I.T. War of the Worlds?
It’s not often you come across a real-life Martian whilst walking around your home town, but that’s precisely what I thought I’d found when I came across this construction within Toronto’s Distillery district. Happily I had my camera with me, so I was able to snap the alien critter before he could scuttle away on his three legs.
I later learned that the Martian was a piece of art, created by Michael Christian. He is called I.T. and comes complete with a moving head and oscillating eye beam. I’m quite pleased my first encounter with I.T. was during daylight hours. I’ve no idea what I would have done if I.T.’s eye had lit up and beamed a shaft of purple light at me through the darkness. I certainly would have given Usain Bolt a run for his money!
I’m sure Michael Christian won’t mind me saying that I.T. pays a nod towards the tripod machines manned by Martians who invaded Earth in the classic science fiction novel written by H.G. Wells in 1898. It was one of the first pieces of fiction ever written about a conflict between mankind and an alien race, and has spawned hundreds of imitations. I always found it disappointing that when Hollywood got around to making a film version of the novel, as they did in 1953, they replaced the tripods with flying machines, and was glad when the 2005 version starring Tom Cruise restored the three-legged monsters. There’s something definitely unworldly and alien about seeing something clambering around on three legs. It’s certainly a surprise to meet one in Toronto!
It’s also now 75 years since the great Orson Welles unleashed his adaptation of his namesake’s work on an unsuspecting American public just in time for Halloween in 1938. The previously unheralded Welles presented the first two thirds of his adaptation in the form of news reports of mysterious cylindrical meteorites landing in New Jersey. Further news reports outlined the emergence of horrible beasts and terrifying machines from the cylinders and by the use of their heat-rays and poison gas how they began to decimate New York and New Jersey.
The following day many newspapers ran with stories that Welles’ broadcast had caused mass panic with several hundred people fleeing their homes in fear of the Martian invasion, not realising they were listening to a fictional radio broadcast. It seems unlikely now that the panic was as widespread as the newspapers would have us believe. Radio was still a relatively new medium at the time, and newspapers were always quick to giving radio a good kicking whenever the chance presented itself as they saw it as a serious rival to their circulation figures.
Whether the panic was true or not, I certainly felt a little intimidated the first time I saw I.T. standing boldly out in the open air. I was delighted though to find he hadn’t moved a mechanical muscle when I returned to shoot him for second time. We’re almost buddies now, and I’m happy to offer a picture of my other-worldly friend amongst my portfolio of fine art prints.