Gargoyles are nocturnal creatures that turn to stone during the day. They originate from the titular series of the same name, Gargoyles, which includes gargoyles as part of the main cast.
Gargoyles once lived in every corner of the world, living in elevated areas as their natural habitat and to protect their eggs. Gargoyles would spend their nights guarding the rookery and foraging for food; their days hibernating in the open air. When the Iron Age of Man arrived, the gargoyle's stone hibernation, which had once been a natural form of protection, became a liability. Men could safely seek out gargoyles during the day and use iron weapons to smash them to bits. Many gargoyles were destroyed, and the race nearly perished.
One factor saved them, however. People were more afraid of each other than of gargoyles. One very wise man struck a deal with a gargoyle. He would build his keep on top of a gargoyle rookery. During the day, his archers could keep both humans and sleeping gargoyles safe from enemies and harm. During the night, the gargoyles would do likewise. It worked out great, and the idea caught on like wildfire. Soon castles, keeps and fortresses were popping up atop every accessible rookery. Existing castles and new castles that could not find a rookery to co-exist with were carving fake gargoyles out of stone, to fool potential enemies into believing that their castle was also protected by gargoyles. This was the golden age of human-gargoyle relations. But it couldn't last.
Gargoyles are bipedal organisms belonging to the fictional order of animals gargates, and are generally more physically powerful than humans. They are related to gargoyle beasts, in the same way as humans are related to apes. Being nocturnal, gargoyles are very adept at concealing themselves within shadows, perfectly camouflaging themselves in the dark for ambushes, or simply to get around stealthily. In fact, apart from their inherent strength and beastly features, the cover of the night is generally a gargoyle's strongest weapon against their adversaries.
Gargoyles exhibit tremendous visual variety. For example, some have hair and some don't. Most gargoyles have crests on their foreheads in addition to horns, but some gargoyles lack one, the other, or sometimes even both. Some have relatively round, humanoid faces; some have more animalistic snouts. Most have prehensile tails, many have six limbs (not including their tail) with four digits per limb: usually two arms (each with three fingers and an opposable thumb), two legs (each with three forward toes and a back claw), and two wings (where the four digits are often divided between ribbing for the wings and/or finger-like grasping claws at the wings apex), though among Mayan gargoyles, it is not uncommon to have a snake tail instead of legs, and among the Japanese gargoyles, it doesn't appear uncommon for any to have feet with two forward toes instead of three. A semi-aquatic clan also exists around Loch Ness (though they do not appear in the television series and are mentioned by series creator Greg Weisman), and they are described as having dolphin-like tails and manta-like wings for swimming.
Gargoyle eyes also glow to signify intensified behavior; male gargoyles' eyes glow white when in an excited stage, and females' eyes glow red, signaling an adrenal response or rage.
All gargoyles are shown to have a pair of wings that vary in appearance and size. Most of the Gargoyles featured in the series have wings resembling a bat's while others such as the London Clan, and some of the Mayan Clan, have feathered wings, resembling a bird's. The rarest wing variation are those like Lexington's, stretching between his arms and legs, rather than extending from his back as with other Gargoyles, somewhat resembling a flying squirrel. Contrary to popular belief, these wings are used for gliding and are incapable of powered flight. They are quite prehensile, able to fold around their bodies in a cape-like manner. Gargoyle-beasts meanwhile are wingless and are quadrupedal, resembling reptilian dogs, wingless dragons or wolves.
Gargoyles turn to stone at sunrise and will remain as such until nightfall, at which point the surface layer will crack and flake away, revealing flesh and blood underneath. Gargoyles generally refer to this as "sleeping". During this period (daytime), the stone form is absolute, and they are effectively indistinguishable from regular statues. While in stone form, all physiological functions of the Gargoyle in question are stopped, with the exception of the their natural recuperative processes, which seems to be even augmented in exchange for the other bodily attributes halted throughout the duration of stone sleep. Anton Sevarius believes that Gargyles enter stone sleep to absorb solar energy, as they would otherwise need to eat the equivalent of three cows a night to maintain their metabolisms. The stone sleep is rejuvenating, and most of the gargoyle's injuries will heal by sunset. There do appear to be limits to this, however, as Hudson's eye never healed after the Archmage blinded it (although, this could just as easily be the result of the injury being magical in nature, or the effect lessening with old age). The stone form appears to be quite durable, given that the Wyvern Clan, managed to survive a thousand years in this state, without any apparent degradation. It is not, however, indestructible, as a human with a strong arm, and the right bludgeoning tool can shatter it. If the stone form is seriously damaged, then the gargoyle will die, without ever waking up.
