The webcomics blog about webcomics

Fleen Book Corner: The Tub Of Happiness

Webcomics can save your life. Want proof? From the Introduction of Schlock Mercenary: The Tub Of Happiness by Howard Tayler:

In December of 1999 I had a heart attack.

Here I am, almost eight years later. I suspect that those chest pains were a clarion call. Less than three months after the ripping of that final, hairy bandage, I found myself telling Sandra, “I think I’ll pick up doodling as a hobby.” A week after that the first Schlock Mercenary character drawings were emerging, and within two weeks I was writing and illustrating strips.

Hold that thought, we’ll be coming back to it shortly.

Reading SM:TTOH, some notice that Tayler’s trying to play fair with the rules of his hard sci-fi universe; others note the art that rapidly progressed from its very rough original form to its present, less-rough form; many focus on the funny (with a hefty side order of BLAM). Me, I notice how reprehensible most of his characters really are.

They are mercenaries. Their defining motivation is there in the second panel of the first strip:

We’re a crack company of space mercenaries. We do “hurting people” and “breaking things”.

So we’ve got Good Guys whose stock in trade is murder and destruction and extortion — not for defense of their homes or grand ideals, but for money. They are not so very different from the union thugs portrayed in the storyline on pages 175 to 177, who are portrayed far less sympathetically than Our Heroes. By the time the book is done, they’ve directly caused a spasm of war that lays waste on a multiple-planetary scale and laid the groundwork for a broader conflict that will kill billions of sentients.

And yet, that war and those uncountable deaths somehow disturb us less than the fact that all that death and destruction was provoked by the act of spamming 30% of the galaxy’s population.

So Tayler’s working on some pretty dark thoughts, making us laugh at them, robbing those less social corners of his own soul of some of their power. I know that it’s working, because hanging out with Howard Tayler, he’s absolutely the sort of person I’d take to the town picnic and introduce to my neighbors as a friend, and totally not a societal danger that spends his days trying to convince me to care about mass murderers. Because dammit, I do care about them, and they do make me laugh.

Letting out the blackness between the parts of ourselves that we show the rest of the world has got to be a good thing. In Tayler’s specific case, that process (via cartooning) has had a salutary effect on his health. To recap, in the form of the famed Harper’s Index:

  • Heart attacks suffered by Howard Tayler prior to becoming a webcomicker: 1
  • Heart attacks suffered by Howard Tayler since becoming a webcomicker: 0

QED, people.

[…] hasn’t falled below 19 days. He cannot be killed by conventional means (of this we have empirical proof), and apart from the fact that he won’t let me buy him a beer, I can find no reason why […]

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