The thing you have to understand about Howard Tayler is, he’s basically the same guy as me. Okay, he’s got a passle o’ kids and I’ve got a dog; he’s a Latter-Day Saint and I’m a nonthiestic humanist (that’s me in the crosshairs); he bears a startling resemblance to Tycho and I don’t. But we were born a few months apart, we’ve been married to our respective wives about the same length of time, we’ve both worked extensively in tech, we both drive New Beetles, and I suspect that we have a similar love of pie — and if that’s not enough to make us brothers under the skin, then I don’t know what is.
And it’s obvious that we both really like the concept of DVD extras, as his first collection of strips, Schlock Mercenary Under New Management, is chock-full of the print equivalent of commentary tracks, mini documentaries, and deleted scenes. Tayler’s pretty well known for these commentaries within the bounds of the daily strip — you’ll learn about the logic behind his various sci-fi constructs and doo-dads, and get an occasional lesson in practical geology if you aren’t careful (you may also discover that in the future, he’s taking literal pot-shots at your place of residence).
Following on the DVD analogy, the book is the equivalent of a reference-quality disc, with heavy glossy paper (seriously, this is the heaviest stock I’ve ever seen in a webcomics book … there is some serious heft here), deep colors, rich blacks, with an occasional transfer artifact somewhat distracting from the overall presentation (that is, somebody needs to clean the printing web a bit better as there were some ink smears around the margins, but thankfully not on the main images). If there were a soundtrack to the book, it would have those reassuring little sci-fi spaceship background noises interspersed with some BLAM and ommminous hummmmm in 5.1 surround.
Storywise, SMUNM goes from March 9 to August 23, 2003, covering four arcs of a year-plus long story (which we are promised will continue in the next book); you could just read it online, but the book has a distinct advantage in that it’s easier to navigate. The latest website redesign eliminated the drop-down box that allowed a browser to jump to particular story points; Tayler has mentioned his unhappiness with this particular feature loss, so hopefully we’ll see the capability back soon.
In the meantime, SMUNM is exactly what you want from lighthearted SF — no big heavy morals or using the far-flung future to address pressing issues of our day, just a bunch of weird people wandering the galaxy and blowing up other weird people. Can’t ask for more than that, and with pre-orders done, it goes back on sale today.