“Penny Arcade Volume 9: Passion’s Howl” by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Oni Press, 2013)

Passion's Howl

The dynamic duo Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, aka Gabe and Tycho, aka Penny Arcade are back! In volume 9, Passion’s Howl, they collect all their strips from 2008, plus lots of extra goodies, and of course, Jerry’s frothy, wet commentary to each strip that just adds to the experience.

In 2008, Penny Arcade was firmly established as the gurus of video game critique and commentary. In this collection it also becomes apparent that they don’t just need to be talking about video games to be funny, but their humor works on many levels and subjects, whether it is ordinary everyday things, or the fact that these men are adults now with families and responsibilities. Penny Arcade also has the knack to comment on cutting edge Internet developments, such as the strip “Le Twittre” from April 23 about Twitter and why anyone would ever want to have a Twitter account. Now, five years later, Gabe still doesn’t have one and stands by his decision.

The comic also gets meta at some points, as the pair happily make fun of themselves and their world with “Operation Myriad” on October 31, with a host of new video game releases and a new expansion to World of Warcraft, forcing them to create an elaborate schedule to get all these new games played. Or the fact that ping pong is an important game in their lives and at their work with the rest of their staff, competing with rival staffs from other companies, and in the artistic and hilarious “Paint the Line” series, they were able to address this.

Fans will have to add this latest volume to their collection, and if you pick this up, wanting to try Penny Arcade for the first time, you will be quickly swept away on a great and long journey that is still continuing to this day.

Originally written on June 11, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Penny Arcade Volume 9: Passion’s Howl from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Penny Arcade 8  Be Good Little Puppy  The Halls Below

“Penny Arcade Volume 8: Magical Kids in Danger” by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Oni Press, 2012)

Penny Arcade 8

The dynamic duo that is Penny Arcade are back once again with the next collection of their both brilliant and hilarious web comic. Magical Kids in Danger collects all the strips from 2007, featuring an introduction by Cliff Bleszinski, Design Director at Epic Games, as well as Mike Krahulik’s development artwork for the cover.

As in previous volumes, writer Jerry Holkins adds commentary, thoughts and opinions to each strip, trying to work out the concept behind it, or what the thinking was, or in some cases is brutally honest and says he has no clue what they were planning at the time. Readers get to see some of the big happenings in the video gaming world through the lens of Penny Arcade, such as the sacred arrival of the Playstation 3, and more intelligent ridiculing of game companies who profess to know what video gamers are thinking and actually want. Some beloved characters of the comic strip also make their appearances, so readers will not be disappointed with this new volume that, after being read, needs to go on the shelf right next to volumes one through seven.

Originally written on December 4, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Penny Arcade 8: Magical Kids in Danger from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Be Good Little Puppy  The Halls Below  The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade

“Penny Arcade Volume 7: Be Good, Little Puppy” by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Del Rey, 2011)

Be Good Little Puppy

Do not be deceived by this cutesy cover of Tycho and Gabe having fun with a puppy and butterflies, for within these pages lies tales of damnation and lust; whatever you do, don’t let a child get ahold of this book . . . and for those who are already familiar with the unforgettable and endlessly entertaining comic know as Penny Arcade, then this cover works as an excellent camouflage for the sordid-laughter-inducing artwork within its pages . . .

Be Good, Little Puppy is the seventh volume from Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, bringing together a collection of all the Penny Arcade strips from 2006.  Fans gets to enjoy returns from familiar characters like Cardboard Tube Samurai, the enigmatic Twisp and Catsby, and occasional visits from various appliances, including a certain “fruit-loving” machine, who arrives to save the day!  Readers also get to see Tycho’s talent as a writer in his incredible Elemenstor Saga, ripped off and ridiculed by one L. H. Franzibald in Song of the Sorcelator.  The question is how far will Tycho go to end this plagiarism and the answer of course is all the way . . . only Gabe happens to be a Franzibald fan!  Gabe and Tycho also have much to say about what Microsoft is doing with its Xbox, as well as addressing this new Playstation, and the new unfortunately named console, Nintendo Wii.  And then there’s the incredible nine-part epic, “Armadeaddon,” involving everyone’s favorite: zombies.

Add this to your collection; it’s simply required.  Plus you get cool extras, like an entertaining (and seemingly obtuse) introduction from bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss.  Plenty of commentary from Jerry Holkins on each strip, and at the end you’ll find some moving excerpts from Song of the Sorcelator, as well as some important character and stat info on Wichaloks!

Originally written on October 13, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Penny Arcade: Be Good, Little Puppy from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

BookBanter Episode 29 with Penny Arcade


At a recent book signing for The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade, I had the chance to sit down and chat with the incredible minds behind one of the most popular webcomics of our time: Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Jerry and Mike talk about what an average day for them is like, who else works at their office so they get to read and write about video games, what Child’s Play is, what goes on at PAX, and how much time they really spend playing video games. Included in the episode is my review for The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This episode of BookBanter is brought to you by East Bay and Footlocker, leading world suppliers of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment, featuring top athletic brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Converse, and Nike.  Go to East Bay.com and use the code AFBOOK15 to receive 15% off your order, or the code AFBOOK20 to receive 20% off your order of $75 or more.  Or go to Footlocker.com and use the code AFBOOKFL to receive 15% off your order.

