Hello.

Yes, I’m still alive. Barely.

This has been one of the toughest two-week stretches I’ve ever been through. Of course, in a cartoonist’s world, “tough” is a relative thing. However:

A week ago Monday, we arrived home late (like, 11 pm) after an exhausting four days at KublaCon and DorkStock West.

Tuesday I was actually able to get some work done.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were taken up with all-day Out Of The Box meetings.

Saturday was an appearance at the Chicago Book Expo (and an almost three-hour signing session).

Since then, it’s been nose-to-the-grindstone (or at least Bristol Board) work.

But some good stuff’s been going on in the background.

* Chez Goth and the Star Munchkin roleplaying game have shipped.

* Dr. Blink #0 and the Dork Storm Free Comic Book Day comic have printed and are shipping. I am almost giggling with delight that Dr. Blink #0 is now a reality. I have two copies on hand (one of which I’ll be mailing to Chris and Melissa today).

* Attack of the Political Cartoonists is also shipping. This is the largest project I’ve ever undertaken. The initial print run is 15,000 copies, most of which are already spoken for. The book contains the work of 150 editorial cartoonists, and is published in conjunction with the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Every cartoonist has a page, and more than a dozen Pulitzer Prize Winners are included. I haven’t talked much of this project as – frankly – I’ve been worried sick about it. I think it will do VERY well (all the major chains have glommed onto it in major ways). But the costs have been far larger than the usual 4-6,000 print runs of the average Dork Tower trade. I’m not a big fan of writing checks for many multiple thousands of dollars. More on this later, but it should be in stores by the middle of the month.

* I’m starting a new comic strip for Amazing Stories (the first issue of the relaunch goes to press soon). It’s called “Redshirts.” I was happy with the first couple of strips I drew up, and it’s been an enjoyable project. The last time I started a new comic strip on my own was this little thing called “Dork Tower”…

* The reprints of Livin La Vida Dorka (now listed as the collected Dork Tower Volume IV) and Heart of Dorkness are finally back from the printer.

* Dork Tower 28 goes to press this week. Knock on wood.

* Dave Arneson (I’M NOT WORTHY! I’M NOT WORTHY!) has written a wonderful introduction for a new, full-color Dork Tower e-book collection that will be available soon. It contains ALL the cartoons that have ever run in Scrye and Dragon magazines. But damn, Dave (one of the original creators of D&D) is one of my favorite people in the gaming world. One of the biggest thrills I’ve ever gotten in my brief Gaming Pro career was returning to the Dork Storm booth one GenCon to see Dave trying to buy some Dork Tower stuff. I say “try” because as soon as I saw him there, I ran to the booth and told him his money was NO good there: he could have ANYTHING he wanted, on me! I was flying for the rest of the day.

* Wil Wheaton asked me to illustrate his new book, “Just a Geek.” So I came up with a Cartoon Wil (not so much a caricature as Wil done in Munchkin style) that he and his publishers seem very happy with. Yay!

* I’ve signed a contract with a top-notch manufacturer of plush products that you probably know. The first two items will be a plush Gilly doll, and an Igor plushie that will double as a dice bag. (Don’t ask me where you have to reach to get the dice…I honestly don’t want to think about that).

* And some of you will have heard me talking about a secret new project I’ve been working on. THIS can now be announced.

MUNCHKIN BITES! The new, full-set, boxed stand-alone (or combine) World of Dorkness Munchkin game, to take its place alongside Munchkin, Star Munchkin and Munchkin-Fu!

Munchkin Bites!

Okay, so Munchkin Blender hasn’t even gone to press yet and you’re already working on another one?

Well, yes. You know you want it.

Munchkin Bites! will be a stand-alone game which, like the previous Munchkin sequels, will be combinable with the others. In this game, you become Vampires, Werewolves, and Changelings . . . or unholy crossbreeds . . . bashing through a haunted house, slaughtering the other monsters and everything else you find. Any vague resemblance to a certain soon-to-be-late World of Not-Much-Light is strictly . . . hee hee . . . well, you’ll see.

