I am the creator of Terminal Lance, the military's most popular comic strip! I recently released a book with Little, Brown & Co. called The White Donkey--the world's first graphic novel about the Iraq war written and illustrated by an Iraq veteran. The book just became a New York Times best seller!

Proof: https://twitter.com/TLCplMax/status/725778721173430272


Apr 28 6:20pm Hey guys, thanks for the questions! I am going to officially sign off of this AMA though. Please keep reading Terminal Lance and check my twitter for updates on my life and other cool things.

Comments: 193 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

Two_scoops_vanilla48 karma

You have been out for a few years. But you still have the chance to interact with many in uniform, especially high ranking ones. When you meet the Commandant, or a star officer, do you still go into "junior enlisted" mode? Any residual fear of saying the wrong thing to a high ranking person? Do you actively have to navigate that in what you say in your comics, now that you have such a wide following?

You may be one of the more famous enlisted men of our generation of veterans. Other than faithfully telling our story, and relating our experiences, do we who saw the wars from the ground level have truth telling obligations to the public? To say, as you did in your Salon interview, that "Sometimes the Marine Corps kind of sucks?"

TLCplMax47 karma

Ha honestly not really. I mean, I want to show these guys the respect they deserve. For instance, when meeting General Mattis, I had a natural response to want to stand at parade rest, but at the same time I knew he wouldn't care if I did or didn't and I understand that I'm under no real obligation to. Still, I'm not going to say anything disrespectful to him because I genuinely respect him as a Marine and as a leader.

As for the comics, there is some level of self-censorship, but TL is independently run and always has been. I don't care so much about what higher up thinks as much as I do try to steer the veteran community conversation to or away from certain things on my own accord. If I think the social dialog around a certain topic is too volatile, I'll avoid it or try to move it into a more positive direction.

I think everyone has an obligation to tell the truth about our experiences. One of the fundamental problems I created Terminal Lance to answer was that no one was being "honest" about the experience back then. Everything out there was very "oorah" and blindingly loving, but that didn't accurately reflect the Corps that I experienced.

ColdBvgCPL36 karma

When are those shitheads at Twitter going to finally verify you??

TLCplMax36 karma


redkillerjac28 karma

After you started writing comics are you getting more pussy? If so it higher quality?

TLCplMax98 karma

Well my girlfriend is a British model that has been in Maxim and FHM. I don't know if that answers the question but I like saying it.

AisalsoCorrect16 karma

Do you have a favorite strip you've done?

TLCplMax38 karma

My favorite ones tend to be the ones with less dialog. Sometimes I have a favorite strip that doesn't resonate well, but I still love it. This strip is actually one of my favorites from a comedic standpoint:


But it didn't resonate well because people got really butt hurt about the blog post. It's hard to pick an all time favorite though, I just love anything that's genuinely funny and makes a good point. I might go with this one:


PimpDaddyDolphin14 karma

If you were to re-do your Marine Corps career, would you go infantry again, or would you choose something else? The White Donkey was amazing btw, my friend and I friend who are both leaving for bootcamp in July both thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks!

TLCplMax24 karma

I would go infantry again every time!

It sucks, but that's kind of the point. I guess I figured what was the point of joining the Marine Corps if I wasn't going to go infantry? If I wanted a more comfortable life I could have joined the Navy or the Air Force.

POG06219 karma

IF and only IF you had to be POG, what MOS would you consider?

TLCplMax25 karma

Combat Photographer of course!

dan_k_willis14 karma

Max -- what are your thoughts on the growing industry that is by-veteran, for-veteran content and media?

TLCplMax16 karma

This is a good question, and an interesting one, because there's never really been anything like this in American history. Social media and the internet has really bred a new industry of veteran specific brands and companies that wouldn't have existed during any other war.

With that said, I think some people handle these companies better than others. Those that operate on vitriol and bank on the wartime experience simply won't last the test of time. This is because attitudes change over time and the war is actually over.

In 30 years there will be another great war, and the active military community will view these brands and companies in the same way that you or I view Vietnam veterans (which isn't to say negatively, just not representing the active community).

jmettam14 karma

Why does Wagner love cock so much?