Immense thanks go to April Flores at Random House for organizing the interview.

As you may have noticed, there are some updates to BookBanter:

– the whole new look to the site;

– the new BookBanter theme song, with an original beginning and ending;

– the book review search bar available on this page, as well as on the reviews page;

– the episodes page features a complete listing of all the BookBanter episodes from the premiere episode to the current one;

– the reviews page also has a full genre and category listing to help you navigate the reviews;

– the interviews page features a new step for BookBanter with written interviews, starting with Brandon Sanderson; an exclusive interview with Peter Straub will be up on April 15th;

– the author comments page is where author’s let you know what they think of BookBanter.

– the BookBanter on BookBanter interview on the About page.

Please join me next time, on April 15th, where there’ll be a new episode featuring a lineup of book reviews, along with an exclusive written interview with bestselling author Peter Straub.

Until next time,

Alex C. Telander.

“The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 1/2 Anniversary Edition” by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Del Rey, 2010)

Splendid Magic of Penny Arcadestarstarstarstar

Approximately 11 ½ years ago, two four-eyed nerds decided to start a web-comic about video games.  They met in high school, in journalism class: Jerry Holkins had a penchant for putting words together, while Mike Krahulik liked to doodle.  They found common ground in their nerdage and enjoyment of video games.  After a couple of comic book attempts, they settled on a web-comic involving two guys talking, bitching, ridiculing, and loving video games, video game systems, and the whole world of video gaming.  What began as something fun eventually turned into a voice for the fan to fight back again a terrible game or badly created system.  Over a decade later, Penny Arcade is now one of the most popular and longest running comics on the Internet.

When asked why they didn’t do a 10th anniversary book like everyone else, their excuse was they simply didn’t have time, because Jerry and Mike are very busy guys.  In addition to churning out a webcomic three times a week – as well as copious blog entries – there is Child’s Play: a children’s charity that donates video games, video game systems, and toys to hospitals; started in 2003, it has gone on to generate millions of dollars in toy donations for hospitals worldwide.  Then there’s PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, which began as an intended small gaming convention in Seattle, and brought in over three thousand people the first year.  It has since gone on to become one of the largest conventions in the county, and in 2010 for the first time there will be a PAX East taking place in Boston.  And then there is the Penny Arcade podcast, as well as PAX TV, showing you behind the scenes of Penny Arcade.

The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade is a great compendium of all things Penny Arcade, as you learn about and hear the stories from Jerry and Mike about how they first became friends, how Penny Arcade started, and the many blunders and pitfalls they’ve made along the way.  You also get to hear from the people who work with and for them, who do their everyday jobs so Jerry and Mike get to play video games and make comics for a living.  The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade is a required book for any fan, to go right next to the collected Penny Arcade comic books.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on March 25th 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

Penny Arcade at Belmont Library 02/24/10

Yesterday I got to meet the great minds – Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins – behind the incredible popular Penny Arcade web comic.  They were at the Belmont Library in San Mateo for the second stop in their book tour for The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 1/2 Anniversary Edition (now available).

Penny Arcade book

The main reason I was there, other than to meet these fun and crazy guys, was to interview them for BookBanter, which went very well and was a lot of fun.  The interview is scheduled to run in Episode 29 on April 1st, which seems pretty fitting, being April Fools Day and all.  I’m also planning to have this be the inaugural day of the new site upgrade for BookBanter.  Fingers crossed on that.

After the interview, we hung out for a bit, while Jerry tried to convince me about how great ebook readers are, especially his Nook, and why I needed to get one because I love reading so much.  But I maintain that I also love books and while I wouldn’t say no to someone giving me an ereader, I don’t plan on acquiring one any time soon.  We also talked about Mike doing more reading now other than Star Wars books, and he’s currently very much enjoying The Name of the Wind by Patrick Ruthfuss, while Jerry’s mind is currently being blown by Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon.

Penny Arcade
Jerry Holkins scowling on the left, Mike Krahulik smirking on the right

The crowd came out in full to fill up the area of the library where they were having the Q&A and signing.

People 1

At their signing the night before at the University Bookstore in Seattle, there’d been 250 people.  I think at Belmont Library, that number was beaten.  All the chairs were taken, then all the standing room.  Then people began lining up in the aisles of books, trying to peak over the hardcovers and paperbacks to see through to the performance.  Many just hung further back and listened to the miked voices coming from somewhere across the room.

People 2

Mike and Jerry gave a great performance, signing books twenty minutes beforehand, then answering questions for over an hour and regaling everyone with entertaining stories, such as Jerry’s dangerous obsession with Felicia Day, or extolling the virtues of D&D, and then proceeded to sign books and chat and do photos for a lot longer, until everyone was happy and Mike and Jerry were completely exhausted.

People 3

All in all an entertaining night.  Here’s the rest of their book tour, along with PAX East in between.  As I said, the episode with their interview should be up on April first, at the conclusion of their tour.  And I would just like to thank the Belmont Library for organizing a room to do the interview in where we were relatively undisturbed (and the staff were great!), Dolores Gevertz for coordinating at the event, and most importantly April Flores from Random House for organizing and coordinating and make this all happen for BookBanter.