I read an article (here) about Troy Hurtubise, a mulleted madman from Canada who created a suit of bear-fighting armor, has fallen on financial hard times and has put up a suit of his custom-designed HALO body armor on eBay. This makes me sad.
In case you don’t know, Troy Hurtubise was the subject of a fantastic documentary called Project: Grizzly (not to be confused with Grizzly Man, which we’ll get to in a moment). The film chronicles Troy’s efforts at designing the Ursus series of bear-proof personal armor and his quest to test the armor in the field – in other words, he wanted a frickin’ grizzly bear to maul him.
Digest that for a moment.
This eccentric, Bowie-knife toting, buckskin-wearing fellow from the Great White North was on a quest to meet ‘The Old Man” in mano-a-bearo combat, and the suits he designed, like some redneck Tony Stark, looked like they could stand up to a grizzly and then some.
Here is a demonstration of the resilience of the Ursus suits:
I won’t spoil the movie for you, but let’s just say the Ursus armor doesn’t live up to its potential due to an unforeseen but totally obvious set of circumstances. Project: Grizzly is the study of a Quixotic guy who follows his own path, and you gotta respect that.
Troy’s most recent invention was a suit of armor directly out of the HALO video games. It looks sleek and goofy all at the same time. Troy was hoping to get a buyer for the prototype, but has had no luck. Now he’s resorted to selling the armor on eBay.
There’s something admirable about a guy so committed to his dreams, so immersed in his life’s work that he risks everything. There’s a thin line between that level of commitment and lunacy, and I don’t know where it is. But how many of us get bogged down in our day-to-day existence, letting the dictates and requirements of society weigh us down while our childhood (or childlike) dreams slip away? “I can’t quit my job and go hunt for the yeti in Bhutan – I’d lose out on my stock options!”
Maybe that’s why guys like Troy Hurtubise or the late Timothy “Grizzly Man” Treadwell resonate with me. Sure, there are people out there who fulfill their dreams to restore a MiG fighter or rescue a B-17 from an ice field in Greenland or explore the shipwreck of the Titanic like James Cameron, but it’s harder for me to connect with a wealthy retiree or film maker who follows their path, but with safety nets. Guys like Troy and Treadwell really fucking go for it – and some times they fail.
Or get eaten.
As a less extreme example, take Jim Balent, creator of the witchy T&A book Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose. This guy had a pretty good gig drawing comics for the major publishers and is probably most known for his lengthy run on Catwoman. Balent turned his back on work-for-hire art and took the plunge, self-publishing his own small line of Broadsword Comics built around the Tarot title.
Setting aside any value judgment about the merits of Tarot, you have to admire the guy’s commitment. Jim Balent is 100% geek, and brother, he is letting it all hang out. Have you seen pictures of his Star Wars wedding? Holy shit. That’s hardcore. The guy is living the dream – he’s found a way to make a living out of doing what he loves most. He just happens to really dig supernatural shit, geek stuff, and heaving bosoms. Dude is like Gary Gygax crossed with Russ Meyers. And he found a woman who digs on all the same stuff and I mean, come on. Look at that wedding photo. It’s kinda sweet. Living the dream, baby.
I’m not a huge fan of Tarot, thought I know some people really dig it. But I do admire Jim Balent for taking what I’m sure was a professional and financial risk to self publish and just let his freak flag fly.
Granted, flying one’s freak flag need not involve fannish or dangerous behavior, but it does involve a certain degree of risk and vulnerability. In this age of irony, it can be hard to fully embrace your passions for fear of mockery or ridicule (apparently it is much less hard when there are TV cameras filming you). Living the dream involves living honestly and not giving a shit what other people think of you, and that can be hard. Because let’s face it, people like to make fun of weirdos. Mea culpa.
But God bless all the weird cats out there. Unless we’re just paying lip service to the concepts of individuality and pluralism, you have to salute people like this guy. Or that Ninja Turtles gal whose video got yanked by Viacom. And this guy. Or this guy. Or these people. Him. Even him. Even them.
Which is why the situation with Troy Hurtubise makes me a little sad. If there were any poetry in the universe, some wealthy patron would help him out like they did back in the Renaissance. Somebody throw that guy a line!
I understand that we live in the real world and that shit’s not fair, but I really like the idea of some guy somewhere working late into the night in his garage on something crazy like the world’s first Cougar-Proof Jogging Armor. Or some guy spending his summer vacation trolling around Loch Ness towing a sonar array. Or some kid in Iowa who makes incredible monster masks. Or the old man in England who has been working for years on an orbital rocket and who still looks at the night sky and hopes. *
Man, I fucking love that there are people like that in the world.
*This paragraph brought to you by the Walt Disney Co.