All gargoyle offspring hatch from eggs, but female gargoyles will only lay a single egg on the following spring equinox. All of the eggs will be stored together in the clan's rookery, and the communal hatching occurs ten years later. The gargoyle offspring will typically inherit their body structure from the matching gender parent (mother to daughter, father to son), while their pigmentation will be derived from the other (father to daughter, mother to son).
While not inherently immortal, gargoyles can be extremely long-lived, a result of stone sleep which seemingly slows or halts their aging process to an absolute standstill until they wake again the following night. This was how the Manhattan Clan were able to survive all the way to the 20th Century, after Magus cast the spell where they won't awaken from stone form until "the castle rises above the clouds", being in stone sleep the whole time.
Even in old age (as evidenced in the episode Grief, and by Hudson throughout the series) they are not as frail and incapacitated as other creatures. Because they spend half their day asleep as stone, they age at half the rate of a human, thus living twice as long.
The gargoyle culture is defined primarily by their natural instinct to protect. They are guardians by nature and will continue to help and protect any humans within their "castle" or protectorate, even if those humans hate and fear them for many years. Only a few gargoyles have been known to stray from this path (Demona and Thailog for instance). Traditional gargoyles seem to believe that their brethren and human must work together for symbiotic coexistence; with humans protecting gargoyles during the day, and gargoyles protecting them during the night.
In 994 AD, most Gargoyles did not possess or name themselves, but at some point as their numbers dwindled, most gargoyles began choosing suitable names for themselves. Examples of this include Hudson, Lexington, Brooklyn, Bronx and Broadway, who chose names after places in Manhattan to reflect their lives in the city. Zafiro, Obsidiana, Jade and Turquesa are named after precious stones. Kai, Yama and Sora have names that mean ocean, mountain and sky, respectively while Katana is named after the Japanese sword. The Avalon Clan members are named after angelic figures, as reflected in their names; Gabriel, Ophelia, Boudicca and Angela, respectively.
Members of the clan are not necessarily related biologically. Nevertheless, the gargoyles in a clan will consider themselves members of a single extended family, often referring to others of their generation as "Rookery Brothers" or "Rookery Sisters". This reflects the fact that gargoyles are hatched from eggs, which are stored communally in a rookery. As such, parents are never certain which of the hatchlings is their biological offspring. Rather, hatchlings are "children of the entire clan".
Population and Clans
According to series creator Greg Weisman, there are only about 400 Gargoyles alive by the time of Goliath and his clan awakening from their stone sleep in modern Manhattan. Besides the Manhattan Clan themselves, which is the focus of the series, several other clans were introduced during the second season of the series. Gargoyles had once been an abundant species that had dwindled due to the rather antagonistic co-existence with humans. Only a few clans survive in modern times, each for different reasons. Each surviving clan has different physiological and cultural differences based upon where in the world they are located. Despite this, they all share the same attributes: they go into stone sleep during the day, all are fierce and formidable fighters, and they all have a specific area, people, or concept that they protect. In total, there are ten living clans and several deceased clans in the series continuity that either appear in the TV series itself or are confirmed by Greg Weisman. The list of clans is as follows:
- Wyvern Clan (Deceased)- Goliath's original clan that protected Castle Wyvern in Scotland. They were eventually betrayed by Demona and the Captain of the Guard when the Captain struck a deal with Hakon, the leader of the Vikings to capture the humans within and leave the castle for the Gargoyles to inhabit. All members save for the six gargoyles who would form the Manhattan Clan (Goliath, Hudson, Brooklyn, Lexington, Broadway and Bronx) would be destroyed. Demona only escaped because she was away at the time and would later form her own clan from remnants of other Scottish gargoyle clans.
- Manhattan Clan- The main clan focused on in the TV series, its members include Goliath, Brooklyn, Broadway, Angela, Lexington, Hudson and Bronx. It was later revealed in the comics series that the Manhattan Clan gained new members with the return of Coldstone and Coldfire as well as Brooklyn's mate Katana, their son Nashville, their daughter Tachi (shown as an egg and nicknamed Egwardo in the comics) as well as Fu-Dog. This currently bring's the clan's number to thirteen. Including the human Elisa Maza, the clan has in total fourteen, as she is considered part of the clan by all members.
