Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Schlock Mercenary

You've heard me talk about Schlock Mercenary before. Pretty much every time there's another book or I list my webcomics. First I want to talk about the author/illustrator.

Howard Taylor is living the dream. I don't mean he has a big house or is rolling in money or has hot and cold bikini babe dispensers in his house. He had a job that was stressing him out. One day, with no artistic ability beyond knowing which end of a pencil did the line making, he started cartooning. It started with simple gags, simpler art, short stories, and a kitchen table. As time went on his drawing got better and the stories more involved. He tried to keep doing some kind of punchline each day but dumped the kitchen table. I wrote to him a couple of times offering to layout books for him, but he gave me a pass. He wasn't ready, yet. When he was ready there came the books, the string of Hugo nominations, and the ability to quit the thrice damned job that started him on this road. So when I say he's living the dream I mean he hangs out in a comic book store all day drawing a daily cartoon that he owns the rights to and that supports the one woman (from the hot tap) and four kids waiting for him at home. And he once again gets to enjoy what he liked about engineering before his old job turned it dark and evil.

I'd be happy supporting the comic just for the reasons stated above. It's the flip side of avoiding Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson movies because they're batshit crazy. But the comic is what got me reading in the first place.

Schlock Mercenary is about a company of intergalactic mercenaries. They don't stick with one employer. They don't always work willingly. They don't always get to keep the same ship. In fact, one of their old ships is now the head of an interstellar hive mind empire, but that's a long story.

The company is commanded by a man named Kaff Tagon. He embodies the military mind while maintaining an understanding of the grunts mind. He's not what you'd call a brilliant strategist, but he understands The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries, an oft quoted credo that one learns either by book or is beaten into you by experience if you survive the beating.

A central character and significant source of funding for the company is Schlock. If you're being polite he resembles what happens when the soft serve ice cream machine won't shut off. If you're not then he resembles the floor of an elephant's pen both in shape, color, and composition. Some people just want to watch the world burn. Schlock loves these people. More specifically, he loves the excuse they give him to play with ridiculously overpowered, ominously humming weaponry.

Making up for the brains lacked by the captain or chief carbosilicate amorph is Kevyn Andreyasn, the company scientist. Some would freely apply the adjective "mad" to his title. Everyone else would do so quietly. Kevyn is really quite brilliant. Some of his inventions would get him compared to folks like Robert Oppenheimer of the Manhattan Project. They would also wish his work was ONLY that destructive. There has been at least one major war fought because of his inventions. More if you don't count all the resulting conflicts as part of that same war.

There's plenty of other cast that come and go. Kevyn's sister is a business woman and admiral. The standard sci-fi crotchety old doctor got replaced with a bipedal hourglass. As time went on the exclusively human crew became populated with creatures that are alien enough that it becomes hard to criticize the author for variable proportions. And between major story arc there are lawyers that are fortunate to survive for three panels.

If you've ignored my previous suggestions to check out the comic I'm going to repeat my insistent demands yet again. But, well, remember how I said Terry Pratchett needed a couple of books before Discworld got good? Same thing here. It's not just me. When Howard put out his first book he didn't go to the beginning of the archives. In fact, he started with book three. That's either a lack of confidence in his early work or an inability to count we haven't seen since George Lucas decided to make a space opera. In accordance to the wishes of his marketing department, I'll point you to the beginning of book three [link].

Before I finish I'd like to make an appeal to Taylor and associates. If you're not going to send me a free book I'd really like to see a return of the scientific footnotes to the comics. Those were one of the things that helped hook me in the first place.

1 comment:

Xylarthan said...

I wholeheartedly support your support for more footnotes. (Of course, I wholeheartedly support any of Howard's writing.)