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I wrote this up on my blog last Christmas (a bit of a gift to myself there) and thought I'd share it here.
For every hero, or group of heroes, there must be villains. The villains test the hero, the villains make the hero. In the realm of superhero lore, Batman and Spider-Man have been cited as having the greatest rogues' galleries in comics. And I do not disagree. Sadly, other heroes or teams seem to come up lacking. Sure they may have one or two great villains, but the rest seem to be meh. The FF have Dr. Doom and Galactus, sure. The X-Men have Magneto and the Sentinels, Green Lantern has Sinestro, but the rest of their rogues galleries have always seemed, at least to me, to be okay at best. I know some will contest this opinion, but it's my opinion and as far as this blog goes, that's the one you're stuck with. Personally, I always thought the Third Great Rogues' Gallery belonged to "Gargoyles." So, let's honor them.
First of all, here's who didn't make the list and why:
Wolf - Nothing against Wolf, he's fun. He's a big dumb thug, but he's fun. But, as of yet, I haven't found him to be very interesting on his own. And I always thought his teammates were more interesting and fun to watch.
Tony Dracon - I like him a lot more than a lot of other "Gargoyles" fans seem to. He's usually fun, but he didn't quite have enough to make this list.
Oberon - I never thought of him as a villain, and I still don't. Even when he was trying to kidnap Alex. Did I agree with him? Not at all, but I don't think he was in the "legal" wrong either.
Robyn Canmore, Dingo, Matrix, Yama, and Fang - If you don't know why, shame on you.
Second of all, here's who I hope to add to the list some time:
Queen Mab - Come on Disney, let Greg do it!
Morgana le Fay - Ditto.
With that out of the way, let's dive into list.
20. Duval and Peredur fab Ragnal
At present, we've seen too little of these two to know much about them. But what we have seen has been enough to give us an intriguing mystery, especially if you've been following ASK GREG for the past fourteen years. They are the guiding hands of the Illuminati Society, which was created a century after the Fall of Camelot, by Sir Percival to "set things right." Which of these two men is Sir Percival? Well, I have my theories on that. Peredur fab Ragnal is the Welsh name for Percival, and Duval sounds like a modern alias for Percival as well. In fact, for years Greg Weisman told us that Percival was Duval, and then when the comic comes out we get Peredur. Following that, he said nothing changed from his original plan? So, who is Sir Percival, and what's the deal with the other guy? Again, I have my theories.
But I imagine that should new material ever come our way, one or both of these guys will shoot up on this list.
I also enjoy the idea of Duval being cybernetic, but I think he needs a bit of a re-design. Especially in what he wears.
19. The Banshee/Molly
The Banshee may have only been in one episode (with a cameo appearance in another), but damn did she leave an impression. Everything about this character was executed flawlessly. The character model, the animation, the voice, the effects! I loved how ghoulish she appeared, you could see the background through her.
It also helps that "The Hound of Ulster" is one of the best World Tour episodes. The script is tight, the animation is gorgeous, and a lot of the character actions are subtle and over the top when they need to be. Look at Molly's brief, brief exchange with Rory's father for the subtly, which contrasts the wonderful over the top performance as the Banshee.
This guy was a jerk. I mean, really. A paranoid tyrant who thought the world was out to get him. Well, not the world so much as his cousin, Macbeth. I suppose I can understand seeing Macbeth as a threat to the throne, but he just seemed to go out of his way to make Macbeth miserable. He reveled in it. When he died, we were all happy to see him bite it.
Batman has Joe Chill, and Spider-Man has the Burglar. Goliath has this Viking chieftain who massacred his clan. Well, Hakon may not have acted alone, but with the swing of his mace, the series really began. Like his descendant, Wolf, he's pretty one-note. But he plays that note masterfully.
But perhaps the better story isn't even the one where he shattered the clan, but the one where his vengeful spirit attempted to drive Goliath insane. That episode was the perfect send off for Hakon, even more so than falling off a cliff to his death. His angry, vengeful spirit was trapped alone at the bottom of a cavern for all of eternity without anyone or anything to hate. At least that's where I think he should have stayed. Hakon might have ranked higher if he didn't come back one last time in an episode that I thought was one of the show's only misfires. But hey, sixty-five episodes, eighteen comics, and only one misfire. You're still golden.
