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Comic Strip Lances Enlisted Life

If you've been smoked by a master sergeant, frustrated by wannabe grunts or dazed by ridiculous Marine Corps policy, "Terminal Lance" was created for you.

The edgy Web-based comic strip penned by Lance Cpl. Maximilian Uriarte pokes fun at enlisted life in the Corps and has become a viral smash by garnering almost 80,000 hits since it was unveiled about two months ago.

With a brand of humor that would make anyone but a Marine wince, Uriarte said he hopes the comic speaks to his peers in a way that most family-friendly comics don't.

"I wanted to make a new strip that was more in touch with my generation - lance corporals and pissed-off Marines," said Uriarte, an assaultman based in Hawaii.

Pulling no punches on his Web site, Terminallance.com, Uriarte skewers everything from official regulations and newbie Marines to power-hungry noncommissioned officers, race and pop culture.

"What I go for are things I have noticed in my time in the infantry that seem kind of ridiculous," he said. "They made me mad, but now I see the humor in them."

Even the comic strip's name, "Terminal Lance," is a jab at the perceived struggle faced by many infantry lance corporals who - no matter their accomplishments - can't manage to pick up the rank of corporal. Uriarte, who joined the Corps in 2006 and has just two months left in his enlistment, has yet to make E-4, a symptom, he said, of impossibly high cutting scores and an oversaturated career field.

In 2007, Uriarte deployed to Iraq with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, as an MRAP turret gunner near Fallujah. During his second tour, he employed his artistic talents, taking photos and sketching Marines while working for his battalion's information operations section.

His inspiration for "Terminal Lance" came in part from Gunnery Sgt. Charles Wolf's strip "SemperToons," which Uriarte calls "the granddaddy of it all."

Though funny, SemperToons and other Marine-targeted comics are too "G-rated" for junior Marines who have experienced combat, Uriarte said.

And while he created "Terminal Lance" with other lance corporals in mind, the strip is gaining a Corps-wide fan base.

"I'm kind of surprised," he said. "I figured some crusty colonel would give me a call and say, 'What are you doing?' "

So far, that call has yet to come. Instead, he has received supportive e-mails and forum posts from within the enlisted ranks - and from a few officers, too.

Uriarte said he has plans to continue the strip after his enlistment ends, but thinks it will remain an online-only venture. Its coarse language and controversial themes make it challenging to publish in most print publications.

"I like that I can run it uncensored online," he said. "I wouldn't want to sacrifice the integrity of it."

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