Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Secret Origin of Filby Pott!

In lieu of a post of any substance (on which I am still working, btw), I thought I'd post something a little different. I've been on Blogger for almost a year now. I've made a friend or two, and I've been linked to a few times. So I reckon now would be as good a time as any to reveal the deep, dark secret behind my username and blog title...

First of all, "Pott Manor" isn't a drug reference. Nothing to do with pot. I'm not saying that anyone I know would assume that, I just get that a lot is all.

To begin with, I first got on the vast series of tubes that is the Internet at age 14 back in 1999 when my Mandarin teacher had my whole class set up email addresses so she could communicate with us easily. On the spur of the moment I came up with "wibstap," a quirky mash-up of my full name (William Barrett Staples) which would remain my online handle for the next couple years.

Then, in May 2001, I happened upon Elendor MUSH, an online text-based role-playing game based on J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy novels. ("MUSH" stands for "multi-user shared hallucination," and is a more social offshoot of MUDs, or multi-user dimensions, which are basically MMORPGs without graphics). As I've noted in the past, I'm a huge fan of Tolkien's, and I dove right in.

My first character was a hobbit named Wilby Pott. Get it? Wilby? Will B.? God, I am so clever... Anydangway. "Pott" was from an obscure poem by Tolkien, "Perry-the-Winkle," which mentioned in passing an "Old Mayor Pott." Wilby as a character was basically me as a hobbit, only older and more idiosyncratic. As a character, he was rather shallow.

And he never got to develop much because in a month he was dead. I accidentally wandered into a ghost's tomb and it ate Wilby. Buh-bye Wilby. Time for Will to make a new character. A new character named... Filby Pott. Wilby's bereaved father. Get it? Filby? "Wilby" with an "F" instead of a "W?" God, I am so -- *ahem*. Moving on.

At first I played Filby as a slightly tragic but mostly goofy old loon who refused to acknowledge his son's disappearance. (The body was never found, being eaten by a ghost and all...). He wandered around the Shire being confused and senile and getting on people's nerves. In retrospect it was a fairly insensitive mockery of real-world mental illness, so it wasn't long before I contrived some event (I don't recall what) to "shock" Filby back into sanity. Yeah, it's totally unrealistic, but I was 15-16 at the time, gimme a break. I organized a little role-play memorial service for Wilby. From then on out, Filby was his own character.

And from there I went about building Filby's personality. Slowly but surely it came into focus. I retconned his backstory so that he was a cold and calculating businessman (er, businesshobbit) who had been counting on Wilby to carry on the family trade. Over time, he crossed the line into outright villainy, pulling dirty deals and sending out nasty ne'er-do-wells of all sorts to do unsavory jobs for him. He lived in a big, scary house called... Pott Manor. (Well okay, a small scary house -- he was a hobbit, after all.) He even got into politics briefly, running for Mayor just like his ancestor. In short, he was a weird three-foot hybrid of Professor Moriarty, Boss Tweed, and Lex Luthor.

And that was a problem. Hobbits are good, simple folk who enjoy nothing more than good food, good ale, and a good bed. Filby enjoyed none of those. He was a rotten old bastich who got a kick out of ruining people. I've got no problem playing a villain -- every hero needs one, after all -- but in the environment he was in it was just utterly outrageous. On top of that, I'd just gotten fed up with the game's petty politics and personality clashes with other players, and decided it was time to retire. So with a couple of friends, I cooked up a role-play plotline to take Filby out of the picture permanently by having all his wrong-doing exposed, forcing him to flee the Shire for good.

Check out Filby's last fling here. It's my best performance, really. And a big shout out to my buds Natania and Michael, the Harrisons, for pulling off Percival and Sinlo, respectively. Love you guys!

I like to think Filby is still out there in Middle-earth, somewhere. Probably stewing in a corner at the Prancing Pony, grumbling to anyone who will listen about days gone by and how he'd have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids.

Anyway, I've kept a soft spot in my heart for the old rotter after all these years, and to this day "Filby" remains my handle of choice all across the Internet. Most folks assume it's just a funny little name pulled out of thin air, but the fact is it's got a lot of meaning for me. Filby truly is my alter ego, and I wouldn't trade him for anything.

And now you know the story of Filby Pott.


DJ Black Adam said...

Are you going to have any variant covers for this "Secret Origin"?


Filby said...

Damn skippy I am! With art by Alex Ross, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and the lady who does "For Better or For Worse"!

Michael Harrison said...

Heheh. I would love to see Alex Ross's take on the Filbster.

This takes me back, man.

Natania Barron said...

I do think Filby was possibly the best thing to come out of the Shire. I hope he's scheming away... Percival might just need a rematch.