Schlock Mercenary, by Howard Tayler

Space opera with an ommminous hummmmm. Military humor… Evolved, in a daily Sci-Fi comic. Bring your own plasma cannon.

Another comic strip that, while chock-full of SAOLs, goes in for the lengthy scenario rather than the one-off gag. Not that the strip isn’t full of throw-away gags: Mr Tayler has the sort of sense of humour you don’t usually expect in a lay preacher. But then again, one of his characters is a (young, handsome) cleric whose best line so far has been “The grace of God knows no bounds, but my mercy has some practical limitations”. This, while holding an enemy helpless at rapier point (yes, in the 31st century). Also, I just have to add this one to my list of Favourite Quotes:

“Please don’t make me add ‘rounding Pi down to three’ to your list of crimes.”

Commander Tagon, leader of the mercenary army Tagon’s Toughs, might not be the brightest star in the firmament, but then you haven’t seen the crew. May I particularly draw your attention to Sgt. Schlock, who has a remarkable sense of irony. And, of course, mayhem. Sgt. Schlock is an amorph. Translation: he looks like an oversized, sentient elephant turd. You need a sense of humour and a metaphorically thick skin to pull that off with panache.

In case you wondered, the character who most closely physically resembles the author is the resident Mad Scientist (until Mr Tayler shaved his beard off, which I think a great shame but it’s his life not mine).

The best place to start with this strip is definitely Basic training. Then you start reading the strips from day one.

Well, what are you hanging around for, soldier? Didn’t I just give you an order?


Dead Tree Version
There are now two Schlock books available, with others in the pipeline. They’re pretty good, with some excellent bonus stuff. Footnotes – the ones that accompany the strip to explain strange terms or situations – have been kept to a minimum, so the flow of the story isn’t interrupted more than it needs to be. I have a sneaking feeling that the stories have been abridged in order to fit into a single volume, but I have too much of a life to actually plough through the archives with book in hand to try and find out. In any case, the books stand up quite well on their own.

Be warned that if you pre-order a book and are foolish enough to pay a little extra, Mr Tayler will wantonly deface your copy before his wife mails it (keep the cardboard mailer, you’ll have two autographs for the price of one and it will protect your book).

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