Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Schlock Mercenary

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Current status / schedule  Active / Daily
Author  Howard Tayler
Schlock Mercenary httpslh3googleusercontentcomgg7hBkNUlrUAAA
Launch date  12 June 2000; 16 years ago (2000-06-12)
Genre(s)  Science Fiction, Comedy
Awards  WCCA for Outstanding Science Fiction Comic
Similar  Girl Genius, Sluggy Freelance, Erfworld, The Order of the Stick, Least I Could Do

Interview with schlock mercenary s howard tayler

Schlock Mercenary is a comedic webcomic written and drawn by Howard Tayler. It follows the tribulations of a star-travelling mercenary company in a satiric, mildly dystopian 31st-century space opera setting. Since its debut on June 12, 2000 the comic has updated daily, begun to support its author, and been nominated for five Hugo Awards.


Harry potter comics schlock mercenary and darths and droids

Publication history

Over time, Tayler's art improved, in his words, from bad to "marginally less bad." Jean Elmore served as colorist for the strip from February 9, 2003 to the spring of 2004 when she developed a repetitive strain injury from her work.

On March 3, 2003, the comic reached its 1001st strip. Tayler marked the milestone by "re-launching" the comic. With the relaunch, the strip was slightly reoriented for publication, organizing the comic's ongoing story into "books". Each book has a fairly self-contained story, although they are still chronological and connected.

On December 2, 2005, Tayler published the comic's 2000th daily strip since the series' debut. On June 12, 2010, Schlock Mercenary marked ten years of uninterrupted daily run, a feat matched by few other webcomics.

In March 2006, Tayler published Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management, the first book-based collection of Schlock Mercenary comics. This collection features stories printed from March 9, 2003 through August 23, 2003, plus five pages of new material including a foreword by John Ringo, a feature explaining how Sgt. Schlock "got turned on to plasma cannons", bonus art, the author's biography, and architectural deck plans to Tagon's third ship Serial Peacemaker.

In December 2007, Tayler published Schlock Mercenary: The Tub of Happiness. It features stories from the beginning of the webcomic to October 2001, as well as the bonus story "Baggage Claim," explaining the circumstances around Schlock joining the Toughs. There are numerous pieces of fan art throughout the book, as well as early concept art drawn by Tayler and notes to the reader from both Tayler and his wife, talking about the characters and Tayler's early cartooning efforts.

On Monday, February 17, 2014, Tayler announced in the commentary that the strip had reached 5,000 comics.


The story primarily centers on Captain Kaff Tagon and his mercenary crew, Tagon's Toughs. Notable members of the crew include Munitions Commander and resident mad scientist Kevyn Andreyasn; title character Sergeant Schlock, who is a carbosilicate amorph with no easily definable limbs, organs, or moral compass; Petey, a former artificial intelligence and now Fleetmind and pseudo-God; and the wry AI and former boyband, Ennesby.


Many plotlines revolve around the jobs Kaff Tagon and his mercenary crew have accepted, preferably involving as much brawn as necessary and as little brain as possible (although resident mad scientist Kevyn Andreyasn can pick up the slack if need be). Other times, the crew is swept up in a galaxy-spanning or truly intergalactic conflict.

In the distant future of Schlock Mercenary's setting, many changes have faced Terran society. Faster-than-light travel has been attained, alien races have been contacted, and technology has undergone radical improvements.

Alien species have varied from fairly humanoid to almost unrecognizable. There have been carbosilicate amorphs with no easily definable limbs or organs (the eponymous Sgt. Schlock), eight-limbed Gatekeepers, two-bodied Uklakk, and the unknowable Pa'anuri, beings made of dark matter.

The number of sapient species descended from terran stock has increased as Earth's genetic engineers refined their craft. Enhanced chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, dolphins, snakes and two species of sentient elephant now have citizenship. Genetic enhancement of the human population has resulted in the purple-skinned photosynthetic "Purps", along with more general improvements to the population.


As in many science fiction stories, technology forms a large part of Schlock Mercenary's storytelling framework. Several story arcs revolve around the political conflict surrounding rapid technological change. When a particularly complex or interesting new system is introduced to the comic, its in-comic explanation is often supplemented with a footnote.

