Sunday 30 October 2016

Just a wandering gill-man, in search of love and adventure...

The other day, I saw some toys for sale in a local shop at a knock-down price; I thought my son might like them, so I bought him some. They turn out to be part of some complicated multi-platform media franchise called 'Skylanders', which I've never heard of until now. My son (who is two years old) eagerly grabbed the first two toys, which he promptly christened 'Cake Belly' and 'Robot Guy'.

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This is Cake Belly.

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This is Robot Guy.

I, however, was much more interested in the third of them, a buff, bicep-flexing fish-man dude with a big, happy smile. I told my son that the thing he was holding was an anchor, so he was swiftly named 'Anka', which isn't nearly as good a name as Cake Belly or Robot Guy. But he's still my favourite of the three.

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This is Anka.

According to the packaging, his real name is 'Gill Grunt'. I looked him up online, and discovered that he actually has a surprisingly tragic backstory:

Gill Grunt was a brave soul who joined the Gillmen military in search of adventure. While journeying through a misty lagoon in the clouds, he met an enchanting mermaid. He vowed to return to her after his tour. Keeping his promise, he came back to the lagoon years later, only to learn a nasty band of pirates had kidnapped the mermaid. Heartbroken, Gill Grunt began searching all over Skylands. Though he had yet to find her, he joined the Skylanders to help protect others from such evil, while still keeping an ever-watchful eye for the beautiful mermaid and the pirates who took her.

So at this point I was pretty much in love. A happy fish-man who wanders the world looking for his kidnapped mermaid girlfriend (whom he met in a cloud OMG WTF) and whacking people with an anchor. And his battle-cry is 'Fear the Fish!'

But wait. It gets better!

Gill Grunt grew up in a typical Gillmen city on the ocean bottom. From his glass bedroom bubble window, he would gaze out at circling cyber squid and menacing mega sharks. He couldn't have been more bored. 

Cyber-squid? Mega-sharks? Boring! I'm gonna join the army and work out and date mermaids and maybe shoot some guy with a fucking anchor. Fear the Fish! FEAR THE FISH!

I feel a very real connection to Gill Grunt. I identify with him on a very deep level. I can think of very few better ways to live than as a happy, romantic, easily-bored fishman with an anchor gun.

In fact, if and when I get a chance to actually play in a game instead of running one, this might just be my next character...


  1. kids love these games and roleplay with the figures - boys and girls. Kids have filled heads with trivia on them and i kinda tease them by asking which skylander helps parents clean the house best or which does their homework and the kids look all serious and debate these heady issues

    1. Huh. I'd not seen them before. Maybe they weren't such a hit, here? The local toyshop doesn't even stock them...

  2. I've worked on these games. Quite a few toys have ended up as minis at my table.

    1. I really like some of the figure designs, actually. They have a kind of manic weirdness about them that feels very reminiscent of D&D to me. In a good way.

      Didn't some of the weirder-looking Monster Manual critters, like the Rust Monster, come from Gygax and Arneson using random kid's toys as miniatures? I'm sure I remember reading that somewhere...

    2. Yes, you can read about it here:

  3. Oh boy, do I have news for you...

    1. We have Netflix, so the Skylanders show actually popped up as a recommendation on my son's list the other day. I tried to show it to him, but he didn't go for it. In the grim darkness of a two-year-old's TV viewing habits, there is only Paw Patrol.

  4. I find it strange that there are people who haven't heard of Skylanders when it was such a important part of my childhood, though I suppose that there are probably a large amount of people who have never heard of it.
    I actually never knew Gill Grunt's backstory, I might need to take another look at Skylanders.