The Daily Cardinal and other avians...

This coming weekend marks the 120th birthday of the UW-Madison Daily Cardinal, one of the oldest student newspapers in the country, and the paper that launched me on the patch to my career.

True, I was cartooning for the Millfield Windmill, the bi-weekly newspaper of my old school in Somerset, England. And I did throw some cartoons the way of the Queen Mary College newspaper - don't even remember what it was called, to be honest. And the UW-Parkside Ranger was pretty much where I hung out exclusively, when I was down that way.

But it was the Daily Cardinal - with the emphasis on daily - that really set me on the path I still trod today. The worst semester of my life? The one where I stopped doing cartoons when I'd occasionally feel witty enough for one, and started doing them daily. Day in. Day out. I may have been the first student in the UW's history to attempt a daily comic strip. You could tell from the bags under my eyes, and my habit of rushing up to strangers, thrusting tiny scraps of paper with scribblings on them in their faces, and desperately screaming "Is THIS ONE funny? No? How about THIS ONE..?"

I suppose I should blame my Economics degree a bit, as well. Economics came preternaturally easily to me: I could quite literally skip two out of three classes, and still get straight "A"s. Indeed, during Microeconomics 201, taught by my favorite professor, I skipped every class between the 6-Week exam and the 12-Week exam.

I didn't mean to, you understand. But blowing off school builds up its own kind of sick slacker momentum.

Two days before the 12-Week exam, I cracked open the class' textbook, and read the appropriate chapters. Then took the exam.

I got an "A+." The highest score in the class.

"John," sighed my professor, handing back the exam - the kind of sigh that indicated he had just died a little, on the inside  - "John, this sets a VERY frightening precedent."

But I'm digressing. Bottom line: the power to skip class and still make the Dean's List allowed me to hang out at the Daily Cardinal offices close to 24/7. This in turn let me meet some of the most amazing and influential folks I ever could have hoped to have hung around. Writers, editors, photographers, cartoonists - great, GREAT cartoonists. The kinds of cartoonists that make you not want to let down the team. "The usual gang of idiots," yes, but a brilliant, talented gang that it was a privilege to work with.

Many ex-Cardinalistas will be showing up on campus this weekend, with armfulls of Emmys and Peabodies and Pulitzers. I guess I could drag my "coveted Origins Award" along, but "awwww...isn't that cuuuuuute?" isn't really the conversational firecracker you think it might be.

Anyway, Wild Life was my comic strip back in my college days, and here's a WILD LIFE strip I did for the 110th Cardinal Anniversary, ten years ago.

Read it now, or wait another decade for its next appearance!

Super Happy Cardinal Fun Hour


BIRDS week continues, as I continue with the reins of Robin Laws' splendidly twisted comic strip. Click on it to get the larger version over at Pelgarne's THE BIRDS site. New strips to be added every day this week.

Super Happy Birds 1 Fun Hour


The Original Angry Birds!


It's no secret one of my guilty pleasures is THE BIRDS, a dark, twisted, meta-kinda web stip by my pal Robin D. Laws.

I enjoy it so much, I leapt at the chance to write the forward to the first collection, published by Pelgrane Press. Well, now, the second collection - "There Goes My Dream Job" - is coming out, and Robin asked if I'd do a week's worth of BIRDS strips, to help celebrate the fact.

More work for no money? Why, yes. Yes, please!

OK. In all honesty, this was too hard to turn down. In part because it consisted mostly of cutting-and-pasting a single drawing in Photoshop (must stay TRUE to the spirit of the strip, don'cha know?), but mainly because it meant getting to play in Robin's severely dysfunctional sandbox (LOOK OUT FOR SHARDS OF GLASS!), and, golly, it's just not that often that I get the opportunity to draw characters pulling handguns on each other in DORK TOWER.

(BTW - If you think anthropomorphic gunplay is bad, it gets worse as the week goes on. Trust me - it gets much, much worse.)

Super Happy Birds Fun Hour

So anyway, here's the first strip. You may wanna click on it to get the larger version over at Pelgarne's THE BIRDS site. New strips to be added every day this week.

Super Happy Birds 1 Fun Hour

So, thank you, Robin! It was a ton of fun, and I'm looking forward to the new collection. I'm sure it will be a blast.