Now this guy is fun. I love his design, both as a gargoyle and as a robot. I love his Doc Ock-esque tentacles, and I loved Xander Berkeley in the role. Coldsteel is a manipulative jerk, and it's fun to watch him work. His favorite victim is usually Coldstone, and his goal remains unchanging… possess Coldfire. In a nutshell, he's a creepy stalker.
What's also fun is that he's had three voice actors, and not because Berkeley was unavailable. When he controlled Coldstone's body, he was played by Michael Dorn. When he possessed Brooklyn, he was voiced by Jeff Bennett. And they both did it without talking like their regular characters. Watch "Possession" again and listen to "Brooklyn" speak. It's obvious who is in the driver's seat.
I also enjoyed his appearance in the comics, working for Xanatos to distract our heroes from the theft of the Stone of Destiny. Where will he go from here? I'm not sure. I tend to think he works better when he's teaming up with other villains than acting on his own. Well, he did see potential in the Coyote robot, so maybe that's not over; one could see him working with Thailog too; perhaps even re-team with his rookery sister, Demona… they did get along quite well in "High Noon."
15. Constantine III
What can I say about this guy? He follows a long tradition of Disney tyrants, and is just as fun to watch as any of them. Sometimes I think the tenth and eleventh century villains are even more vicious than the modern day villains, and Contantine sums that up.
When we first meet this guy, he uses Finella, the woman who loves him, to lure King Kenneth (who is in love with her) out just so he can murder him in cold blood and take his crown. Then he casts her aside so he can marry Princess Katharine and better secure his claim to the throne. And he tries to keep in control with barely veiled threats against her charges. Harsh.
But even better than that is his return in the "Gargoyles" comic book where he's hunting down and murdering every gargoyle clan he can find, and trying to find Katharine and her friends. By now, he's been in power for two years and rules with an iron fist… which leads to a civil war. This guy is such a jerk that he even kills the messenger that the army of the Three Brothers sends. You never kill the messenger.
And then there was his rather creepy relationship with his new protégé, Gillecomgain, which led to the two inspiring each other in a very twisted ways. Constantine is inspired by Gillecomgain's scars to wear them as war paint in battle, and in turn, Constantine inspires Gillecomgain to become the Hunter. As if Gillecomgain needed any more inspiration. Which brings me to…
Let's face it, even as a kid, Gillecomgain had issues. Obviously there was a lot of darkness instilled in him by his father, who himself had some very understandable issues also. What did these issues lead to? One rogue gargoyle was going through their barn, and Gillecomgain pointed a pitchfork into the shadows to scare a thief only to get slashed across the face. What did THAT lead to? Arguably the events of the entire series.
Gillecomgain's life didn't get better. Constantine III took an interest in him which set him on the path of becoming a masked political assassin, not to mention his continued hunt for the demon that scarred him. Like dominos, this led to events that made Macbeth the man he is today, the Canmore clan what they became, and set the tone for centuries of hatred and pain. And all because of one scratch in a barn.
As a character himself, Gillecomgain stacks up well. There is a moment after his arranged marriage to Gruoch, who obviously doesn't love him, where you almost wonder if you should feel bad for a man whose wife obviously despises him. Then he crushes her rose underfoot. What does this mean? Here's a hint, Luach might not have been Macbeth's son. Powerful stuff.
13. Falstaff/John Oldcastle
Okay, this guy is fun. Him and his gang of LARPers gone bad. They appeared only in the final two issues of "Gargoyles: Bad Guys" but they made an impression. I loved the buildup Falstaff received. We see him take a young Harry Monmouth (who would grow up to become Dingo) under his wing. Train him to be a thief, and take pity on the poor boy after his mother ran out on him. Only for that shocker of a final page where we see Oldcastle with his hands wrapped around the throat of her already dead body.
I really love his gang. At first glance, they seem super human, but are in fact incredibly skilled. And I love that Oldcastle, maybe the world's greatest thief, named himself after Shakespeare's king of thieves. He looked the part, and just seemed to take so much joy in everything he did, and that helped make it a joy to watch him do it.
I hope we get more at some point, because I want to know more about him. Why did he murder Dingo's mom? And when did the Illuminati recruit him? Does he have any other responsibilities for the Society other than guarding their giant vault? Well, until next time, and I believe there will be a next time.