TLCplMax12 karma

That's a question I've been asking for years.

mo_reece13 karma

How did you get enough exposure to turn it into a career?

TLCplMax30 karma

Terminal Lance has been an independent endeavor since day one. Exposure was mostly about getting attention on Facebook, good web traffic, etc. My biggest "break" was when the Marine Corps Times ran a story in their print paper about the comic strip, and then proceeded to publish the comic strip itself. After that, my site (www.terminallance.com) went from about 1000 hits a day to 30,000+.

mo_reece10 karma

Holy shit that's a remarkable achievement. I really admire your entrepreneurial spirit. If you don't mind a follow up, how long was it until that break?

Additionally thank you for your service, and I'll stop asking questions so others can as well. Cheers, wish you and yours the best.

TLCplMax8 karma

Thank you so much!

If I remember correctly, the comic strip was published online for a few months before the newspaper caught wind of it.

MrPink1013 karma

If you had to join any branch other than the Marines which one would it be, and why is it the Air Force?

TLCplMax27 karma

Because of the women.

eggheadbythedozen12 karma

Do you have more trouble relating to Afghanistan vets than Iraq vets?

Also, do you ever feel that you're forever tied to the Marines after having created the comic strip?

TLCplMax19 karma

It's not so much that I have trouble relating to Afghanistan veterans as much as it is difficult for me to write jokes specific to Afghanistan having never been there. For the most part, the experience is the same, with some specific differences unique to the environments (language, setting, culture).

On some level, yes. I don't plan on doing TL forever, but Marines are a special breed of animal and I love every single one of them.

GLind8711 karma

A couple questions, is Abe's name his first name, last name, or a nickname of some sort? I've always wondered. Are we going to know TL is ending through a series of events leading up to Abe's EAS, or will it just sort of end when that day comes?

TLCplMax23 karma

Abe's full name is Abraham Belatzeko. His "nickname" is Abe simply because his last name is too hard to pronounce. This theme was taken from my own life, where everyone called me "Max" because they couldn't figure out how to say "Uriarte."

For a while I actually told myself that as soon as The White Donkey was done I would end TL, but honestly I don't really feel that way anymore. I think there's plenty of room to keep going, though I might not stay as the front and center of it all for much longer. It's hard to do everything by myself, but I might bring more people on to provide more content on Terminal Lance in the near future.

Thotsakan9 karma

Can you do more Terminal Specialist comics?

TLCplMax22 karma

There's always next April 1st. ;)

APimpNamedXa9 karma

Max, I am not sure if anyone has asked this yet, but how are you and how have you been?

TLCplMax6 karma

I'm good! All this book stuff can be exhausting, but I'm proud of the success of it and things are going great!

PizzaLurker119 karma

Whatever happened to Terminal Specialist? Soldiers everywhere wait with bated breath.

TLCplMax7 karma

Sorry man, it was an April Fool's joke!

maddog44868 karma

Now that you finished the white donkey, do you have any ideas as to what you want to start working on next?

TLCplMax24 karma

I have tons of ideas!

I've already begun writing my next full-length graphic novel, a very non-military story with a female protagonist.

siriusleeblaq8 karma

Hey Max just wanted to let you know I loved The White Donkey! What was the biggest lesson learned in publishing this book? Thanks for the AMA and even though I know you won't say it back...Semper Fi!

TLCplMax9 karma

I'm glad you liked the book!

The biggest lesson I learned is that Kickstarter itself is a lot of work. I also learned not to try and estimate how long a book is going to take to make (lol).

rashondala7 karma

How was terminal Lance received when you were still in? I remember reading that you hung advertisements for the site in the barracks. Was there any negative blowback from anyone?

TLCplMax11 karma

I did! I printed out fliers and hung them up in the laundry rooms, the gym, etc. I also stuck business cards in the card readers on the barracks doors.

I never received any negative blowback while I was active duty, surprisingly.

cliff_climber7 karma

I really appreciate you being probably one of, if not the most level headed people in the military blogoshpere.

I'm out now, but when I had new boots start hooting and hollering over JTTOTS or one of those other garbage sites I always used you as an example of how to do military humor without being a jackass.

