Penny Arcade is undoubtedly the originalGaming Webcomic, created by Mike "Gabe" Krahulik (art) and Jerry "Tycho" Holkins (writing) and updating on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. From its humble beginnings in late 1998, the comic has inspired countless imitators and grown into a veritable household name; the franchise has its own convention (PAX) and charity (Child's Play), as well as several commissions.Although most of the comics are connected to Video Games in some manner, it is not exclusively a gaming comic; much of the humor is drawn from real-life experience, as well as character interaction, both with the authors' alter-egos and with their friends.Notable for being one of the few webcomics to actually divide up art and writing duties between an artist and a writer, with the pretty obvious result that both the art and the writing are far better than most webcomics, which tend to be solo affairs. While the benefits to dividing up the duties are obvious, the pitfalls keep most webcomics from following suit: mostly, it is really really hard to get two people to agree on how their ideal comic should look and feel, and in the rare cases where they do, wildly successful comics can generate enough money to cause problems between them. Gabe and Tycho make it work, even while enjoying wild success.Also notable for a relentlessly professional update schedule in a medium notorious for falling victim to Schedule Slip. Penny Arcadewill update every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday — even when Gabe gets swine fluor cuts his thumb to the bone.The series has now spun off into an episodic game: Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. And now into a reality show. The comic has also spawned the Epic Legends Of The Hierarchs and Song Of The Sorcelator projects. Two podcast series have also been produced: Downloadable content which gives some insight in the process of how Mike and Jerry create the comics, and their D&D podcasts, which is a collaboration between Penny Arcade and Wizards of the Coast. There was also a reality series done on what it was like to work in the Penny Arcade office, which offered further insight into their creative process, as well as introducing fans to the other people who work behind the scenes at PA. In collaboration with Bionic Trousers Media, they have also started a reality talent search web series entitled Strip Search.The two were chosen for TIME Magazine's list of Top 100 Influential People for their 2010 issue under the "Artists" category.Tycho has starred along with Strong Bad, The Heavy, and Max in a poker game named Poker Night at the Inventory, and the Fruit Fucker 2000 appeared (renamed Juice Bot) in the Steam version of Monday Night Combat. The Merch, is now an unlockable pet in the upcoming game Fire Fall.
Author Avatar: Retroactively so - Tycho and Gabe were not originally meant to represent the creators, but too many readers assumed that they did and eventually Jerry and Mike just said Sure, Why Not?.
Jerry's posts sometimes mention that while Tycho draws from Jerry and Gabe from Mike, their characters are distinct from their creators and the real story is redistributed to the appropriate character. For instance, he was the one that wanted to give away free waffles at their convention booth, but it wasn't something Tycho would do, so their roles were switched for the comic.
Bland-Name Product: Most products are named and mocked, but in twostrips they were under a non-disclosure agreement, and decided to illustrate how silly the whole NDA thing is. There have been store and restaurant names such as GameShop, Taco Hole, and Wang's Chinese Restaurant, though Tycho once did refer to Barnes & Noble by its real name.
As mentioned earlier, the Fruit Fucker was renamed "Juice Bot" when appearing in Monday Night Combat. Also, in Poker Night at the Inventory, the Fruit Fucker appears on an unlockable table, but it is referred to as "Fruit Friend" (and even if you have the swearing uncensored, it still appears as "Fruit Friend").
Brick Joke: Most people forgot about the Pac-Man watch, what with it not being mentioned for years. Then came the announcement that it's a Team Fortress 2 Spy unlock through Poker Night at the Inventory.
Gabe: What, this? This isn't pee. You startled me, I spilled my... drink, is all.
Tycho: So, you didn't wet yourself. You were just drinking piss.
Gabe: Yes, that's right. No.
Bullying a Dragon: Anyone who tries to push around Jerry and Mike. Penny Arcade has a huge following, and most of them are very internet-savvy. Do not attempt to threaten or bully its creators or their friends. You will be destroyed. Ocean Marketing and Jack Thompson found this out the hard way.
Characterization Marches On: When the strip started, Tycho and Gabe were more or less interchangeable, with Tycho serving slightly as a Straigth Man to Gabe's enthusiasm. As the strip moved on, they experienced wildly different development, with Tycho evolving into his current sexually depraved intellectual persona, while Gabe became dumber, more unhinged and randomly violent.
Continuity Nod: Fairly odd for a webcomic that features the main characters dying horrible deaths on a regular basis, but one comic introduced us to the idea that Tycho can't deal with the sun. More than six years later, Tycho is again seen trying to protect himself. And once more.
