Join Date: Feb 2005
STRAHA SPEAKS OUT! - Part I
Part I of Raya’s exclusive interview with J. Waller, creator of the avidly devoured WTF COMICS1 and renowned chronicler of the lives and loves...okay, maybe just lives...well, actually so far it's only ONE life...of STRAHA IRONSCALE, Iksar Warrior and famous Legionnaire of Cabalis. See rare photographs of Straha himself,2 as he is interviewed in Plane of Knowledge by Raya of Silky Venom's EQ alter-ego, Raydiance Alive. And view a cartoon portrayal by the artist of Jeremy Waller with Raya’s Raydiance Alive!3
Phrases like, "Blargh! Death Death Death, fear me!"
and "Brains! Brains! Brains! Brains! Brains! Liver..."
have taken the EverQuest community by storm. The product of a fevered imagination? Maybe. The inexplicable talent of a cartooning genius? Undoubtedly. The fun drawings of WTF Comics' own Jeremy Waller? Yes. So popular has this comic strip become that it has spread to other games. As one young reader from the City of Heroes MMO pointed out, "The humor is so great, I didn't have any trouble picking up the story."
started out in 2002 because J. Waller (as he styles himself) loved cartooning, he loved playing EverQuest, and he wanted to practice drawing comic strips.
Jeremy, an unassuming 25-year-old college student majoring in graphic design, was pleasant during the interview, modest to a fault, and even seemed excited to be interviewed. I tried to assure him the pleasure was all mine and then did the worst newbie writer thing I could have...asked him where he got his ideas. I still squirm to think of it. Ya know what? He just took it in his stride and answered as nice as you please.
The tale of Anna and Straha has almost become a cult classic amongst EQ players. Where did you get the idea to draw such a cartoon strip?
I used to draw comics for my younger step-brother when he was a kid. As he got older and lost interest, I finished out the strip and had nothing to work on. However, the only real way to improve at drawing and telling stories is practice. EQ presented a pre-existing world to work with and different challenges, so I thought it would be fun to tinker with it and show to friends on guild boards. It got leaked from there and seemed to strike a chord with people and spread very quickly so I kept doing it. Really just something I fell into.
I couldn't seem to stop myself...I just kept asking these questions...and he kept answering with such a nice smile on his face.
Obviously Straha is based on your personal EQ character. Are Anna, Smoke and the others based on real characters as well, or are they products of your very fertile imagination? If real characters, what can you tell us of those characters?
Anna is based on my first character in EQ. She was originally a ranger but later changed to a druid and exists in-game to hold the name and act as a reference. A lot of cameos are based on other people in-game. For the main characters, however, I learned it's better to make them non-existent characters so they can't be bothered in-game. Smoke is a special case, as he's one of my oldest characters from other stories.
Really? I didn’t know Anna was your alt. How interesting. So it seems you have been playing EQ for a while then. Just how long would that be?
I've been playing since just before Kunark, I actually have the dubious honor of being the second oldest Iksar warrior on my server, if the oldest one has it right anyway…
There have been a lot of opinions about EQ…is it good, is it bad, will they (the devs and Sony) ever get it right? What is your personal opinion of EQ?
I've always enjoyed the game...it has always had its flaws but represents a major advance in gaming. I'm of the generation that has been able to watch gaming evolve from the old Atari to its current state. Persistent online worlds were something my friends and I used to imagine being possible--seeing them come to life and evolve has been a treat. Everquest in particular has been interesting to observe for many reasons. Being basically the first visual 3D interactive world, it's had the rockiest and most interesting history. What I have always found most amusing is the constant battle between the corporate mentality of the company providing the game (Verant Interactive, then Sony Online Entertainment) versus the community of people that actually plays it. Creating and maintaining an online world provides unique situations which mainly boil down to the company trying to follow corporate policy to simply make money at the least expense, against a community of players that are very intelligent, persistent, vocal and often underestimated, who want to see the game be all that it can be because they love it.
So tell us a little more about Jeremy, the EQ player. Is Straha your only main character and is he still playing? Do you have active alts, and would you care to name any of them and/or the server they are playing on?
