Let me ask you a question: how big can you get in the webcomic industry while still being considered an “indie” creator? Go ahead, give it a try and guess!
Don’t worry if we stumped you, it was really a rhetorical sort of question because there’s no telling how big you can really get… like perhaps becoming part of the internet culture itself, carving your name in an era or having two, big-ass yearly gaming conventions that threaten the dominance of the elite Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Sound impressive? It should and there’s one webcomic that has been able to do it all, a webcomic about gamers co-created by friends Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik: PENNY ARCADE.
For those not already caught in the mammoth reach of Penny Arcade, it’s the story of John “Gabe” Gabriel and Tycho Brahe. As fictional alter egos of Krahulik and Holkins respectively, Gabe represents the naive, energetic, not so innocent, free spirit of gamers while Tycho represents the obsessive, sarcastic, bitter over-intelligence of fanboys (and girls). You could say that both are generalizations of all “nerd domain fandom” to which every single gamer, sci-fi collector, comic book reader and other strange kids can identify with. As such, the webcomic often focus on pop-culture, portraying it in an irreverent, heart-filled way. absorbed the culture, our pop-culture, and showed it to us in an irreverent a full of heart way. Topics have included video games, game developers, role playing games, religion, politics, My Little Pony… and so on.
Beyond being just a webcomic, Penny Arcade has gone on to rack up two published videogames (with another under development), founded a charity event called “Child’s Play,” started two gaming expos — The Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) is held in Washington (Prime) and Boston (East) — and that’s not all of it! Krahulik and Holkins have also collaborated with companies like Nintendo and Capcom (among others) to publish comics and parodies about their games. Gabe’s “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” (aka the “online disinhibition effect”) has been studied as a human behavior theory and even Yoshimitsu from the Tekken series will wear the Cardboard Tube Samurai’s robe for the upcoming Tekken 6.
Krahulik and Holkins have both become gaming superstars. They have been recognized by MTV, Next Generation and 1UP.com for their influence on the gaming community, appeared in the 2010 edition of “Time 100” and were even honored by the Washington State Senate. Now that’s how big you can get in the webcomic industry!