OHR Icons: Bob Surlaw
A Feature by Paul Harrington

Bob Surlaw Gameography

Official games:
-Totally Gihern (Costume)
-Walthrus: Return of the Crystals
-Super Walrus Chef
-Gato Sucio: The Quest for Color
-Surlaw Armageddon
-Horse Game (Cameo/Monster)

Other people’s property:
-Thanksgiving Quest
-Scare Spree (Costume)
-Vikings of Midgard (Cameo, enemy)
-OHR House Heroes (One of the main characters, star of Super Surlaw Chef minigame)
-Surf’s Up Yuk (Town NPC)
-Timestream Saga: Arcadia Incident Report
-Mr. Triangle’s Maze (Hidden cameo)
-Halloween Quest 3 (Hidden boss)
-Puckamon (Playable monster)

I think it’s safe to say that of all the fish-shaped heroes in OHR engine games, Bob Surlaw stands out as the most famous, most macho, and most yellow. For those new to Mr. Surlaw; He is a Walthrosian Fish, a type of monster that can use psychic energy to float around on land, can live in either air or water, is generally portly, and shows up in this magazine more often than some people would like.

OHR gamers know Bob Surlaw from Walthros and its spin-offs, but where did this plump yellow wobbler begin his life? The answer lies deep in
the past, 18 years ago. Yes, Bob Surlaw is older than some members of the OHR community. Yes, it makes me feel pretty old.

Sky Flyers #1 Cover

 In April of 1992, I drew the first comic depicting the adventures of the fish who would later be known as Bob Surlaw. The design was based on some kind of monster my brother had drawn. The old Bob had an absolutely ludicrous number of chins.

Sky Flyers #1 was Bob’s first grand adventure. He teamed up with a seal, Salom, and a worm, Glob, on a quest to bring some gaudy color to his black and white world, located somewhere in Scotland. Along the way, they gained powerful weapons, fought cardboard box people and Mega Man villains, and had a showdown with the dreaded Harpoon. A parody of this plot line would be used for Gato Sucio: The Quest for Color.

Bob Surlaw gets buff in Gato Sucio

The Sky Flyers, made up of Bob, Glob, Salom, and a rotating cast of other sea creatures, would bumble around in comics for the next six years, undergoing a few reboots, a few name changes (Bob the Super Fish to Bob Ruslaw to Bob Surlaw), a few planets (the original comics took place on Earth, a reboot in 1996 introduced the planet Walthros) and a lot of ugliness before being reborn as video game superstars.

The issues of the original comic that followed the Color Saga ranged from mediocre to terrible.  Characters came and went, legally distinct Wolverine-Elec Man caused all kinds of misery, and they somehow lost all of the colors they found. The 1996 Sky Flyers reboot featured full color illustrations, a more coherent storyline, and introduced the Crystals and Fish Lords (Color Spirits) that the rest of the world knows from Walthros. Also, everyone fought with lightsabres.

Sky Flyers Reboot #1 Cover - It didn't show up in the scan, but those lightsabres are actually neon orange

I ran a search for “RPG maker” some time in 1998 I believe, and I came across the OHRRPGCE and a few other engines. I tried a few of the free ones, and found the OHR the easiest to use, in spite of it having a 4-map limit at the time. I was very happy when later updates removed this limit.

My first attempt at a game was just called Sky Flyers. It featured a Bob Surlaw with LEGS wearing a blue space suit and some kind of gray rabbit thing that would be reborn in Surlaw Armageddon as the House Demon. I stumbled around trying to make something coherent, and redrew the graphics, maps, and dungeons several times, along with ditching all of the original dialogue. It eventually morphed into what people know as Walthros today, and a demo was released in 2000. Bob lost his legs, the gray rabbit became the Rabbit-Walrus, and the plot would follow that of the 1996 Sky Flyers comics.

Battle screen from Walthros

The whole “gather crystals and save the world!” plot was dated even back in 1996 when I first wrote that story in the comics, but people didn’t seem to mind too much. The characters and their interactions were what made Walthros, and they were able to stand out in spite of the lackluster core plot.

