Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘Penny Arcade!’
It’s the trifecta of modern comedy: Sarcasm, Near-Cartoon-Levels-of-Violence, and The Deflowering of Fruit. I speak of a web comic that has consistently delivered all these aspects without fail for over 10 years. Since its creation in 1998, it’s spawned graphic novel collections, a charity that has raised millions of dollars for children’s hospitals, nearly half of my roommate’s funny tee-shirt collection, and its own convention to boot. I speak of Penny Arcade.
In concept it is merely a riff on the (now) age-old Beavis and Butthead theorem: Two dudes and a TV. Swap the TV with a video game system (or PC, or Tabletop RPG), and swap the aforementioned dunderheads with the highly sarcastic Tycho Erasmus Brahe and his friend, the sometimes-sharp-as-a-marble Jonathan "Gabe" Gabriel . The two will comment on various video games they are playing, or wax poetic on other whims and flights-of-fancy we nerds take to heart.
The strip is written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik. Over time the strip added an additional (beloved) character or two… and will (from time to time) not include Gabe or Tycho in lieu of an in-game strip. Be forewarned (if you’ve not been clicking on the links above, because you’re patient unlike me) the boys do love the potty humor and foul language. Never-the-less…. violence, swearing, and video games has always made for excellent laughs.
The guys have a wonderful store chock full of tee’s and hoodies adorned with cute catch phrases only "very cool and socially acceptable" people like us understand. They also recently added a feature allowing you to order any of their strips in a nice high res print, suitable for framing and posting with intent to have your co-workers acknowledge your exquisite taste. Suffice to say, the guys over at the arcade have spent a good long time perfecting their craft, and three days a week you can get your fill. There’s a great archive to dig through, and their news posts, while not as auto-biographical as their Texas counterpart Scott Kurtz, offers some great thoughts about the game industry from time to time.
Some Strips of Note:
- The Cardboard Tube Samurai Saga
- The Adventures of Twisp and Catsby
- Are Macbooks this hot?
- Let the boys teach you about punctuation
- A cameo by Comics’ Favorite Couple
- And truly my favorte strip of all time…‘Sometimes I Wish I Could Hate You to Death’
Drama: Well, aside from the "sagas" from time to time, (see Cardboard Tube Samarai above) there is little is any drama. And it’s probably best that it stays that way.
Humor: Covering everything under the sun in nerditry from video games, role playing, computers, to insider-only game industry humor…all under the banner of cartoon-violence, swearing, and general bafoonery.
Continuity: Well, Gabe and Tycho have been long time friends, but that aside, really, there’s little you’d need to know to start laughing your pooper off.
Art: Mike Krahulik’s artwork has taken considerable leaps over the last 10 years. At the beginning, backgrounds were simple, and the colors were flat. Over time, Mike’s character stylings has gotten looser, and to his credit, far better. The exaggerated figures emote wonderfully. i dare you not to laugh at Gabe’s face when he wishes Tycho vast amounts of pain. At present, the strip is a great example digital painting technique, with a vivid color palate that always compliments it’s subject matter; Be it in Fantasy, Space, or just ‘Guys on the Couch’.
Archive: The strip is over 10 years old… Generally three strips a week over the course of 10 years? By my math that’s over a boatload.
Updates: Currently updates on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Risk/Reward: It’s a free web comic folks. By my dime, it’s well worth your time if you like topical nerd humor with a dash of blood, guts and laughter. Plus, every now and then you get a strip like this.