A Nightmare

My daughter woke me in the depths of night to tell me about a nightmare she had. “There was a fat mermaid going around all the shops, and she was walking on her fins.” Now if that doesn’t sound like a terrifying ordeal to you, my friend, then all I can say is that you’re a stone cold killer.

Fat-Mermaid-Sketch-November-2015

Further discussion suggested that the nightmare creature may in fact have been Ursula the Sea Witch. I pointed out that she was not in fact a mermaid, but it may be that the distinction between a fish-tailed humanoid and a tentacled acquatic sorceress may be overly fine. However, she consented to colloborate on the piece, despite the fact that I had left out the scales.

Fat-Mermaid-Regan-Colour-November-2015

Two Boys, Two Robots

Having recently watched Disney’s excellent Big Hero 6, I was struck by some intriguing similarities to another film about a boy and his robot: Terminator 2. A few points of comparison:

The Boys:

Easy-Money

Is-this-Enough

Terminator 2‘s young protagonist is John Connor, a juvenile delinquent in foster care, who makes use of high tech gadgets to illegally obtain large sums of money, mainly through ATM fraud.

While John Connor is certainly tech savvy, Big Hero 6‘s Hiro Hamada is more of a bona fide robotics genius. Just like John though, he is a juvenile delinquent in foster care, who makes use of high tech gadgets to illegally obtain large sums of money, although his modus operandi is more in the field of hustling illegal robot fights.

In addition to being techincally proficient (to a lesser or greater extent), both boys prove to be charismatic leaders; Hiro assembling and leading a team of genius, gadget wielding heroes to avenge the death of his brother, John leading his own eclectic team on a mission of corporate espionage with the aim of averting his apparent destiny of leading the remants of the human race to victory over Skynet.

Both boys subvert the programming of a powerful robot to acheive their goals; John reprogramming the murderous T-101-800 into the ultimate guardian, and Hiro repurposing Baymax from a healthcare companion to a flying, rocket punching force of destruction.

The Robots

The robots in both films have a strangely inverted relationship.

As previously mentioned, both are reprogrammed by their human companions, Baymax by Hiro in the course of the film, and the Terminator by John “off screen” in the future (from the protagonists point of view), essentially remaking them with a purpose opposed to their original functions. However while Baymax is ultimately restored to his original function (albeit presumably retaining his sweet upgrades), the Terminator Remains true to his new purpose to the bitter end.

Another inversion occurs in the relationship between both boys and their respective robots.

The Terminator starts out obeying his programming, but not attaching any intrinsic value to human life. When John tries to impress on his robot that he “just can’t go around killing people”, he initially ilicits only a blunt “why?” in response. He is eventually able to teach the machine an emotional reason to preserve life, to the extent that it sacrifices itself to accomplish this.

Baymax, on the other hand, has the preservation of human life built into the very core of its being, and in his film it is the robot who ultimately turns Hiro from his own destructive and potentially murderous path.

Both boys try to further anthropomorphise their robots by teaching them hand gestures and idioms from their sub culture – John demonstrating the high/low five and thumbs up gestures to the Terminator, and Hiro teaching Baymax to do an “exploding fistbump” – to comedic effect. At any rate, I chuckled.

Fist-Bump

High-Five

Both robots take the place of a father figure to their young companions – one of the more chilling themes of the films, at least from a fathers point of view. Living as we do in the age of the automation of everything, the Terminator and Baymax both show how a robot could even be a better parent than a human, or at any rate a better father. This is made explicit in T2 in which Sarah, Johns mother, comes to a startling realisation:

“Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The terminator would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up.”

The Bad Guys

This one is a bit of a stretch but bare with me and see what you think:

Terminator 2 features Miles Dyson, a hapless Dr Frankenstein who has unwittingly helped create the monster that will very nearly destroy the human race: Skynet. He works with John, Sarah and the Terminator to destroy Cyberdine Systems, the corporation funding his research. Attempting to stop them is the T 1000, who is, if not Frankensteins monster, then its lineal descendant. A shape-shifting liquid metal nightmare that hides in plain sight in the guise of authority figures such as Johns foster mother and a motorcycle cop.

Big Hero 6 also features a corporate Frankenstein type, albeit one who is markedly more selfish than Miles Bennet Dyson.  Alistair Krei is responsible for an accident that leads to the apparant death of Abigail Callaghan, the daughter of Robert Callaghan. Robert, a professor trusted by Hiro and his companions, seeks vengeance on Krei and his company. In pursuit of this goal he dons a disguise and steals Hiros microbots, a swarm of tiny robots that can form any shape. Thus, a monster is created.

Finally here’s one oddly specific little item…

Big Hero 6 climaxes with Baymax’s sacrifice to save Hiro and Abigail Callaghan, leaving only a part of one of his mechanical arms and his memory chip, from which Hiro is able to rebuild the noble robot.

Terminator 2 of course opens with the revelation of the remnants of the terminator from the previous film – part of a mechanical arm, and a memory chip. These are destined to be the progenitors of all terminator robots, a destiny that is averted by John and his companions, and ultimately by the sacrifice of the Terminator itself. Unlike Baymax however, the Terminator isn’t coming back. And just like Highlander and Aliens, let’s just all agree to live in a world were the sequels never happened.

Hopefully nothing I’ve said will be construed as a criticism of Big Hero 6, which is excellent, but I felt like writing it, so thanks for reading!

Halflings!

Having recently finished reading the new  Dungeons & Dragons players handbook I was ceased with a sudden desire to draw Halflings. The book itself is pretty great. I had the impression, thumbing through it, of meeting again an old friend who’d just returned from a long journey after a tragic experience. He’s older, wiser, and has many stories to tell. For my part, I can’t wait to get some bright eyed adventurers together and treat them once again to the joys of dying alone underground surrounded by tentacled monstrosities from beyond Euclidean space.

Gandolfini the magnificent
Clad from neck to toe in the finest italian steel, Gandolfini spurns helms lest the world be deprived of his magnificent quiff.
Halfling Rogue
Bluepencil sketch of a halfling rogue

We facebook, now.

I have received reliable advice that social media is a thing that people look at. Since my primary activity is making things for people to look at, I’ve decided to stick up a couple of facebook pages: This one for my illustration and artwork; and this one for my minis, modelling and assorted gaming ephemera. Check ‘em out, and if you like ‘em, there’s this button they have on there that you can click, and then that way people will know you like ‘em.

Deep Eel

deep eel
Raaaaaargh!

Deep within the bowels of the earth, and possibly in other parts of the earth’s digestive system also, many strange things lurk. Deep Eels are a particular hazard along poorly patrolled thoroughfares linking the subterranean cities of Dwarves, Gnomes and other troglodyte races.

slithering into narrow cracks and fissures in the ceilings and floors of the caverns through which travellers in the underdark must pass, the vibrations and torch lights of wayfarers alert the deep eel to their approach. They are intelligent enough to gauge the size and strength of the party, and will generally pick off stragglers, emerging at the opportune moment with noiseless efficiency. With a swift injection of paralytic venom, the hapless victim won’t even have time to scream before being dragged off and devoured at the creatures leisure.

Illustration & graphic design