Travel between the stars is accomplished through the use of "wormgates", large wormhole generators controlled by the enigmatic F'sherl-Ganni Gatekeepers. Within the storyline of the comic, wormgates are largely supplanted by the "teraport", a device that allows for near-instant travel between any two points—usually as long as neither point is within range of an interdicting device. In that case, the teraporting object may be destroyed.

The F'sherl-Ganni also constructed several buuthandi, Schlock Mercenary's take on a Dyson sphere. A buuthandi is a balloon of solar-sail material around a star. Light pressure and solar wind offset the star's gravitation to keep the balloon inflated, while habitats and maintenance facilities dangling from the inner side act as ballast to keep the sails in check. Despite their tremendous surface area, a buuthandi provides a disproportionally small amount of livable habitat. "Control cables, millions of square kilometers of slack sail material, and some very clever engineering allow the 'balloon' to compensate for (and in some cases mitigate) the mood swings of the contained star." In the Schlock Mercenary universe, a buuthandi is about 300 million kilometers in diameter. ("Buuthandi" is a shortened form of a F'sherl-Ganni phrase which, when the foul language is removed, can be roughly translated as "This was expensive to build.")

Medical technology is based on nanotechnology or artificial replacements for damaged body parts. One important item that is featured in the comic is the "magic cryo-kit", an illegally modified device that has the capability to rebuild an entire body as long as the brain is intact. In the strip this has always been shown as "from the head down" but presumably nothing more than the brain is actually necessary. It appears that conventional, legal medical technology is also capable of full-body regeneration, though at a much slower pace and dependent on your HMO insurance options. The Toughs employ various technologies to protect survival of heads until their owners can be regenerated. An example of this technology is the comedically ubiquitous "head-in-a-jar", which permits a character to interact in a storyline despite an otherwise-fatal injury. Another is the "nanny-bag", which maintains the severed head and/or entire body of an otherwise mortally-wounded teammate for an unknown length of time. (Evidence as to the duration of a nanny-bag's preservation varies—the head of Kevyn Andreyasn was sustained for several weeks, whereas in a past storyline his companions worried about his head going "gamey" after less than an hour. Though the latter may have simply been Sergeant Schlock's culinary opinion.)

In addition to medical benefits, nanotechnology gives the ability to "boost" soldiers to high levels of physical performance. Minor enhancements are legal, but the more extreme military modifications are highly regulated. The most significant examples of soldier-boosting within the strip are the mercenary grunt Nick and the bounty hunter Doythaban, along with the extreme boost of Kevyn.

Computer hardware has progressed to the point where true, strong artificial intelligence is common, and several artificial intelligences have been characters in the story.

Weapons technology has been drastically improved as well, and a mercenary's arsenal can include railguns, lasers, non-lethal nanomotive "goober" rounds, and plasma cannons. Old-fashioned bullet-firing firearms are still in use as they continue to be effective against unprotected targets and are less likely to rupture a hull than a plasma bolt.

Energy is a resource literally too cheap to meter. Anything that cannot be powered by miniaturized fusion reactors (which, in the 31st century, are so advanced they can operate solely on atmospheric gasses), is easily fueled by massively powerful neutronium-annihilation "annie" plants - spherical devices that generate massive amounts of power by gravitationally converting mass to energy, a means of power generation made possible by ubiquitous gravity manipulation. One-shot devices (and bombs) are often powered by fullerened antimatter, a carbon-based powder which contains antiprotons at the parts-per-thousand level, and should never be incinerated.

Gravity manipulation is a process as commonplace as modern electronics, employed not only in starship propulsion and artificial gravity, but also weapons and shielding against weapons. Controlled/artificial gravity is referred to as "gravy." Gravitic weapons in particular are both common and well developed due to their dual purpose—not only are they potent weapons, they can compress matter into neutronium which can then fuel an annie plant. The degree of this control is dependent on the number of projectors. For example, the battleplate Tunguska was able to manipulate not only individual limbs but individual digits of crew on board the Serial Peacemaker while the much smaller ship can only create nodes of gravity in a few points on the ship and without the same level of control. However, the generation of gravity is beyond the capabilities of the sophonts of the Milky Way, necessitating ships to be constructed around annie plants as sources of gravity to manipulate.

These devices and more are built using fabrication technology, or "fabbers". While rare and expensive, possession of one of these portable factories and the appropriate designs allows for the cheap mass-production of any physical item. Several of the mercenaries are trained in fabber design, allowing the company to cheaply produce and repair their own gear.


