Blood of Zeus took off like a rocket when it debuted on Netflix, and ComicBook.com got a chance to speak with the creators who helped bring the new anime series to life. Produced by the studio behind notable anime projects such as Castlevania and Seis Manos, Powerhouse Animation, Blood of Zeus introduces a whole new kind of storytelling to the anime world with Greek gods, heroes, villains, and much more that those who may not be completely in tune with this mythology have been exposed to. It's a distinct vision that we at ComicBook just had to get more of.
Speaking with Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, the writers and executive producers behind the series, and Shaunt Nigoghossian, director, this trio of creators all give credit to one another for helping bring Blood of Zeus (formerly Gods and Heroes) to its final form. Getting their perspective on the series as a whole was eye-opening as they revealed some major hopes for a second season (and maybe even more).
Read on for our full conversation with the creative trio behind Blood of Zeus as they discuss bringing Greek mythology to the anime world and newer audience, hopes and potential stories for Season 2 should it get announced, audience reactions to their works, and more!
ComicBook.com: Blood of Zeus is an anime with lots of Greek culture and mythology, and that's not something you usually get with an anime. So I just wanted to go around the room and ask what you wanted to be sure to portray for this new audience, who may not be exposed to this stuff regularly.
Vlas Parlapanides: You start, bro. You always answer this well. I like how you answer it.
Charley Parlaparnides: I don't know exactly what... Listen, for us, this was just a dream come true. We've always loved the genre. We've always loved anime. I know there's some debate, whether you can call this an anime, we've always loved 2D, hand-drawn, whether it's from Japan, whether it's made here. For me, the beauty of 2D animation over say 3D CGI, it's like night day. And so we've always just loved these stories. And what we've always believed is that we live in this time where comic book heroes dominate the landscape. And for us, Greek mythology is the language of superheroes because that's where all this really came from.
Basically Marvel and DC just put capes on them. But if you look at the Olympians, they were the original superheroes, so the chance to bring to things that we always loved together, anime style show and Greek mythology, was just a dream come true. And so we feel just blessed. We just thank God that Netflix is taking these creative shots and they're making these kinds of shows because we do think this is an underserved audience. We do think that the fandom is much bigger than maybe the majority of Hollywood realized.
Vlas: And I would add too to that even, we remember our first couple of comic books. When you open that comic book and how that makes you feel and how you're in awe and how you're excited and you can't wait to finish it. We wanted to imbue that with this, this idea of really bringing people into a world, exciting them, and then hopefully entertaining them as well and bringing some of that, I guess, childhood awement to the show.
Shaunt Nigoghossian: For me, growing up with the Greek mythology, the movies and reading it and everything, I did one of my biggest book reports on Jason and the Golden Fleece. The cool thing for me about this aside from paying homage to everything that I grew up loving and doing a cool version of it, and also not going too far away from it either, staying loyal to it and not getting so stylized that it's something almost like, "Oh, this is a take on that. No, no, no. We want it to be the definitive version of Greek mythology, here. But the other cool thing about it is that because it's animation, we can do stuff that other sources can't. In the movies, there's always some clouds or one room where the gods hang out and they're just chilling, just looking around, talking to each other, plotting, playing chess or something like that.
But, we got to see it. We got to see all the different parts of it. You never see the gods do anything because it's always about the demigod or whatever. And now we get to see the gods go full X-Men on everybody. And so this was an opportunity to expand outside of stuff. The fact that we didn't just give our guy a Pegasus, but we brought in other creatures that we've heard of and talked about, but never got to see, that's the magic of this whole thing, is that everybody grew up loving this stuff and now they get to see so much more of it than before.prevnext
CB: Well, speaking to that action, Powerhouse, it's known for either this violence and gore alongside of the standard action stuff, but it has consequences. So when you're crafting that from the bottom up, from the writing to the final product, what goes into making sure all of that stuff lands?
Charley: Shaunt Is a creator of the show as well because he brought so much to this. This show wouldn't be what it is without him. And I love that you like gory violence. I think that's on Powerhouse's business cards, they have that there. That might as well be their motto. And I'll let Vlas and Shaunt speak to this. But the one thing I will say is that Shaunt took much care into understanding every moment and every kill. And so whether it was what we had written and then we would discuss something, or he, working with his board artists, or things he would board himself, that was a point of pride, and I think that's why so much of the action and violence and the deaths are so fun and unique, is because it mattered to Shaunt and it ends up mattering for the audience. And I think he did an amazing job.