Straha is indeed my main character. I do have alts as well, Annashi being the most obvious. I have several others that I use to experience different aspects of the game and familiarize myself with other classes' concerns, though I am just not good at playing casters, period. Most of these alts I keep private, however, to give myself some peace while playing, and to also simply enjoy the game and be recognized for how well I really play instead of what I do. I've always appreciated people commenting on the strip and being friendly to Straha in-game, but it seems a little unfair to receive special treatment just because of what I do...so playing anonymously helps keep me in touch with reality, or pseudo-reality in this case. All my characters play on Lanys T'vyl though, so you never know who you may be playing with on that server.
Well, of course, I couldn't stand it any longer. I asked if I could interview Straha right away. He was such a celebrity lizard and all and I just knew I had to meet him. Jeremy said, sure, meet you in Plane of Knowledge (one of the main zones in EverQuest). I hurriedly recreated MY main character from another server, by name of Raydiance Alive, a 65 high elf cleric, and scooted over to PoK, as it is affectionately called by the locals, to find Straha. There he was, with his back turned to me...
Raydiance taps Straha on the shoulder.4
You invite Straha to join your group.
You have formed the group.
Straha has joined the group.
And here I was, with the very famous and equally crusty Straha Ironscale--even in the same group with him. I waited with bated breath for his first words to me.
Straha tells the group, 'Hi =)'
You tell your party, 'Hiya, so very nice to meet you '
Straha tells the group, 'you too, thanks again'
You tell your party, 'You do indeed look very fearsome '
Straha tells the group, 'lol only to soft skins'
Raydiance shakes her head.
You tell your party, 'And congrats on your latest escapade - you are very strong to carry off two girls like that '
Straha tells the group, 'well elves dont weigh that much'
I resolved right then and there to go on a diet and investigate some of that new elemental armor that was practically weightless. I never want to be in a position where Straha has to rescue ME and tell me afterwards that I was too heavy--or worse, just sits and pants and strains to catch his breath after carrying me any distance. I continued talking to him while we walked to one of the buildings nearby to carry out the interview proper.
You tell your party, 'Oh no, you are striking terror in the creatures of Norrath - your chronicler, Jeremy, is very good at portraying that'
Straha tells the group, 'Ah I'm sure Cazic would be pleased--if I still worshiped him'
You tell your party, 'You dont??'
Straha tells the group, 'Well I don't like being used by anybody, and Cazic is understandably upset I won't use my...er...talents for him, so we're at odds'
You tell your party, 'Ah - okay - that makes sense'
You tell your party, 'okay - here's a nice big room all to ourselves'
Straha and I got comfortable, I got out my notebook and sharpened an extra quill pen to stick behind one ear. I have to admit that, all the time I was getting ready, I was making mental notes to be very polite throughout the interview. Straha was more intimidating in person than he was as portrayed by his chronicler, Jeremy, and you don't want to get a 400-lb. armored lizard carrying devastating weapons to be even the tiniest little bit perturbed at you. Once we were ready, and I had sipped some elven wine to slick away the dryness from my throat, we began.
You tell your party, 'So tell us, Straha, what do you REALLY think of Anna?'
Straha tells the group, 'The girl is the bane of my existence. I mean, I can't get rid of her. If I left her alone she'd just get killed and then I'd have to explain that to her family'
You tell your party, 'And that would upset you?'
Straha tells the group, 'I'm trying to figure out how she survived this far. In Iksar society she would have been weeded out by survival of the fittest'
You tell your party, 'Or probably eaten, at the very least '
Straha tells the group, 'Well the Windstalkers are good friends, and I'm honor bound to them both so I can't just leave the girl on her own'
Straha tells the group, 'Playing parent for an elf is just frustrating for an iksar'
You tell your party, 'Yes, I can imagine.'
You tell your party, 'So how did you meet Jiraki and become such good friends with Annashi's family?'
Straha tells the group, 'Well I met Jiraki a long time ago just after soft skins started invading my island. He turned out to be a good man and even saved my life from Ixiblat Fer'
You tell your party, 'Oh, really?'
You tell your party, 'And Jiraki is...what class?'
Straha tells the group, 'Over the years of exploring off my island I got to know his wife and had many adventures with them both so the debt has been repaid time and time again both ways'
Straha tells the group, 'A ranger, but still a good enough person'
You tell your party, 'rofl - I see - still it's very strange for such a friendship between a crusty Iksar warrior and a woodelf ranger, wouldn't you say?'
