Charley Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanidesscreenwriter/producer Immortals and Blood of Zeushired a screenwriter Dan Gordon and writer/artist John Stanisci develop a new property based on the bloody gladiatorial battles of first-century Rome with Gladiator, in concurrent development as an original graphic novel and television series. And Bleeding Cool takes a look inside the comic. Gladiatrix is in development as a television series and original graphic novel through Asia Minor Pictures, and is featured today in Stanisci’s Origin Story Substack newsletter. Dan Gordon and John Stanisci also wrote a pilot episode.
Set in Rome in AD 78, Gladiatrix follows Judith, the bastard daughter of a queen raised as an assassin Sicaria and the last survivor of a slaughtered people. Chained and taken to Rome as a slave, she is thrown into the gladiatorial arena for sport, but has come to the city on a mission of revenge. Before she exacts revenge on her slain people, she will offer the Roman mob a blood sport unlike any they have ever known…and rise to power like no woman of her time has ever done.
John Stanisci: Dan, Vlas and Charley have been friends for a long time and in September last year they came to Dan with the idea of creating a new Gladiator series. Dan called me, asked me to join, and of course I joined. We then set about crafting a story that would give an audience everything one would expect from a Roman gladiator series (arena battles, gladiators in all sorts of creepy armor, weapons, etc.) and yet we still wanted to create something unique that has yet to be seen. We found that some VERY interesting events took place around AD 55-78 in Rome. Events that would set the stage perfectly to introduce the world to a female gladiator rising 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 massacred by the Romans. Gladiator fights are relatively new at this time in Rome. The Colosseum is still under construction. Citizens are loving this brand new blood sport which is starting to become big business. However, the idea that a GIRL could walk into an arena and…actually fight? And not just survive, but become famous as the most famous gladiator of his time? Well, we were all REALLY intrigued by that. A backstory has been developed, intertwined with historical events, which details the fall of the mountaintop fortress of Masada. It is the story of a people from a small country, besieged by an overwhelming force from a larger country, determined to submit. It’s about this young girl, one of the few 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 told, which was primarily meant to tell a series of thrilling adventures, suddenly became tragically relevant. We have all witnessed the tragic events unfolding in Europe. We have seen stories of incredible heroism and courage as the people of a small country refuse to surrender to the tyranny of a larger and more powerful invading nation. We realized that GLADIATRIX has much more to offer than a series of exciting adventures. And I couldn’t be more proud or excited to be part of such a big project.
Dan Gordon: I just thought, damn it, John will draw the pictures, I’ll rest on our two laurels. In fact, it was a passion for both of us and it is even more so in the face of what happened. It seems that the struggles of light against darkness, of freedom against totalitarianism are common to all generations at all times. Whether it’s graffiti on the walls of Rome telling Caesar to fuck off, or Ukrainian border guards telling Russian warships to do the same or graphic novels and superheroes that seem to be the best expressions of ourselves, there is an innate eternal desire for justice instead of injustice, no matter the sacrifice, no matter the cost. Which is a long way of saying that I think the story has an audience, which is hungry for it.
Vlas Parlapanides: One of the things that Charley and I loved about the story that Dan and John created was that it was about someone standing up against tyranny and overcoming insurmountable odds in their pursuit of justice. It’s a story that will always captivate 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 who have been persecuted, that particularly resonates with us. In fact, we have great empathy for anyone who has been marginalized or feels less. Plus, the story is incredibly inspiring. It’s so satisfying to watch someone who’s been roughed up in life overcome insurmountable odds. It affects you emotionally. And the movies and shows we love best always make it. As a storyteller, if you’re not touching the audience on an emotional level, you’re not doing your job. It’s a story that manages to do just that while leaving them with a sense of hope. And the fact that we can say that with Dan and John, two very talented, kind and decent people, is an answered prayer.
Charley Parlapanides: All I would add is that this is a story that needs to be told. Yes, we live in the golden age of content. Yes, this is the era of peak television. But only certain stories are made these days and many of the epics we loved growing up would never be made today. Thankfully, the mediums we enjoy have evolved as well, and this story is inherently well suited to the panels of a comic book. Plus, someone our age has no problem reading a graphic novel or watching an adult-themed animated show. We grew up with comics, cartoons and video games. We are comfortable with them and think of them as an art form, which maybe wasn’t true a generation or two ago. But most importantly, it’s an incredible story, which reminds us of our past. It sounds cliché but the old adage is true, those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it. For all that has changed in the world, so much remains the same. And I am convinced that we need stories to better understand the world. This is how most of us make sense of the chaos around us. Again, we love the amazing story that Dan and John have created. Often here in town the drafts are all sizzling and steakless. There is an interesting visual or hook but no real story. It’s just a vacant IP address. But this project is all sizzle and all steak. It’s a cool, visceral and visual project COUPLED with an amazing story, characters and throwback to the ancient world. We love it and can’t wait to share it with the world.