Before the term “webcomic” even existed, Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins were creating them, and they named their awesomeness Penny Arcade. The comic strips have been about a variety of topics but are best known for being a witty commentary on the gaming community. The authors are video and computer game afficionados, and their alter egos - Gabe and Tycho - are a continually growing Internet sensation. Their web site, www.pennyarcade.com, has over 3.5 million readers worldwide.
The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 1/2 Anniversary Edition looks back to the authors’ beginnings, and how the comic strip has changed and evolved over the years. Each chapter contains a mix of comic strips, trivia, strange facts, and in paragraph form, the story of their mysterious origins, biographical info, interviews, etc. Fans of Penny Arcade will definitely want to add this to their collections.
What do you get when you plunk down your hard-earned samolians for the book? If you’re a fan of gaming and the comic strip already, then you likely already know the grandeur that is Penny Arcade. For the rest of you who may never have heard of the strip, keep reading. You get to learn - as mentioned above - the history of the strip’s humble beginnings, which of the two authors draw the comic strip (Mike Krahulik) and which one writes the dialogue for it (that would be the other one, Jerry Holkins). You’ll read about how they shared an apartment, worked at menial jobs as they struggled to make their comic strip into a success, and used most of their salaries to purchase video games.
Some of us might call that fooling around, having a good time and wanting to delay for as long as possible adult responsibilities. For these two, it was something more, though they might not have thought about it at the time: those long hours spent having a blast killing zombies and other monsters was research, research that eventually paid off as their comic strip became more and more successful and they used their knowledge of what qualities make for a great (or sucky) game to spread their wisdom to others.
You’ll also read about the origins of one of their most famous creations, their comic strips involving the “Cardboard Tube Samurai.” One day, so the story goes, Mike found a cardboard tube in a dumpster and began to beat Jerry with it, as if it were a sword. (I remember doing the same thing with my own friends, and it’s pretty fun.) The authors turned that incident into a comic strip they called “The Wandering Age.” It includes Japanese characters, and most of the strips have battles involving Gabe (the dark-haired one) using his cardboard tube against his sword-wielding opponents - and, somehow, soundly defeating them.
One of the other chapters that caught my eye was one titled “Making Jpegs: A Primer.” This is because I have some knowledge of HTML, though I am far from being an expert at it, and I was interested in learning how to make Jpegs myself. The info I found there was useful, but the running commentary between Mike and Jerry in the chapter, set up to be similar to a chatroom or IM situation, is more interesting, thought-provoking and humorous. They comment on the features of The Beatles Rock Band and Resident Evil. They consider parodying Harry Potter by having Tycho get “drunk on tequila” and calling it the “Patronus Charm.”
The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 1/2 Anniversary Edition isn’t just a book about a popular comic strip and its origins. It’s about that a phenomenon that has had a profound impact on the Internet and the gaming culture of the world. And, yeah, did I mention that the comic strips these guys draw are pretty darn funny, too? All in all, not a bad deal for your money. If you are already a fan of Penny Aracade or simply enjoy playing video and computer games, this book comes highly recommended.