The Questions From Spain Rain Mainly On My Brain

The proofs for Go, Dork! Go! just came in. I sent the corrections off to Art Gawd Hal Mangold, so there’s a good chance it’ll be out at GenCon.


Super Munchkin came in, should be in stores now, and will definitely be at GenCon.


Alas, alack, I will not be at GenCon.

There are some very good reasons for this. One of them is NOT that GenCon falls on the Northwoods League Championship series week. But since the Mallards are in the playoffs, I will sooth my pain at missing GenCon with a trip of two (or, hopefully, four) to Warner Park to root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win, it’s a shame, and the Baby Jesus will cry.

Bit I will now be at both Essen (Germany) and Lucca (Italy) in the Autumn.


“Kobolds Ate My Baby” is gonna rock. I’m having so much fun with this project, and some of the distributors I’ve spoken to are getting excited by it. It will be a hardcover “Munchkin D20”-like book, with tons of extra material, for about $15.

My question is, what would be a good follow-up to the main rule book? More rules? Some adventures? Something else? What would kobold-heads like to see by way of support for the game?


Speaking of questions, there’s a book I’m looking for: “Oxford History of Board Games” by David Parlett.

Is this book available anywhere in England? Has anyone ever seen it?

I can find neither hide nor hair of it here, and could really use a copy for a project I’m working on.

I tried contacting the author, but received no reply (he has a web site at As the only other book on the subject I’ve ever come across was published in 1953 (again, by Oxford), I’m trying to get something more recent…


Why do I love living in the Wisconsin countryside?

The visitors.

Perhaps it was this guy who chased the pea-hen away…


And now, as promised, the Spanish Interview that ran over at

– Citizen, show your ID.

Kovalic. John. Or, Kovalic Major, as I was called in school in England, being the eldest. My younger brother was Kovalic Minor. Aren’t English schools great?

– Kovalic, I like that name. Where does it come from?

It’s Slovak. I used to prefer it when I could say “Czechoslovak.” But those days are long gone. I always related better to Prague than I did to Bratislava.

Still, all in all, it’s a good cartooning name, I think. (My brother and sister are both doctors – I need to ask them if it’s a good doctoring name…)

– Does it have a meaning?

In English, it translates to “Smithson.” Son of the Smith.

– It won’t be easy to interview you. You’ve already told us “all about Dork Tower” in your FAQ. I’ll have to think of Unfrequently Asked Questions…

This could be interesting.

– Can you speak Spanish?

Very little anymore, I fear. I took Spanish in school, and I used to be far better at it than I am today. Being a kid you’re like a sponge – you soak up a lot. Then it all seems to get slowly wrung out of you…

I picked up a Spanish course on DVD a few years ago, but because I bought it in the US, it was Mexican Spanish. I was a bit disappointed until I realized I’d NEVER be good enough to have a native speaker tell whether I was speaking Spanish Spanish or Mexican Spanish.

– Quenya? Any other language?

Mostly French and a little Italian. But again, I was far more confident in my language skills when I was younger. Now, speaking another language seems a bit like singing in public: I get very self-conscious about it. My pronunciations, in particular.

– As the new translator of your strips, I’d feel quite relieved if you don’t have the chance to correct me 😛

Boy do I have good news for you, then… 🙂

PsychoPain asked:
– Many people in Spain may not know your work (not to mention your name). Tell us more about your works. Shine a light on us!

Well, mostly I’m surprised to find myself able to make a living as a cartoonist. I do so many different things, at the moment: the Dork Tower comic strip has been around for about seven years now – it runs in the comic book, online, and in various magazines and journals.

My work on games started about ten years ago, and everything’s grown from there. I’m a co-founder and co-owner of a company called Out of the Box, and we’ve had a huge hit with a game called Apples to Apples here in the US. It’s sold well over a million copies.

The other major thrust of my work is the stuff that I do for Steve Jackson Games. I was very fortunate when Steve asked me to illustrate Chez Geek, and then later Munchkin. I have a lot of fun with these, and I’m very glad to be associated with them.

There’s always lots of other things going on. The comic book Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink is a fun new project with Christopher Jones, for example. And I just completed a kid’s book with my SnapDragons partner, Liz Rathke.

– I personally believe you‚re in fashion lately around here: the new DT site, the Munchkin series, and soon another card game we are not allowed to mention yet . Are you happy with the presence of your work in Spain?

Extremely happy. I love Spain, and even though it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been back, it’s very gratifying to have my work accepted there. I can’t wait to get return. I was supposed to visit Malaga a couple of weeks ago, but some really big deadlines kept me tied to London…

– How about the DT comic books? Some of us have a feeling not many have been seen around.