Vlas: I would second that too, everything that Charley just said there, there's no doubt. Shaunt, as far as we're concerned, is a creator right there with us. And specifically to the violence though, what I would say is that it's not gratuitous. It's a violent world, and it's depicted as that way, and it is graphic and that's the graphic nature of the violence too, is part of anime, to be honest, that's also a staple. And I think it was important for us that we have that, but we also have something that's inspirational. We also have something that's positive. We also have something that's uplifting.
So it's a combination of the two, it's an amalgamation of both of them. And I think that's what makes this really work. And specifically to what we do with regards to the violence in this, it's also very cinematic, and that again, stems from the work that Shaunt did. That was a mandate that we had something that we discussed before we went into this project. We wanted to make the experience as cinematic as possible.
Shaunt: Yeah. And on the macro level, if you will, I have worked on a bunch of shows where you can't kill anything. You can't even use a sword half the time. So, I finally worked on Transformers about 10 years ago, Transformers Prime and all my episodes had beheadings and I didn't realize it, but I was constantly beheading transformers and then at some point someone started tallying, and I was like, "Oh, I got to change it up." And that sparked my, like, "I really want all my kills to be unique. I don't want to just be a pattern guy."
So whenever we got a kill in this episode, I was like, "How can we make this a better kill? We got to make it more interesting. We got to push it a little more." So I'm pretty proud of quite a few of them, including the first one.
CB: Well, yeah, you got to start it off right. Right?
Shaunt: You're right.prevnext
CB: All of you have experience with the animated world in some way, so with crafting Blood of Zeus as an anime series, how do you approach that? Do you approach it as in, "Let's take this one story and separate it?" How do you dive into this world and prepare for an entire season of the series?
Charley: It's a very interesting process and I'll let Shaunt speak to this in a moment because the one thing, we primarily come from live action and physical production is a very different medium and a different piece because you know you're going to have a set, or you're going to have a location, and a stage, and you're going to have a set designer, and a costume designer, and the actors are going to come into the space, and you're going to figure out how to block it all out.
But with animation, it's truly a blank canvas and Shaunt and his team have to create all of it. So we create the story. We have an idea of what it wants to be, but then we have to sit down with Shaunt and figure out, "Well, what does this actually mean?" He has to do it all. Shaunt, you can talk to that. How you go from page to storyboards and how you just have to act it all out and figure it all out.
Shaunt: Yeah. It's a big one. I would say A, the how, the bros just, there's so much Greek mythology and how they picked just seemingly just the right stuff to put in, and they created this new character, but it feels like he lives in this world that we've already seen all this stuff. Of course there's a Heron, of course there's other people like him and all that stuff. So it was neat. But once we came in and talked about it, there were so many things in the thrips. I was like, "Are you sure you want to show this guy punching a mountain down? Because we have so much money so we could."
So a lot of it, we had to constrain it a little bit because the story was actually even bigger than it currently is, but we had to pair our scripts down and we had to lose some really great storylines that we are going to put probably in season two, should we get a season two.prevnext
CB: I was going to ask about that because it does seem like there is a greater world outside of what we get in season one. It does sound like there are ideas for a season two, or at least characters we can explore outside of Zeus, Heron and Hera.
Shaunt: The bros have quite a lot of things going on. They are ready to go. There's a Medusa story. I don't know if I can say that.
Charley: Someone keeps asking why they don't see Athena. And the idea is, listen- Actually, we do. We would spend five seasons and we see her, there are shots of her, but it would be a five seasons story. And we definitely have a very detailed 20 page outline for season two worked out. And then for us, a dream world, it could be like this Greek mythology MCU, where we have a Medusa storyline and we have other characters that would have their own shows, but it exists in this world and we have the same gods and sometimes the stories would criss-cross.
But it all depends on how we do what the viewership is these first 30 days on whether we'll get a second season or whether they'd want to double down and do another show in this Greek mythology space. So we'll see, there's definitely more story, but this is something new that we're trying and we think that there's an audience out there for it, and now we're going to find out.
Vlas: It's a challenge, Nick because there's so many characters that we love in season one. And we want to spend more time with these characters. And as Shaunt said, we had to basically pare some things back because we only had so much real estate and that was a real challenge. And it's writing 101, if you want to keep, say, the scripts at 20 pages, 22 pages, which no one told us that they should be 20, 22 pages. Initially they're like, "How many pages you want? And then Shaunt said, "Yeah, no, they got to be 20, 22 pages." And we're like, "Oh man." That was working with Shaunt again to bring them down from, they were 28 pages, some were 30, down to 21 to 20. That was a real challenge. It also though, help us keep the story a little more focused. And there was also just a collaborative effort and it was one where there wasn't ego involved and that was so refreshing, and that stems from Shaunt and Charley and we try to bring that to the whole team.
