath?" and then I'll really feel old.

Anyway, Captain Atom is a comic book super-hero. He was originally part of the Charlton Universe. But DC Comics purchased all the Charlton Characters in the Eighties and incorporated the character into the DC Universe. Cary Bates and I were the two writers assigned to the task. We wrote fifty issues of Captain Atom, and some of it is still some of the best stuff I've ever written. Back issues are hard to find, but cheap. Check it out.

Most recently -- well, a couple years ago -- DC asked me to do a Justice League flashback story featuring Captain Atom. So I did. But just for fun, I made it a Garg parody story as well. I think it came out pretty funny.

Response recorded on June 21, 2001

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Gary Salter writes...

Hi, this DC comic edition (Justice League, Captain Atom, Gargoyles), which issue number and title was that?

Thanks,
Gary

Greg responds...

I don't remember off the top of my head, and I'm not at my office. Ask me again another time. Or try the comment room. Some people there bought it and might remember.

Response recorded on October 20, 2000


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