It Came from the Ancient Internet: Eric Wolpaw's The Slugger

Before Wolpaw had Valve, he had a sprite comic about Seanbaby's head, a quest for salvation, and Mayor Mike Haggar's felt pants.

Eric Wolpaw, the writer behind Portal, Left 4 Dead, and the Half-Life games, is leaving Valve. He made the announcement late last week, and he told Polygon he's going to "move back to Cleveland and work at my niece’s juice shop."

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If that's not actually a euphemism for something dirty, I encourage Wolpaw to push watermelon juice: It's cheap, and it's really refreshing. And if it is a euphemism for something dirty, well, watermelon juice is great for rehydrating after … vigorous activity.

There's always some measure of disappointment and concern when an industry veteran shifts gears, but Wolpaw's announcement was received positively on social media and in comment threads for the stories conveying the news. Wolpaw has penned some of the best stories and character dialogue in the industry, but it's been a long, long time since Valve gave us the likes of Portal 2 or anything related to Half-Life (that might change. Maybe. Someday).

This is just speculation, but Wolpaw probably wasn't doing much writing at Valve (though his name is on the upcoming Psychonauts 2, happily). Fans of Wolpaw's work wonder if he'll slide back into writing about games and the industry – a resurrection of Old Man Murray, perhaps.

I happily embrace my role as an old person here at USgamer (though Jaz is truly the wizened wizard amongst us), so when I think about my favorite Wolpaw projects, I don't necessarily think of Half-Life or Portal or even Old Man Murray. I think of The Slugger -- a Final Fight sprite comic from 1999, a time before Bob and George even made sprite-based comics a widespread thing.

(Just a heads-up: The Slugger bases some of its jokes around child abuse and is generally not the most culturally sensitive humor piece in existence.)

Pay attention. This comic will save your soul.

The Slugger is a, uh, retelling of Jack Chick's religious tract of the same name. In the latter, a baseball superstar finds Jesus after being diagnosed with cancer. In the former, Mayor Mike Haggar tries to find Jesus after he wins the World Series and sells his soul to Satan in return for the gift of flight. In a short time, Mayor Haggar is roped into a plot to assassinate the leader of a prison gang.

Yeah, Wolpaw's retelling of Chick's events takes a few liberties, but it unfurls its events in proper order (well, more or less) until it just gives up and careens off the rails. To this day, I sometimes say "I can fly. Will that help?" to whomever is listening, and once in a beautiful while, I'll get the response I desire: "No."

Unfortunately, Wolpaw never finished this great triumph of English literature. I expect The Slugger's conclusion will be Wolpaw's first priority now that he's no longer with Valve.

Sidenote: As a writer, I know the feeling of wanting to shrivel up and die when someone unearths my old work and runs it up to me, beaming, like a well-meaning toddler showing off a slug to his mom. Please don't hate me for celebrating The Slugger, Eric. I'm a great admirer. Your writing is supple and strong, like Mayor Mike Haggar's suspenders.

Tagged with Articles, final fight, portal 2, Valve Software.

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