Thanks again for being a great example of a veteran that goes out and does something instead of waiting around for someone to hand him him a job

I guess I have to ask a question so my post doesn't get deleted, but have you had any if the anonymous mods from those other groups reach out to your privately or anything?

Semper Fidelis

TLCplMax6 karma

Only once or twice. Frankly I don't care much for the whole anonymous shit-posting pages.

In my opinion, they won't stand the test of time and you can already see activity on those pages dying off as the war ends.

BaronSathonyx6 karma

  1. Do you have any plans on any charity work or fundraising set up in the near future?

  2. If so, is there any chance of working with Toys for Tots again, or did your last attempt burn that bridge?

  3. If you do want to do more charity work, may I suggest talking to porn star Mercedes Carrera (@TheMercedesXXX on Twitter)? She's done several fundraising drives for vets in the past and is always looking to help out.

TLCplMax12 karma

  1. This Saturday at our The White Donkey launch event we'll be raising money for Semper Fi Fund!

  2. Fuck Toys for Tots.

  3. lol I'll keep that in mind.

lalaffel5 karma

Nowadays a lot of Marines and other service members feel that since they've been to war, they're all of a sudden subject matter experts on foreign policy. How do you feel about this? and how do you feel when other people accuse you of being a Social Justice Warrior (SJW)?

TLCplMax13 karma

I find it extremely annoying. I was once asked to be on a live panel talking about the situation in Iraq and I refused, because that's above my pay grade of expertise.

how do you feel when other people accuse you of being a Social Justice Warrior (SJW)?

I high five my transgender brother and laugh while they jerk off to photos of Chesty Puller and lament the New Corps.

TheWhiskeyDelta5 karma

Hey Max,

Longtime Terminal Lance reader and really enjoyed your book. Also congrats on becoming a New York Times bestselling author! I suppose I'm wondering if you ever have people notice you on the street?

TLCplMax7 karma

Thanks man!

It happens every once in a while, and I'm super awkward every time.

hu_lee_oh3 karma


TLCplMax5 karma

Haha no I just forget that people know who I am sometimes.

basedclauswitz5 karma

Do you ever have high ranking people tell you they enjoy your comic? Have they ever sent you a nasty email about how your a disgrace to the corps?

TLCplMax14 karma

I have! General Neller has actually mentioned that he likes Terminal Lance a few times! I think that's about as high as it gets.

Surprisingly no, people across the board generally are very accepting of Terminal Lance because of its honesty surrounding the topics I cover.

AlmightyPenslinger5 karma

How do you feel about Marin Crops?

TLCplMax8 karma

They're aight

MrScike4 karma

What made you want to start writing comics?

TLCplMax7 karma

I've been a practicing artist my whole life, as I started drawing at the age of 3. I had wanted to run a comic strip for a long time, because I thought I could do a good job with it. I noticed the Marine Corps really didn't have anything out there like what I wanted to make, so I just went for it!

I love writing comic strips because it's a very pure form of comedy writing. It's simple and to the point, and you can express a lot by saying very little.

appendages_of_noodle3 karma

I am awed by the book, and have bought both the paperback, and hard cover editions. The only thing that I am struggling with is, is this really just about finding god? Thank you warrior.

TLCplMax3 karma

Thanks for the support!

There's really two stories being told in The White Donkey--one on a very literal level and one on a metaphysical, metaphorical level (which is where the coyote, donkey, etc come in). I don't want to give away any answers, as its open to interpretation.

giveen3 karma

Have you ever thought, "damn I wish I was a POG right about now" ?

TLCplMax10 karma

Well I did serve as a POG with ComCam (my MOS stayed 0351) during my second deployment to Iraq.

It was a lot nicer of a life.

thenextdoctor3 karma

Hey Max,

Has anyone ever compared your work to Bill Mauldin's of 'Willie and Joe' fame? It was pretty much the Terminal Lance of the 1940s.

Thanks for all the laughs man, I was Army but it all carries over.

TLCplMax5 karma

Yes! I get that a lot and honestly it's quite flattering.

