A new series from Dan Gordon and John Stanisci, presented by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides
When John and I created this newsletter, our vision for it was to share the many turns a journey can take from creation to negation and eventual publication. The term publication can mean many things. As we think of it in comic books, the traditional definition applies: printing and distribution of a series or graphic novel. However, in many cases, in the age of “transmedia” (Remember that dirty little buzzword? No? We can discuss it over a power lunch) new stories are created for development in multiple mediums simultaneously. This can be a blessing or a curse. In some cases, an original idea is developed with one story in mind. That story results in a pilot or a treatment written with the intention of translating it to a comic book or video game, and often results in audiences who deem it a cash grab because the results lack in a thoughtful execution beyond their initial form.
Today, we are introducing a new world (based on the old), character, and take on genre that was the culmination of four experts breaking story in both an original graphic novel and a pilot for a series. I will leave it to John to share the exciting details on just what to expect from GLADIATRIX, which premieres today right here on Substack!
Sometimes magic happens.
Sometimes the right people come together on just the right project with just the most exciting character or story. And, sometimes, art eerily imitates life.
In previous posts, I’ve written about my long standing friendship with Oscar nominated screenwriter, Dan Gordon. If you aren’t familiar with our origin story, please peruse a past newsletter and you’ll find that Dan and I have had some incredible experiences working together, chief among them, making our Broadway debuts together in 2009 with the stage play IRENA’S VOW. Dan is one of THE best screenwriters in the business with a special gift for telling the EPIC story. He’s also a dear friend.
In the last few years, Dan and I have wanted to try to work together on something new, something that could be a comic or graphic novel that would have film/TV crossover potential. After a few false starts, Dan came to me with something irresistible.
Enter Vlas and Charley Parlapanides.
Allow me to brag about Vlas and Charley for a sec. You are probably aware of some of their writing/producing credits: IMMORTALS with Henry Cavill, DEATH NOTE and most recently, the AWESOME animated series on NETFLIX, BLOOD OF ZEUS. There two guys are SUPER talented and sweethearts to boot.
Dan, Vlas and Charley are long time friends and in September of last year, they came to Dan with the notion of creating a new Gladiator series. Dan called me up, asked me to be a part of this, and of course I was in.
We then set about to map out a story that would give an audience all one would expect of a Roman Gladiator series (arena fights, Gladiators in all kinds of frightening looking armor, weapons, etc) and yet, we wanted to still carve out something unique that hasn’t been seen yet.
We found that some VERY interesting events took place around 55-78 A.D. in Rome. Events that would perfectly set the stage to introduce the world to a female Gladiator who rises to fame and power in the arena. A young girl, raised as an assassin, who comes to Rome as a slave, on a mission to avenge her people who have been slaughtered by the Romans.
Gladiator fighting is relatively new at this time in Rome. The Coliseum is still being built. The citizenry love this brand new blood sport which is starting to emerge as big business.
However, the notion that a GIRL could enter an arena and…actually fight? And not only survive, but rise to fame as the most famous Gladiator of her time? Well, we were all REALLY intrigued with this.
A backstory was worked out, interwoven with historic events, which details the fall of the mountaintop fortress of Masada. It’s a story about a people from a tiny country, under siege from an overwhelming force of a larger country, bent on their subjugation. It’s about this one young girl, one of only a small handful of survivors of the massacre, who refuses to let the spirit of her people die.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the story we spun, which was meant to mainly tell an exciting adventure series, suddenly, and tragically, became all too relevant. We have all witnessed the unfolding, tragic, events taking place in Europe. We have seen stories of the incredible heroism and courage as the people of a small country refuse to surrender to the tyranny of a larger, more powerful invading nation.
We realized that GLADIATRIX has much more to offer than being an exciting adventure series. And, I could not be more proud, or excited, to be a part of such a great project.
I’ll let the others take it from here.