A quick blast to the abdomen from from a Saturday Night Special, to be specific...


Possibly it's the deep, dark, BIRDS frame of mind I find myself in, this week, but the following popped up in my inbox this morning:


FROM: UpdateServices
TO: <Recipients List>

Dear Email User
This message is from Information Technology Services of This EMAIL to all our Staff. We are currently upgrading our database and e-mail center and this is our final notification to you.we have sent several messages to you without response.
We are deleting all unused Mail account to create space for new accounts. In order not to be suspended, you will have to update your account by providing the information listed below: reply to.

Confirm Your E-Mail Details..
User name: ..................
Re Confirm Password:.............

If you fail to confirm your continuous usage of our services by confirming your email password now, your account will be disable and you will not be able to access your email.

You should immediately reply this email: and enter your password in the above password column.
Thanks for your understanding.
IT Services


REALLY, Spammers? REALLY? You've just given up even trying, now?

I actually feel a little bit sorry for you, you know. Yes - your spammy phishing e-mail attempt was that sad and pathetic. I mean, this is actually the sorriest excuse at a phishing attempt that I believe I've ever seen. What are you? The Baldrick of spammers? "I have a cunning e-mail..." "Yes, let us not forget that you tried to solve the problem of your mother's pop-up ads by throwing her desktop into a dung-heap..."

No, really, spammers - can you please just admit that you've actually lost your love for the business? You're going through the motions, now. You're simply phoning it in. The joy of the job is gone.

You can't - oh, how to put this without sniggering at the irony - get it up anymore.

Don't worry, though. I hear there's a treatment for it.

Grow a big package once more! Canadian Pharmacy: USPS - Fast Delivery Shipping 1-4 day USA 100% guarantee on delivery FDA approved productas 350000+ satisfied customers!

If interested contact me for more details via my personal email, Bite.Me@No.Really.Bite.Me.Com


My Weekend - PLUS: Sneak Secret Project Peek!


The upcoming weekend is turning out to be a bit of a busy one, for me. Though I'm still hoping to take some weekend off, soon, following the marathon that the Munchkin Apocalypse game art became, it obviously won't be this one. But Apocalypse is all in the past now. Done, done, DONE! Stick a Fork in it. A +5 Radioactive one! Huzzah!

Munchkin Apocalypse was a bit mad (180 cards in 28 days), but it was a blast (figuratively and literally, given some of the cards). This is definitely going to be the prettiest Munchkin game ever, and I think we may have some peeks at art to show you, soon. A few of the cards are amongst my favorites ever - although, I'll be frank: with all the art specs that began "Hordes of..." "Many, Many..." and "Crowds of..," I do feel just a teensy bit like I was hit by a bus. Wait. Make that "Hordes of" busses. To say nothing of that one card that required a D-Day Omaha Beach invasion scene!

Anyway, a couple of cool things are on the docket for this weekend.

(1) THE DAN POTACKE BIRTHDAY SPECIAL 7 PM, April 19, the Frequency.

If you're in the Madison area, I'll be joining local comedian and cartoonist Alan Talaga, as a guest on his hilarious Dan Potacke show. It's at the Frequency, and the fun starts at 7 pm. There's no cover charge. Think of it as a podcast that doesn't - you know - actually involve any podcasting. It'll be a hoot. I may have some swag to give away.

(2) ODDCON - Radisson Inn, April 20-22

Madison's general fandom convention takes place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I'll be around, enjoying the panels and basking in the genius that guests of honor Larry Niven (!!!) and Kenneth Hite will be bringing to the proceedings. It all takes place at the Radisson Inn on Madison's West Side, dangerously close to Pegasus Games and the Last Square, so there are very few reasons why you shouldn't be there!

I'll be doing a signing at Oddcon 1 pm on Saturday, along with my pal the ever-captivating Kenneth Hite.


Last weekend was the ACD Games Day distributor open house. There was much love for Munchkin and Dork Tower from retailers who came from as far away as the coasts, to partake in ACD Distributions' wonderful annual event, and it was great seeing old friends from the industry again. I was even able to get a few games in! Let me just say that Tsuro of the Sea from Calliope Games was a hoot! And I finally got to see UGH!, a tremendously fun card game that I illustrated for them ("Stonepunk" is definitely the direction I took its prehistoric theme in).

