If you’ve never heard of Sir Adrian De Wiart or Captain William Fairburn, I don’t blame you. They’re not particularly famous figures, but I suspect they might be two significant inspirations for Big Boss and Skull Face.
The theory that Adrian De Wart is an inspiration for the Big Boss in MGSV isn’t mine, I noticed this image on Reddit. It’s pretty reasonable, I think. He was shot twice in the face, causing him to lose his eye, and he suffered many other serious battle wounds in duty. He bit off his own fingers (ouch!) when a doctor refused to amputate them, and eventually his hand was removed altogether. While he was a prisoner of war he made five daring attempts to escape, and was actually busy eluding capture at the time of his release. He inspired fearlessness on the frontlines while commanding his unit, while also adopting any other units who had lost their commanders along the way. For his bravery and accomplishments he was given awards, but he was also banned from fighting anymore.
Here’s a famous quote from the man: “Governments may think and say as they like, but force cannot be eliminated, and it is the only real and unanswerable power. We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.”
Oxford described him as a “legend”: “With his black eyepatch and empty sleeve, Carton de Wiart looked like an elegant pirate, and became a figure of legend.”
Despite going through hell over and over, his memoirs are titled “Happy Odyssey“. The foreword written by none other than Winston Churchill. He once said: “Frankly, I enjoyed the war.”
That’s Adrian De Wiart, though. You could find him on plenty of sites dedicated to masculinity and war heroes. Less known is the British WWII master spy trainer, former Shanghai street cop, and domino mask aficionado, William Fairburn.
I’ll let this documentary explain what he taught the Americans at a secret OSS training ground called… Camp X. It starts at 8:02 and I suggest you watch until 11:53, although the whole thing is fascinating…
As the documentary postulates, Fairburn and his contemporaries are pretty much the founding father of modern terrorism, CQC, and spy tactics. Not only were his methods were cutthroat and secretive, he taught civilians in foreign countries how to disrupt and overthrow powerful, rigid armies using the bare minimum. The OSS went on to become the CIA, one of the most powerful international intelligence agencies in the world, and Fairburn is a mysterious founder of its most brutal and efficient techniques.
According to Wikipedia: Fairbairn emphasized the necessity of forgetting any idea of gentlemanly conduct or fighting fair: “Get tough, get down in the gutter, win at all costs… I teach what is called ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play, no rules except one: kill or be killed.” He invented the riot baton, armored vests, and several combat knives.
We don’t know a lot about Skull Face, but we’ve already seen some excellent analysis comparing him to the Phantom of the Opera (ability to hear and repeat private conversations to haunt people), the Lone Ranger (avenging his fallen comrades while wearing a mask), and Big Boss himself. We know that he worked for Zero/Cipher, which means The Patriots, who are closely associated with the CIA. We know that he will do any disgusting thing in his power to get what he wants, using the resources at hand. If he teaches his unit to become ruthless killer spies who topple foreign powers, as I suspect he does, this would be very in line with Captain Fairburn.
Kojima obviously takes inspiration from many places, from James Bond to Christopher Walken, so I’m not saying this is the biggest influence at all. But comparing Adrian De Wiart and William Fairburn — two British war veterans who stand out as legends in their own ways — we see an interesting contrast. One is the ultimate badass frontline commander, and the other is the ultimate ruthless spymaster. A world-famous legend who stood with Churchill and was forbidden from fighting, and an obscure founder of modern terrorism and CIA techniques.
It would be stupid to think Skull Face won’t become a major figure in the Metal Gear universe, so I suspect a lot of important events/inventions will end up being attributed to him too. His hunt for Zero, his eventual partnership with Venom Snake, and whatever else he accomplishes in the years before and after Ground Zeroes, may put him in line with Fairburn in more ways. He could be secretly responsible for teaching the gentlemanly Major Zero all about Gutter Fighting…
What do you think?