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The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade:
The 11½ Anniversary Edition

Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins
Penny Arcade Books, Del Rey, 166 pages

The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11½ Anniversary Edition
Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins
Nine years ago, writer Jerry Holkins and illustrator Mike Krahulik started the web-comic Penny Arcade, starring their alter egos Gabe and Tycho as two friends who love video games and hate each other. The strip quickly took off, becoming one of the most popular comics on the Web, and the centerpiece of a nine-person company. Holkins and Krahulik's other projects include the Child's Play charity, which raised more than $1 million last year for children's hospitals, and the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX).

ISFDB Bibliography: Mike Krahulik
ISFDB Bibliography: Jerry Holkins

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Bonnie L. Norman

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If you've been living under a rock for the last ten years or so, you might not have heard of the web comic Penny Arcade. Produced by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, the comic, featuring two cameo characters called Tycho and Gabe, covers not only the ins and outs of the latest news and releases from the video game industry, but geekdom in general. Well-known SFF figures such as John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton are staunch fans of the comic and well acquainted with the authors in real life; the foreword of this book is written lovingly by Scalzi himself.

The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade takes us through the history of the duo, starting with how Mike and Jerry originally met (in a high school journalism class) to the great things they've done since starting Penny Arcade together (founding the PAX gaming convention and Child's Play Charity). With their favorite strips from the comic sprinkled liberally throughout, this collaborative biography is far more than a recap of their freely available online work. Interviews from such important figures as their parents add more than a touch of humanity to two men most people imagine as two dimensional characters.

With a distinctive art style and a sharp writing wit, the duo have become icons in their own right over the almost twelve years they've been doodling. Gabe and Tycho speak not just to a small, select group of people; they speak to anyone with a sense of humor, an enjoyment of gratuitous violence by Fruit Juicers, and an irreverent attitude towards those supposedly in charge. No one is safe from being lampooned on Penny Arcade, no game is too sacred, no subject too risqué. Use of the "F" word and other four letter expletives is frequent and even encouraged. This is not a comic for kids, or at least, not for underage kids. Polite and moderate these two guys are not.

There are plenty of inside jokes and non-sequiturs that people who haven't kept up with the web comic won't get. In this case, it's a not a detriment to the work, but a plus. New readers will be running to their nearest computer, frantic to find out what all the jargon means. For instance, what's a Deep Crow and just who is Carl the Exterminator? The Sorcelator and Witchaloks? And why on earth does the cover of their newest book have them riding a unicorn over a field of flowers and rainbows? Read the web comic and find out. Be prepared to laugh your butt off.

With essays and articles from some of their staff, including business manager Robert Khoo, it's easy to see that the journey the Penny Arcade team has been on these last 11½ years hasn't been an easy one. But reading Mike and Jerry's recounting of their history together, it's clear that they've enjoyed every single minute of it. Their friendship shines through on every page, and the admiration they've garnered within and without their niche fan base is evident as well. The book is an easy, often hilarious read, and an absolute must-have for fans of the comic and newcomers alike.

Copyright © 2010 by Bonnie L. Norman

With a love for all things Science Fiction and Fantasy, it's hard for Bonnie to decide between SF books and SF TV, but somehow, books always seem to win.


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