Monday July 27, 2020
Schlock Mercenary Begins — The first strip, revisited
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The story of Schlock Mercenary, the twenty-book saga of a carbosilicate amorph's career with a company of 31st-century soldiers of (mis)fortune, began with this exchange. 

This particular rendition of said exchange appears as the final panel of the prologue found in The Tub of Happiness: Schlock Mercenary Volume 1.

The original rendition (sans prologue) aired here at schlockmercenary.com on June 12th of 2000. You can read the whole story, beginning with that strip...

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Tuesday Night AMA!

My friends at TypeCastRPG¹ are hosting a streaming AMA with me at 9pm Eastern on July 28th. You can post questions into the chatroom, so if you’ve ever wanted to ask me something, this is your opportunity.

Aim your browser at twitch.tv/typecastrpg, and have questions ready!


¹Ordinarily we play D&D on Tuesday nights, but one of our players is sick.

 

Done, At Least For A while…

When I started creating Schlock Mercenary it poured forth like a dam had broken. I was driven—whether by deep personal need, or demons from the deep, it doesn’t matter—to make comics, and I felt compelled to deliver them daily.

Then there was this thing, this sort of a watershed moment, just fifteen months after I started making comics, in September of 2001…

Lots of us in the webcartooning space sought to express our feelings—of grief, anger, patriotism, fear, it’s a long list— and I realized that my story-based comic strip just wouldn’t work well for that.

So I decided to keep telling the story I was telling.

The only change I made was to amp up the triumph and the funny a bit, because I had this epiphany (or at least this slow dawning of realization) that my job was to help people cope by letting them laugh and cheer. I was still writing social satire (a fact which the dawn of realization didn’t break over until 2008, which stands as strong anecdotal evidence that you can make a thing without knowing that thing’s name) but just because it’s got the word “social” in it doesn’t mean it can’t also have joy, with laughter and cheering. Kind of like how a really long paragraph can be comprehensible, but also have multiple parenthetical phrases slipped into it.

Parentheticals aside, here we are, 19 years after 9-11, and I’ve been doing this job pretty well—or at least very consistently—for that entire time.

But it is now entirely time for me to stop.

I need a break, and it’s the kind of break which, until I take it, I don’t know how long I’ll need it to be.

A break? REALLY? I look at the world around me. I know in my heart of hearts (or perhaps by the yammering of those 1st-paragraph demons) that the world needs joy and laughter and cheering and triumphs in their entertainment just as much now as they ever have.

How can I possibly LET myself stop?

And then I have a pair of epiphanies, which are kind of like dawning realizations, except on a very swiftly-spinning planet—no glow, no warning, just the instant awareness that it’s time to find shade and sunblock.

Epiphany the first: I cannot create enough joy to save the world. If I live a thousand lifetimes, and pack all the work of those lives into this moment, it still wouldn’t be enough.

Epiphany the second: The 20 years of Schlock Mercenary I’ve made won’t vanish just because I stopped making them. If I’m lucky, and the internet keeps furiously pumping words and pictures through tubes, maybe I CAN let myself stop. Maybe, when I take a break, people will still get enough joy to get by.

Because while I can’t do it all, and although what I’ve already done won’t be enough, that’s pretty much the whole human condition. That’s the story of all of us—not being able to do it all, and never being able to do enough.

So I’ll show my demons the door, and then try very, very hard to allow myself some contentment, some satisfaction, with what I have been able to do.

At least for a while.

That door won’t hold for long.

It’s trying to do the job of a dam, and it’s just a door. It won’t be enough.

 

And That Makes Twenty

With this most recent update, Schlock Mercenary has run for twenty years.

Daily, with no missed updates, no re-runs, and no guest strips…
From June 12th of 2000 to June 11th of 2020, that’s twenty full years. (The twentieth anniversary will be on June 12th, because math.)

The strip has come a long way in twenty years. I’ve gotten a bit better at this thing, and although “keeping it fresh” has always been my goal, I will admit to reusing a punchline or two across the decades.

But Schlock Mercenary isn’t all me. Since the very beginning, Sandra Tayler has been my alpha reader, and since 2006 she’s also been the editor and publisher.

Oh, and do you see that second sig in the June 11th strip? Travis Walton has been the Schlock Mercenary colorist for more than half of the strip’s life, and he’s a big part of why it got better while still maintaining the schedule.

When I first dreamed this thing up, I knew I was writing the comic strip I wanted to read. It’s changed a lot over the years (no surprise, as I’ve changed a lot), but after all this time I’m still the strip’s biggest fan.

I could write at great length about why that is, but for now I’ll just leave it at this: thank you for making it possible for us—me, Sandra, and Travis—to have jobs making comics. I might be the strip’s most obsessed, all-consumed-by-Schlock-Mercenary fan, but my love for it isn’t what actually pays the bills.

Nope. That’d be you.

Thank you!