BadBrainsCT3 karma

Hey Max,

Love the comic! When the comic started getting more visibility, did you ever get any shit from your command or higher ranking Marines on particular strips?

TLCplMax6 karma

Not especially, surprisingly. The only thing remotely close was a cryptic meeting with the Regimental Sergeant Major from 3rd Marine Regiment. However, the nature of the meeting was friendly, and he just gave me some good advice going forward.

I think for the most part, Marines (and other service members) respect that Terminal Lance is honest even when it's harsh.

Comm_Cody3 karma

So, you're very well known for Terminal Lance and your new graphic novel.

Have you thought about doing comics besides stuff about the Armed Forces?

TLCplMax9 karma

Yup! I genuinely want to pitch a Captain America graphic novel and I've already begun writing my next full length book. It's a story of a woman, and it's very non military.

pic20223 karma

This is amazing that you're doing am AMA. I love Terminal Lance, I was on Active Duty Marine Corps from 2011-2015 and followed your comics everyday. So funny how things never change, or you're just that in tuned with grunt life haha.

Before I get to my question, funny moment that I found out that you wrote a book. I was at my last reserve weekend this past weekend, it was surreal, for a second time. Anyways, I was walking around Barnes and Noble about to walk towards the door because I didn't see anything I liked and I glanced to my right and saw a white book cover with a very easy to tell marine drawing on it. I was like what the hell is this. Holy shit he wrote a book! I didn't buy it yet, don't have the money, but I promise I will! Congrats!

I'm sure it's been asked, and I know I could probably find the answer somewhere else, but what started you down this path? Did you start drawing while on Active Duty to past the time? Are you the one that has drawn the Adventures of Mandingo on every Marine base? Haha jk.

Keep up the great work man. You're truly inspirational.

TLCplMax4 karma

Thanks man! I've wanted to be an artist my whole life, and joining the Marine Corps was actually part of that agenda. I don't think I would have enlisted had I not been an artist in the first place.

SomeSchmuckatelli3 karma

Have you seen a rise in people trying to make military comedy comics since you've started? (BTW; You've been a huge inspiration to me. I can't thank you enough for pushing forward.)

TLCplMax3 karma

Only slightly, I would say that Terminal Lance opened the door for it to be a possibility. No one was doing anything like that before, for fear of being punished (most likely), but TL showed you could have a comedy that was critical of the environment and not get busted down for it. (lol)

Yeezus_loves_me3 karma

Hey Max, big fan since 2012 and currently an active duty Marine.

What steps do you think we could take, as a military and veteran community, to curb the high rate of suicide, both in uniform and afterwards?

Also, thanks a lot for being a rational voice in a community that often has knee jerk reactions to stuff. Always look forward to new strips and blog posts!

TLCplMax3 karma

To be honest I don't know the answer to that. There isn't any one singular cause or culprit to suicide, I think the best we can hope for is creating an environment more conducive to emotional understanding from both civilians and other military members.

PrivateSnuffy2 karma

Can you talk about your emotional state and if/how it differed at all during the writing of The White Donkey? Was it hard for you at all, did you have any moments where you just had to take a step back and do something else?

TLCplMax5 karma

Writing and drawing The White Donkey was actually quite an emotional experience. The first part was simply writing it, which was hard enough at times, but the act of illustrating it is also emotionally draining.

Much like an actor, I have to get into the headspace of every character in order to accurately draw their facial expressions and gestures. I essentially act out every scene while I'm drawing it, which was a somewhat tumultuous experience at times.

Volpius2 karma

Hey max, fellow 0351 here that got out around the same time you did.

If you weren't an artist, what do you think you'd be doing with your life?

TLCplMax6 karma

Assault up!

Honestly I have no idea. I've known I was going to be an artist since I was 15 years old!

With that said, my fantasy career is probably a professional race car driver.

Terminal_Lance2 karma

What was the biggest challenged you've faced in writing the strips and in writing The White Donkey?

TLCplMax2 karma

It's a lot more work than anyone realizes. Running a successful webcomic is a lot of work and very challenging, which is why most crash and burn.

