Remember Your Safe Words: "Klaatu Barada Nikto!"

Gort (Day The Earth Stood Still) Valentine’s Day Card

Gort Valentines Day Card (klaatu barada nikto) The Day The Earth Stood Still

Robert Wise’s 1951 “The Day The Earth Stood Still” is a truly genre defining film, which, along with “The Thing From Another World” (Howard Hawks, 1951) and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (Don Siegel, 1956), established our gold standard for what smart, eerie scifi films could deliver by including healthy doses of paranoia, pleas to “act human”, and memorable villains (albeit the three films come at these problems of “visitors from outer space” from decidedly different tacks: galactic police versus deadly conquerors).

If you’ve not watched these films do so now†. With only a few hand-waving allowances required for their being 60+ years old they hold up exceptionally well, delivering creepy, noir-esque worlds, engrossing writing, effects that bear up (TDTESS’s saucer landing on Washington’s mall — yes!), and (mostly) exceptional acting — plus Bernard Hermann’s TDTESS score is instantly recognizable as how 50’s scifi should sound.

But only one, “Day The Earth Stood Still”, has a badass killer robot.


Gort’s silent menace drivesTDTESS’s story. In fact, it’s the fear of Gort’s powers — and prevention of his executing same — that provides us cinema’s first believable robot character (OK, special allowance for Maria).

So then, here is my Valentine’s Day card tribute to our pal Gort and his not-so-easy-to-remember safe words: “Klaatu Barada Nikto”!

As usual I began with a rough pencil sketch which I then quickly inked and auto-traced in Adobe Illustrator (below), applying a few custom pen brush strokes I’ve made over the years for my coloring book pages. This inked line art was then placed in Brushes for iPad (as PNG) for basic coloring, painting, and adjustments (chiefly making Gort’s head less motorcycle helmet like) before re-exporting for final text and color effects in Photoshop.


To texture the piece I made a rough “paper” tessellating tile that was added as the topmost pattern layer using “overlay” blend mode (I actually started by scanning a piece of wool felt, not paper, then corner-swapped it so the final artwork would seamlessly repeat — if that makes sense).

A big thanks (again) to Blambot for their Red State/Blue State and Destroy Earth fonts, both free.

I had a few false starts before going with this Daft Punk/funky-jams/pelvic-thrusting/über-nerdy Gort robot, including one misguided attempt at looping LA’s five level freeway interchange into a heart (bottom), but none really panned out.

I decided my Gort would look like an earnest homemade Halloween costume: if I were making such a costume I’d, of course, spend all my time fussing with that helmet, trying to get it smooth, and then, the day before All Hallow’s Eve, dash out in a panic to find a silver suit — possibly just spray painting some sweats, a big belt, and work boots. Thus, the sketched character’s rather thrift store-esque outfit.

† Note on relevance: I suspect, given the easily baited, tantrum prone billionaire asshat now (occasionally) occupying the White House (ugh, did we really sort-kinda-whoopseedaisy pick el Trumpo?), it might be a good time to revisit these flicks with their ominous warnings about self-serving individuals, failed politics, and the need for humanity’s acting together to solve our real big issues. Clocks a ticking.