Munchkin Bites! is illustrated by John Kovalic. John practically MADE us do this game, in fact, just so he could draw a lot more vampire pictures of Gilly, Igor, and the rest of the Dork Tower crew. As you see, he had a good time . . .

I had a good time, too, at the last playtest. I was a sex-changed vampirESS with Goth Boots, a Punk Hairdo, a Maniac Minion, and the Bat Bat and several really cool powers, including Metathesis, Transmogrification, and Celeritousness. And I won. Faced a Wind-Up Skull . . . a FLUFFY wind-Up Skull . . . and demolished it. Insert evil laughter here!

Munchkin Bites! will ship in October. Of course.

– Steve Jackson

Munchkin Bites will, in short, rock on blood toast! Now we’re cooking with blood gas…

Now, all that said, there’s been some negatives as well.

* My first published Short Story, “SF” (appearing in Guardian of Order’s “Path of the Bold” anthology) came back for proofing. I’m happier with it after some rewrites, but damn did it seem heavy-handed and amateur when I saw it again after a month. Do all writers have this much self-doubt? And I very nearly blew the deadline (apologies to both my ever-suffering editor James Lowder and the good folks at GOO). Now I know more how the process works for fiction, I’d like to keep on trying my hand at it. But at this point in time I’m respecting my writer friends far more than I ever have before. The book’s now at press.

* Some problems with mis-listing the Political Cartoonists book’s ISBN number made for a fraught day, recently. The more I get drawn (no pun intended) into the publishing biz, the more I realize I’m a cartoonist first, and a businessman second (or third, fourth or tenth, depending on my mood)…

* It’s becoming more and more likely that I will not be able to make CONvergence (Minneapolis, over the 4th of July weekend), due to the few weekends at home Judith and I seem to have home together this summer.

* I may have to pull out of one of the large summer cons, as someone close to me will be undergoing some serious surgery, and I sure as heck want to be there for that.

* Obviously, all this took its toll on the web comic last week. I hope to be back up to speed this week, but today’s cartoon will most likely be late.

Is that it? Well, let’s be frank, I know I’ve most likely forgotten some things. But what MOST people want to know about is the Peahen Saga.

Yes, she’s still in the back yard. The farm never returned my call (although the DNR left a message saying that Peacocks and Peahens are not “protected species” in Wisconsin, as if I was waiting to shoot the thing or something. Weird.)

She’s going through Peacock Chow (aka birdseed) at an alarming rate, although it is kinda cool (if initially disconcerting) that she’s found staring into the bedroom window every morning.

Still, she’d probably be happiest in an aviary or on a farm, with other Peafowl. So the search for a Peahome continues…

John

WEDNESDAY UPDATE

Well, this kinda bites.

I just found out that Redshirts.com is taken.

Redshirts is the name of the new comic strip I’m doing for Amazing Stories.

Now, what REALLY bites is that Redshirts.com was apparently registered less than TWO WEEKS ago.

A quick trip to Redshirts.com shows that it’s been taken up by an Internet Squatting Company, who are quite willing to sell it for $2888.00.

Pardon me while I die laughing.

I don’t think anything suspicious is at foot. The only people I discussed the name Redshirts with were my editors at Amazing Stories. This is just, I suspect, a case of really lousy timing. When I looked up the domain name, I fully expected it to have been taken years ago.

So, what do you think I should do?

A) Keep the name Redshirts and try and come up with a catchy (and available) domain name?

B) Change the name of the comic strip (say, Redshirtz) to something that is available as a domain name?

C) Just not worry about it at all, and link Redshirts to DorkTower.com, or

D) Take some other action, that I’ve obviously overlooked…

Anyhoo, here’s a single panel from the first strip for Amazing…

And no, this panel does NOT lead to a punch-line about dysfunctional families. I think this is like the second panel in an eight-panel strip…

John

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