My arm was hardly recovered from Munchkin Apocalypse, but it's always wonderful to sign stuff for the retailers. They're on the front lines of this business, and anything I can do to help, I'll try to. (NOTE: "Helping" often involves buying cool games from them, rather than Amazon. Hey - it's a tough gig, but somebody's gotta do it!)

Super Happy ACD GAMES DAY signing Fun Hour


As's a sneak-peek at the super-cool secret project I'm working on. MATT HAS A BUDDY! You may recognize him. IT MUST BE MINE! Hold on - it IS mine!

Super Happy SEKRIT PROJECT Fun Hour

More to come on this as it develops!

Comments? E-mail me here - John



StellarCon 36

So anyhoo, I'll be at StellarCon 36  (High Point, North Carolina) this weekend, as the Special Guest of Honor! (Want me to come to a con? The guidelines are here.)

I've heard great things about the show, and I'm looking forward to it - along with what is almost surely going to be a futile search for Shrimp and Grits (too far north, apparently), and a less futile search for some solid 'Que.

I'm not bringing any stuff to sell - but I'll be hanging about the con for what appears to be the vast majority of it.

If you happen to be in the area, here's where I'll be found:

FRIDAY, 4 pm - Gaming 101 - A workshop-style panel in which experienced game designers and game masters take you through each step necessary to play in a tabletop game.

FRIDAY, 6 pm - Opening Ceremonies/Cabaret - StellarCon 36 officially begins here! Following a brief ceremony, StellarCon's always-fun Cabaret at the End of the Universe will debut at its new time.

SATURDAY, 9 am - Authors vs Artists SFF Pictionary - In this StellarCon tradition, hosted by Danny Birt, we find out whether or not artistic talent has anything to do with being good at Pictionary as author and artist go head to head.

SATURDAY, 1 pm - Illustrating Card Games - Creating art that looks good and fits into a tiny box is its own kind of challenge. Experts provide their experiences from working in this unique format.

SATURDAY, 3 pm - Interview with John Kovalic - An interview with Special Guest of Honor John Kovalic.

SATURDAY 6 pm - Writing Comics - As a format, comic strips and comic books have their own rules distinct from prose or scripts. Professionals familiar with those differences share and offer advice in this panel.

SATURDAY, 8 pm - Game Design 101 - Game designers get into the nuts and bolts of creating a game from scratch, whether it's a board game, card game, roleplaying game, or something more unusual.

SUNDAY, 11 am - Awards in Sci-Fi and Fantasy - Which awards matter? Who will win them?

As always, I'm happy to sign pretty much whatever you want (NOTE: certain body parts do not apply) - though be warned, this does tend to drive the prices down on anything I autograph (another fine reason not to have me sign certain body parts).

Hope to see some of you there!


Sketchy Stuff...

I haven't posted any of my warm-up sketches, recently. Sorry about that.

Here's yesterday's. I like it enough that I've started turning the idea into a proper print.

CINDY-LOU WHO, The Doctor Who's No More Than Two:

Super Happy Doctor Cindy Lou Fun Hour

As always, if you'd like the originals of these sketches, they're $45, postage included. Add $5 for overseas shipping. Paypal gladly accepted.


As is often the case, I think the sketch I did of Matt Smith for Monday's cartoon turned out better than the actual finished drawing. I believe other cartoonists know the frustration of this, when it happens. I've got no idea how the Doctor's cowlick grew to such proportions on the final, but there you go...

By the way, as happy as I was with how the original sketch turned out, you have NO IDEA how hard it is to find photos of Matt Smith in profile! Seriously. I think I came up with about two, out of 100 Matt Smith pics overall.

Super Happy Doctor Cowlick Fun Hour

How it turned out (good...but not AS good, I feel).

Super Happy Doctor Who Fun Hour

Anyway, I still love the first sketch of Matt. I'm no great caricaturist, so those few times I think to myself that I've managed to capture something, I'm happy.

Possibly I'll turn the sketch into a larger painting - albeit a stylized one - or a print, as well.

But I have a sketch now. Sketches are cool.


The Three-Minute Warm-Up sketches...

