Penny-Arcade is rated "W"
Year One: The PA Book
Tycho Brahe - Penny Arcade
And now, ladies and gents, boys and girls, I am proud to bring you my interview with Tycho Brahe (aka Jerry Holkins) of Penny-Arcade fame! If you've never heard of Penny-Arcade it's basically a hilarious 3-times-a-week comic strip on gaming, the net and whatever else it's creators can think of (which really isn't all that much).
Tycho: Just me, I'm afraid. Gabe's always pretty busy.
Ok, let's get on with the interview, how did you and Gabe meet and get started doing PA?
Tycho: We met in journalism class back in high school. I sought to ingratiate myself immediately by asking to see his portfolio, and I think we've been friends ever since. We knew that we wanted to work on a project, but we somehow saw our calling in the realm of classic action and superhero comics. We'd go over to his place after school - ostensibly to begin work on "G4" - but all we did was play Genesis. We sort of fell into trying to a humorous comic when we lost an online contest - Next Generation said they were looking for a strip, but they didn't really like the ones we were sending. Maybe they wee miserable, I can hardly remember. But we realized how much we enjoyed trying to write comic strips as opposed to comic books.
How closely do Mike and Jerry resemble Tycho and Gabe? Do you guys really live together?
Tycho: We don't really resemble the characters. Kara and Brenna (when they show up in the strip) are better matches for their real world counterparts, but I don't think it's really all that big a deal. We were writing for just the two characters at first, and I didn't think they needed names to begin with - but readers made it fairly clear that names were a requirements. I drew a strip where we gave them names:
But we don't really see that as a part of the strip's continuum. After a while, we began to realize that we'd each selected a character and chosen it to represent us. We decided to just run with it. And yeah, until I got married, we did live together - just as the comic says, in Apartment 26.
What's with all the secrecy/privacy? Pseudonyms etc...
Tycho: It's not really meant to be a big secret thing, those are just our handles online. That's hardly a conspiracy.
I see... What about syndication? Have you tried to get the strip syndicated?
Tycho: No, that really isn't interesting to us. But take a serious look at Penny Arcade - why would it be interesting to them?
How do you spend your time online?
Tycho: Online I write the strip, answer mail, use instant messengers, and play games.
What impact has the net and computer technology had on your art? Would you still be drawing comics if it weren't for the net?
Tycho: I think that trying to publish Penny Arcade any other (monthly) way wouldn't be worth it. It seems like a huge pain in that ass, and we never considered traditional publishing as our endpoint anyway.
What kinds of perks go along with doing PA? Fame, fortune, women? Or maybe even free games?
Tycho: We seem to get into betas a lot, but it often happens that we don't have enough time to really take advantage of them. The last free game I received was Diablo II, but I'd already bought it. I believe I gave it to the needy.
What's it like knowing you've got legions of fans out there? Does it affect how you write and draw the strip?
Tycho: I don't know if it makes me an asshole or something, but I try not to think about that part too much. I try not to let it sink in. That's not to say that I explicitly seperate myself from people who read the thing, in fact, I make myself as accessible as possible. We're just very posessive of the comic, especially given recent efforts by fuckheads to wrest it from us. We have a certain way that we like to write it, and it's hard enough trying to take just the two of *us* into account.
Do you guys have any other projects going on around the web that we should know about?
Tycho: Well, Gabe does a lot of art in his gig at for the GameSpy network. I used to sing in a rock band, I don't really anymore, but that stuff can all be found [here].
Tell us a bit about the new Penny Arcade book.
Tycho: It has the comics we did in the first year, and our commentary on each of them. It's supposed to come out this month, actually.
Tycho: Oh, yes. Quite.
Bandwidth and hosting costs have been a huge problem in the web-comics community since advertising went down the tubes, how have you guys been coping?
Tycho: We get help from different web-hosts directly. Monster Labs and HomeLAN didn't want something bad to happen to the site, and so they each have helped out at different periods.
Why do gaming and web-comics go hand-in-hand so often?
Tycho: Well, both of those things occur in the context of technology - it's only natural that there would be some overlap. Jerkcity is a comic which takes place in IRC. User Friendly occurs in an office saturated with technology. I can think of more examples.
Next week, if all goes according to plan, I'll have and interview with Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby Awards.