And, we just adapted what Spielberg said, "Best idea wins." And wherever that idea comes from, that's what we use. It's always what was in the best interest of the story? It's not like, "Oh, I have my idea. And I have to bake that in there and plug that in there." So it was a unique working relationship and it was one that I think really made a difference with regards to how well the, the show turned out because we were always focused on telling the best story. And as Shaunt said, he took time and thought for every kill, but you know what, he took time and thought with everything else. From the swords, from the armor, from how the characters look, from every single shot, there was always that attention to detail. And I think people are responding to that.prevnext
CB: Charlie and Vlas, you two are very in tune with how fans respond to your projects, so I do have to ask about [Netflix's live-action Death Note movie]. How did you feel about the response to that when it first launched?
Vlas: Well, I can't answer for Charlie, but part of that too, we were brought into that process early on. And then later we got rewritten, we shared credit, and then film is very much a director driven medium. You end up telling the story the director wants to tell. And, a choice was made to tell an original story in that world. And I don't know if they set the table well enough for fans, for them to accept that, but we just don't feel there is in terms of creative contribution, there's much less of a creative contribution if you compare Death Note to [Blood of Zeus], where [Blood of Zeus] we were involved the whole way through. Death Note was, we loved the material, love the characters, and then it just became about servicing the director. And then we got rewritten. We weren't the last writers in too, so there was that.
Charley: Yeah. The one thing I would just add, and again, I think the film works, but films are director driven business, especially in the traditional studio model. And the one thing I would say is that we were in on death note back in 2006, reading bootleg copies of the PDFs online that had the American translation and our original drafts were more true to what the story is. And the one thing that we always pitched for Death Note is that when you start reading Death Note, you believe Light is the hero. And you think like, "Oh yeah, I'm with this guy." And then what I believe you fundamentally find out is that really L is the hero. And Near and Mello in the later manga. They're really the heroes and Light is the bad guy.
And so for us, what we always wanted to bring to that is that you set it up almost like a Western Marvel movie where you see this incident where... One of the things we added was that Light's mom is killed. So you feel he's justified in doing what he's going to do. But then, what we had in our version was that his girlfriend finds out that he has the book and she tells him, "If you don't stop, I'm going to turn you in." And you think he's going to be the heroic guy and do the right thing. But instead, what he does is he kills her to silence her so he can continue on. Now what they did in later drafts, and what they ended up changing was that they made her, it's almost like what we call the Richie of Preol. They made her even more of a bad guy than the protagonist to make him seem more heroic.
And that's just a choice, and again, as Vlas mentioned, after we worked on it, a lot of other writers worked on it. And it was much more of Slater's draft that became the final film and again, it's a choice of the director to steer the story the way he wants to steer it. And that's a great property.prevnext
Vlas: We're saddened that the fans didn't like it. We want them to be happy. We want them to like it. All writers want that. And I think that Jeremy Slater did a good job, but, he had a very specific mandate and we're disappointed by the reception because we wanted to, again, give the fans something that they would like, but we also understand where they were coming from. Just one thing I would add to it. There was a Japanese film. There was the-
Vlas: The anime. So, that story had been told. So that's why the director said, "Hey, we've seen this story, let's try to do something different." But again, sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you give people something they want, sometimes you don't. Again, going back to Spielberg, he always says, "The audience tells you what you got." And the audience, they weren't too happy with us.
Shaunt: What I will say is, I've worked in animation for something like 22, 23 years now. And I've worked with a lot of writers and I've never met two like this. It's so different working with guys who come from movies, from cinema, these dudes, write different, the content is deeper. Even our composer when he was working on the show was like, "I've just never worked with material like this. There's so much here to do. It's easy to write music for the show because there's all this stuff." Whereas most shows, you're just trying to make someone sad by putting a sad note in there, but it's not really there on the screen. The other cool thing is that most of the time in animation, the writers write the script and bounce.
And now you do your thing. You might tear the script apart. You might rejigger it, you might whatever, you work on it for months and months and months. And then they show up later, pick up an Emmy. And they're out. These guys were, every single day, they were there. They were on the phone, if you needed something, there were times I would just sit there and go, "I'm struggling with esteem. There's just something about it. I don't know why." And I would call them and be like, "Guys, what's what's happening here?" They're like, "Oh, there's this thing. Look, here's the history of these characters." And they're just like a database.
And so they're there in the mix, they're everywhere. These guys are like true producers and true writers. And I think this is the first time that we've seen their pure version of their writing as opposed to rewritten or overseen stuff so I can't endorse them enough, honestly. I couldn't ask for more.prevnext
Charley: Thank you. Thank you for that. Thank you for that. This is the purest version, but I have to say as a writer, and I would say this for writers, to be blessed to work with a director as brilliant as Shaunt, because as a writer, you do craft these moments and you hope and pray that the director not only recognizes them, Shaunt recognized that there were these emotional moments, but he elevated them. He took the moments there and he made them even better. He milked the moments. And then, he tied the emotional beats and he understood that. So that takes a real storyteller, a real dramatist.
