Surely the author won’t mind me using the logo of his comic to promote it, right? Right?
If you’ve perused my website a little, specifically the links page, you may have noticed that one of the links I’ve had around since the very beginning leads to the most-excellent webcomic Schlock Mercenary, by Howard Tayler. Schlock Mercenary has been a long-time favorite of mine since checking it out in … 2005, I think (?), after I saw Howard present at a few panels at a convention and speak on two topics, one of which would go on to play a vital part of my future career. The first was about how comedy writing was really hard, which I noted. But the other, the big one, was how to take something independent, like a webcomic, and make a living at it.
‘If you can get 5000 people to be fans who will buy and watch your stuff,’ Howard said. ‘You’ll make it. That’s what you need.’
And he knew what he was talking about. See, Howard had left his middle-management job to pursue being a writer (and artist) in the webcomic sphere full time, selling books, prints, and as he once noted with “dark scatological undertones” … maybe even Schlock-in-a-cup.
That last bit is a joke. I don’t think he ever sold that. Anyway, all of this came from Howard’s excellent Sci-Fi webcomic, Schlock Mercenary, which grew into a fantastic example of Sci-Fi over the last twenty years, building up a galaxy of adventure, peril, delight, and of course, laughter following the crew of the mercenary company Tagon’s Toughs, and their violent, almost sociopathic alien Sergeant Schlock. Twenty years of never once missing a daily update in its entire run, a feat unheard of in the webcomic community, and one that likely will not be repeated for some time. The closest Schlock ever came to missing an update was when a page was a few hours late due to a server catching fire and Howard and his people literally kitbashed a replacement on their own to get the new page up.
So, why am I telling you all this? Because as of today, Friday, July 24th 2020, Schlock Mercenary is officially over. The big, overarching plot that slowly rose up over the course of twenty books has come to a close, the final panel has gone live, and Howard himself posted his final, closing thoughts.
Well, not entirely closed. There remains a hint of future adventures in the setting to come. But Sergeant Schlock’s adventures with the company are, at last, concluded.
So … why make a post about it? A couple of reasons. Foremost is in tribute. Schlock Mercenary is one of the webcomics out there, and a Sci-Fi webcomic at that. As stated, no one else has managed a 20 year run without missing a single update in the webcomic world. It’s an incredible achievement, and while Howard more than deserves the break he’s about to take, he also deserves accolades.
Plus, it was a fantastic comic. Schlock Mercenary is a prime piece of excellent Sci-Fi adventure, delivering action, character, intrigue, suspense, and many, many laughs over the years. Consistently funny, clever, and thought-out, Schlock Mercenary was a comic I checked nightly as soon as the update hit for well over a decade, first as soon as I could get to a PC, and then via my smartphone. It was a ritual. More than once discussions among my friends turned to speculation and humor concerning the latest twist in a Schlock story. Sometimes complete with an archive binge of “But hey, remember this detail?” Schlock tackled a range of Sci-Fi, speculative ideas and tropes, from “Big dumb objects” to first contact and balance of powers. Funny it was, but also thought provoking.
Sands, Schlock is even leaving a legacy behind across pop culture with the Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries, an “irreverent, irresponsible volume of malevolent canon” which has been referenced in other Sci-Fi works. Even Civilization VI features a quote from the pages of Schlock Mercenary in reward for researching a specific tech. Read by Sean Bean, no less.
Look, what I’m really saying here is two things. The first is that Schlock Mercenary is fantastic, and you should go read it. It’s done and finished, so you completionists can burn through it now.
The second is thank you Howard. Schlock Mercenary has been a gem of a webcomic, an absolute blast to read all these years, and a wonderful addition to my bookshelf.
I suppose this is a thank you in two parts as well, because without that little bit of advice about “5000” all those years ago, I probably wouldn’t have known what to aim for when I set out to become an author. Sands, I might have even shackled myself to a traditional publisher. Instead, I remembered those words for years, and worked toward that number from the very start of publishing my first books. So thank you a second time, for sharing words of wisdom.
Sands and storms, I’ve laughed so much at Schlock’s antics and the rest of the gang over the years that you deserve a third thanks just for that. Laughter is the best medicine. Except for my broken ribs, but the pain is worth it.
So thank you. Schlock has left a grand, violent, funny, thoughtful legacy.
And the rest of you? Go check the webcomic out. It’s fantastic.