The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 ½ Anniversary Edition
Written & Illustrated by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins
Published by Del Rey
Admission: I don’t enjoy Penny Arcade, so I was a little bit surprised and concerned when this book showed up in my mailbox. As I find video games to be (largely, there are exceptions) interminably boring, Penny Arcade might as well be in Latin for all the sense it makes to me. The less game-oriented strips sometimes entertain, but still, there’s a divide, a sense of the world through a zombies-are-cool prism that I just don’t possess. And that’s fine; I’ve often said that if every comic appeals to me, somebody’s doing something wrong. I still recognize the quality of the artwork and the skillful pacing of the jokes that aren’t very funny to me. Fact is, Penny Arcade is a monster hit, and deservedly so.
To celebrate its success and give fans a peek behind the curtain, Del Rey has worked closely with its creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik to create The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 ½ Anniversary Edition. Now, with an anniversary book of this nature, it’s clearly a product for fans, but credit must be given to the careful and fun-loving job done assembling the book.
Each creator is treated to a light-hearted biographical treatment, including comments from their parents and wives. Character overviews are provided, explaining how intended throw-away characters evolved into recurring tangents. A large section explains how Krahulik and Holkins created the Child’s Play charity to raise money for children’s hospitals (and provide some entertainment for the kids!), and time and pages are also given to the duo’s PAX gaming convention. There’s even a section wherein they describe feuds with various persons, and yeah, it’s a little self-congratulatory.
In the book’s final section, Holkins and Krahulik offer some of their favorite strips up, sometimes briefly touching on the personal reasons that make it stand out to them, other times just pointing and laughing. Each offers remarks on the strips via their Penny Arcade avatar, which for non-readers such as me, is baffling and impossible to keep straight; fortunately, longtime fans will certainly enjoy the banter and insights.
If you’re a fan of Penny Arcade, The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade will be a great supplement to your experience with the strip. The book has a strong design and packaging, and all the sections – even when a bit self-serving (but really, isn’t that what this sort of project is all about) – are treated with a good sense of humor and affection. It’s a book for the fans, and it’s something I suspect most of them will enjoy very much.