I’ll be the first to admit that most of the things I loved as a kid are also things that I love as an adult. There are few things that I devoured when I was younger that didn’t follow me into adulthood, but somehow Gargoyles was one of them. It’s surprising to me, because I loved the show so much back then. I owned all the action figures, I owned the Sega Genesis game, I even owned the Gargoyles: The Movie VHS tape that came with the video board game. On top of all of that, I also collected the short-lived Marvel tie-in comic book series. And that’s the thing we’re really here to talk about.
To be clear, looking back on it, Gargoyles was a great show. It dealt with some serious themes, it had a great gothic tone, and it got away with a truly impressive amount considering Disney’s tight regulations at the time. I never look back on the series with anything less than extremely fond memories. But whenever I think about Gargoyles, my mind first goes to one thing, one of my earliest memories of the show, but also the one thing I carried into adulthood. It wasn’t a particular episode that won over my young heart so powerfully that I think about it to this day, it was a single issue of the comic.
To be exact, it was issue #4, titled “Blood from a Stone.” It’s one of the first comics I can ever remember owning, reading cover-to-cover, and then going back to the beginning and reading again. I had to have been six years old when my mom picked up the comic just as something to occupy me on a long car ride, and it wound up defining so much of my lifelong interests, including my love of horror. Diving deep into the issue again, I’m still stunned at how much it accomplishes and the emotional depth it reaches in such a short amount of time, to the point that I still believe it might genuinely be the best Gargoyles story ever told. Even if it was never actually told on the show.
“Blood from a Stone” sees Broadway introduced to a beautiful, bat-winged gal named LaVonne. He’s nervous because she’s gorgeous and he’s a big, fat, oaf. At least, that’s how he sees himself because he’s relentlessly teased by other members of his Gargoyle clan. He’s head over heels for this girl from pretty much the moment he lays eyes on her, so worried that he’s going to embarrass himself. And he kind of does, but LaVonne is actually kind of into it. Broadway’s so happy to meet someone like himself who doesn’t just make fun of him or think he’s a great big idiot, and also happens to be incredibly beautiful. It seems too good to be true.
And that’s because it is, of course. See, LaVonne isn’t actually a Gargoyle at all. She’s a vampire.
That’s where the other shoe drops. It takes Broadway a long time to realize this, too, which is not a surprise because he’s not the most intuitive guy, but none of his Gargoyle pals (well, mostly Lexington and Brooklyn, who feature most prominently) really come to that realization either. That’s mostly because they’re doing their best to vie for LaVonne’s affection and are in total shock that she would be more attracted to Broadway than either of them. It really spells out just what the other guys, even Broadway’s best friends, think of him. They’re not just incredibly jealous, they’re completely flabbergasted that anyone so beautiful could find him attractive.
Things are also spelled out for the reader long before Broadway comes to his eventual realization, too, which makes it all the more heartbreaking. We know LaVonne isn’t what he thinks she is from the first page. It’s doubly spelled out as soon as they rescue some guy and she freezes, looking down at his neck and thinking about the warm blood coursing through his veins. Cleverly, and even kind of sadly, hunger was the first thing she and Broadway bonded over when they first met. He loves to eat and she loves to eat too. She just doesn’t tell him what she loves to eat most.
The saddest thing, though, is that even though Broadway and the gang knew nothing about her, LaVonne knew everything about them. She planned their initial meeting, and planned to get to know Broadway, and planned to kill him, to take out what could perhaps be seen as the easiest target of the Gargoyles in order to get revenge on the entire clan. But, as these things often go, she wound up genuinely falling in love with him instead.
LaVonne’s story, as a whole, is a tragic one, at least what we can gleam from her few appearances. She’s not just a vampire, she’s a weird lab experiment created by Dr. Phobos, who is essentially the comic book’s version of the show’s Anton Sevarius. She was a runaway whose boyfriend was killed by the mob boss Tony Dracon, while she was just handed over to Phobos as a human test subject. He used her for an experiment called, appropriately, Project Nosferatu, in which Phobos wanted to genetically create a vampire that could be mistaken for a Gargoyle, a plan that clearly worked. But on top of that horrific and unwanted transformation, LaVonne was considered a failed experiment and Phobos (thinking she was dead) literally went and dumped her in the river.
All of that backstory for the character came from previous issues, particularly “Just Before Dawn” and “Rude Awakening,” so as a kid who just happened to pick up this one issue by itself, I was stunned by the reveal that this girl was a vampire and on the edge of my seat trying to figure out when the Gargoyles would catch on and what it would mean for them when they did, all over the course of a single issue. Again, though, I was six.
As “Blood from a Stone” goes on and LaVonne and Broadway become closer and closer, she eventually realizes that her desire for Gargoyle blood—something that, again, was programmed into her and that she’s completely helpless against—will never go away. It’s only getting stronger. She could kill him if they continue to spend any further time together and she does not want to do that. It sounds ridiculous to say for the Gargoyles tie-in comic book series, but the end of this issue is honestly devastating.
LaVonne, who has explained everything to Broadway, is begging him to kill her as the sun begins to rise. She knows she will kill him if they stay together and, more than that, she doesn’t want to kill anyone else. She can’t stand to be what she is for another minute. Too many people have gotten hurt, and her existence will only mean utter isolation or killing the people she becomes closest with. She’s disgusted with herself, and Broadway holds her close. As he embraces her, he’s not blaming her for anything she’s done and he’s not blaming her for the circumstances of how they met. She’s clearly forgiven. But he’s also giving in and doing exactly what she wanted, holding her still and letting the sun take care of the rest.
We essentially end the issue with an absolutely heart shattering image of Broadway turning to stone as the sun rises, while the only girl he’s ever loved—who is also the only person who’s never treated him like an absolute joke—bursts into flames and crumbles away into a skeleton in his arms. I know this is a Gargoyles comic book, but that’s a devastating and powerful image, and the fact that it happens in a Gargoyles comic book makes it all the more impressive.
“Blood from a Stone” is a doomed romance and a genuine adult horror story told within the context of a comic series based on a Disney cartoon. It’s amazing, it’s devastating, I truly think it is the best Gargoyles story ever told and LaVonne might even be my favorite character from that entire world—even if, yes, I understand that she is not technically canon. I don’t care. This is a hell of an issue. And it was such a foundational comic book for young me. I’m pretty sure I already loved vampires by the time I was six, but this certainly fueled that fire in a major, major way.
I’ve met many deep cut Gargoyles fans in my day, but I have never met anyone who read the Marvel comic series, so I’ve definitely never met another soul who has read this particular comic. Sure, it’s probably not the easiest to come by, but as I’ve hopefully established, it is so worth it. With Disney and Marvel now being all under one roof, you’d think this series could potentially get reprinted. There might not be a huge demand for it, but the Gargoyles fandom is without a doubt alive and well. If anything, it would seem like a no brainer to drop these comics on Marvel Unlimited, so that people (re: me) can finally start to give this series, and this issue in particular, the exposure it deserves.