Simply put, The Rack is a comic strip about a comic shop. More correctly, it’s a comic strip about the people who work in a comic shop, which means it’s a bit soap-operatic and there’s whole storylines that have nothing to do with talking about how Nova’s helmet makes him look like a “ladies massager.”

The First Year: “A beginning is a delicate time…”
Here’s the very first strip if you wanted to start off gung-ho. Frankly, for the first few months, this strip was overloaded with references to contemporary happenings in comics. We moved away from this into more character-driven storytelling for two reasons: we wanted comic strips that would be evergreen and wanted more storytelling flexibility. That said, you can see Lydia meeting Billy for the first time, the introduction of Crazy One-Eyed Nate, and my favorite nerd joke among a batch of pretty-OK gags about comics you probably barely remember.

Hector, Jerry’s then-girlfriend-now-wife’s nephew was introduced in a storyline that proved how very little we actually knew about baseball. There was also this strip about Lydia and Billy’s relationship that still gets mentioned by people years later, so we must have done something right there. Anime Jack made his first appearance courtesy of a strip written by Mike Sterling just before Jerry and Rick went to Comic-Con. Also, Aaron’s girlfriend Leah had enough of him and there was some goofy drama around that.

Speaking of girls, Margaret showed up and broke Danny’s heart for the first time and we had a flashback to Lydia: The Early Days that explains her current attitude. There was our first Halloweek. which featured guest comics by Marcos Perez, Pat Lewis and Les McClaine! Also, the store was robbed and we met Raymond, Lydia’s brother just before Hector’s dad, Tomas got some time back in the states after serving overseas.

Morgana first appeared right after we changed to our current two-tier format and just before Rick came out of the closet. Danny slept with Lydia’s roommate, which wasn’t the best of ideas, and we met the rest of Lydia’s family, including her hot younger sister.

Year Two: “Work It Harder, Make It Better”
We started our second year with a series of one-off gags before one of Aaron’s friends died. Lydia met the press and that went over about as well as you’d expect. Here’s a comic strip that Ed Brubaker took exception to, but further discussions with retailers has us standing our ground to this day.

Jerry’s secret past came to the fore and we found out Rick had dated Aaron’s victim from the restaurant incident. Danny had to move out from his mother’s house but that worked out OK except for the very stupid and thankfully short storyline that came soon after. Also, Morgana made her second appearance just before we had a special internet-famous guest star and Lydia started a Twitter account.

October saw Cool Jerk‘s Paul Horn come by to draw our second Halloweek just before Lydia got The Baby Fear. Danny’s past caught up with him and Lydia’s little sister made another appearance. And then there was the time that Aaron went to go work at Admiral Snackbar’s. Lydia was sick but she got better and Aaron and Morgana’s courtship began. Kind of.

Year Three: “Going The Distance”
As our third year began, Jerry and Danny tried to reconnect, Hello Wolvie showed up (aww,) and Max Riffner and Chris Haley drew some guest strips. Everything was chugging along fine for our cast until Lydia quit and went on to her own comic for a while. Then Tony DeVito made an in-store appearance that won’t be forgotten by the staff anytime soon and we did our first (and likely last) MoCCA Fest as an exhibitor.

Then Danny was pretty stupid over girls, there was a long string of one-or-two-strip gags, and Lydia came back, which was pretty much agreed to be a good thing by everyone but Aaron. Jerry and Abegail finally got married, too, which was a big deal, as these things tend to be in a storyline that brought The Substitute Yavineers into play, helped Aaron and Morgana establish whatever they have, and gave the audience their first look at Yavin IV’s owner, Cliff. After such a long and involved plot, the strip went back to gags for a while until Lydia’s sister showed up on a porno DVD cover.

People got upset when, right before Christmas, we insulted Canada, but it was a present to ourselves, really, and for New Year’s, Aaron got in a dirtbike accident, which was a present to our female readers. We also revealed Jerry and Lydia’s shameful secret and Max Riffner came by and we made a lot of fans of robots happy.

Year Four: “All My Friends”
After that, we had some gags and then we met Jerry’s mother and father before Lydia tried to read old Iron Man comics.

Then, the Great LARPNess Saga happened. The longest Rack epic to date, it lasted like sixteen years and crushed at least nine people as it sprawled across our strip. There were Jim Aparo riffs, romantic encounters and the attendant talks about boners, paintguns — and it’s pretty entertaining. Really.

Once everything settled down, we went back to doing jokey gag strips for a while and Lydia got a haircut and Danny started making time with a new girl. We also shifted our schedule a bit and brought color back to the strip. Jerry and Abegail had a misunderstanding but it turned out fine and Lydia decided to start being healthier before we made a comic strip about bacon in an effort to tell the internet something.

And then came the Baller Doggz.