Back in 2014, our very own Digital Dynamic Duo took on a challenge of truly diabolical proportions – bringing the vast, 16-year old sprawling universe of Howard Tayler’s Schlock Mercenary into your earbuds, through the tried-and-true stalwart of the airwaves: the Digital Strips Book Club!
Turns out, though, that reading through every update of a webcomic that’s being going since June 2000 is a galaxy-sized task all of itself. So rather than saddle you, dear readers and listeners, with the boredom a grind like that can bring, the Geek and the Midnight Cartooner moved on to greener pastures vowing that they would, one day, return.
And so, in the spirit of that fine tradition we introduce the Book Club Bookmark: A look back at the comics which have been covered by the podcast in Book Club form, and seeing where those comics are today (if they are still updating at all).
Most people who read webcomics will likely be familiar, in one way or another, with Schlock Mercenary. After all, anything that enjoys continued popularity on the internet for nearly two decades is certain to have an effect on the community it’s a part of. When Steve and Jason left their bookmark in the book club reading, they had covered the first five or so years of the comic – from it’s inception and the addition of alien Schlock to the mercenary crew, through the revolutionary “Teraport Wars”, alongside plenty of animals being genetically engineered to sentience and the development and subsequent insanity of more than one AI. It had been a pretty rough trot through webcomic history for our Dynamic Duo, with the early years displaying everything common to 2000’s-era webcomics, without the benefit of fond nostalgia putting a rosy glow on it all. Even the author himself dived into the comments section here on site to lament the early (and at that point, still-developing) art and writing. However, if there has been a better case of ‘persistence pays’ in the webcomics world, it would be hard to find – even by episode five, the look and sound of the webcomic had improved dramatically, and would continue to do so throughout the vast archive from that point to the present day.
Schlock Mercenary has continued to update in the years since Digital Strips looked at it last – the comic is now in it’s eighteenth year and has a thick backlog of sixteen print collections for ease of archive-binging – although Howard now recommends that new readers start at Book Twelve (directing them to the start of the comic’s 6, 210 strip run would be, in his opinion, unnecessarily cruel – to which Steve and Jason would no doubt agree!). Howard has gone on record saying that the overarching story driving the comic is drawing to a close, predicting it will culminate somewhere around book nineteen – which gives us another few years of the mercenaries’ antics yet! Howard also plans to spin new stories off the main line which will continue beyond the conclusion of his leading narrative, and keep Schlock Mercenary in the annals of webcomics long into the future.
And now, dear readers, it’s time to hear what you think! Have you followed the series at some point over the past seventeen years? Do you think Steve and Jason should dust off a copy of Book 12 and sink their teeth into a book club reading as the series reaches its close? Make sure to let us know in the comments or on Twitter, and until next time remember – don’t eat the clickbait!