Archive for February 26, 2011

GARGOYLES and the lament of an amateur chronologist

February 26, 2011 7 comments

I was always a big fan of the ’90s animated series Gargoyles, for its intelligent, literate writing, high-quality animation, and superb voice cast, but also for its intricate, well-developed chronology and backstory.  So much of that backstory was revealed through flashbacks over the course of the series that it became confusing to keep track of it all, so I started to assemble a chronology of my own to help me sort out the sequence of events.  I managed to put together my best interpretation of how the show’s timeline fit together, which was great for my own satisfaction; but I also thought that maybe it would be nice to find someplace I could get it posted online so others could share in the results of my efforts.  However, I never got around to doing anything about it.

Recently, I discovered that the Gargoyles comic books by series creator Greg Weisman, which I had heard of a few years back but lost track of, have all been collected in three trade paperbacks, Clan-Building Volumes 1 & 2 and a spinoff title Bad Guys, which were all they got through before the publisher, Slave Labor Graphics, lost the license due to the high fees from Disney.  (Hmm… Disney owns Marvel now… be nice if something could be arranged.)  These comics continue the storylines that Weisman intended to tell had the show continued with his involvement — which it didn’t, since he was uninvolved in the retooled third season, The Goliath Chronicles, except for writing its first episode.  Fandom considers the rest of TGC to be non-canonical, and the comic ignores and contradicts it.

So anyway, I bought the comics, and since this was the “true” continuation of the saga at last, and since it had its own elaborate flashbacks and non-linear storytelling, I opened up my old chronology file and figured out where to put the comics and the events they depicted or mentioned, as best as I was able.  It was a satisfying exercise in problem-solving, as I’ve always found chronologies to be ever since I started compiling a Star Trek chronology way back in the early ’80s.

But then when I got to musing about the possibility of maybe posting it here or offering it to someone else to publish, I realized… there’s an extensive Gargoyles fan community, there’s a Wiki for it, so probably I’m far from the only person to try this.  I decided to check out the GargWiki and see if it had a timeline.

Which it did.

And it has the events of every single episode of the series listed… to the exact day.  Thanks to dating information provided by Weisman himself.  And it turns out I was wrong about a lot of my assumptions, though I got some things right.

I guess I should be glad to have such detailed, authoritative chronological info available.  But I went to so much trouble to put mine together, and now it feels like a wasted effort.  I didn’t have to do my own problem-solving because the show’s creator already had it all worked out to the day.

Well, I’ll get over it.  It’s certainly impressive that Weisman has worked it all out in such detail and provided that information to the audience.  And I still enjoyed the mental exercise of putting my version together, not to mention the pleasure of doing the historical research and discovering just how solidly grounded in real history the show was (notably portraying a far more historically accurate Macbeth than Shakespeare did).  And that should be satisfaction enough even without some more public payoff for my work.

Careful attention to chronology seems to be a trademark of Greg Weisman’s shows.  The Spectacular Spider-Man maintained a conscientious progression through the school year, with the first season being fall and the second being winter.  Most TV shows only feature winter weather when it’s a plot point, but here it was included as a background element throughout the season, and there was a clear progression of dates through the series from the start of school to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s.  And in Weisman’s current Young Justice, every scene of every episode has a date given onscreen, although there was an error in the third episode (the 2-part pilot was on July 4-5, but the next episode’s captions erroneously said “June”).  It seems he takes great care to work out exactly when every episode happens.

And I can certainly identify with that, because I do the same with my novels — I work out every scene to the day.  Partly just because I’m a chronologist at heart, but also because when I wrote Star Trek: Ex Machina, I accidentally introduced a major chronological error, a scene that had to be simultaneously two days after a earlier scene and immediately after it, because I lost track of the relationship of my story threads.  I fixed it in the second draft, but ever since, I’ve maintained careful timelines for every book so it doesn’t happen again.

But now I’m starting to wonder if posting detailed online annotations about my fiction may be taking the fun out of it for people like me who prefer to do their own research and timeline-solving.  Well, I guess they don’t have to read my notes.