Religious Studies 101: A Handful of Thorns
"Religious Studies 101: A Handful of Thorns" was a Radio Play produced for the thirteenth and final Gathering of the Gargoyles in Los Angeles, California. It was performed on August 22nd, 2009.
Demona, in her Dominique Destine guise, approaches Dr. Ashley Kafka, Director of the Ravencroft Institute, for permission to excavate below the Institute's foundations. She chooses for the excavation team Dominic Dracon (an inmate there since the events of "The Silver Falcon", still broken over the shock of discovering how futile his long quest for Mace Malone's stolen gems had been), alongside four former adversaries of Spider-Man (Otto Octavius aka Doctor Octopus, Maxwell Dillon aka Electro, Eddie Brock - once Venom, and John Jameson - once Colonel Jupiter) and Cletus Kasady.
Demona has learned that Vertros Ravencroft, founder of the Institute, had collected many strange objects and buried them beneath the Institute's foundations; among these is the head of the Spear of Destiny. After her diggers uncover it, Electro blasts his way out of the Institute to freedom, taking Octavius with them and escaping with the aid of the Vulture. The sun sets, Demona shifts back into her gargoyle form, and forces her own way out with the remaining inmates, promising them the power that they desire in return for their services.
Word of the break-out quickly spreads, reaching both the police and the Daily Bugle. Joe Robertson phones up Peter Parker to alert him, while he's web-slinging around New York as Spider-Man; almost immediately after receiving the phone call, Spidey sees Zafiro and Obsidiana fighting two men in a van, jumps to the conclusion that they're monsters, and goes to the aid of the men in the van (unaware that they're smugglers working for Demona). His interference allows the smugglers to get away, delivering their goods - the spear-shaft of the Spear of Destiny - to Demona. Demona joins the spear-head and spear-shaft together, re-activating the Spear's powers, and using them to transform John Jameson back into Colonel Jupiter and Eddie Brock back into Venom, as well as turning Cletus into Carnage. But she wants more power than just the Spear; she also wants "the Kingdom and the Glory".
Elsewhere in New York, the Green Goblin, newly returned, attacks Tombstone, but Goliath intervenes. Spider-Man, close by, hears the sound of the battle, goes to investigate, and mistakenly believes that Goliath is one of the Green Goblin's creatures. The fight between them comes to a premature end when the sun rises and Goliath turns to stone. When Spider-Man turns his attention to the Goblin, the Goblin throws one of his pumpkin bombs at the stone Goliath, escaping while Spidey webs the bomb away.
Demona approaches Tombstone in her Dominique Destine alias, offering him the services of her new henchmen, and Dominic Dracon as a front man for his operations, in return for the Tinkerer's services; she wants him to provide her with Mysterio's Homunculi.
That night, Goliath's clan learn from Zafiro and Obsidiana about Demona's smuggling activities, and from Elisa about Demona's break-out at Ravencroft. Matt alerts Elisa that the OsCorp vault is about to be attacked - not only are Demona and her followers preparing to assault it, but so are many of Spidey's other old adversaries (the Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, Dr. Octopus, Electro, and the Vulture among them). The gargoyles glide off to help the police in the coming battle. Spider-Man also learns of the fight and goes off to help deal with the super-villains.
As a complicated battle rages at OsCorp, Demona sends the Homunculi to retrieve the treasure she seeks: the Crown of Thorns. When she dons it, combining it with the Spear of Destiny and reciting a dark parody of the Lord's Prayer, she unleashes the two artifacts' combined power: control of all humans within the area of their effect, which is gradually expanding. The humans within range - including Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus, and Electro - kneel to her, as do even Zafiro and Obsidiana, because their pendants were made by a human wizard.
But Goliath is unaffected, and struggles to seize the artifacts from her, especially after Demona gloats over how she will use this power to make Elisa commit suicide, once the magic reaches and overcomes her. The battle between them weakens Demona's hold on the Crown and the Spear (aided by her having a touch of humanity in her, thanks to Puck's spell), enough for Spider-Man to recover and web the Crown away. Both the Crown and the Spear disappear in a flash of light; Goliath and Spidey believe that they have been destroyed. The humans nearby recover from Demona's spell, and both the gargoyles and Spidey leave, after Spidey webs up Demona, Doctor Octopus, and Electro.