Of all the new characters introduced in the comic books, the most intriguing has to be Shari. Is she Thailog's new executive assistant, or does she own him? So far it seems to be a little bit of both. But I'm sure it's far more one than the other.
I love the narrative device of her storytelling, and I wonder where her knowledge comes from. Sure, she's a very high member of the Illuminati Society, but there are some things she just shouldn't know. And yet, she does. Like I said, she's intriguing. Now, I have my theories on who she really is, in fact I think it's so obvious, I almost wonder what the point of not revealing it was, aside from the fact that I can't see a place in the stories released to do it.
And as a final bit of trivia, Shari's look and basic design was inspired by stage actress and long time "Gargoyles" fan, Zehra Fazal. I've seen her perform on stage, and she is brilliant. She definitely deserved to be immortalized in "Gargoyles" canon in such a way.
11. The Archmage
Who would have thunk it? A one-shot villain if "Gargoyles" ever had one. You watch "Long Way to Morning" again, and you'd never think this guy would have become so important in the grand scheme of the series. Well, let's just say that David Warner kicks ass.
While I do write off his appearance in "Long Way to Morning" as 'obvious one shot villain,' he's still fun, even there. But I think what everybody remembers most is his turn as the villain in the "Avalon" triptych. I loved "Avalon Part Two." I thought the script was brilliant. I thought David Warner's dialogue with himself was tremendous. The entire endeavor was just wonderful.
Do I agree with the decision to kill him off? Absolutely. I don't think he would have had any staying power in the modern day material. The guy is a clichéd sorcerer, even if he's a very fun one. However, that doesn't mean I think the character is done entirely. There is plenty for him to do in a certain spin-off that takes place during the "Dark Ages." Or maybe even something to do if one were to TimeDance and have an encounter with him.
What can I say, I have a soft spot for this glorified toaster oven. At first glance he may seem like Ultron wearing half of Xanatos's skin, but the influence from Xanatos is evident. This robot has a sense of humor, sometimes even a perverse one. Granted it's not sentient or self-aware, but it almost seems close enough to fool you.
I love all the designs he goes through. They're all different, while at the same time reminding you of who you're looking at. But my favorite will always be the first one. I loved the look, I loved his perception-warping weapon the most. I wish he'd used it more often.
What's next for this character? Well, Greg has kept extremely tight-lipped. We know more upgrades are on the horizon, but come "Gargoyles 2198" … well, let's just say I think I know what the Xanatos of "Future Tense" was actually foreshadowing.
9. Jackal and Hyena
The "Gargoyles Universe" is well known for their complex, complicated villains. But sometimes, it's nice to just cut loose. Enter the sociopathic Jackal; and his twin sister, the psychotic Hyena and we're in for a good time whenever they show up. These two will crack you up one moment and then make you sick the next.
The first time they appeared, they didn't seem THAT bad. Then, come their second appearance, you have Hyena nearly slicing a fan's face up, and smiling when she gets arrested. Following that, we have Hyena falling in love with a robot. And then, after that, the two volunteer to trade in their body parts for cybernetic implants. Frankly, it's rather sick.
Jackal almost seems normal when you compare him to Hyena. "Normal" being very relative, until we get to "Grief" where he becomes the avatar of Anubis, giving him power over life and death, and what does he do? He decides he wants to end all life on Earth. Yeah….
I'm glad these two are close siblings, because they deserve each other. Still, whatever else they are, they're very fun bad guys. Hell, even a friend of mine named his gold colored Aztek after Hyena.
8. Anton Sevarius
Dr. Anton Sevarius earns points for being the creepiest villain we have encountered so far. He's even creepier than Jackal and Hyena! Sure, he's pretty much a hired gun, but the guy enjoys it. He revels in it. I can sum up Sevarius with one quote. After he was asked why he was doing this:
"For science, which as my associate Fang indicated, must ever move forward. Plus there's the money… and I do love the drama!"
This guy is only slightly more ethical than Dr. Mengele! And I also need to give a ton of credit to Tim Curry for really bringing this guy to life. Apparently, Brent Spiner was the first choice to voice Sevarius, but Curry got the role, and Spiner was cast as Puck. Thank god for those decisions.