I just thought , what the hell, John will draw the pictures , I’ll rest on both our laurels. Actually it was a passion piece for both of us and it’s only more so in the face of what’s happened. It seems that struggles of light vs darkness, freedom vs. totalitarianism are common to all generations in every age. Whether it’s graffiti on the walls of Rome that tell Caesar to go fuck himself , or Ukrainian border guards telling Russian warships to do the same or graphic novels and super heroes who seem to be the better expressions of ourselves, there is an eternal innate desire for Justice instead of injustice, no matter the sacrifice, no matter the cost. Which is a long winded way of saying I thing the story has an audience, which is hungry for it.
Dan and I go way back. This traces back to my first job out of college. I worked on Wall Street and one of my best friends there was Josh Levy. Josh was Dan’s nephew. I met Dan through Josh and became good friends with Dan‘s son, Zaki. While I worked on Wall Street, I knew I wanted to pursue a creative endeavor. Zaki was making a film with all of his high school buddies. When I found out about that I decided that I would try to help them. Not that they needed my help, this was a very talented group of young people. Zaki’s friends included; Eric Steelberg, the cinematographer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Juno, 500 Days of Summer; Daniel Dubiecki, the producer of Up In The Air, Juno, Thank You For Smoking; and Jonathan Krisel the co-creator of Portlandia. This was way before they all had their success. They had just graduated high school! But it was clear to me that they were all very talented. And we all knew that Zaki was, by far, the most talented of all of us. He had his father‘s gift for storytelling.
I remember reading Dan’s original draft of Wyatt Earp and being blown away by it. It was such a beautifully written screenplay. The script I read unfortunately was re-written again and again and a lot of it didn’t make it into the movie. I honestly believe that if they had just shot Dan’s script, the movie would’ve been a true classic.
So, I got to know Dan as I helped Zaki and his friends make Zaki‘s first film. Zaki and I remained friends and Dan became a dear friend as well. Charley met Dan through me and have remained friends for all these years. To think that we are now afforded with an opportunity to bring into the world this amazing story is truly remarkable. It feels like God‘s invisible hand is at work, in all honesty.
One of the things that Charley and I loved about the story Dan and John crafted was that it was about someone standing up to tyranny and overcoming insurmountable odds in their pursuit for justice. That’s a story that will always appeal to us. Our great grandparents were victims of genocide. They were murdered by the Turks solely because of their ethnicity. So when Charley and I come across stories that deal with people that have been persecuted, it especially resonates with us. In fact, we have great empathy for all people who have been marginalized or made to feel like they are less.
In addition, the story is incredibly inspirational. It’s so very satisfying to see someone who has been dealt a terrible hand in life overcome insurmountable odds. It touches you emotionally. And the movies and shows we love best always manage to do that. As a storyteller if you’re not moving the audience on an emotional level, then you’re not doing your job. This is a story that manages to do that while also leaving them with a sense of hope.
And the fact that we get to tell it with Dan and John, two very talented, kind, decent people is a prayer answered.
All I would add is that this is a story that needs to be told. Yes, we live in a golden age of content. Yes, this is the era of peak TV. But only certain stories get made these days and many of the epics we grew up loving would never get made today. Thankfully, the mediums we enjoy have also evolved and this story is inherently well suited for the panels of a comic. Furthermore, someone our age has no problem reading a graphic novel or watching an adult themed animated show. We grew up on comics, cartoons and video games. We’re comfortable with them and consider them an artform, which may not have been true a generation or two ago.
But most importantly, this is an amazing story, one that reminds us of our past. It sounds cliché but the old adage is true, those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it. For all that has changed in the world, so much remains the same. And I’m convinced we need stories to better understand the world. It’s how most of us make sense of the chaos around us. Again, we love the amazing story Dan and John have crafted. Often here in town, projects are all sizzle and no steak. There’s an interesting visual or hook but no real story. It’s just vacant IP. But this project is all sizzle and all steak. It’s a cool, visceral and visual project COUPLED with an amazing story, characters and look back at the ancient world. We love it and can’t wait to share it with the world.
And without further adieu, here’s a six page full color preview of GLADIATRIX!!!
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!!!!!!