For The White Donkey, it was more or less the same situation. I grossly underestimated how long it would take me to finish the book after the Kickstarter ended, which led to "delays" that were only "delays" because of what I was quoted as saying previously. The simple fact is, I had no idea how long it would actually take, and it was a very wrong guess.

xxpussyslayer982 karma

how much you bench?

TLCplMax7 karma

Not as much as I want.

missprecocious2 karma

I find it awesome that you found so much material from a tour in the Marines. Are you planning on branching out to other subjects soon, since you're more art career-focused now? I'd love to see some of your graphic commentary on the design or creative world.

TLCplMax2 karma

I doubt I will do another comic strip, but I am branching out into a more film focused career that won't be exclusive to the military (but still plan on doing more military work as well).

dubyawinfrey2 karma

Hey there, Max. Long time fan - I think what's so great about your comic is that it seems to reach all levels of the military, despite being marine focused. There are very few instances where comics don't also apply to the Army (from my perspective) as well, and I'm sure there are few exceptions across the other branches as well.

As an aside, with a little over half a decade of enlisted experience I am hopefully going to commission as a Chaplain Candidate in the next few months and maybe become a full Chaplain years down the road. I've always had a good laugh at your creepy Chaplain comics, but do you have any actual advice or insight there?

Appreciate ya!

TLCplMax3 karma

I don't think I could offer any advice on the Chaplain thing, but I would say that just make sure you're there for the guys on the ground on a completely nonsecular level as well.

creaturecatzz2 karma

I recently finished The White Donkey, and I did tweet about it, but it was hard to say as much as I wanted in 140 characters; It was one of the most powerful books I have read in my (albeit short thus far) life. It has made me think harder about my wanting to join the Army (yeah yeah, not the Marines), and what I want out of it. I also wanted to just say thank you for the incredible depiction of a different side of war people don't see.

I was wondering what the girl said in Arabic in the book? I was also wondering what you feel about Marine aircraft not being able to function and making that part of the branch less effective; related to this, I was wondering if you feel each branch should have their duties and work together or whether they should have a good chunk of overlap in their duties?

TLCplMax3 karma

Thanks so much! I'm glad you liked the book.

The Arabic girl says:

"Watch out for this one, he looks lost."

The boy replies:

"That poor thing, I hope he finds his way."

lilmissRoja2 karma

If you could work on any comic series (aside from your own of course), which would it be?

TLCplMax5 karma

I really want to do a Captain America graphic novel.

GPJoe2 karma


Coming from a new-age Iraq grunt, The White Donkey was amazing. I've always wondered even throughout the comics, who is the inspiration for Garcia?

-GP Joe

TLCplMax3 karma

Thanks man! Abe and Garcia are really two halves of myself.

giveen2 karma

Have you ever met any MoH Marines, like Kyle or Dakota?

TLCplMax8 karma

I actually have not met any of the Marines, but I did spend time with 3 Army MoH recipients at the 13 HOURS premiere in Dallas a couple months ago. That was a crazy 48 hours.

amtant2 karma

What do you hope civilians can gain from reading The White Donkey?

TLCplMax7 karma

All I can ask and hope for is that they might walk away with a better understanding of what Marines go through and better identify with us as people.

Shaows1 karma

Are you aware that the Amazon Kindle sample for your newest book is only the first two pages of the story, and the other twelve pages are legal notifications and credits?

TLCplMax3 karma

I was not aware, that's really up to the publisher to fix though. Sorry about that!

moaningmyrtle151 karma

Congratulations on the successful publication of the White Donkey. When Little Brown picked up the 2nd printing, did they ask for any editorial changes from the initial printing?

TLCplMax3 karma

Nope! Little Brown has been phenomenal to work with and incredibly enthusiastic about the book for what it is. It's been great working with them to bring the book to a larger audience.

ReactthePanda1 karma

Hey Max, do you have any advice for a Poolee thats shipping out in about 6 months? Also I loved the White Donkey, I personally couldn't relate to it since I've never been through combat or military life in general, how ever it still impacted me a lot. I've read it 4 or 5 times now

TLCplMax32 karma

Stay home.

nomadbishop0 karma


TLCplMax5 karma

I'm actually not sure what that is.