Only three comic books were published in Spanish, I believe. Right now, the publisher (La Factoria De Ideas) is going to start releasing the trade paperback collections instead of the comic books. I think this is a great idea. The collections do really well in Germany and Italy, and in general I think those are better for the European markets.

– You have seen a preview of our Spanish DT site, what do you think of it?

I think the preview’s fantastic. I’ll be using it to perfect my rusty Spanish skills.


– How many languages is DT being translated to?

Right now, the Dork Tower comics and collections are translated into Spanish (yay!), German, Italian, French and soon Portuguese. I believe Romanian is next up. The Russians run some of the web comics online, and for a while there was a pirate Hungarian site, which I found pretty amusing.

The cartoons were translated pretty early on, in the history of the strip. So I try and keep puns that would be difficult or, indeed, impossible to translate out of the comic book.

Given the number of puns in Munchkin, I’m amazed that it’s so popular in other languages. The people translating THAT really seem to have earned their pay!

– Which is your one favorite topic for Dork Tower?

I’m not sure if I have favorite topics. Sometimes I’ll enjoy doing a collectible card gaming strip as much as a roleplaying one, for example. Although I really love it when the Matt and Gilly romance pops up in the comic books.

I enjoy those times when I come up with something genuinely new. I was very happy with Dork Tower #29 and 30, for example, because I’d never done anything like those before.

dyd_aventureros asked:
– have any of your strips suffered from censorship?

I’ve been pretty lucky, as far as that goes. Of course, the worst thing is self-censorship. A father came up to me at a convention and thanked me for putting out a comic book that his six year-old could read. Ever since then, I’ve probably been too careful about showing, say, Matt getting Drunk…

dyd_aventureros also asked (and this is a difficult one):
– Which is the freakiest strip you‚ve ever drawn for Dork Tower?

Hmmm. Freakiest, huh?

Possibly one I just did for Comics Buyer’s Guide, called “Save the Cartoonist” (as opposed to “Save the Whales”). But I think there’s a lot of stuff in the “Understanding Gamers” comic book that was quite different, for me.

– Minorities are on fashion. Nowadays, every group of characters includes a homosexual, some latino, an African-American… So far, you have a muskrat. Does he feel discriminated in some way?

Yes. Especially when they roleplay French trappers in 17th century North America. Dork Tower #22 dealt with Carson quite a bit. He used to be the main character in my old comic strip, “Wild Life.”

– Are any of your characters gay? Matt seems the only one who really cares about girls…

It was recently revealed in the comic book that Gilly’s brother Walden is gay. Ken’s in love with Sujata (Kayleigh’s roommate), and their relationship is very good, so that’s not as fun to write about.

Igor’s in love with three women, all of them fictional: Apollo Smile, Lara Croft and Daphne, from Scooby Doo. So any “real” women in his world have a lot to live up to.

– It’s easy to notice Matt is somehow your alter ego in DT.

Matt’s the main character as far as alter-egos go. But Carson and (to a lesser extent) Ken can also act as my avatars, from time to time. And Walden’s relationship with Gilly, his sister, is based on me and my kid sister.

Is that why Matt is…

(a) addicted to blogs?

Yes. My online experiences go directly into the Matt strips.

(b) always the DM?

No. Matt became the DM for the group in the first comic strip, before he became my alter-ego. I rarely DM. I used to, a lot. But my schedule means I have to frequently be away from home, so I’m usually not the DM. But I am hoping to run some short Call of Cthulhu adventures this autumn…

(c) unlucky with girls?

Yes. But of course, this is more a facet of my life from college times. I’ve been married for quite some time to the love of my life. But I still vividly remember a two-year periodm in college where it seemed like I couldn’t buy a date…

(d) didn’t go to the cinema with Igor and Ken to see Episode III?

Yes. I didn’t see Episode III until a few days after it had opened. I finally sneaked into it and caught the second half after “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

– Igor and Ken argue often. Who do you really support?

It’s so hard to say, because they’re both often wrong…but in very different ways.


– Now really: when and how did you become such a freak?

There’s a course you can take, in college…

Henshin asked:
– Which were the first signs of “munchkinism” you came across as a player or DM?

My friend Scott Olman, who is the person Igor is based almost directly on, was the first time I encountered this. Some of the early Dork Tower strips are based on things he actually did. Although, I had to tone him down in the comic strips. Seriously. NOBODY would ever believe what Scott REALLY tried to do!

– Please give our visitors faith: Is there roleplaying after marriage?

