Last night I was writing about museums and the very real possibility that we are entering a new Dark Age. By this I mean an age when a son can not do what his father can do. I wasn’t taught Latin at school by my father was so I am cut off from my classical heritage. Now I know that this sounds very exosteric and academic with little application to the “real world” but if you think that you are wrong. Consider the two images below.
This is a Hell Drake, a model created and sold by Games Workshop. If you have been living under a bush for the last twenty years you might not know that Games Workshop is more profitable than Google and is Britains biggest manufacturer. It sells models all across the Earth, including the Falkland Isles. I think that the question that people fail to ask about Games Workshop is why is it so successful. I have been playing Warhammer 40K since the end of the last century and have been watching the development of the company from a van selling models at car boot sales to the massive company that it is now. It is not the models, anyone can make models. It is not the clever marketing or the incredibly strong armed (in a velvet glove) marketing tactics but rather it is incredibly well developed intellectual property. In “the hobby” (this is code so that forty year old men do not get embarrassed buying toy soldiers) there is very well developed races, weapons, narratives, in jokes and images. Warhammer, Warhammer 40K and all the spin offs and “Specialist games” (see “the hobby”) have gone through various editions and versions but still retain the same DNA. Parts of the original Rogue Trader universe are now unrecognisable and then images from that rule book appear in the latest version of Necromunda. Warhammer has shown an incredible ability to grow and adapt whilst still retaining its identity and referencing itself.
This intellectual property does not exist in a vacuum. The Hell Drake in my opinion is an indirect descendent of the Goony Bird as seen in this 2000AD story. The earliest versions of 40K sank its roots deep in the existing rich and vibrant popular culture. The grand narrative of Order verses Khaos as seen in the struggle between Torqumada and Nemesis is directly referenced in 40K with the Empire and the Emperor verses the powers of Chaos. In a future blog I will discuss the theology of these narratives but until then it is clear that we have an engaging and fun anti-establishment religious tradition that satires formal Christianity without offending potential customers. Torqumada himself could not be represented in the modern age and the Redemptionists who once were so similar, have lost their KKK style. I think that this is a shame because it is clear that the KKK nature wasn’t being celebrated but made absurd.
Which brings me back to the point of this blog. The most successful company in Britain has been created by people who wasted their education reading comics and Lord of the Rings. Without these people we would not have the lore that has made Warhammer so successful. Without people like them and people like me who are well read in fiction, in fantasy and absurd representations of the worst people who have ever lived there would be no work for lawyers and accountants. There is no judge like the market place and thousands of people like me are out there spending £40 on ten plastic models (please don’t tell my wife) and loving it.