Lara Croft is famous for many reasons. As the protagonist in a video game that sees her performing daring feats of archaeology (a field that tends to be a lot less action-packed in real life), she filled a role that much more commonly would go to a male protagonist.
Although her designer, Toby Gard, wanted Lara to break some stereotypes, an accident led to what Lara Croft became very well known for. While attempting to increase her breast size just 50 percent, Gard accidentally hit 150 percent -- and, at the roaring approval of the development team, the change stayed over Gard's protests. Stayed, and grew; as video game technology became more sophisticated, "jiggle physics" entered the scene. Even 2000's Game Boy Color title had them.
Lara Croft, with her jiggling breasts and tight short-shorts, was officially a sex symbol.
But there's no equivalent video game protagonist for someone who likes looking at well-endowed men in tight, sexy clothing. So one artist decided to draw his own.
"The reason behind this whole reimagination is actually quite simple," DeviantArt artist Raffael, aka Ulysses0302, told CNET Australia. "I'm a huge, huge fan of the Tomb Raider series and of Lara Croft, but as a gay guy, I just had this funny idea of making a male version of her, showing what a guy would look like in an outfit which we just accept on a female character. I honestly thought it would end up with people laughing about it, but it developed a complete life of its own."
He called his character Nathan Thomas, and his reimagining couldn't be more perfect -- from the itsy-bitsy short-shorts to the coy postures Thomas assumes as he scales walls, faces off against tigers and sharks, and explores ruins, the character recalls the exaggerated sexiness of Lara Croft in a way that really draws attention to how differently video games portray male and female characters, not just in dress and body, but in movement and body language.
Although Raffael made the images around four years ago, they've only just gained wider Internet exposure. Unsurprisingly, some are finding the images discomfiting. The top comment on a thread in Reddit's /r/gaming said, "I think I now understand why my wife hates Lara Croft." Overall, though, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with gamers -- male and female, straight, and gay -- coming out of the woodwork to say they would absolutely, positively love to play a game starring Nathan Thomas.
It would certainly make gender representation in video games more equal, that's for sure.
Meanwhile, Raffael is reeling from the popularity of his art.
"I honestly don't know what to say. I am so overwhelmed by what happened after this four-years-old piece was posted on Tumblr, and I still can't really wrap my head around it. Someone just told me Nate was on Twitter too, now," he said. "People loved the character of Nathan Thomas first on a gay-centred gallery I'm posting in, and then on DeviantArt, too. I would have never expected this to happen, especially not the sudden outburst of attention when the piece went viral on Tumblr, since by then I had thought Nate forgotten aside from some of his loyal fans."
Well, that's the Internet for you. We just hope this inspires a developer somewhere to hire Raffael as a character designer and turn the video game world upside down.
You can see more of Raffael's art on his DeviantArt page (some are NSFW).