So he's all of those things in addition to being a very good artist. And so, even if you write that, if the director doesn't understand the moment, then it gets lost. And so Shaunt not only understood the moments, made the most of the moments, connected emotional beats, but he also created some moments of his own and were like, "Oh, that's great." And again, best idea wins. That moment, Shaunt. Good. That's that wasn't even in the script and you created that? That's fantastic.
Vlas: And this is the last thing I'll say about it. A lot of writers don't like that, and it's nice that we could collaborate that way and create just interesting things that you find. You need artists to also just find stuff in there and have some fun with moments. But anyway, you were saying.
Charley: We all want those happy accidents, those organic things. You don't want to constrict people, you don't want in any way to clip someone's wings. Just let them bring something to the table. And oftentimes, "Okay, we may not use whatever suggestion is brought forth," but that sparks an idea. And that sparks another idea. And it brings us to this very cool place.prevnext
CB: As a final question, to wrap it all up and bring it all back to Blood of Zeus, what are you hoping that fans get out of this experience as they are hopeful for season two?
Shaunt: I hope that they have the same childlike enjoyment that I got out of those movies and those books when I was a kid. There are a lot of homages to them, Jason and the Argonauts and Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans. If you look really closely, there's a lot of stuff in there. And, for me, it was magical. Lord of the Rings was the one that came out later that I was like, "Oh my God, there's another world I can dive into." And I hope that this is that for people.
Vlas: I just with that 100%. That's exactly what I would say. I love that.
Charley: Shaunt had said to us at one point, he said, "Guys, just be honest with me. This is just an homage to all the things you love growing up." And we're like, "Yeah, pretty much." He's like, "Great." Because that was, I think, the case for Shaunt too. I don't know want to speak for you, Shaunt, but I think-
Charley: You had similar touchstones. The other thing too, Nick, I will tell you just for your audience. I do think we are the tip of the spear of this genre, trying to push open the door to the mainstream because you have Castlevania, you have our show now, Kevin Smith's He-Man is coming out, which is also from Powerhouse or Masters of the Universe, which is based off of He-Man. Then you have Zack Snyder is doing a show at Netflix, the Norse mythology [anime] about Viking mythology. Then you have the Russo brothers doing Magic: The Gathering as a 2D show. And then you have the writer and creator of John Wick, one, two and three, Derek Kolstad, he's doing an anime show at Netflix. I do think that there is this untapped audience or this audience that is out there that maybe other Hollywood studios don't recognize that Netflix is targeting. And I think we can help really usher in the genre in a big way here in the US. I think people are already very familiar with it and they love the Japanese anime. And I think this might be, hopefully, the start of a wave of Western anime, animation, 2D animation.
Shaunt: My spiel on this is that if you look at live action growing up, you always had your shows, whatever it is, your Lois and Clark, your live action TV shows. Smallville and the Flash and Jessica Jones, whatever. And you've got your features. You've got your Avengers, you got your big budget, you got all that sea of Star Wars and everything. And then on TV, you have your Thunder Cats and you have your, whatever it is, Rugrats and King of the Hill and all that stuff. And in animation, you have your Pixar, right? You have your feature Pixar, you have your Lion Kings and your Snow Whites and all these, Iron Giants, and everything. And so there's always been these two categories. There's the TV, inexpensive. And then there's been the feature, the expensive. But in live action, there is the new category, the serialized Game of Thrones, the Ozark, the Breaking Bad, the Mad Men, the you name it, right? Westworld, all that stuff.
That exists here in animation, except it's not getting the budget. We're still doing this off of the TV budget that's meant for Saturday morning cartoons. And so, the reason why a lot of people go, "How come adult animation? Well, adults don't like it?" No, that's not true. Adults go to museums all the time. They like sculpture, art, create weird art, adults love it. It's just that they haven't made it for adults yet. They're still making it cheap. So, with Blood of Zeus, you can look at it and you can say, I can say, definitely, because I'm the worst critic of my own work. I can look at it and be like, "Oh my God, I can't believe that got through."
And, "I wish we just had a couple more bucks to fix that shot and that thing." It's a negligible amount of money to go from this, to this. It is a tiny amount of money to make something just great for adults, like beautiful. And the genre can do anything. We are not constrained by anything at all. So this is the future, in my opinion, right here, that centerpiece. The Game of Thrones for animation. And all we need is a little more. So, take that out into the ether.
Blood of Zeus is now streaming on Netflix.prev