YES! But not with my wife! I scared her off of roleplaying when I used Call of Cthulhu to introduce her to the hobby. I should have used Toon. Or Buffy, had that been around at the time. On the plus side, Judith still plays a lot of board games and card games I introduced her to. Formula De and Carcasonne are among our favorites.

– If so, which games do you usually play these days?

Right now, my group’s been playing a lot of D20, especially Dungeons and Dragons. But I’d love to run some Call of Cthulhu. That’s always been my favorite. My most cherished books, though, are my old Traveller ones, from college.

PsychoPain asked:
– Apparently, if a large amount of mass is concentrated into a single spot, the universe would collapse. If you placed all the cartoons you have created, all the comic books, card games, published strips and so… in one place, would that collapse our universe?

No, but it’s getting to the point where it makes the bookcase sag tremendously….

– And if you did so with all the comics and RPGs you OWN?

Heh. My entire basement seems to be lined with RPGs and boardgames. Every few years, I try and clean out all the games I haven’t played in, say, five years. But that just makes room for new ones…

PsychoPain also asked me to tell you:
– “Admit it: You‚re a munchkin!”

Seriously, I’m not good enough to be an effective munchkin. The best munchkins are the Rules Lawyers, or the kids who will grow up to BE the rules lawyers. True fact: I’ve NEVER won a game of Munchkin. People gang up on me too early, as if drawing the cards has given me some insight into how the game is played. At Warpcon, a great Irish con, the players even let me draw and use my own new cards on the spot (as long as they could keep the originals). And I still managed to lose. But that’s probably the closest I came to winning…


– Would you like to recommend our visitors a summer blockbuster or two? Surely you’ve already seen films that have not yet been premiered here…

Batman Begins is easily the best blockbuster of the year, so far, in my opinion. It’s about a half-hour too long, but I think it’s the most solid “geek” movie since “The Return of the King.”

– Who is your favourite superhero?

Green Lantern, when he was Hal Jordan. As far as females go, Power Girl. But mostly because of the costume.

– Do you think the Necronomicon does exist? If it did, would you like to read it?

I believe the answer to those is a DEFINITE “fnord.”

– In recent strips about Episode III you made fun of many flaws in the movie (weak romantic scenes, silly lines… I particularly loved the new RotS rules for miniatures!) Must we suppose you didn’t like the movie?

The second half is pretty good. But there’s just so much silliness. I don’t know. Difficult question. Compared to Episodes I and II, it was far better. But still not as good as “Return of the Jedi,” which was easily the weakest of the original three…

I mean, the first two movies (Episode IV and V) were very Space-Opera-ish, but they still were pretty good. It’s so hard for me to watch Episode I, II and now III. There were some fantastic moments in Episode III, but there was an awful lot to make fun of, too…I’ve only seen Episode II once, though. That was just too awful. At least I’ll probably be seeing Episode III again soon.

I’m doing some strips on “Batman Begins,” but there’s not nearly as much stuff to make fun of in a good movie as one with obvious flaws. Still, i got a LOT of mileage out of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and I absolutely adored those films…

PsychoPain again freaked out and asked:
– Dear jedi master Kovalic: Do you think hairstyles are transferred genetically in the Star Wars universe? (see Amidala/Leia).

And Anakin/Luke, of course. Though Luke never had a pony tail…THAT WE KNEW OF!

– Could that be related to the midiclorians?

No. Midiclorians only effect the brain. Of ageing movie directors…


– Well, our interview is coming to an end. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Before leaving, tell us, what is the question you’ve always wanted to answer but have never been asked?

I keep hoping someone will ask about some of the obscure music references that pop up in Dork Tower, everywhere from the covers of the comic books to quotes buried in the tiny “Publication Information” sections on page one…music’s been a huge influence on me, my life and my work. I’m listening to the early Who as I’m answering these questions, for example.

– And on the other hand, what is the freakiest question you’ve ever been asked?

“Would you draw Gilly naked for me?” John’s note – upon later reflection, it was probably “Will you Naked Sea-man Wrestle with us?” It takes a lot to beat that…

– And finally (let us be original here) : Send a message to your Spanish-speaking audience!

The main thing is, thank you VERY much for your support and kind words. I am SO glad that some folks like my work in Spain. That means more to me than you can possibly imagine. My parents live in Malaga, and I love visiting whenever I can. I miss the people, the culture and, of course, the food and wine! Do you have any idea how hard it is to get olives stuffed with those great pickled onions over here? I can’t wait to get back! And I promise to try and improve my Spanish.

Thanks for being there, John. Hope to meet you again soon!

Without question! Many thanks!




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