The Sluggy Freelance Tenth Anniversary Celebratory Montage
Happy 10th Sluggy Freelance! Fittingly, the traditional tenth anniversary
gift is tin. This tin, I suppose, can be in the shape of a can. Much like an
aluminum can but seeing as how tin is in, then we shall have our cans made
of tin and filled with beer! Personally, I prefer beer in a bottle or from
the tap but... hey, aren't kegs made of metal? Let's just call it tin for
Sluggy sake and have a tin keg filled with some fine frosty brew and make a
party out of it. We can all dance around the tin keg in celebration of the
ten years that Pete has cast aside his free time to give each and every one
of us a reason to smirk, laugh, guffaw and omgrofl on the world wide
PETE NOTES: Tin rhymes with gin! it's true!
FROM THE FORUMS
Mind Of Your Pete
by Black Sparrow
PETE ADDS: That is cool! I *am* mostly luck and chance! ;)
picture says a lot about my time with Sluggy Freelance. First of all, this
is very clearly one of my first cons, because I'm still smiling while Pete
and Joe are appropriately zombie'd out. (Ass zombies? Which con created the
ass zombies? ...it pains me that this is an ordinary question to ask Pete.)
Later con pictures show me with the same shell-shocked look they're
sporting, despite being surrounded by the many many awesome people I met
through Sluggy. This is just the first picture, and coincidentally the one
where I'm surrounded by the awesomest of all those people. (Don't get too
excited, guys, I'm saying that only because I have no pictures with just me
and Leah, Sarah, and Rachel.)
PETE INTRODUCES: A tale of factyness from Jeff Darlington of General Protection Fault
I wish I could say I remember the first time I read Sluggy Freelance. That bit of information seems to be lost in the dusty, foggy, clutter-filled filing cabinets deep within my brain that I've apparently long lost the keys to, a problem that seems to surface all too frequently in recent years. However, I do recall the first time I met Pete Abrams, its creator. It was at Myrtle Beach, SC, in the surprisingly cool early months of 2000. It was surprising, to me at least, that Myrtle Beach could be so cold, since my beach-going experiences at that point were disturbingly few. Beaches, or so Hollywood had informed me, are supposed to be endlessly warm and sunny; apparently, only the sun is permitted that early in the year. A brisk winter chill blew in from the Atlantic, bringing with it that curious sea foam that washes ashore and slowly melts and dissolves under the assault of the sun. My wife and I walked along the sand with David Allen, head honcho of Plan Nine Publishing, leaving the beach house he had invited us to for the weekend to meet up with the mysterious author of Plan Nine's flagship title.
By that point, I had undoubtedly read some if not all of SF to date, because when David first introduced us I said something akin to "Forgive me if I enter drooling fan boy mode for a moment." I believe Pete's response was along the lines of "By all means," but I recall his expression was a mixture of delighted surprise, bemused pity, and something that could only be described as "Dear God, why oh why did I not hire those bodyguards like I planned?" After the prerequisite handshakes, we proceeded to wander down the beach a ways, engaging in the typical nervous idle chatter most people use when they've just met someone in person for the first time. Well, the chatter was nervous and idle for me; Pete seemed perpetually at ease, curiously casual. That seemingly nonchalant air has always been associated with Pete in my mind, even as over the years I have seen him irritated, frustrated, and royally ticked off. Eventually, this laid-back aura rubbed off on me, and as the weekend wore on I found myself much more at ease.
Perhaps one of the things that helped me relax was that Pete did not glare down upon me from some high pedestal, lording his fearsome superiority over this little upstart in the webcomics world who dared to rub shoulders with him. Instead, he was incredibly humble and treated me as an equal, despite the fact that in the then current state of things General Protection Fault had several orders of magnitude fewer readers than Sluggy did. One could argue that it was my being welcomed into Plan Nine's family that put us on level ground, but I would disagree. Every webcartoonist I have personally seen Pete converse with was treated with due respect, as a peer, without regard to how many digits were in their page view rankings. This is an attitude I think is extremely admirable and sorely lacking in the webcomics "industry," and one I've personally tried to emulate.
