Mister Chief Avatar Available Now: The Story Behind the Legend

Editor’s Note: The “Halo” Mister Chief  outfit is now available for purchase on Xbox Live for both Male and Female avatars.  Read on to find out more about Mister Chief’s unusual legacy straight from its creator, 343 Industries’ Franchise Development Director Frank O’Connor. 

Full disclosure: Mister Chief is a terrible idea that snowballed out of control, and now we’re stuck with it, like the internal combustion engine or Justin Bieber. I don’t secretly think he’s awesome, nor do I secretly think that Mister Chief has any actual artistic or canonical merit. He is the bastard child of a more desperate time. You know the expression “outsider art?” Whereby art is created from an unexpected place, like an elephant with a paintbrush. A French artist, Jean Dubuffet coined the term to describe paintings made by children and the inmates of insane asylums. Well, that’s exactly what Mister Chief is.

He first popped up in the Bungie Weekly Update – at that time a community bulletin dealing with all things Halo. You can find much more worthy and better written information there about “Destiny” these days at www.bungie.net.

Well, I was in a bind. I had lots of things to write about “Halo 2,” but nothing to show. So I simply “mocked up” a “screenshot” featuring the non-union, off-brand, off-kilter alter-ego of Master Chief, imaginatively named “Mister Chief.” And because it was so terrible, there was nothing that PR could do to stop it. PR is often trying to stop me from doing various things. They have no patience for antics or capers, and no budget to reverse shenanigans. He is carrying a light saber because those are easy to draw, compared with guns, for example. This is the outbreak monkey of Mister Chiefs:

Predictably, after I exposed him to the world, I got a lot of confused, angry, even erotic responses. A typical question from the community of the time would be, “What is this affront to god and why do you suffer it to live?”
Now, everyone thinks I make these things in MS Paint. I literally never have. It has always been either Adobe Photoshop or in real-life media. I much prefer doing ‘em in Photoshop, because using the fill bucket is a lot easier than actually coloring stuff in with a paintbrush. But when I do use physical media, I use acrylic, I think, because you can smear a lot of coverage super fast. I believe Michelangelo approached the Sistine Chapel with a similar approach.
Now there are some rules to creating Mister Chiefs, and you’ll see them repeated ad nauseum. I seldom show his hands (because they are hard to draw) and he’s seldom doing ANYTHING except standing in front of something that’s easy to draw. I think the only exception to this is when I had to make one for the Marbel “Halo” Graphic Novel – and I drew it in Photoshop to look sort of like an MC Escher drawing. This was HARD. It took like, an hour (the average Mister Chief takes about two to three minutes).

Tragically, someone offered to buy the original of this for a significant sum of money. Having no moral compunction about commoditizing my art, I was nonetheless forced to demur because it only exists as a jpeg. No pencils were harmed in the creation of this insult to MC Escher’s legacy. For some reason he is wearing white Mickey Mouse gloves. Possibly because skin is hard to draw. You have probably detected a pattern here regarding talent versus output.

He tends to have a single, slightly angry expression, featuring prodigious clenched teeth. I do not know why, except that this is how I drew mouths when I was eight, and it’s how I draw mouths now that I am more than (cough) twenty-eight.

Now, to the matter at hand – the Mister Chief avatars. I discovered a limitation of the avatar tech. They literally can’t make anything precisely as ugly or poor as a traditional Mister Chief. So you’ll see that the avatar, while obviously Mister Chief, has nicer proportions and a more generous interpretation of the Mister Chief’s husky and indolent frame. He also can’t be keylined on his silhouette. But here he is. A collaborative effort with the avatar team. A thing that you can buy and wear and bring joy or horror to your dashboard.

You have my profound apologies.