Comic Review: Marvel Comics Gargoyles #1 (1995)

I’ve been a Gargoyles fan for 26 years. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s since the show’s premiere in 1994. Gargoyles, in my opinion, is by far the most intelligent, creative, and best written story to come forth from the Disney vault. I’ve waxed philosophical at length about how influential the series has been for me on Twitter, so if you’d like to read that, I’ll leave that link here

Now, if you’ve never heard of Gargoyles, check out the show’s opening credits. It’s actually a great primer on the show’s premise. At the time of publication, you can also watch Gargoyles in its entirety on Disney+.

Video Provided by CanadaToonFan.

With an intro like that, how can you not be intrigued? Gargoyles entranced me, not just with the show, but with a comic book series as well! In 1995, Marvel Comics released a Gargoyles comic book series. While technically, the Gargoyles comic series isn’t “canon,” and the events of the comics do not directly affect the story of the TV series, I would like to propose that the comic series functions very well as a companion piece to the show. There are little elements in the comic series that appear much later in the TV show. While not “canon,” I would even argue that the series helps to enhance the reader’s appreciation, not only for the animated series, but also for the Gargoyles story as a whole. 

In this series here on the Pop Culture Retrorama, I am going to offer a brief synopsis of each issue in the complete run of the Marvel Gargoyles series, compare the comic publication and TV air dates for potential Easter eggs and timeline purposes, and maybe toss in a few ad scans for a bit of retro flavor. 

“Fiends in High Places”

“Fiends in High Places” is the first story in this companion series. The Gargoyles comics are told from the electronic journal of Detective Elisa Maza. I love having Elisa as narrator for a couple reasons. 

  1. Elisa is in my top five favorite fictional ladies of all time. As a kid, I thought really hard about being a police detective because I admired Elisa so much. My girl crush on Salli Richardson-Whitfield, the voice and truthfully, model behind Elisa Maza, persists well into adulthood, especially as she has continued working on genre shows and films, such as playing the lead, Allison Blake in SyFy’s Eureka and has sat in the director’s chair on episodes of Netflix and Marvel’s, The Punisher and Luke Cage. She’s on the docket to direct episodes of the upcoming Wheel of Time series as well.
  2. Using Elisa as the narrator, we’re offered a type of cop show narrative in this comic series. This is appropriate as show creator Greg Weisman has cited Hill Street Blues as an inspiration for Gargoyles in his notes in the later Gargoyles comic series published in 2006 by Slave Labor Graphics. This also accounts for the slightly darker tone of the comic series, which I personally find very enjoyable.
  3. Elisa is our human connection to the gargoyles. Using her as a narrator allows the story to read like an account specifically written as a primer for humans on the gargoyles. 

Our story opens with Elisa and her partner, Matt Bluestone, being assigned to work night shift undercover at a construction site where the construction company is having difficulty keeping workers because of “Gargoyle attacks” on the site. Knowing that Goliath and company are not the culprits, Elisa angles for the case to see who could be impersonating her friends. Sure enough, there’s an attack, but it’s Demona in a new robo suit, attacking workers and trying to kidnap humans for yet-to-be-disclosed nefarious reasons. Matt takes a bad head injury in the attack and Elisa is able to avoid revealing her connection with the gargoyles, as Goliath follows her and intervenes when Demona attacks. 

While I don’t want to give more than a brief synopsis of the comic, as I think it’s worth finding and reading for yourself, I do want to highlight a few interesting points of note on this first issue of the series.

  • This comic is dated February 1, 1995, making it concurrent with episode 1×12, “Her Brother’s Keeper,” which aired January 27, 1995.
  • The comic actually gives a brief primer on the television series within the narrative, which I feel is a great way to hook folks new to the series without them having watched the show while also not boring those who have watched the show. This is also a smart move, considering this was approximately a decade prior to the era of streaming, DVR, and on demand. (Unless of course you demanded your mom record Gargoyles for you on VHS, which would not have flown with my mother).
  • In addition to the primer on the television series, the writers actually put in episode references when there may be a point of presumed knowledge within the comic.
  • There is a variation of the robo suit Demona wears in this comic that actually shows up much later in the television series, episode 2×48, “The Reckoning.”

For a first issue, Gargoyles doesn’t waste any time. It dives right into the series, giving the reader plenty of action and gorgeous artwork. While I am always going to be interested in anything Gargoyles-related, one of the things that truly makes this first issue of Gargoyles a time capsule for me are the advertisements. In particular, the back cover features a full-page ad for Cookie Crisp cereal when they were doing a promotion with the 1994 Spider-man animated series.

That series was my introduction to Spider-man and the main reason I love the character. I’m quite certain I had several of the trading cards that were the prize in the Cookie Crisp box as well. As soon as I saw the ad, it was like being back in elementary school. It amazes me that one small thing like that can function as a mental time machine, but that’s what we’re all about at the Pop Culture Retrorama, aren’t we? 

Stay tuned for my upcoming review of Gargoyles issue #2, “Always Darkest Before the Dawn.”

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