The idea for the morning warm-up sketches came from my pal, Stacy Curtis. He began posting his morning sketches on his Facebook page and I, frankly, had fallen out of the habit of sketching.

There's little I emphasize more to kids who want to become cartoonists than "Sketch, sketch, SKETCH!" Well, that and learn to live on Ramen Noodles. Still, "Carry a sketchbook on you at all times" is what I'll usually tell younglings. And yet, here I was, failing to follow my own very good, solid and sensible advice.

Warming up in the morning has also proven pretty important for the rest of the work I get done that day. It seems to shake the cobwebs out of the old noggin. Some sketches are more successful than others, and none of them are supposed to look GREAT (though I'm thankful when sometimes they look cool). I give myself three minutes to come up with anything: more sketching may follow, but that first one of the day needs to be done in less time than it takes to boil an egg. I doesn't have to be a masterpiece, it just has to be DONE.

Anyway, here's this morning's Three-Minute Warm-Up Sketch (which actually took two minutes - leaving me a full minute to, say, boil an egg): CAP'THULHU AMERICA!

Super Happy Girl and Her Dragon Fun Hour

There's probably a line somewhere about him being "the first IA-venger," but I'm not touching it.

If you click on the image, you SHOULD see a larger version of the drawing.


Between a Rock and a Hard Munchkin Project...

Muskrat Ramblings
Between a rock and a hard Munchkin deadline...
posted by John

This is a busy, messy week for me. I'm between Munchkin projects, and between major holidays. As a friend of mine cleverly pointed out, Thanksgiving in the US is the point where we switch from complaining that Christmas is being celebrated too early to complaining that Christmas is coming too soon.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that this week, Dork Tower will run on Tuesday and Thursday, as I work on getting a backlog together. I'll try and get a third strip up, but can't promise anything in that regard. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, here's this morning's Warm-Up Sketch: "A Girl and her Dragon." I don't think I had a young Anne McCaffrey in mind when I quickly doodled it, but I don't wonder whether her passing last week was why I had dragons on the mind.

Wouldn't it be nice to think so?

Super Happy Girl and Her Dragon Fun Hour

If you click on the image, you SHOULD see a larger version of the drawing.


Oh, THERE you are, Perry!

Like Munchkin?

Like "Phineas and Ferb"?

So do I. Hard.

Here's a little bit of funsies I came up with, while drawing Munchkin Conan:


(Click the image above for a larger version. WHY YOU WOULD WANT THIS, I DO NOT KNOW. But I'm easy, that way).

It goes without saying, this is NOT anything officially to do with Munchkin, "Phieas and Ferb" or my lunch hour.

But there you go. :-)


"What do you want?"

So, this last weekend at San Diego Comic Con was pretty amazing.

I didn't have a booth there, and I didn't do any panels. just meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.

I always leave, feeling like the Uncool Kid in school. And remember: this is around NERDS... Possibly because of all the LA nerds at SDCC. LA nerds are strange and powerful creatures of beauty. Stare not directly at their auras...lest they drain your soul...

Anyway, these meetings were great and cool and productive. But I'm a bit haunted by a question someone asked: "What do you WANT?"

"To tell stories," was my answer.

But now, I'm not entirely sure that was it. I'm not great with on-the-spot answers. I usually have to think about things, for a bit.

So I though. For a couple of days.

What do I want?

(1) To be the best father and husband I can be.

(2) To keep working, and to do the best work I can.

(3) To make people happy, through my work.

(4) To be a good, honest person. And world peace. And +10 Sprinkles of Awesome on my SOLID GOLD ICE-CREAM CONE. And unicorns and double-rainbows, and...YES, YES, YES, we get it. So let's just stick with (1), (2) and (3), and assume all the rest is lurking back there, the same as it ever was, OK? Jeeze. This is maudlin enough already. You people hve no idea how much work it is to be this sincere.

Anyway, where were we? Oh, yeah. What do I want? (1), (2) and (3). In that order? Probably. Though (2) and (3) may change places, from time to time...but in general, you get the point.

I'd add "To be Happy," but my family and my work make me very, very happy. How ridiculously lucky am I? All I need to do is be around my family, and work harder, to become happier.

My work is telling stories. I haven't been telling enough, recently.

That's changing.

Honest. (See #4).