Today, June 12th of 2007, marks the seventh anniversary of the first appearance of Schlock Mercenary on the web.
The first three or four weeks of the strip went up in June of 2000 in a long-extinct subdirectory of the tayler.com domain. Then I discovered Keenspace (now ComicGenesis), and their automation made my life much easier.
For the first three months the strip never had more than about 150 readers. When I joined Keenspot in September of 2000 that number immediately grew by more than an order of magnitude. It continued to grow, and four short years later, in September of 2004, I left my day job with Novell. Not long after that I flirted briefly with anti-collectivistic independence, and then wisely joined eight fellow pros here at Blank Label Comics. Server logs lately indicate that somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 people enjoy the strip each day.
And it really has been “each day.” Schlock Mercenary has run daily, without fail, for seven years now. There have been some “late” updates, but for me “late” means the server needed to be reminded that there was a comic to be displayed. And as of this writing the next forty-seven days of the strip have been inked.
Lots of aspiring webtoonists ask me for advice. I have none to offer. I spent four years neglecting my family and working seventy- to ninety-hour weeks between my day job and the comic strip. My strategy was “deliver the goods every day, without fail, forever.” I’m pretty sure that qualifies as “doing it the hard way.” Nobody who asks for advice is looking for the hard way.
I celebrated the day before the anniversary writing a bonus story for the next book. This bonus story will have as its last strip a re-imagining (with the same dialog) of the very first strip on the web, where Schlock enlists with the Toughs. This particular bit of writing drove home just how far I’ve come in the last seven years. I’ve grown almost immeasurably as an artist, significantly as a writer, and quite tangibly as a businessman.
Through it all, however, I have been humbled you, fair reader. You have graciously allowed me to capture small slices of your imaginations, and thousands of you have contributed in recent months and years to allow me to pursue this work full-time. Sandra and I (and our four kids, two of whom are younger than Schlock) stand gratefully in your debt. We remain committed to delivering this strip every day, for free, forever (or until I die.)
Every so often someone will email me and say “I feel guilty for spending a mere 20 seconds reading an update that must have taken you hours to create.” My response: Please don’t feel guilty. First, it didn’t take hours. Art for art’s sake can take its time, but art for money has to go fast. Second, you should know that there is a psychic energy generated by tens of thousands of people laughing at the same time, and I’m working on getting it to power my giant robot.