The year was 2012. America said they could (again), I launched my own webcomic (oh God, the art!) and as if in response JPEG juggernaut Penny Arcade ran their very first Kickstarter campaign. This campaign was nominally for the removal of ads from their site, but the real reason we all backed it was hidden in the stretch goals – the promise they’d create the world’s first webcomic reality game show: Strip Search. Five years on I wondered, what happened to the twelve contestants on that show which was, perhaps, before it’s time? Here’s what I found.
For those of you unfamiliar with the single-season show produced by PATV and Loading Ready Run, here’s a quick run-down. Strip Search aired online between March and June 2013, running a familiar “reality TV” format: twelve artists were picked from a multitude of applicants (yeah, including me), and proceeded to battle their way through thirty-one episodes of coaching, industry experience, and tense elimination challenges. The prize? A year working in the Penny Arcade offices, hosting and advertising through the PA site, and access to all their internal resources.
Depending on what webcomics you read, those twelve names might be a bit unfamiliar these days. I know I found most of these guys – particularly the ones eliminated early in the competition – had fallen off my radar. I wanted to know what they’d been doing over the past five years, if they were still making webcomics, and how their art and writing had developed since the show. Today, I’d like to share a bit about the first three contestants who left the show: Alex Hobbs, Ty Halley, and Lexxy Douglass.
Creator of “Wanderlust Kid” before his stint on the show, Alex had the dubious honour of being the first contestant whose artwork was literally torn apart by judges Mike and Jerry (Gabe and Tycho). We didn’t get a lot of time to get to know him through the show, but his parting words: “This isn’t just the end. There’s no way it could be,” suggested he planned to keep webcomicking for a long time to come.
I’m not sure when that changed, but it seems like “Wanderlust Kid” is offline. I linked it above in the hopes you’ll have better luck than me, but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get the page to load. Alex doesn’t seem to be making any other webcomics at the moment, either – at least, none that I could find. He is still creating – his Tumblr account is full of artwork as recent as four months ago, and it seems like he works (or worked) as an artist for Card Kingdom. It’s great to see Alex still making art, and hopefully we’ll see another strip online someday.
Ty’s exit from the show in episode seven was… a little sadder than Alex’s. Ty also had a strip going before Strip Search started: “The Secret Life of a Journal Comic,” although it’s web address now seems to lead to… something else. Even so, webcomic aficionados may be familiar with what Ty has been up to over the past few years, especially if they’ve kept up with comics attached to the Penny Arcade brand. I dropped out of reading “The Trenches” shortly after it’s debut, but by it’s final season it had apparently moved beyond the artistic attention of it’s creators, leaving Ty to take up the mantle. Not that you’d know it, unless you scrolled right to the bottom of the author page…
Since the Trenches finished I haven’t been able to find much more for Ty; his Tumblr page and other online networks don’t seem to have been updated in a while, and I couldn’t find any current comics with his name on them. Let’s hope he’s not gone for long!
Lexxy was an unique Strip Search contestant, in that she had already appeared in Penny Arcade: The Series before auditioning for the competition. Working for Penny Arcade in her capacity as a designer, she was also one of the few contestants who didn’t have a webcomic going when the show started. The elimination episode that saw Lexxy leave the show (the first time) was tense and dramatic, with an appropriately dramatic conclusion. Readers who have followed the webcomic scene over the past few years may already know that, unfortunately, drama continued to follow Lexxy following the show. The Kickstarter campaign for her webcomic “The Cloud Factory” infamously failed to deliver (although as of January this year, this seems to have been corrected), and the webcomic itself never progressed beyond eight updates with a two year hiatus between the penultimate and final strips. These days, Lexxy is continuing her work as a freelance artist and designer. Her Tumblr account is also constantly updating with samples of her artwork, tips and tricks, and everything else you need to see how her style has developed over the past few years.
There’s a snapshot of what I was able to find, but I’d love to hear if you know more about what Alex, Ty or Lexxy have been up to in the past few years? Did you watch Strip Search while it aired? Do you know what happened to Alex and Ty’s comics? Or were you a backer of Lexxy’s ill-fated kickstarter? Let us know in the comments, and until next time… don’t eat the clickbait!