A mostly annual storyline that occurs during the month of October. The story arc always starts out typically, but soon develops a dark tone, usually involving gruesome events and often character death, before typically resolving itself at the end of the month. It is considered Schlock Mercenary's version of Halloween stories. The last year with a Schlocktoberfest storyline was 2008, and Tayler has stated that he is no longer doing it.

The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries is a popular handbook in the Schlock Mercenary universe.

This book was originally called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, a parody of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but after Tayler received a cease and desist letter from FranklinCovey, he made the retcon on January 24, 2011. Tayler said that the letter "was worded as nicely as such a thing can be".

The book's maxims are often quoted by Tagon, as well as other characters. The following is a list of the maxims found in Schlock Mercenary, ordered by maxim number. The date given after each maxim is the date it first appeared in the strip.

1. Pillage, then burn. (7 February 2002) 2. A Sergeant in motion outranks a Lieutenant who doesn't know what's going on. (31 July 2009) 3. An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody. (1 November 2009) 4. Close air support covereth a multitude of sins. (14 April 2008) 5. Close air support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart. (21 April 2010) 6. If violence wasn’t your last resort, you failed to resort to enough of it. (13 March 2005) 7. If the food is good enough the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire. (20 April 2011) 8. Mockery and derision have their place. Usually, it's on the far side of the airlock. (21 November 2002) 9. Never turn your back on an enemy. (8 March 2003) 10. Sometimes the only way out is through. . . through the hull. (17 January 2009) 11. Everything is air-droppable at least once. (15 April 2008) 12. A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head. (21 November 2002) 13. Do unto others. (8 March 2003) 14. "Mad Science" means never stopping to ask "what's the worst thing that could happen?" (Resident Mad Scientist, back cover) 15. Only you can prevent friendly fire. (18 November 2010) 16. Your name is in the mouth of others: be sure it has teeth. (21 November 2002) 17. The longer everything goes according to plan, the bigger the impending disaster. (20 February 2012) 18. If the officers are leading from in front, watch out for an attack from the rear. (4 January 2012) 19. The world is richer when you turn enemies into friends, but that's not the same as you being richer. (27 October 2012 via twitter) 20. If you're not willing to shell your own position, you're not willing to win. (15 January 2012) 21. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Take his fish away and tell him he's lucky just to be alive, and he'll figure out how to catch another one for you to take tomorrow. (4 April 2004) 22. If you can see the whites of their eyes, somebody's done something wrong. (13 July 2012) 23. The company mess and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart. (27 October 2012 via twitter) 24. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun. (18 March 2012) 25. If the damage you do is covered by a manufacturer's warranty, you didn't do enough damage. (25 November 2012) 26. "Fire and Forget" is fine, provided you never actually forget. 27. Don't be afraid to be the first to resort to violence. (8 March 2003) 28. If the price of collateral damage is high enough, you might be able to get paid to bring ammunition home with you. (7 September 2011) 29. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more. No less. (8 March 2003) 30. A little trust goes a long way. The less you use, the further you'll go. (8 March 2003) 31. Only cheaters prosper. (11 May 2003) 32. Anything is amphibious if you can get it back out of the water (29 September 2013) 33. If you're leaving tracks, you're being followed (21 October 2013) 34. If you’re leaving scorch-marks, you need a bigger gun. (29 February 2004) 35. That which does not kill you has made a tactical error. (T-shirt sold by Tayler) 36. When the going gets tough, the tough call for close air support. (2 October 2003) 37. There is no 'overkill.' There is only 'open fire' and 'I need to reload.' (23 February 2004) 38. Just because it's easy for you doesn't mean it can't be hard on your clients. (26 March 2004) 39. There is a difference between spare parts and extra [parts.] (3 May 2014) 40. Not all good news is enemy action. (5 September 2014) 41. "Do you have a backup?" means "I can't fix this" (4 October 2013) 42. "They'll never expect this" means "I want to try something stupid" (2015 calendar) 43. "If it’s stupid and it works, it’s still stupid and you’re lucky." (2015 calendar) 44. If it will blow a hole in the ground, it will double as an entrenching tool (18 February 2014) 45. "The size of the combat bonus is inversely proportional to the likelihood of surviving to collect it." (2015 calendar) 46. "Don’t try to save money by conserving ammunition." (2015 calendar) 47. Don't expect the enemy to cooperate in the creation of your dream engagement. (19 January 2014) 48. "If it ain’t broke, it hasn’t been issued to the infantry." (2015 calendar) 49. "Every client is one missed payment away from being a target." (11 March 2015) 51. "Let them see you sharpen the sword before you fall on it." (24 September 2014) 59. "Two wrongs is probably not going to be enough." (22 March 2016 ) 61. "Don't bring big grenades into small rooms." (18 September 2016) 64. "An ounce of sniper is worth a pound of suppressing fire." (Interview with Howard Taylor) 68. "Negotiating from a position of strength does not mean you shouldn’t also negotiate from a position near the exits." (Interview with Howard Taylor) 70. "Failure is not an option. It is mandatory. The option is whether or not you let failure be the last thing you do." (18 September 2016)

