I love the site. In your list of all-ages reads for this month, I’d particularly like to highlight Gargoyles: Bad Guys and its parent comic Gargoyles.
This was originally a Disney series in the 90s; their only real attempt to do a dramatic animation (think Batman: the Animated Series). The writer, Greg Weisman, is now a lead producer on the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series.
Six gargoyles from 10th century Scotland lost their gargoyle clan and the castle they protected in a Viking Raid and were frozen in stone for a thousand years as punishment. They awoke in modern-times and defended Manhattan.
The show received a strong following for smart characters, optimistic themes and the sheer scope of the universe (closer in spirit to the sorts of worlds created by Pullman or Rowling than standard Saturday morning fare). Characters from literature, world history and mythology would routinely turn up. The hero would unwind reading Dostoyevsky. There were episodes on literacy, gun safety and the issue of revenge.
The comic book is in the same vein. Issue #1 sees the gargoyles unveiled to the world in a news report. Some people want them captured and studied; others have positive experiences with them; and some join a KKK-style vigilante movement out of fear.
Gargoyles #8 is currently available and concerns the Stone of Destiny’s return from Westminster Abbey to Scotland in November 1996. In flashbacks we see the Stone’s role in history with characters as diverse as Moses, Gathelus, Cu Chullain, Arthur, Macbeth etc. In the present day, the gargoyles and their allies are on alert for those plotting to steal it and unlock its secrets.
Gargoyles is a young adult book — I’d guess 12 and up, or your best judgment. Issues 7-9 have a non-linear structure which is rewarding but complex. It also occasionally has violence (issue 5’s cover depicts a stabbing). It has also been said by the creator that one of the gargoyles will have a same-sex mate, though this hasn’t yet been explored in the comics.
In one instance there’s a use of strong language although as usual with Gargoyles it’s done intelligently: a character is called a “bastard” as an insult but it’s also true to his parentage, and true to the literary tradition the character derives from — he’s particularly reminiscent of Edmund from King Lear (”God stand up for bastards”).
Gargoyles: Bad Guys is a six-issue spin-off featuring five villains from the old show who are offered a chance at redemption. It’s hoped that it will be successful enough for there to be subsequent spin-offs. Gargoyles: Pendragon features a reawakened King Arthur searching for his teacher Merlin in the modern world. Gargoyles: Timedancer features a character who becomes lost in time.
The original show runs on Toon Disney in repeat, the first 39 episodes are now available on DVD sets and the first trade paperback of the comic was released this January (Clan-Building: Volume One).
I probably wouldn’t recommend Gargoyles to under-12s unless they have a specific interest in the original series or are advanced readers. But otherwise, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. There’s plenty of action and heroism and adventure, but it’s also full of strong characters and epic themes; tragedy and hope and romance and heroism. It also rewards close attention and scrutiny.
And chances are more than good you’ll come away from any given issue wanting to know more about Native American mythology, or the Biblical Jacob, or Sally Hemings, or Henry IV Part One, or the Grey Goo theory, or the Tasmanian Tiger, or 11th century Scottish history....