As I’ve heard Howard say on many occasions, "Which part of Schlock Mercenary don’t you understand?" As such, I’ve placed an order for his excellent Rule One t-shirt:

Pillage, then Burn

I first met Howard…well…let’s stop right there…

When I say things like I first me Howard, I think it’s important to define my terms. When I discuss meeting or talking with Howard, I’m speaking of when I got to meet, chat with or randomly bump into Novell guru and webcartoonist-extraordinaire Howard Tayler. From his point of view, I suspect it means something slightly different…that is a random interaction with faceless fanboy. Fair enough…

I first met Howard as a Novell rep at Penguicon (the greatest little Linux, Anime, Gaming, Manga, Sci-Fi/Fant convention on the planet). He was the Novell rep tasked with explaining to the crowd the reasons behind Novell’s sudden interest in Linux. It was a great talk (involving sail- vs steamships amongst other things) and interesting enough for me to pop into the other panels I noticed his name attached to (blogging and webcomics) if I recall. I noted with interest that he had created a webcomic called Schlock Mercenary. When I got back to my room that evening, I immediately popped over to his sight and looked at the strip…and I was done. It didn’t strike me as funny.

At the next year’s penguicon, I bumped into Howard in an elevator before one of his panels. It would have been a non-event except for the shocked look on Howard’s face when my daughter darted out of the elevator announcing she was running to the consuite before heading to the anime room to get some caffeinated gum. I believe Howard’s exact words were:

"You letting the kid chew the gum?!?!?" No, actually we weren’t. She loved going to the consuite and hoarding the penguin mints and gum, but she never ate them. She just kept handing them to me at the end of the day. We’ve since talked about the evils of hoarding, but it was worth it as the look on Howard’s face was priceless!

After attending his talks that year, I decided that there had to be more than Schlock than I was getting by simply glancing at a strip every so often, so I clicked on the pages Basic Training link and started to read. Two days later, I had read through the entire archive and was a devotee to the strip. What changed? I realized that Schlock wasn’t about one-liners. I realized that Howard is a storyteller and spins a sci-fi yarn like you wouldn’t believe. This is not to say the strip isn’t funny. It is tremendously funny, but it’s a sci-fi tale first.

At the next Penguicon (I do so LOVE Penguicon), I came prepared to pick up my *autographed* copy of Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management from Howard himself! Lots of panels and a few brief chats…

I missed the next Penguicon, but will be attending this year. Sadly, according to the website, Howard will not…

In any case, I can not recommend Schlock Mercenary to you strongly enough. It is interesting, engaging and fun. Take a moment to check it out, and be sure to wish Howard a happy birthday tomorrow!