The Spear and the Crown were not destroyed, however; Shari and Thailog, on the Illuminati's behalf, had Brentwood gain control enough of one of the Homunculi to have it steal both artifacts in the magical explosion, which will be delivered to Duval. Goliath and Spider-Man have become allies, while Dominique Destine is now a patient at Ravencroft - at least until the sun sets....
"A Handful of Thorns" is filled with in-joke references to both "Gargoyles" and "The Spectacular Spider-Man", as well as several examples of meta-humor. Among these:
- Spidey's line to Obsidiana when she talks about the "powers that are gathering", "And you're the one doing the Gathering, I take it!"
- The smugglers' delivery of the Spear of Destiny's shaft to Demona's home echoes the delivery of Titania's Mirror to the same address in "The Mirror".
- At the end of the first act, Demona says, "This is only the first act.... The main event is still to come...."
- The Green Goblin comments, as he watches the fight between Spidey and Goliath, "I'm so enjoying the show. Really, someone should make more Gargoyles. I know: I'll call Walt Disney!"
- Lexington mentions an adult website, Blue Mug Productions. Blue Mug is written by Greg Weisman's nemesis, Edmund Tsabard.
- Brooklyn, upon meeting Zafiro, comments on his family resemblance to the Zafiro of 2198, saying "Long story. Time travel. The future. A whole other spin-off. Two, actually...."
- When the Tinkerer suggests that Demona send for Mysterio, she refuses, saying "Our stage is crowded enough."
- Elisa shouts at J. Jonah Jameson when he tries getting too close to the battle, "You want to wind up street pizza?", a reference to one of her lines at the start of "Awakening Part One".
- The narrator briefly argues with Vulture and Fancy Dan during the battle.
- Lexington comments on the annoying voice of Homunculus #5; both Lex and Homunculus #5 were voiced by Thom Adcox.
- At the conclusion of Act Two, Demona cries "This is humanity's Armageddon. Their entire race's final act."
- Captain Stacy, Matt, and Elisa all say to Margot Yale in unison, "Oh, give it a rest, Margot", a line that the hen-picked Brendan has used a few times in the series.
- Tombstone and Chameleon are revealed to be members of the Illuminati (Tombstone's in Rank Thirty-six and Chameleon's in Rank Thirty-five).
- Zehra Fazal performed as Shari in the Radio Play. Greg Weisman has stated that Zehra is his actor of choice for Shari, and was even used as a real life model for Shari's design.
- Demona mistakenly refers to Elisa's gun as a service "revolver." Elisa's service pistol has always been an automatic, not a revolver.
The Spear of Destiny
The story of the Spear of Longinus begins with an account in the Gospel of John of how one of the Roman soldiers on duty at the Crucifixion pierced Jesus's body with a spear after his death "and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19: 34). The Bible says nothing more about the spear, but later legend fleshed out this story. It named the Roman soldier "Longinus", and many stories spread of the fate of his spear, which became a holy relic. One claims that it was discovered at Antioch during the First Crusade in 1098. thanks to the visions of a young man named Peter Bartholomew (though later on the Crusaders suspected Peter to be a fraud; he died shortly after attempting to prove his honesty through an ordeal by fire), but other purported Holy Lances have appeared elsewhere. Chief among these is a spear-head kept in the Hofburg Museum in Vienna, once an heirloom of the Hapsburgs. Adolf Hitler is said to have believed it to be a valuable talisman, and claimed it for his own after his rise to power; he lost it, however, in the final days of World War II, shortly before his suicide in 1945, when the U. S. Army under General Patton seized it. Trevor Ravencroft's book The Spear of Destiny popularized the Hapsburg spear-head's claim to fame, though with questionable accuracy. (The Radio Play's script accepts the Spear's links to Hitler - and the Ravencroft family.)