References in other works

Some of these maxims have been referenced in other works:

  • 17. "The longer everything goes according to plan, the bigger the impending disaster," leads a segment in John Schettler's Kirov Series Novel, Paradox Hour.
  • 20. "If you're not willing to shell your own position, you're not willing to win." quoted in Strands of Sorrow (Black Tide Rising) by John Ringo
  • 29. The enemy of my enemy...was quoted in Manxome Foe by John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor
  • 37. There is no "overkill." There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload.” quoted a number of times in To Sail a Darkling Sea (Black Tide Rising) by John Ringo
  • Honors

    The first Schlock Mercenary book publication was covered in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, which described it as "inventive and humorous." The comic tied for outstanding science fiction comic in the Web Cartoonist's Choice Awards in 2004, and was again nominated in 2005 and 2007. The strip won for Best Cameo in the 2001 awards.

    Five story collections have been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story: The Body Politic (2009), The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse (2010), Massively Parallel (2011), Force Multiplication (2012), and Random Access Memorabilia (2013).

    The work is frequently cited on lists of top web comics.


    Collections of Schlock Mercenary strips were originally published in book form by "The Tayler Corporation", and are now published through Hypernode Press. Tayler's wife, Sandra, is the publisher. The first published collection, Under New Management does not start at the beginning of the archive, but at the 1001st strip, when the strip was relaunched. The first 1,000 strips were published later in books 1 and 2. Announced book titles are as follows:

  • Book 1: The Tub of Happiness (ISBN 978-0-9779074-0-3)
  • Book 2: The Teraport Wars (ISBN 978-0-9779074-1-0)
  • Book 3: Under New Management (ISBN 978-0-9779074-2-7)
  • Book 4: The Blackness Between (ISBN 978-0-9779074-3-4)
  • Book 5: The Scrapyard of Insufferable Arrogance (ISBN 978-0-9779074-4-1)
  • Book 6: Resident Mad Scientist (ISBN 978-0-9779074-7-2)
  • Book 7: Emperor Pius Dei (ISBN 978-0-9835746-0-6)
  • Book 8: The Sharp End of the Stick (ISBN 978-0-9835746-2-0)
  • Book 9: The Body Politic (ISBN 978-0-9835746-4-4)
  • Book 10: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse (ISBN 978-0-9835746-7-5)
  • Book 11: Massively Parallel (ISBN 978-0-9835746-8-2)
  • Book 12: Force Multiplication
  • Book 13: Random Access Memorabilia
  • Book 14: Broken Wind
  • Book 15: Delegates and Delegation
  • Book 16: Big, Dumb Objects
  • The books were renumbered to allow for the release of The Tub of Happiness. Originally, they used Roman numerals, with Under New Management as the first book.

    In 2012, Living Worlds Games published Schlock Mercenary: Capital Offensive, a board game based upon the webcomic, to positive reviews from reviewers such as The Dice Tower.


    John Ringo's Troy Rising series has been inspired by the Schlock Mercenary universe. It is set in the early days of human-alien contact; it is however not considered canon for the comic series.


    There was a crossover with Schlock Mercenary in the webcomic Under the Lemon Tree, although it was noncanon in the Schlock Mercenary continuity.

    Planet Mercenary

    A role-playing game written by Alan Bahr and Howard Tayler based on the comic was launched as a Kickstarter on April 14, 2015. It successfully funded the following day.


    Schlock Mercenary Wikipedia