I'm probably one of the rare few geeks on the internet that doesn't regularly follow Penny Arcade. I tried, briefly, in college (didn't we all?), but, even then, I was already behind on my video game references.
Still, regular reader or not, it is impossible to avoid the influence of Jerry and Mike (or Tycho and Gabe).
Over and above a website read by 3.5 million people a day, they've created one of the premiere gaming conventions (PAX) and even inspired a video game. They're always at the front line of geeky causes - from founding a charity (Child's Play) to battling Crazy Jack Thompson. Read 'em or not, the pair are unavoidable.
The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade recounts their 11.5 year journey from launch to now.
The content is scattershot: amusing anecdotes of legal battles and behind-the-scenes looks at PAX are combined with photos of the office and interminable Q&A's. The highlight is a thirty-page collection of vintage strips, each paired with quick insights from the creative team. Especially as an unfamiliar reader, that's where the book came to life. I suspect that devoted fanatics would happily spend $24 RRP for a hardcover collection of photographs of fan-donated plush toys, but I wanted a bit more meat.
The real splendid magic of Penny Arcade is in the authors' tone of voice. It is impossible to do a retrospective like this without sinking into masturbatory prose and back-patting, but Mike and Jerry were as open with their mistakes as they were their successes. And, more charmingly, they largely credit their mistakes to ignorance and their successes to luck. The pair come across as really good guys - enjoying the good fortune of their miraculous livelihoods and trying their best to spread the fun when and where they can.
As a result? The book was so-so - I'm clearly outside of the target audience of hardcore fans, and suggest that newcomers to Penny Arcade start with a traditional collection instead. But the authors? They impressed the hell out of me.