Another moment that really stands out was when he was all over Angela in "Monsters." Does he have a sexual interest in her? I don't know, probably not. I think he just took pleasure in making her as uncomfortable as possible.
I think my other favorite Sevarius moment comes from "Double Jeopardy" where he thinks he's taking part in a Machiavellian scheme of Xanatos's and decides to act the part… very badly, I might add. So much fun, even when he makes you scream.
7. The Weird Sisters
Okay, let's get this out of the way. Silver haired Luna is the Sister of Fate; Raven haired Selene is the Sister of Vengeance; and Golden haired Phoebe is the Sister of Grace.
The Weird Sisters are, for the most part, a complete mystery. They have plans within plans that stretch through the centuries, after all what is time to them? They could even give Xanatos a run for his money. What is their agenda? Only they know. We've seen two thirds of the story, with Luna ascendant during "City of Stone" and Selene ascendant during "Avalon." But there is a missing piece, where does grace fall in their plans for Demona and Macbeth? Hopefully time will tell.
These three are great fun to watch. I love how they can be both nowhere and everywhere. And I love how they can and will take on different forms depending on who is looking at them at any given moment. Where do their loyalties lie? Well, it seems to be with Oberon, but I've long suspected there is something bigger at play with these three.
It would be easy to say they were plucked straight out of the Scottish Play, but in several folklores and mythologies, the Weird Sisters are present in some form. There is just something elemental and primeval about them. And that's part of what makes them a great element of the series.
Any woman who David Xanatos would marry would have to be cut from the same cloth he is, because anyone else would be beneath him. Fox is that woman. Hell, sometimes she gets the better of him, whether they're sparring in the dojo, or playing chess. And he doesn't resent this; it's just further proof that he's found the love of his life.
It's weird to watch her in "The Thrill of the Hunt" at times, because Wolf, Jackal, Hyena, and Dingo just seem so far beneath her, she almost seems out of place there. And yet, at the same time, the more we learn about her, the more it makes sense. When we meet Halcyon Renard, a huge piece of the puzzle is put into place. She was never a daddy's girl, in fact, quite the opposite. She was clearly motivated, for years, by just annoying her father. Maybe her mother too.
And I think it was just as much of a shock to her that she loved David. But I wonder what their relationship was like before her prison sentence? Obviously Xanatos made her a television star, but what else was going on there?
She was his lover and employee. And a trained mercenary, let's not forget that.
Like her husband, she grew and developed as the series progressed, and is every bit as interesting a character as he is. In fact, in an alternate universe, I wonder how the series would have played if Fox was in Xanatos's role from the get go.
Ah, the prodigal son… and he's a bastard. Literally.
I love this guy, he's just a hoot. Thailog is as powerful as Goliath, as brilliant and amoral as Xanatos, and as hammy and immoral as Sevarius. All at once. And it shows. In every single appearance, it shows. The guy is a walking Oedipus complex, what with his desire to prove his superiority to his fathers. I suppose one might say that he's already gotten the better of Sevarius, since he has the good doctor on his payroll. And while he outsmarted Xanatos once, I don't think he's done. Turning Nightstone Unlimited into a powerhouse to rival Xanatos Enterprises is obviously a means to this end. But what next?
I think my favorite thing about Thailog is that while he is a clone of Goliath, that's the last thing that comes to mind when I think about him. He's a fully developed character in his own right, and not simply Goliath's evil twin. On that note, I'm happy his coloring is different, because the last thing this show needs is an entire episode where the gargoyles try to figure out which one is the real Goliath.
And how can anyone not find that maniacal laugh of his to be anything but endearing?
4. John Castaway
John Castaway is a fascinating character, hell to crack the top five, he has to be. Castaway is a weak man, and at the heart of everything, a frightened child. Too weak to stand up to his brother and say "this is wrong" and too weak to admit he was wrong when he pulls the trigger and everything goes to Hell. I think the only thing that has changed is his support system.
Now that the gargoyles have been revealed to the world, Castaway represents a political movement who are moving against them. And it's rather frightening. Not for being a group of hooded thugs, they are not, but for being like a cross between the neighborhood watch, and a support group. Oh, there is a violent wing of the Quarrymen, we know that. But with Castaway's shrewdness, and the Illuminati's backing, I don't think he would do something stupid like fire anti-aircraft cannons in Manhattan, or hijack a train. No… because that would make Castaway much less difficult to defeat than he is. And even then, who says that happens? The Quarrymen are destined to be a problem for at least the next two hundred years, and like the Hunters before them, his descendents will lead the organization.
