‘Dickwolves’ scandal rattles a comic empire

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To understand the drama of the Dickwolves, you must first understand that Penny Arcade is not just a Web comic. It is a two-man multimedia empire that has cranked out video games, podcasts, a major charity and annual gaming conferences that draw more than 60,000 people. Now, these diverse pursuits have come into conflict around an unexpected flashpoint: a T-shirt. Comic creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik made the "Penny Arcade Dickwolves" shirt as a response to critics who were insulted when the strip joked about characters being "raped to sleep by dickwolves." Now, six months later, Penny Arcade has abruptly stopped selling the Dickwolves shirt for fear that it could upset attendees at the massively popular Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX. "When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause," Krahuliuk wrote in a blog post. "It's how they feel and according to them at least, removing the shirt would make them feel better about attending the show." The decision might also have something to do with negative buzz from interactive media producer Courtney Stanton's recent post, "Why I'm not speaking at PAX 2011." So, is this an earnest change of heart by the comic team and not just a gambit to sell more conference tickets? The answer might lie in Krahulik's response when asked on Twitter whether it's still OK to wear Dickwolves shirts at the event: "I'll be wearing mine to PAX."

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."