“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

What’s the Big Deal About China Mieville? In my Opinion, Nothing!

For some years now, a certain author by the name of China Mieville has been revered as the best thing to come into the world of science fiction and fantasy since the likes of Isaac Asimov or Robert Jordan, seeing him as the pinnacle of what is cutting edge and brilliantly written, to the point where he can do nothing wrong, and every book he publishes is an instant success and wins plenty of awards.

I’ve tried Mieville twice, with The City and the City which I started and soon became bored with after giving it a good fifty pages; and with The Kraken, which I struggled all the way through and was disappointed by the end.  Mieville just comes off as too full of himself, with his prose that often feels purple and overdone to the point of annoyance.  My wife has read and tried Perdido Street Station and Un Lun Dun, and we seem to agree with the same feelings about this author.  He also seems to be ripping of Neil Gaiman a little too much, who does what he does with skill and a resulting enjoyment, while the result with Mieville is something pushed too far.

I was delighted to recently discover that there are some other people who feel similar with regards to China Mieville: the guys at Penny Arcade.  They recently did a comic about it, as well as an insightful and well-written post about it.

And after reading the summary for Railsea, I know I’ll be passing on it.  Really, talking moles?

“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.

“Penny Arcade: the Halls Below” by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Del Rey, 2010)

Penny Arcade 6: The Halls Below

The Penny Arcade duo – Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik — are back with the next printed volume of their web comic, collecting all their strips from 2005.  Continuing with the same format of the strip and then a fun commentary beneath, this volume features an introduction by Christopher Perkins, who works for Dungeons & Dragons, an introduction which can certainly be considered a harbinger of what Penny Arcade would become.  By 2005, Penny Arcade was strongly entrenched in the world of the Internets, having already had their wrists slapped on multiple occasions; they no longer cared who they insulted or whose feelings they hurt, for they were speaking for the players and the ever-increasing gaming community.

Familiar characters and faces make their presence known in this collection, including a certain little machine for turning fruit into its juice through a very unorthodox method.  What’s interesting is the commentary, as they creators attempt to remember why a particular strip got made; there are a number of strips in The Halls Below that have Jerry and Mike wondering how or why they ever came up with this, or the complete opposite to an outrageous scene, with reality happening in that exact way.  A couple of the top strips from the collection include their ideas for some unusual gadgets one might find in an in-flight magazine: “the where is mommy map,” or the “cover up unsightly snakes with a large black thing!” (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2005/9/26/), and my personal favorite of Skeletor updating the He-Man Wikipedia entry with: “He-Man is actually a tremendous jackass and not really that powerful.  He hangs out with a bunch of jerks like Peela and Dork.  He has a cat who is also dumb and _” (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2005/12/16/).

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on October 29, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

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.

BookBanter Episode 28 with Kim Stanley Robinson



On January 23rd I was given the opportunity to interview Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the award-winning Mars trilogy, as well as other bestselling books such as The Year of Rice and Salt and Forty Signs of Rain, in person at the Avid Reader Bookstore, in the city of Davis where Robinson resides. The interview was conducted a little while before his reading and signing for his latest book, Galileo’s Dream, which is a science fiction novel, but is also a biography of Galileo’s life, as well as his problems in dealing with the Church. During the interview, Robinson talked a lot about how he came up with Galileo’s Dream, how much work and research the book took. He also talked about what got him into writing, what he thinks readers will get out of reading his books, and what he’s working on next.

Thanks go to Sunny Baadkar and the Avid Reader in Davis for helping to organize and provide a very comfortable space to do the interview (and that’s classical music in the background from Capital Public Radio).

Featured in the episode are my reviews for: Galileo’s Dream, A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell, and Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons.

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.

Please join me next month, on April 2nd (I’m avoiding April 1st because of its connotations) where a number of things will be happening: you’ll get to hear my interview with the incredibly talented minds behing the renowned web coming Penny Arcade; coupled with this will be a full site upgrade with a whole new look, new pages, new items to read, new layouts, even more book reviews with better and easier way to access them and find them, as well as a host of other additions and new items such as the original BookBanter theme song and a special recorded interview with yours truly on BookBanter, where it came, and where I’d like it to go in the future.

Until next time,

Alex C. Telander.


“Penny Arcade Volume 5: The Case of the Mummy’s Gold” by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Dark Horse, 2008)

Penny Arcade 5starstarstarstar

The Penny Arcade team are back again with their next long-awaited volume of the online comic: The Case of the Mummy’s Gold.  Volume 5 features a Hardy Boys classic looking cover as Gabe and Tycho stand wary by a door in geeky-looking outfits that bare a resemblance to classic Star Trek uniforms, as a pair of mummy’s arms stretch from the open doorway.

Volume 5 features some familiar characters, including our infamous fruit crushing friend, as well as some new concepts like their take on the Oriental Last Rites comic.  With the advent of popular Mass Multi-Player Online (MMO) games like World of Warcraft and the Star Wars MMO, Penny Arcade embarked on a new chapter of online comics with lascivious praise on some games like the former mentioned above, and scornful berating and insult on games like the latter.  Penny Arcade also became aware of their growing popularity and the fact that many people read the blogs and the comic and took the advice they offered.  With this power they began ridiculing and mocking different companies in the games industry much to the amusement of the fans.  It’s what really launched the comic into superstardom as it began fighting back for the fans.

Whether you’re picking Penny Arcade up for the first time, or simply addictively adding the next volume to your collection (like me), The Case of the Mummy’s Gold will be a welcome recruit, with lots of extra sketches from the different conventions they attended, including the actual paper tablecloth doodles they made to pass the time.  And if that’s not enough, there’s always the entertaining comments they’ve made on each comic about whether they liked it, or thought the concept totally failed, or simply have no recollection of what they did or were attempting to do.

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

Originally written on October 7th, 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.

Penny Arcade will be interviewed in Episode 29 of BookBanter available April 1st.

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.

Upcoming Penny Arcade Interview for BookBanter

Penny Arcade

In a couple of days I’ll be interviewing the incredible minds behind Penny Arcade — Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, who will be at Belmont Library on February 24th as part of their book tour for The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 1/2 Anniversary, aka Nearly Twelve Years of Bullshit.  At the moment I’m not exactly sure when the episode will run, but I’ll be getting it scheduled to go up as soon as possible.

For now, I’m starting to work on what questions to ask the guys.  So if you, BookBanter readers and listeners, have some questions you’d be interested in hearing Gabe and/or Tycho answer, comment on this post, and while I can’t guarantee I’ll ask them your exact question, I will certainly take it into consideration.