In the medieval romances about the Holy Grail, the Spear of Longinus is kept at Castle Carbonek alongside the Grail, and borne with it in the Grail processions. The spear is also generally portrayed as delivering a terrible wound to the Fisher King that cannot be cured until the achievement of the Grail Quest, in an act commonly known as the Dolorous Blow. (The most familiar version of this story, in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, ascribes this act to Sir Balin, who struck King Pelles in the leg with the spear, crippling Pelles and laying the lands around Carbonek waste.) The Spear's association with the Grail makes it appropriate that, at the end of the Radio Play, it should be delivered into the keeping of the Illuminati, with their links to the Holy Grail and Carbonek.
The Crown of Thorns
The Crown of Thorns is mentioned in the Bible as part of the mockery inflicted upon Jesus, just before the Crucifixion, by Pilate's soldiers; they dressed him up in the mock-regalia of a king, including a crown of thorns (and also a scarlet robe and a reed as a sceptre - though these have received far less publicity). This crown became one of the most familiar images relating to the Crucifixion thereafter.
- NARRATOR - Greg Weisman
- DEMONA/DOMINIQUE DESTINE - Marina Sirtis
- SPIDER-MAN/PETER PARKER - Josh Keaton
- GOLIATH - Keith David
- LEXINGTON - Thom Adcox
- ELISA MAZA - Zehra Fazal
- BROOKLYN - John Clemens
- CURT CONNORS/LIZARD - Dee Bradley Baker
- BROADWAY - Crispin Freeman
- ZAFIRO - Joshua Poole
- MAY PARKER - Deborah Strang
- GREEN GOBLIN - Steve Blum
- OBSIDIANA - Elisa Gabrielli
- KRAVEN THE HUNTER - Eric Vesbit
- HARRY OSBORN - James Arnold Taylor
- DOCTOR OCTOPUS/OTTO OCTAVIUS - Michael McAdam
- J. JONAH JAMESON - Daran Norris
- MARY JANE WATSON - Vanessa Marshall
- ELECTRO - Crispin Freeman
- VENOM/EDDIE BROCK - Ben Isaac Diskin
- GEORGE STACY - Lucas McClain
- BIG MAN - Keith David
- CALYPSO EZILI - Jennifer L. Anderson
- ASHLEY KAFKA - Elisa Gabrielli
- ROBBIE ROBERTSON - Phil LaMarr
- LIZ ALLAN - Kaitlyn Robrock
- SALLY AVRIL - Jennifer L. Anderson
- GWEN STACY - Sarah Williams
- MATT BLUESTONE - Eric Tribou
- GREG BISHANSKY - Greg Bishansky
- KENNY KONG - Andrew Kishino
- COLONEL JUPITER/JOHN JAMESON - Daran Norris
- NED LEE - Andrew Kishino
- VULTURE - Seth Jackson
- FLASH THOMPSON - Ian Bassett
- SHARI - Zehra Fazal
- FANCY DAN - Phil LaMarr
- GULYADKIN - Dee Bradley Baker
- CARNAGE/CLETUS KASADY - Ian Bassett
- HOMUNCULUS #1 - Dee Bradley Baker
- HOMUNCULUS #2 - Phil LaMarr
- HOMUNCULUS #3 - Steve Blum
- HOMUNCULUS #4 - James Arnold Taylor
- HOMUNCULUS #5 - Thom Adcox
- SMUGGLER #1 - Andrew Kishino
- DOMINIC DRACON - Seth Jackson
- BLACKIE GAXTON - Steve Blum
- EMILY OSBORN - Kaitlyn Robrock
- TINKERER - Thom Adcox
- SEYMOUR O'REILLY - Steve Blum
- SILVER SPOON MANAGER - Crispin Freeman
- ANGELA - Sarah Williams
- PUMPKIN BOMB - Nicki France
- THAILOG - Keith David
- MARIA CHAVEZ - Elisa Gabrielli
- FREDERICK FOSWELL - James Arnold Taylor
- ALAN O'NEIL - James Arnold Taylor
- ROSIE THOMPSON - Vanessa Marshall
- MARGOT YALE - Marina Sirtis
- MORGAN MORGAN - Keith David
- JASON IONELLO - Ben Isaac Diskin
- RAND ROBERTSON - Phil LaMarr
- BRENTWOOD - Fox Anderson
- CHAMELEON - Steve Blum
- NORMAN OSBORN - Eric Vesbit
- DILBERT TRILBY - Steve Blum