Joe Alterio's blog on illustration, comix, design, animation, and other bouts of total awesomeness.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Space Marine Chaplain Failed His Fear Roll

A recent post on basically the greatest blog on the planet had me reminscing about the Good Ol' Days, and by the good ol' days, I mean the Days In Which Hot Pockets and Busty Drawings By Frank Frazetta Were My Main Partners In Crime. My friends and I, who for all intents and purposes look like regular Americans now and actually have girlfriends and wives and stuff, were all a bunch of drooling Warhammer Universe fan boys. Sure, we played our fair share of D & D (with Ben "luckily" rolling all 19s for his Paladin), GURPS (I got a 1d20 to the head after accidentally sinking someone's flying pirate ship) and even Champions (with Derek, a "DL" emblazoned on his chest that stood for "Dark Lightning", forever after known as "Dirty Laundry")...but something about those miniatures got to us.

With the fresh breeze of a more prosaic life invigorating my mind, I can step back see the Warhammer Universe for what it is, which is, namely, EXTREMELY complicated. Check out out this page: let me note for total neophytes, that none of these words affect how you PLAY THE GAME at all. They are just exposition, a mere background to give your game more context and texture. This is, in a word - and I say this in the full blush of fanboyism - a bit insane.

Or is it? I've been thinking a lot about cohesive community: my (very mild) success with Robots and Monsters has opened my eyes to a large and lusty community of people that just love robots and monsters: I've gotten emails that ask how a robot would work, or whether two monsters knew each other, or which are "good guys" and "bad guys". This is a bit amazing to me: these...things...are just the random blips in my brain when I put pencil to paper. Born into existence, they are suddenly imbued with people's presupposed notions, prejudices, imaginations.

It's around these Collective Imaginations that societies are formed. Stroll into any TV-show, comic book, or movie specific Con (I recently saw an ad in a trade for - I swear - Arrested Development Con), and it is a vast sea of humanity, all related by a simple common knowledge. It's actually quite charming, that humans seem to just need the tiniest bait of something in common to become fast friends. And the more complicated the back story, the more varied and textured that community is allowed to become. Fan Fiction is a growth industry precisely because the members of the community have outgrown the original mythology, and in order to grow as a community, they need more fodder to chaw on. It is in this fertile intellectual froth that a community shapes and supports itself: a place of belonging, which, as pack animals, we so sorely need. One excuse is as good as any.

IIt is not confined to the otaku set amongst us, by any stretch of the imagination - a full throated football game is a transcendent experience - but I argue that the geeks have a special relationship. A fantasy football team is the palest shade of role playing I know: to truly create a character, a world, a space marine squadron - this is truly the flush feeling of creation. And the the glow of creation is like no other. Allow me a bit of my secular humanism to come through, but frankly, The Bible? Totally God fan-fic.

Which brings me back around to Warhammer: I can't fault those kids ( and adults!) for being so into it. It is a unifier in a way not many things are in this Cold Cruel Modern World, and the background story is an enhancement for such imaginations. There have been moments ( more often than I would like to admit, besides to you, dear blog audience) that I have upbraided myself for not being the next Dan Clowes or Gary Baseman. I lie awake at nights, cursing myself for every failure, begrudging every success of a competitor. These are the nights I am ashamed of the most. It takes a moment like this- that people enjoy the creation, regardless of me, that my egosim fails me: I am but a creator, truly the most humble of roles. It's not me that matters, at all. It's what I make. That is what speaks to people, not myself. It's then that I truly feel thankful. The creation succeeds where the flesh is weak.

Maybe I should start my Space Marine squad back up.


Bubba said...

speaking of creation, when can we expect another opportunity to purchase a Joe Alterio original in the name of charity... in other words, when can we expect Robots & Monsters V.2 or maybe Zombies & Aliens or Superheroes & Villains...

Joe Alterio said...

As soon as the first round is done!

Rob said...

Pitch Invasion!

thirdraildesignlab said...

Robots & Monsters recipient and fellow former gamer/hobbyist here... I haven't painted miniatures in years, but I used to run a game section in a hobby shop and painted hordes and hordes of these, far more than I ever got to play... seeing your post took me down memory lane.
Which is a crooked path, these days!

Third Rail Design Lab