As the weekend continued, I met several others among Plan Nine's clientele: the venerable Bill Holbrook, the unstoppable inhuman comic drawing machine that churns out Kevin & Kell, Safe Havens, and On the Fastrack; Ian McDonald, the witty punmaster behind Bruno the Bandit; and via proxy through David, Darren "Gav" Bleuel, the blue-haired nuclear engineer behind Nukees, who could not be present likely because unbeknownst to us the rest of us he was deep in secret preparations to defect from the old Big Panda House hosting service to co-found a tiny little start-up called Keenspot. Eventually, David and Pete revealed to us the true motive behind this secretive cabal: Pete's wife was pregnant with their first child, and David wanted to provide his star with some much deserved paternity leave. His idea was to have a massive collaborative effort, the crossover to end all crossovers, combining the efforts of Plan Nine's top talent into one giant story arc. Not only would such an event benefit Pete with an opportunity to spend time with his growing family, but the rest of us would reap the rewards of cross-promotion as legions of rapid Sluggites rampaged like lemmings to our various URLs. Imaginations were kindled. Through several days and long, caffeine and sugar-filled nights, we pooled our collective talents to create our masterwork.
That project eventually became known as "Sluggy Freelance, Where Are You?" (Look for it under Book 5, Chapter 18 in the archives.)
I was proud of my involvement. I look back at the story now with fondness, in part because of the camaraderie formed between peers I've come to know well and respect deeply, and in part because I still find the story absurdly funny. The cooperative process was addictive and refreshing, and the fact that we had much of the work scripted long in advance made the obsessive planner in me more at ease when I stole moments from GPF and my day job to complete my contributions. While I can see where my art has progressed exponentially since then, I'm especially proud of the "photo strips," which were entirely my doing and in my opinion are still some of the best photo/comic hybridization I've ever done. As the news of Pete's daughter's birth was announced, I eagerly awaited the results, ready to welcome Pete's fans to my site as my own.
Reactions were mixed. Indeed the Sluggites came, so many in fact that they completely clobbered my server in a mini-lop-with-a-switchblade sized version of the Slashdot effect. Actually, it was Sluggy that was instrumental in my eventual move to Keenspot; I had previously rejected Chris Crosby's offer to join on the grounds that I preferred going it on my own, only to find I could no longer afford the bandwidth necessary to feed hordes of Sluggites. The combination of "Sluggy Freelance, Where Are You?" and the move to Keen exploded GPF's growth, which helped rocket it to where it sits today.
But it was not technological woes that bothered me most. It was the stabbing, vicious, merciless bile of a very minor but very vocal portion of the Sluggite community who flatly refused to accept anything claiming to be related to Sluggy if it was done by anyone but Pete. Those of us involved in the crossover poured hours upon hours of dedication, sweat, and tears into our work, all for a (largely) philanthropic gift to an esteemed peer, only to be torn to shreds for being "unfunny" and "unable to draw." (The latter was most stinging, especially as I remember Pete, being a formally trained artist, looking approvingly at some of my more realistic non-GPF art while at the beach.) We were hardly the first--or the last--to face their wrath, but that was certainly very little consolation at the time. I seem to remember Pete having to come out of seclusion to defend us (although that could also be another half-remembered fact confused with something else).
Fortunately, though, that isn't the end of the story. As previously mentioned, this backlash came from a vocal minority, and I have since counted many loyal Sluggites who have gone on to add the term "Faultie" to their title. (In fact, one dual fan once coined the term "Faultie Sluggite," which has its own amusing connotations.) If it had not been for SFWAY?, GPF would never have joined Keenspot. Keenspot's readership would never have compounded with the Sluggites who remained after the crossover, helping GPF grow by leaps and bounds. Indeed, GPF, Nukees, and Bruno the Bandit's involvement likely bolstered all of Keenspot with a triple-play of participation. Sluggites are among some of my strongest supporters, and to this day I still hear readers announce with pride that it was through Sluggy that they first discovered GPF.