- Avalon Clan- The Avalon is a clan of gargoyles that resides on the mythical Isle of Avalon, where an hour spent on the island equates to a day in the "real" world. This means that for the island's inhabitants, that while a thousand years passed since their arrival on the island, the inhabitants have only experienced just over forty-one years. Unusually among the many clans in the Gargoyles universe, the clan includes three human members who protected the clan while still unhatched. Much like the Manhattan Clan around which the series revolves, the Avalon Clan is an offshoot of the destroyed Wyvern clan from Wyvern Castle in Scotland. When the majority of the clan was destroyed by Vikings, the 36 gargoyle eggs in the rookery were taken away by four humans - Princess Katharine, the Magus, and the peasant woman Mary and her son Tom. The eggs remained protected by these humans and brought to Avalon (only Mary remained behind to protect the spell book known as the Grimorum), where they remained and grew to adulthood. They were raised by the humans that had protected them as eggs, and were largely untouched by the outside world. Angela later stated that she had "fifteen rookery sisters" on Avalon, and Greg Weisman has stated there were three gargoyle beasts in the clan including Boudicca, thus revealing that the remaining seventeen gargoyles from the Avalon Clan were males. The Avalon Clan was introduced when Tom (now the elderly Guardian of the Eggs) arrived in Manhattan searching for Goliath, to see if he had been woken from his stone slumber, as he had checked previously every hundred years. Goliath, along with the human Elisa Maza and the gargoyle beast Bronx, traveled to Avalon and helped save the clan from attack by the Archmage and the Weird Sisters. Unlike traditional gargoyle clans, the Avalon Clan was raised by humans. Because of this, the gargoyles on Avalon tend to have a more "human" nature than most of their species; perhaps most notable is the fact that each member was given a name at birth (such as Angela or Gabriel) rather than the usual gargoyle tradition. Similarly, Angela developed a human-like expectation of being acknowledged by Goliath as a daughter, which he was initially uncomfortable with on cultural grounds. Known clan members include Gabriel, Boudicca, Ophelia, and formerly, Angela. Humans Tom, The Magus, and Princess Katharine are also considered clan members.
- London Clan- The London Clan is a clan of gargoyles that resemble creatures of medieval heraldry. Unlike other clans, they appear to look very much like anthropomorphised animals with wings. In the show, only three members of the clan were introduced, running a magic shop in the Soho area of London for income, but the actual population of the clan is 196, making them the very largest of the existing gargoyle clans. While easily one of the more successful gargoyle clans in that they were able to evade near-extinction that other gargoyle clans experienced elsewhere in the world, this clan of gargoyles, have, until recently, neglected their brethren's ways as protectors of humanity and not just their own kind given that they thought their most valorous and heroic members, Griff, had perished in World War II until his rescue by Goliath using the Phoenix Gate. They manage to fool customers into believing that their bizarre appearances are costumes as part of fetish within the Magic Shop they run; and at least one member, Una, is knowledgeable in the magical arts. Other members of the clan do live on an estate outside London called Knight's Spur. Although the clan is easily the most prosperous one known in terms of population, it is very much aware of the danger of overcrowding their secure area. To control that problem, stringent precautions are taken to control their population growth with a resulting total number of eggs at present being 25. Leo, Griff, Una, Lunette, Constance and Stagheart are all known members of this clan.
- Guatemala Clan (Mayan Clan)- The Guatemala Clan are the protectors of the rainforest of Guatemala (which they refer to as "The Green"). This clan possessed four amulets, powered by a larger Sun Amulet, forged by their previous human protectorate, the ancient Mayans, that allowed the wearers to stay awake during the daytime for 24-hour protection. Shortly before their appearance on the show, the clan was attacked by poachers, and all but the four gargoyles wearing the amulets (who were out at the time of the attack) were killed (the clan's eggs were also spared according to Greg Weisman) and the Sun Amulet was stolen. The amulet later sat in the American Museum of Natural History in New York and was almost destroyed by Hyena who was sent to destroy it in a coordinated attack with Jackal in Guatemala. Broadway and Lexington from the Manhattan Clan foiled that attempt and now hold the Sun Amulet in safe-keeping. Zafiro, Obsidiana, Jade - (pronounced Ha-day, as in Spanish), and Turquesa are the known members of this clan (along with their unhatched eggs). After their encounter with Goliath, Elisa, Bronx, and Angela, Jade and Turquesa went to Avalon, to plant and raise several valuable plants and herbs threatened by the development and logging activities in the rainforest.