One really has to see The Rant for that comic. The back-and-forth of Gabe and Tycho slinging factoids about the Mega Man games is fun. Especially the last one, where Gabe unearths an unbeatable fact that proves him right.
Crossover: Telltale's Poker Night at the Inventory, sure it's typical for them to crossover a Video Game seeing that it's a gamer webcomic, but its really unlikely for them to crossover a Web Original and a Comic Book.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Gabe. Not only is he the Cardboard Tube Samurai - whose skills may carry over in some form to his civilian persona - but he has received a blood transfusion from Spider-Man, and may be Darth Vader's son. Taking all this into account, Gabe may have the potential to be a web-slinging force-adept with the ability to slice things to shreds with a perfectly round tube, to say nothing of the potential synergy between spider-sense and force awareness. He's also the Beta Whisperer.
The Dark Age of Comic Books: Parodied with a Dark Age-style Comic Jumper◊ comic◊ done by Gabe, and the subsequent Rob Liefeld pose contest for an Xbox with the Dark Age-style Comic Jumper, which Rob Liefeld even entered but lost due to using photoshop and this one◊ won the contest for being 'disturbing and confusing' just like a real Liefeld artwork.
Death Is Cheap: Both Tycho and Gabe have died a number of times in the comic's run. They're still doing fine.
Determinator: In a genre prone to Schedule Slip, Penny Arcade stands out as one of the few webcomics out there that updates on a very consistent basis even when Reality Ensues at the expense of Gabe whether it's swine flu (in which PA reached out for guest strips while Gabe recovered) or badly cutting his thumb.
It is not a mischaracterization to say that conversations with the hardcore PC community about software theft follow these tenets: - There is no piracy. - To the extent that piracy exists, which it doesn't, it's your fault. - If you try to protect your game, we'll steal it as a matter of principle. It's like, who wouldn't want to bend over backward in their service? You need to know it, because nobody else is going to tell you: you guys sound like Goddamned subway vagrants.
Expy: L. H. Franzibald appears to be some unholy combination of Tim Buckley and either L. Ron Hubbard (creator of Scientology) or R. A. Salvatore (creator of Drizz't)— mostly Tim (and yes it's based on an outfit he wore, sunglasses and all).
Freudian Trio: Notably absent. Tycho typically fills the Superego role and Gabe is pure Id, but there is no Ego. The two are constantly fighting, and nobody cares enough to moderate. Their former roommate, Jim, was explained as filling the role before his death (canonically predating the comic's entire run).
Heroic BSOD: Tycho goes into one when he sees an ad for a place called "Gamez N Flix", which made the always elegant Tycho go mad.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tycho and Gabe, because they seem to spend a lot more time with each other than with their wives and children, and their periodic forays into sexual experimentation never seem to lead them together.
In fact, whenever one of them is stripped down to his skivvies or less, the other is outright disgusted.
Seems to apply to the series creators, too. In case we needed any confirmation, Jerry described Mike in a news post as "He's not my friend; he's more like my arm".
Kill It with Fire: Effectively the MO of the Gabe's Dungeons & Dragons wizard Jim Darkmagic (of the New Hampshire Darkmagics) in their podcast on the Wizards of the Coast website. Scorching Burst was used to set fire to everything from goblins to zombies to vampires to berserkers to priests to Binwin Bronzebottom, the party's Dwarven Fighter.
Not What It Looks Like: Tycho jokingly asks if the stains on Gabe's pants are semen. Gabe rebuffs him him by saying these are his painting pants, for an autobiography... which he's painting entirely in his own semen.
Odd Couple: The bread and butter shtick of the comic. Tycho mocks Gabe's ignorance, Gabe derides Tycho's pretensions. Rinse and repeat.
I'm given to understand that she has the equivalent of Super Strength in this "trimester" or whatever it is called, and has the capacity to deal aggravated damage. Gabriel informed me yesterday that she lifted a car over her head, and threw that car at another car and then climbed up an office building. After a spectacle like that, your discourse tends to bear the proper reverence.
Product Placement: Surprisingly averted. It's a positively massive webcomic, with thousands of readers and big-name advertisers. Yet, if they mention a game in a positive light, they're playing it and having fun. In fact, some companies don't advertise there, simply because the mention of their game in Penny Arcade is publicity enough.
Purple Prose: Sometimes, Tycho's newsposts fly off into a world of imagination and word-crafting.
