So, today the preorders for Schlock Mercenary: The Sharp End of the Stick are up. I’ve reviewed Howard Tayler’s masterwork of online serialized science-fiction before (wow, I’ve tried to bring this blog back from the dead a lot of times since then), but I’ll do it again because wow, it’s gone from my favourite webcomic to still my favourite webcomic but with a lot of strong competition for best science-fiction comic out there (also, there’s a contest on). There is one, count ‘em one, comic that has me whipping out the iPhone at update time, and that’s Schlock (pre-iPhone, that was “trying to find a way to get away from what I’m doing and find a PC, so hey, technology). There’s also one, count ‘em one, comic out there that has named a character after me (my online handle, anyways), but I’m not biased by that, no siree.
So, why is it my favourite? I’ll put my reasons in list form, because I hear the internet likes list form:
- SOLID writing. Howard Tayler knows a thing or two about writing, and it shows, especially in the more recent books. Writing a punchline-a-day comic strip that also works as a serious (but funny) story over the course of years? Brilliant.
- Art. Want to see how someone learns to draw and refine their style? Just hop in the archives and jump ahead years at a tim
- e, and watch it go. Gives a hack like me hope that, with daily practice for many many years (as opposed to daily avoidance for many many years), I might just learn to not suck. Hiring professional colourist Travis Walton (pretty sure he’s not the UFO guy that comes up when you Google him) makes the recent stretch a real visual treat as well.
- Consistency. The comic has been up daily for coming on twelve years now, on-time. No guest artist weeks, no “stick guy” weeks, no “here’s a sketch instead of a comic” days, it’s the strip, on time, no ifs-ands-or-buts about it. It’s been late once or twice, but that took an explosion taking down the data centre to do it (and the strips were available elsewhere, which is impressive customer service to get for something that’s delivered free of charge.
- BOOM, baby, BOOM.
Yeah, what more can I say? Give me shiny pictures, a fantastic story with characters I care about, and sprinkle explosions and fancy tech to taste, and I can’t resist. Sharp End of the Stick is Tayler really stretching his legs, and is where I learned in media res, which is a really fun phrase to pull out at parties (NOTE: I don’t get invited to parties very much, probably because I try to show off with Latin phrases). It’s free online, but the print version will have exclusive margin art, added footnotes, and a bonus story that, if the last seven books are any indicator, will be very much worth your while to read.