- Clan Ishimura- The Ishimura Clan are the gargoyle residents of a small village in Japan. Unlike most other clans, the Ishimura gargoyles co-exist peacefully with humans and often walk among them at night. Their ancestors fought many battles alongside human samurai before settling in Ishimura. They live by the code of Bushido, (lit. the "Way of the Warrior"), which they teach to humans in their protectorate. By the late 20th century however, they had run out of students. While they protect the village and its human residents during the night, a group of humans protects the clan's home during the day - to honor this pact, gargoyles from this clan enter stone sleep facing inwards from their battlements, to their human protectorate as a sign of trust, whereas gargoyles like Goliath traditionally face outwards to face potential threats. It also seems to be for this reason why they assume less threatening poses before entering stone form. The Clan nearly was tricked by their former student, Taro, a businessman not unlike David Xanatos, who wanted the Gargoyles to become attractions at his Theme Park. Ultimately, Taro was defeated and the clan returned home to teach Bushido once again. The clan includes members such as Kai, Sora and Yama, who was banished and later joined Redemption Squad in the comics. Katana, Brooklyn's mate, was also a member of the clan before she joined the Manhattan Clan.
- Labyrinth Clan- The Labyrinth Clan is a clan of gargoyles, Mutates and the homeless and transient humans residing in an underground research facility beneath the streets of New York City, once run by Cyberbiotics. The mutates are former humans, spliced with animal genes by Anton Sevarius to resemble gargoyles. They have cat-like bodies, bat wings, and can discharge electrical pulses like electric eels. They include Talon, Claw, Maggie the Cat, Fang (formerly), Benny, Erin, and Thug, as well as the cloned gargoyles Hollywood, Burbank Malibu, Delilah and former member Brentwood created by Anton Sevarius, with funding from Demona and Thailog. The five clones are unlike the mutates, true gargoyles with simple minds, who are genetically identical to the Manhattan clan. Talon gave them sanctuary in the Labyrinth when Thailog was defeated in battle with Demona. They were artificially aged, which altered their colorations (in general, their colours are essentially photo-negatives of their originals). They were named after places in Los Angeles, in parody of the Manhattan Clan who are named after places in New York City. In the non-canonical season 3 episode Genesis Undone, the clones had a genetic defect that eventually "killed" them by permanently freezing them in stone hibernation. This defect also had happened to Thailog as well. However, all clones are shown alive and well in the comics, which are considered to be canonical. Brentwood later left the clan to rejoin Thailog, while the remaining clones remained as part of the Labyrinth Clan. Fang meanwhile was coerced into joining Redemption Squad after Talon banished him.
- New Olympus Clan- The New Olympus Clan is a gargoyle Clan who live on Mount Thanatos on the hidden island of New Olympus, where they live in peace with the New Olympians. An isolationist clan, little is known of them and they are only mentioned in passing by Taurus and by Greg Weisman.
- Loch Ness Clan- The Loch Ness Clan is the last Scottish gargoyle clan, and lives around Loch Ness in Scotland. The only semi-aquatic clan remaining, they protect the Loch Ness Monster species. They do not appear in the cartoon when Goliath and company go to Loch Ness but are described by Greg Weisman as having manta-like wings for swimming with dolphin-like tails.
- Xanadu Clan- The Xanadu Clan is a gargoyle clan from Xanadu in China. They protect the waning gargoyle beast population (gargoyle beasts such as Bronx, Fu-Dog and Boudicca all belong to this subspecies). Brooklyn's companion gargoyle beast Fu-Dog originated from this clan.
- Korean Clan- The Korean Clan is a gargoyle clan from Pukhan, South Korea. They protect their concept of justice. They are only mentioned by Greg Weisman.
- Demona's Clan (Deceased)- Demona's Clan was a clan of Gargoyles formed by Demona in the decades after Goliath and the remainder of the Wyvern Clan were turned to stone by the Magus. They were formed from survivors of all Scottish clans that had been destroyed up to that point. Eventually, the clan found some peace for a time thanks to Demona's alliance with Macbeth that allowed them to grow in numbers. Eventually though, Demona's suspicions of Macbeth betraying the clan got the better of her and she betrayed the king to Canmore, the second Hunter, who turned on her and destroyed the gargoyles of her clan while they slept.
In addition to these clans, Greg Weisman stated that had the series continued, more clans would have developed and would have eventually come together to form the Gargoyle Nation. Four New Clans would have also appeared as a result between 1998 and 2188; the New Wyvern Clan, the Camelot Clan, the Notre Dame Clan and the Liberty Clan, respectively.