Straha tells the group, 'Well most people make the mistake of thinking we Iksar are all simply evil. We're not really--we just don't like anybody on our island colonizing it like we haven't been here a few thousand years'
Straha tells the group, 'Individually we're just like anyone else though--we like people for who they are, not what race they are'
I had to look at Straha with new respect. I'm afraid I was of the opinion, along with a lot of other people, that although some of my best friends were Iksars (my friend Iksar monk Sesik sprang readily to mind), I didn't really trust the race as a whole. And yet here was this fearsome warrior espousing tenets of peace and--well, maybe not love--let's say like. I sipped some wine and realized with a sigh of relief that Straha was really getting into the interview now, not as nervous as he first appeared. (And this is a good thing...you don't want a 400-lb. etc. warrior being nervous around you.) I took another sip of elven wine to clear the cobwebs and dived back into the interview.
You tell your party, 'Of course - totally understandable. Can you tell me some about your background...parents, education, etc.?'
Straha tells the group, 'I never knew my parents. I was left as a child of the empire which is not altogether uncommon. Some Iksar still maintain family groupings but the empire encourages letting them raise the children so their parents can serve in the wilds'
Straha tells the group, 'I did meet my father shortly before his death, but my mother died laying my egg. As for education, I was raised like most other Iksar'
You tell your party, 'Could you give us a brief rundown for our not-so-informed readers?'
Straha tells the group, 'Not having a family line lowers the status of Iksar children so I was a bit of a gopher until I was inducted by the Legion of Cabilis'
You tell your party, 'And then it was the usual soldiering training? Drilling, marching, arms practice and the like?'
Straha tells the group, 'Oh yes, the legion is very strict in its training of young recruits'
You tell your party, 'You say that you actually met your father?'
Straha tells the group, 'It's a long story, but my father had been duped into hunting down a friend of mine. We actually came to blows before he changed his mind and joined us in the final battle.'
You tell your party, 'Oh my - that's sounds interesting - and painful for you. Can you tell me more about your father, or is it too much of a sore spot?'
Straha tells the group, 'Well I never knew him very well. Before he died he left me a journal he had put together for me, so I think he cared. I understand his reasons now. A lot of things about Drakis I keep close to the vest though--he always preferred staying out of the limelight'
You tell your party, 'I see - so you honor his memory'
Straha tells the group, 'In my own way. I've spoken with one of his old partners from long ago. Bit like what you would consider an uncle. I get repeatedly told we're quite alike so, yes, I keep his memory in my own way'
The hour was getting late, and I think I had, in my nervousness at interviewing the great Straha Ironscale, Legionnaire of Cabilis, drank a little too much elven wine. So, I asked Straha if we could continue the interview after a break. He was very amenable. I think he had to go to the little Iksar's room anyhow, the way he was squirming the last 15 minutes or so of the interview. At any rate, he agreed to meet me back at the "room" to continue the interview. And so, I will continue this story...soon...I promise...sooooon.
Next week tune in for Straha Speaks Out! Part 2 of Raya of Silky Venom's continuing interview with Straha Ironscale of WTF Comics, and his creator, Jeremy Waller. Learn more about Straha and his fight against evil and the dread Lord Haxor, his frustration at having to save Annashi's pretty little butt over and over again, perhaps we can even get to an interview with Anna and find out HER side of the story. And in the end, we will find out what Jeremy's plans for the future hold in store for Straha and for him personally as a cartoonist and as Straha's personal chronicler.
Many thanks to Jeremy Waller for taking the time to talk with me and allowing me to chat with Straha Ironscale and Annashi Windstalker. Please note that all comic strip and single cartoons in this article are copyright 2002-2005 by J. Waller. All rights reserved. (This article was originally published at Warcy in August, 2004.)
Comic strip is based on EverQuest, the MMORPG. Name of strip is WTF Comics
All screenshots were taken by Raydiance/Raya in EverQuest's Plane of Knowlege, Lanys server.
This cartoon was drawn by the artist especially for this article.[/font]
All dialogue between Straha and Raydiance is from an in-game meeting between Straha (J. Waller) and Raydiance (Raya).
Links to full comic strips
"Blargh! Death Death Death, fear me!"
"Brains! Brains! Brains! Brains! Brains! Liver..."
Smoke waking Straha
Straha carrying Anna and Maguna
Jiraki rescuing Straha
Straha's father, Drakis