Seriously. Stay with me on this. I was reading some Nemesis the Warlock t’other day, a character created by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill and published in the British weekly 2000AD. The original one-shot story (and its subsequent follow-up) revolve around the mysterious, revolutionary anti-hero Nemesis battling the repressive, dictatorial authority figure Torquemada.
Torquemada’s fetishistic ruling cult are a nightmarish mixture of the Spanish Inquisition and the Ku Klux Klan (in fact, Torquemada was based on an over-enthusiastic monk at Mills’ Catholic school during his childhood, who named himself ‘Prefect of Discipline’ ). The story was, at its core, a fairly straightforward chase scenario, with Nemesis appearing hither and thither to stitch Torquemada up like a kipper. BUT he did it all from the comfort of his spaceship, the Blitzspear. AND we never get to see Nemesis himself throughout either story… only his ship. Quite an achievement in terms of storytelling and a fairly quirky little nuance for the supposed ‘hero’ of the tale.
When we finally get to see Mr Nemesis T. Warlock himself, his face is obviously based on his ship, the Blitzspear. It’s an odd moment for the reader, as if the author and artist are conspiring to mock us. And as ‘the reader’, we feel tricked, I can tell you. Tricked, mocked, intrigued and knocked for six. And, knowing those devilish fellows as much as one can by reading a few of their comics, I’m fairly sure that was partly their intention.
Still, it got me to thinking: surely this has been done before? Most things have, and a little bit of digging round is sure to lead me to other examples, thunk I. And I can prove (FINALLY!) that my instincts were (mostly) right, in a convoluted and meaningless way. So here’s my brief list of ‘people what look like their spaceships (and/or other vessels)’, not including the good warlock himself:
Yes, really. Ok, so Vader’s Tie-Fighter doesn’t look much like Vader himself or even the consistently awful portrayals of Anakin Skywalker. But hold on a tic, what’s Vader’s shtick? What’s his whole gig he’s got going on, what with being easily the most reviled screen baddie ever? The big fat deal is his kids, right? The pay-off is that he’s actually the good guys’ dad after all… including Princess Leia. You see what I’m getting at? George Lucas left a visual clue for us right there, in Princess Leia’s Danish pastry haircut. Now that you look at it, it’s obvious. Not so his other sprog, Luke, whose starship is reminiscent of a surprised anteater, but the evidence is IRREFUTABLE I’m sure you’ll agree.
Big. Rectangular. Strong. Covered in metal. Black. Reliable (except for plane journeys). Dangerous. BA was the real leader of the A-Team, not Hannibal. He was the backbone, the guts, the essence of the maverick vigilante bunch. He was the one member who could be entrusted with driving the A-Team Van, and with good reason. Hannibal was a man of strategy and planning: fair enough, but that don’t put marmalade on your toast. Who led the A-Team into battle (but not onto planes) every week? BA. Yes sir, BA threw his dislike of Howlin’ Mad Murdoch aside every week to bust that sumbitch out of the loony bin, fashioning mig-welders, workbenches and rocket launchers out of a couple of stray peanuts, an allen key and a cat’s hairball without once cussing or breaking into anything more offensive than a sneer Elvis would have been proud of. And the creators of the show gave us a nod and a wink to BA’s ultimate leadership by making the van look as much like him as possible.
To be fair, this one’s obvious: Batman, Batmobile, Batplane. But this is what Batman’s persona is all about: dressing like a bat so creeps’ll be scared of him (when are audiences going to click that this is a very naive and daft premise for a vigilante?). Therefore everything he designs and builds, to some extent even the Batbike, looks like a bat.
Easily the best character Lucas ever came up with, and the best spaceship, purely because it looks like an iron that you can fly about in, yet turn it upright and it flies even better. And if that’s not ingenious tie-in marketing then I don’t know what is.
At this point I feel I should come up with some kind of reasoning to bring this all together. But there really isn’t any. The above characters are all arguably anti-heroes – especially Nemesis, who is a fire-breathing demon. BA, on the other hand, is all about getting kids to drink milk and respect their mothers. But he’s rock-hard, black, wears a ton of jewellery and doesn’t fly well… and he throws a lot of rednecks into tables. So he’s pretty left field as far as heroes go.
And there are more, I’m sure there are. Why, right now as you are reading this, you’re thinking ‘Yes! Michael Knight has the same square face and red-light wavey eyeball as KIT… the Romulans were almost surely based on their Warbirds or vice versa or SOMETHING… Egon Spengler had the same cheekbones as the Ectomobile…”
If you are thinking these thoughts, I urge you to share them… because I have been consumed and befuddled by inane popular culture and I want to be reassured that it’s ok. This shit means something. Please tell me it does.