Real Life Writes the Plot: Where half of the stories and humor come from. A recent example being the July 1st, 2013 strip where Gabe insists on building a retro video game arcade in his and Tycho's garage. In real life, Mike Krahulik has been doing just that in his garage
The Rival: Scott Kurtz of PvP. In reality he has collaborated with the boys many times, but in the strip he inevitably gets dubbed 'Steve Kuntz' and Mis-blamed for anything controversial. Scott now lives in Seattle and works out of the Penny Arcade office.
Robot Buddy: Div, subverted. Although if you wanna get technical, Div isn't really a robot so much as he is a personification.
The Fruit Fucker is arguably a different kind of subversion.
Bearing in mind that it is, to a greater or lesser extent, his job to do so. Comic!Tycho was speaking to a penchant for doing so of his own volition, independent of any sort of obligation.
Schedule Slip: Relentlessly avoided. Things that would cause multiple-week delays for other comics cause single-day delays for PA. It took Gabe getting the swine flu in 2009 to force them to reach out for guest strips. And the first guest strip set a precedent for the others by being done by Bill Amend. And just for fun, some of the guest strips were "Gabe gets swine-flu"-themed. This event and Gabe taking his family on a vacation in 2011 are the only times where they were unable to produce a strip by themselves. Tycho did three MS Paint horrorpieces, but in ten years, that's it.
Leaches into real life, as Penny Arcade Company frequently hosts ping-pong tournaments at their offices against game developers and reviewers. This has led to some instances of calling out that have backfired. Especially with regards to SOE.
Also, Warcraft games. One of the strips has Gabe mentioning having a glass eye as the result of a Warcraft 2 game that got out of hand.
Tycho. For a man with that big of a vocabulary, he sure does love using the F word. For example, "Things, Part Two".
In "The Verdict": "On the charge of manslaughter, we the jury find the defendant, Jonathan Gabriel, not guilty. Furthermore, the jury believes the deceased totally had it coming to him, on the account of the bogus shit he said about 'Jesse's Girl'."
Spin-Off: By now, Penny Arcade has spun off a bunch of side projects. Some were jokes from the strip that took on lives of their own, others were the creators taking the chance to do something different:
The Cardboard Tube Samurai, one of the oldest, got started when Gabe started waving a cardboard tube around like a katana, pretending he was a samurai. The character now gets pulled out whenever the creators feel like telling a serious samurai tale, never mind that the thing's made of cardboard.
They eventually put together a event week where the strips were pitches for new projects, and the fans voted on what they'd focus on first: Lookouts, Automata, and Jim Darkmagic.
They've since presented another round of potential spinoffs like Sand and Queen of Bells. One, The New Kid, has already been optioned for a movie.
Springtime for Hitler: Twisp and Catsby, which Gabe and Tycho intended to be so horrible that nobody would enjoy it. They became immensely popular instead, much to the creators' disbelief, and remain a favorite when they want to do something surrealistic.
One of the appearances of the Victorian duo was a children's book written for one of their kids, in fact.
The "solo comics" from when they supposedly fell out with each other: Tycho's is erudite but very poorly drawn; Gabe's is well-drawn but is just three unconnected panels of terrible things happening to Tycho.
It's like when you download something off BitTorrent - something legal!!! - and the client begins by creating an entire empty file to contain the wholly legitimate, fully licensed content you are grabbing from an authorized source.
Tycho: My mom told me my body was rotting because God had abandoned me.
Technology Marches On: Inevitable considering how long the strip has run. Some ideas are reinvented to suit new mores - the Fruit Fucker 5000 was originally a parody of the rambling cable-TV gadget advertisements popular in The Nineties, but has since moved on to parody Apple's range of iProducts.
Tycho: There was always one thing missing from your tabletop journey: a new version to revile, and an old version for you to cling to like a drowning man. Gabe: I don't know what you're talking about, but D&D sucks now. I'm going to go online and argue about it. Tycho: Godspeed. Brother.
Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: There was a strip where Gabriel experienced this problem with Tomb Raider (2013), trying to figure out a way to get across a gap when Tycho suggests simply jumping over, which works, to which he responds "I don't think this is a puzzle room"
What Could Have Been: Olympus, an actual dream of both of them, is an arcade utopia which will never come to fruition because neither Gabe or Tycho have millions and millions of dollars.
Gabe: Imagine it's like a really classy Dave and Busters, like with dark hardwood bars, glass rooms full of high-end audio and video equipment... Khoo said not yet. Tycho: He said we didn't have a million dollars.
Both Jerry and Mike have said that without Robert Khoo, their business manager, they would have sold themselves into slavery for what, at the time, would have seemed like a really good idea. For example: their book rights.