Bob Surlaw fills his guts in RMZ's OHR House Heroes

So, what is Bob, as a character, like? He hasn’t been 100% consistent from comic to comic or from game to game, but there are some universal traits that have stuck with him from the beginning. He’s always been a bit dumb, though his dumbness varied from issue to issue. He’s never been outright incompetent, but he’s always been a bit of a bumbler. Even in Surlaw Armageddon, which is definitely my darkest story, Bob has his share of goofball moments. He’s always been generally kind-hearted, which is probably partly because he’s not bright enough to come up with any kind of self-serving plan. He’s a glutton, which has gotten him into trouble on more than one occasion (Yes, he tried to eat Glob in the old Sky Flyers comics). He’s always been loud, and usually enjoys puns. Bob’s a happy-go-lucky hero who loves life, even when it forces him to fight horrible octopus monsters.

Since the 1996 comics, Bob’s profession/hobby has been archaeology. He may not be a genius, but the dude sure loves to dig in the dirt! This is what started his journey in both that line of comics and the original Walthros game, and will play a bigger role in the inevitable remake.

Bob whispers words of wisdom in Walthrus: Return of the Crystals

What kind of monster would want to befriend this slovenly blob? Let’s take a look at some of Bob’s friends.

Salom Lancoven: Bob’s best friend and straight man. Salom started out as a grouchy seal that lived in a cave near Bob’s hovel and would later somehow become involved in international espionage. I kind of like the old grumpy Salom, but this version hasn’t really survived into the games. Walthros Salom was some kind of unerring, honor-bound warrior. I didn’t like that character very much, and in Walthrus: Return of the Crystals, he became a hip hop superstar with a love for all things gold. Salom is the least consistent character in my games/comics.

Glob Spril: Later called Gulob, possibly due to his speech impediment. Glob has always been some kind of genius inventor who flies around with a rocket-pack. He’s the Donatello of the Sky Flyers, and in one version of Surlaw Armageddon was responsible for destroying his home town in a robotics accident. I’m not sure why Glob was friends with Bob in the original comics; I guess he saw that Bob was on the path to riches and wanted in on that deal.

Loffer: A lobster who joined the Sky Flyers for a couple of frames before being killed by the swamp monster, Slosh. He would later come back as a ghost and wreck up the joint. Loffer appears as a summoned monster in Walthros and never returned after the 1996 comic reboot. He threw bombs and acted tough, but the only thing that was tough about him was his shell, and it turns out that wasn’t very tough after all.

Benson: A whale who fought using sonar. She joined the Sky Flyers to avenge Loffer’s death, and she herself was killed shortly after in a battle with The Shadow Master. This was a trifecta of terrible characters, and Bob, Salom, and Glob quickly moved on and forgot about them. I don’t think we ever saw THE SHADOW MASTER!! again, probably for the best.

Ecco: Here’s no surprise: Ecco was a dolphin. He wore a red bandanna, because Raphael wore a red bandanna, and who is tougher than Raphael? Ryu from Street Fighter, of course! Ecco had an enormous head and could throw hadokens. He stuck around longer than most new Sky Flyers recruits. I have no idea where he went. He doesn’t appear in Walthros. Ecco is the Terrible Cool Character that everyone wants to forget.

Scottie: The only new hero to join up with the Sky Flyers in the 1996 reboot comics. Scottie is at times a clown and at times a brave warrior of the highlands. In Walthros, I kept the warrior side of Scottie, and made him the prince of the Tengun Nation. He was still kind of a brat, but he's the brute-force physical damage guy in that game. From Walthrus: Return of the Crystals forward, he pretty much became a walking (hovering) joke.

Bob made more friends in the video games, including Dinosaur Triple and Super Walrus Man, but these guys weren’t ever an official part of his posse. Considering how quickly new Sky Flyers recruits died off, it’s no surprise they stopped getting applications.

Bob and Lanni in Surlaw Armageddon

If you want to see what direction I’ll be taking Surlaw in his next adventure, read the Ask Surlaw columns. He likely won’t be QUITE that dumb, but his general outlook and sense of humor will carry over. I’ll finish Surlaw Armageddon before I get to that, though, or at least I hope to! There will also more likely than not be a Surlaw cameo in Village People: The Videogame.