Two years later--almost to the day, in fact--I had the honor of producing yet another batch of guest content for Pete. A year before Ian McDonald began his stint on "Meanwhile in the Dimension of Pain," I did my own little excursion to the DoP. No one else other than Pete had tackled the DoP characters at that point, and I felt that the stylistic differences between my usual art and Pete's demons would make an interesting challenge. That, and I really enjoyed torturing Reakk and implying Martha Stewart was evil incarnate. The Sluggites were much more forgiving this time, and aside from a couple naysayers on the forums (who I believe were silenced by the rest), the response was overwhelmingly positive.
But that's not the end of the SF/GPF connections. Pete has graciously let me play with his universe numerous times, humoring me with my cameos and Sluggy in-jokes. Although it is not part of the Sluggy canon (yet), it is canon in GPF that Gwynn is Trudy the (ex-)evil marketing chick's cousin (and due to recent events, also a cousin of Sharon, the female sys admin). All of this, of course, has been with Pete's blessing, which has always been courteously and cheerfully given. Few know that with each incursion I've made into the Sluggy universe, Pete has been my unofficial, unseen guide, helping me keep facts and characterizations straight so I can be as faithful as possible.
So what explains my obsession with Sluggy Freelance? I think the obvious answer is that I, like so many of you, am a fan. This is significant, as I don't use the term "fan" lightly when I describe myself. There are many forms of entertainment I enjoy, some to the point of buying most (if not all) of the episodes/films/albums/volumes/etc. and occasional other merchandise. But I would not call myself a fan to these. "Fan" is short for fanatic; it means someone who is "an enthusiastic devotee" or "an ardent admirer or enthusiast" to quote Mr. Webster. And I do think to qualify as one who volunteers guest content for free, who integrates someone else's world into their own and attempts to mesh them seamlessly, one has to be a fan. Anyone in their right mind (i.e. not a fanatic) would expect to be paid.
Then what makes Sluggy Freelance worth such fanaticism? That, unfortunately, is something I've struggled to define for a good eight years. Sluggy is so many different things to so many different people, it is impossible to quantify. Is it the art? Pete's artwork is light years ahead of some webcomics I've read, but as talented as he is, there are others who are light years even farther beyond him. Is it the plot? Perhaps... Pete can weave an intricate yarn, and by now it should be obvious that I enjoy long, convoluted story arcs. Still, there are those out there who layer subtleties upon subtleties so Byzantine that I'm sure Pete's head would swim. (Trust me, I've seen him after a few beers.) Is it the humor? That's a good candidate; it would likely be what attracts the highest percentage of readers, at least initially. Then again, it is extremely rare for a webcomic to make me laugh out loud these days, and Sluggy is one of my daily must-reads.
So why do I keep reading? For me, itís the characters. I've always been a sucker for good characterization; I feel it's my biggest strength as a writer, and I am naturally drawn to a well crafted cast. I can often overlook minor blemishes of art and plot if the characters are compelling and engaging enough. And oh, how compelling the Sluggy gang has become! I've identified with Torg, had a crush on ZoŽ, wanted to slap around Sam, and wondered if Riff and Gwynn will ever get back together (hopefully not). Our youngest cat is named Kiki, and despite the official story that her name derives from one of my characters, she does share a surprising number of personality traits of a certain ferret. Each of us has invested years in these artificial people who exist only in pixels and our imagination, cheering for their triumphs, gasping at their failures, and laughing at their pratfalls. To us, they are not artificial, but living, breathing entities with needs, desires, ambitions, and flaws. That, in my opinion, is Pete's greatest achievement with his comic, and one I personally hope to achieve at least to a fraction of his success.
The Internet (yes, I still capitalize the "I") is an unforgiving place. Webcomics are born, thrive, die, and are forgotten on a daily basis, and any webcomic that survives beyond a couple years can safely be declared a success. (Either that, or its creator just doesn't know when to quit.) But Sluggy has survived not one, not two, but now ten years, a virtual eternity in Internet history. This milestone is a testament to Peteís creativity and imagination, and a lofty bar that has been raised even higher that the rest of us must strive to achieve.
Congratulations, Pete, for ten nifty years of Sluggy Freelance. The comic deserves to be worshiped. Oh, and by the way, youíre a bout a year late in repaying the paternity leave guest weeks debt. I expect your contribution by the end of the week.