Keep in mind, we can all trace this back to a scratch in a barn in the tenth century.
Well, where do I start? Well, I suppose I will start by saying that I almost feel bad for putting him on this list at all. He has a strong sense of honor, if skewed. He's worked against our protagonists and with them. But, in the end I think the only side he's on is his own. While he is more of an ally now, that doesn't mean he hasn't been part of the problem before and won't be part of the problem again.
His story is terrific. Rather than follow the Scottish Play, the story we got was a loose adaptation of the true history of Macbeth and his reign over Scotland. Yes, we had Demona and gargoyles, and the Weird Sisters and sorcery, but we also had a history lesson unfolding, even if we didn't know it at the time. And it's terrific. To this day, it's my favorite tale in the entire mythos.
When we first meet him, the centuries have certainly taken their toll. He is not above attacking the gargoyles, taking hostages, and committing grand theft. And yet, we never once think of him as evil, despite doing some pretty unethical and amoral things. That changes with "City of Stone" when we learn his story and feel sorry for him. But at the same time, I think the perception among many fans has swung around too far. Yes, we understand him more now. But that wasn't his redemption. Far from it.
I think the tail end of "Sanctuary" and "Pendragon" is where the change begins, and I stress this, begins. In the former, he learned that he is still capable of love. In the latter, while some didn't quite get why he competed so violently against King Arthur for Excalibur, well, it always made sense to me. This is a man who has suffered so much, who viewed his existence as sad and endless, that he was looking for something to give it meaning and maybe justify every terrible thing that has ever happened to him. Being the new Once and Future King would serve that purpose, wouldn't it? Well, it doesn't quite work out for him, but over the course of the series we have seen this man go from suicidal renegade to a man who doesn't think life is completely worth living, and now seeks purpose in his existence. Did he look like a fool clutching that broken sword? Well, he was a broken man. And once you hit rock bottom, the healing can begin.
2. David Xanatos
He was designed to be a heroic character, and he was cast as the villain of the piece. That, right there, is what makes this character so brilliant. He has so many positive qualities, so many admirable traits. He's smart, he's cool, he's suave, he's practical, he knows his priorities, he doesn't sweat the small stuff, he doesn't hold a grudge; the titled heroes have more personality flaws than he does! But he is also incredibly ruthless, and while he's not evil, he is incredibly amoral. He seems to be the walking personification of Frederick Nietzsche's ubermensch when one stops to think about it. And he is awesome.
I am actually struggling here, what more can be said about David Xanatos that hasn't already been said? He's designed many tropes all by himself. There was never a villain like him in animation before, and even after he's left, there still has never been anyone quite like him. He doesn't surround himself with dimwitted henchmen and beat them up and scream when they fail. No, quite the opposite, he is always surrounded by incredibly competent people. His assistant and majordomo, Owen Burnett comes to mind. And he so rarely loses. In sixty-five episodes, and eighteen comics, I can count the number of actual losses on one hand. Aside from that, he always comes out on top. Always. But when he doesn't, he doesn't throw a fit and scream, he shrugs it off and moves on to the next plan. There are always contingencies. This guy is the coolest guy in the series.
His character arc throughout the series is brilliant. I love his rivalry with Goliath, and I love how he doesn't hate or even dislike Goliath. He likes Goliath a lot, admires him, and regards him with what I can best call a mix of interest and benign amusement. That's far more interesting than Megatron's hatred for Optimus Prime. And I really love how Goliath would often use the word "evil" to describe Xanatos. Sure, Xanatos has done some evil things, but Goliath's view of him for the longest time was very two-dimensional. It almost represents how most audiences, especially in animation, were trained to view the villain. No, Xanatos wasn't a Dark Lord, or a diabolical evil. He was simply a trickster. A human trickster.
While Xanatos and Goliath seem to have made some form of peace, that still didn't make Xanatos one of the good guys! I love that! In a way, he's still the enemy, and now the gargoyles are living with him, and they know it! He still has plans and schemes, and while he likes the gargoyles and helps them out, that doesn't stop him from manipulating them to his own ends, or even working against them. And best of all, as far as Xanatos is concerned: it's nothing personal.
