I have some of the best memories sitting around on a lazy day during summer or on a weekend with the comics section of the local paper in my hot little hands. Favorites include classics such as Calvin & Hobbes or newer ones I only saw when in high school such as Zits. This is all well and good of course but we all know print is dead (Thank you once more, Egon) so the question remains where are we to go to find those wonderful strips of funny, and what about those people who are compelled to become cartoonists in this wild digital age? Well I see only one solution: webcomics. I’ve been a fan of webcomics since I first discovered them ages ago when internet speeds hit all time highs of 48.8 kbps or even the mythical 56.6 (for all you kids too young to know what those numbers mean: get off my lawn). There are a vast majority of them out there, of every genre you can imagine. Some make it big, others fail or are satisfied simply presenting content to a small handful of people forever. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re happy doing what you love. Regardless my long diatribe on a love for the medium, when a new webcomic slides through my radar it can sometimes be dismissed quickly. Rarely one lands and makes a huge impact on me. I’m here to talk about one of the rare ones. Welcome … to The Trenches.
Quickly, The Trenches is a webcomic made by two of the giants of the form. Technically three people, but two giant and well-known properties. From the creators of Penny Arcade (Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins) and PvP (Scott Kurtz) this brainchild seems already well on its way to being a well done and fun to read endeavor. The story follows a guy who is trying to find a job working in the game industry as a software tester (the story is still very early in the narrative, he might actually get the job at some point!) and is presented in a typical “office comedy” style with things happening and jokes firing off faster than a twitchy kid with a hair-trigger gun. While the comic is good, the jokes are amusing (“Are you afraid I’ll do too good a job?” was a classic line), it was more the creative collaboration that drew me in initially. These are creators I’ve been following for years, laughing at their punch lines as long as I’ve been able to fully grasp them. And Penny Arcade is an incredibly timely commentary on contemporary nerd and video game culture more often than not. So when these people I already enjoyed reading got together I was on board, thus far I have not been disappointed.
It isn’t the comic, however; that keeps me coming back. Checking the site on a near daily basis (The comic updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Below the comic is a section entitled Tales from the Trenches, true stories posted anonymously from people who have done work in software testing. The stories read as an impossible dive into terrible work conditions, insane hours, horrendous business practices, and the only sure way to cure yourself of a love of video games. Half of these leave you mouth agape as you read them (but working for the evil empire that is the oil industry I can imagine most them all being true) in disbelief. If nothing else these true stories are the real draw of the site, and I can’t wait to read more. I just checked this morning, no new Tales yet. This was something I thought maybe I wanted to do at one point, test software. Luckily I grew up a bit and realized I truly enjoy games too much to subject myself to such terrible situations involving a beloved media.