Face the long, short, furry, undead and rocky arms of the law as we forensically investigate our ‘arresting’ illustration starring Sam Vimes & Co. from Terry Pratchett’s watch series.
Keeping the peace can be hard in a city where, as a matter of course, thieves thieve, assassins assassinate and seamstresses… um… don’t. Thankfully His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh; Commander Sir Samuel Vimes Blackboard Monitor and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch are here to serve and protect. In our latest puzzle and print we chose to salute the finest body of men, women, dwarfs, trolls, werewolves, golems, igors, gnomes, feegles, vampires and whatever Nobby Nobbs is, on the face of the Disc with our faithful rendition…
Here at the Emporium we’re lucky enough to welcome Discworld fans from all over the known roundworld, and we like to ask our visitors one simple question; ‘What’s your favourite book?’. Mostly we do this because we enjoy the beetling brows and pained expressions on their dear little faces; It’s truly wonderful to watch the inner struggle. You might as well ask someone to pick a favourite child, or vital organ. This careful research on the fans’ favourite Discworld title has revealed that typically, after desperately listing all 41 novels, their most beloved Pratchett ‘book’ is ‘The-guards-series…followed-closely-by-the-Death-series-oh-and-the-witches-books-but-I-do-love-the …’
If anything, this reveals that there are some things most Discworld fans love more than any one of Terry’s books, and that’s his characters. Discworld’s inhabitants often govern a reader’s fondness for particular titles over the narrative itself (although Terry’s storytelling is of course absolutely masterful in our completely biased opinion). Pratchett’s decades-long development of his protagonists has enabled us to feel a unique devotion to Discworld’s denizens that keeps us hooked on the books, with detailed descriptions that enable us to depict them in our mind’s eye and translate them to paper through the conduit of talented illustrators such as David Wyatt.
Sam Vimes’ character took 24 years’ worth of writing to fully develop. From a drunkard in the gutter to the world-renowned Duke of Ankh. A dirty fighter, hero, father, maverick, renegade, leader, reluctant noble and bacon sarnie aficionado. He’s one of the most complete and complex fictional characters in the history of the written world. As readers we’re afforded a look inside his head and out through his eyes. We see him fight a pack of werewolves barehandedly, bring peace to between nations, completely flummoxed by a disorganiser and utterly disarmed by a pair of tights and a silly hat. In short, he’s more ‘real’ to many readers then the people with which they ride the bus every day.
The Watch itself is a great reflection of Vimes’ character – flawed and imperfect, steadfast and fair. From the virtuous to the villainous, each member of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch has a deep, believable and often relatable personality. With the potency of readers’ passion for the watch in mind, we knew we had to do our utmost to honour Terry Pratchett’s vision of the Watch as faithfully as we could.
Designing our composition was relatively easy. Sam had to be the centre; surrounded by an ensemble of A-MCW’s most prominent members. Our depiction doesn’t take place at a particular time or reflect a specific scene from a city watch book, but captures all the character and anarchy of the city watch in one action-packed tableau. However, to add a hint of narrative to proceedings, we intentionally placed each City Watch officer, constable and recruit to focus the interest on Vimes, each of them vying for his attention in a suitably characteristic manner. Constable Visit tries to hand out his pamphlets, Carrot wants to address a statute from ‘The Book’ and Buggy Swires of the Airborne Division swoops past on a pigeon.
As the whole world is looking to Commander Sir Samuel Vimes for guidance he stares impassively ahead – it’s coming up to six o’clock, and he clutches a copy of ‘Where’s My Cow?’ under his arm. It’s time to get home for the most important task of the day. This understated narrative gave us chance to make the image engaging but not overshadow the characters.
Setting the image in the City Watch Headquarters at Pseudopolis Yard (a grand former family home of Sybil Ramkin) gave us the opportunity to include so many allusions to Terry’s narrative details and to logically assemble so many watch members into the image; an entrance big enough for Detritus, and a likely lurking spot for Constable Downspout for example. We chose to use fairly ‘filmic’ colour palette and depict illumination with a blue key-light and orange fill-light to pay homage to the classic blue/orange schemes famously used in so many action films. The lighting helps to isolate Vimes as the focus of the scene, while a cool backlight adds a bit of drama and a soft forelight makes such a detailed and busy image easy for the eye to read.
Once we had our image designed, David used our extensive briefing documents to begin ‘fleshing out’ our character likenesses. Over the many years we worked with Terry to created Discworld merchandise, he was good enough to have spent considerable time helping us understand his vision for certain characters (it is no secret that Terry often described Vimes as a hybrid of Pete Postlethwaite and Clint Eastwood). From our Clarecraft models to character cards in the Discworld: Ankh-Morpork board game we’ve always endeavoured to represent Terry’s descriptions. However, David gave each of our likenesses a bit of his own flare and our line-up of unusual suspects soon came to life (or not, in Reg Shoe’s case)!
You’ll encounter Dorfl, Fred Colon, Sally von Humperdinck, A.E. Pessimal, Cheery Littlebottom, The Librarian (a special constable), Reg Shoe, Buggy Swires, Detritus, Sam Vimes, Carrot Ironfoundersson, Wee Mad Arthur, Angua, Nobby Nobbs, Constable Visit, Igor, Constable Downspout and of course, City Watch mascot Errol the swamp dragon! A group of disgruntled Morporkian citizens await Colon’s attention to the left of the scene.
With such rich source material, we could only fit so much in one image without overcrowding it. Not every watchman ever mentioned could feature, nor every detail from every book pertaining to The Watch, but there’s nothing more satisfying as a viewer than spotting new details in an image at every glance, so wherever we could we’ve included little nods that might be familiar to the Discworld enthusiast.
This is Pseudopolis yard, a building once owned by the Ramkin family and bequeathed by Lady Sybil, most vestiges of their occupation would have been removed, but their emblem, the green dragon, can still be seen in the floor tiles. You might spot a cartwheel clamp, from the traffic division established in Jingo, a wanted poster for the Dyslexic Alphabet Killer mentioned in Making Money or the work of a certain Mr J. Clockson. A few choice sprigs of lilac garnish the helmets of those who remember the Glorious 25th of May from Night Watch. You may also spot the odd familiar faces from this world, making an arresting appearance. As always, there’s more to Ankh-Morpork than meets the eye.
If you’d like to investigate our arresting artwork forensically, we’re very proud to offer it as both a 1,000 piece puzzle presented in our usual book-box and as a stunning art print to observe from the solitary confinement of your own cell walls.
Who watches the Watchman? You can! So kick back, relax, take down your particulars and enjoy our exclusive renditions of The Ankh-Morpork City Watch!