I also have to give a ton of credit to the performance of Jonathan Frakes. He made Xanatos sound so sophisticated, fun, and erudite.
David Xanatos, he should run a seminar on villainy. Often imitated, never duplicated.
Demona is the clear number one on this list, for reasons both grounded and very esoteric at the same time. At the most minimal of glances, she seems very typical. We've seen genocidal human haters before. But scratch the surface, even a little, and we get the deepest creation of not only the series, but one of the deepest creations in the realm of fiction. I'm going to say this now, and roll your eyes all you want, but Demona would not be the slightest bit out of place in Russian literature. Or William Shakespeare's for that matter. I love this character.
Let's start with the surface elements first. She's got a terrific character design, and was so very well animated. Marina Sirtis deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the work she did bringing her to life. She embodied that character so completely that I never want to hear anyone else ever voice Demona on any animated project. No one can do it. Period. Hearing Marina Sirtis voice Demona was just as much of a revelation as hearing Mark Hamill's Joker. And I will stand by that statement even under threat of torture. She is also just such a badass! An intimidating warrior, an immortal, a sorceress, and she transforms into a human during the day! Hell, in both forms, she's pretty hot.
Now, for the esoteric. She has a guilt complex that makes Peter Parker's look tame by comparison, but she spreads it around to everyone else rather than internalize it. And considering how much she has to feel guilty over, this makes her arguably the most dangerous character in the series. She cannot accept her own culpability for the terrible things that happened to her, and for all intents and purposes, murdering her clan. She may not have swung the mace, but her ambition, her bigotry, and her cowardice put them in front of it.
Her favorite scapegoats are humanity as a whole, who make an easy and convenient target for her to project her guilt and self-loathing on. Now, does she have a point? Yes. Let's face it, humans can be bastards. We've done terrible things as a species. But, just as you cannot blame every Muslim for the attacks on September 11th, or every German for the Holocaust, Demona is wrong to blame every human for the terrible actions of a few. And at the end of the day, she was either directly or indirectly responsible for those actions. She betrayed her clan, and caused the massacre; she created the Hunter, and betrayed Macbeth. Demona created her own pain, and she intends to wipe out every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth just to justify every damned stupid choice she ever made.
Despite all of that, she is an eternally conflicted character. She is not a one-dimensional cut-out. Deep inside, she knows she's wrong, she knows what she did. But she cannot and will not acknowledge that. And that's what makes her hatred for Elisa Maza so interesting. The one human she hates most is the one that has been a true friend to the gargoyles, because Elisa is living proof of just how wrong Demona really is. And the fact that Elisa and Goliath are now in love doesn't help considering Demona's lingering feelings of jealousy.
Of course, there is Demona's biological daughter, Angela. She is probably the one person Demona cares about in the world. My single biggest regret about the cancelation of the comic book is that we didn't get to see the two of them interact again. I am beyond curious to see where this goes. But one thing I am confident of, it's not heading towards a hysterically easy redemption. Nope, if we take the plan for the "Gargoyles 2198" spin-off seriously, and I most certainly do, Demona is still plotting against humanity long after Angela has died. Is it sad? Yes. Is it tragic? Yes. Is it Demona? Absolutely.
I also love how she is a walking mess of contradictions. Her belief system is based so much on lies she tells herself, that she will rationalize anything she can to fit her world view. Why? Because the alternative is admitting she is wrong, and right now, she will not do that. Cannot do that. Sadly for both her and Angela, I see tragedy in their future.
Demona's through line is one of the main reasons I am so desperate for "Gargoyles 2198" to be produced. I want to see how her story ends, and if it's going to end anywhere, it's in that spinoff. This is a story I am dying to see, and if Disney never produces it, well… one way or another I intend to find out what happens to her. What her ultimate fate is going to be. We know she'll have an epiphany of some kind. How does it happen? Why does it happen? What's the fallout? How does her story end?
Demona is an endlessly fascinating character. We've never seen anything like her in the realm of western animation before her debut, and I don't think she's been replicated since. Why? I don't know. But lightning has been caught in a bottle, and I am rather happy that no one has attempted to imitate this unique and perfectly conceived character but tragically flawed person.
What? No love for Bruno?