Spork Tower I - Stew it Begins...

No matter how busy things get, a slow-cooked supper just seems to make life easier. A few weeks ago, things were chaotic: I was behind on deadlines; I needed to rush off to the big-screen showing of Lord of the Rings: The Two Tower (Extended Cut - or "DANG, by butt is numb" in Elvish); Judith and Louisa were coming home late. Fortunately, necessity is the mother of om nom nom nom (NOTE: holy cats, am I getting tired of the phrase "om nom nom nom" - don't know why I went there, just then...sorry about that - shan't happen again), and this dish saved the day.

I was nicely surprised with how well this hearty, tasty stew turned out. I was also pleased with how very easy the stew was to prepare. So I wanted to share (by which I mean: "Wanted to write this down before I forgot it," but sharing is ALWAYS a good thing...even with ulterior motives).

Here's the recipe I based mine on: http://www.food.com/recipe/tuscan-chicken-stew

The basic recipe - found by Googling "Tuscan chicken stew," looked fine, but I had other ideas - I wanted to turn it more into something like the amazing, rustic bean soups served by the Osteria Papavero. AND LOOK! I have Parmesan rinds in the fridge. MANY Parmesan rinds. Good lord - HOW did I collect this many Parmesan rinds? They should do a reality show about me and my Parmesan rind problem. Like "Hoarders," but with huge hunks of Parmesan rinds...and less of the soul-crushing sadness...

BUT I DIGRESS! Bottom line: It came out great: easy to make, with layered, rich flavors: best of all, it was both healthy and delicious. Happy cartoonist was happy! So were wifey and daughter.

Tuscan-ish Chicken stew with Chard

Serves 4-6
Time: 4 hours
Active time: 30 minutes


1 1/2 lb chicken thighs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced, or 1/2 large onion
1 large bunch chard - I dunno - I'm thinking 1 lb, or so. Stemmed (leaves only)
10 garlic cloves, added whole
1 (28 ounce) can peeled tomatoes, blended smooth
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 lb Parmesian cheese rind
2 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 large fresh oregano sprig, chopped
2 teaspoons Herbs du Provence (not really Tuscan, but here ya go - this was just because I had some fresh stuff on-hand. Many other herbs would do)
2 (14 1/2 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper to taste - NOTE: most American canned tomatoes are salted, overly so, and need little if any added salt. The Parmesian will also add saltyness to the stew. So add salt at end only, if needed.

Transfer stew to bowls. You'll need more good extra-virgin olive oil and finely grated Parmesian for garnish, ala Osteria Papavero, BUT WE'LL GET TO THAT LATER! Hold your horses, already. Sheesh.


Slow cooker
Mixing bowl
Wooden spoon
Ladle for serving


In a crock pot set to high, place the Chicken thigns. In a bowl, mix all the other ingredients except for the chard. Add to crockpot, and stir gently, to mix it around around the chicken. Cover and leave cook for 2 hours.

At the two hour mark, the stew should be bubbly. Add the chard, sliced and chopped into large-ish (1" x2") pieces. Turn Crock Pot to "Low."

Leave for another two hours.

Remove the Parmesian rinds and bay leaves. Do you like chewing on soft, plump Parmesan rinds when you remove them from soups or stews? Because I sure as hell do. It's like turbo testosterone tofu. Well, "tofu" due to the texture. Everything else is all flavor, baby! BUT I DIGRESS AGAIN. Serve the stew drizzled with good olive oil and topped with freshly-grated Parmesan to taste. I tend to go for at least a good tablespoon or two of each per bowl.

At this point, a real Food Blogger will mention you should serve this with a lovely, crusty, rustic bread, But I know you people are not idiots! What do they THINK you're gonna serve this with? Marmots? So I'll just say, if you live in Madison, the best baguettes by far are found at La Baguette and Batch Bakehouse. They also do good rustic Italian loaves. If you don't live in Madison, you're on your own, buddy.

A bit of refinement might be needed, but I was wonderfully happy with at the simplicity and depth of this marvelous little dish. I'd have shared some photos, but I began eating it too soon.

Good grief, I'll suck as a Food Blogger.

A Blast from the Past I

As Monica has me getting things ready for Dork Tower's 15th anniversary year, next year, I've been stumbling across a ton of interesting stuff in the archives.

One things many folks may not realize is that my first web strips actually went online in late 1995/early 1996 (still trying to ascertain the exact date). I was quite aware, at the time, that only a very few people had been putting comics up on the web. Now, with thousands of web cartoonists out there, many doing just amazing work, it's kind of nice to look back and take a bit of pride in knowing I was amongst a mere handful of others, at the time.

Then I stop it, because I start to feel old.

The earliest WILD LIFE comic strip (starring Carson the Muskrat, my precursor to DORK TOWER) I can find, at the moment, seems to be have gone online December 1996. But there's a note on the page saying "It's been about a month since I've updated these pages, but I'm back!" Which would make sense, as I think I was first posting Wild Life online sometime in 1995.

(Hilariously, the page also notes "Downloading the entire week can take a couple of minutes, depending on your modem speed.")

I'm not sure of the month, but DORK TOWER first went online in 1997, soon after it debuted in the January 1997 issue of SHADIS magazine (which came out in 1996). But anyway, THIS is what the website looked like back then:

Old Skool Fun Hour

(CLICK HERE for a larger version of the 1997 DORK TOWER HOME PAGE).

And here are the earliest WILD LIFEs I've yet found:

Old Skool II Fun Hour

(CLICK HERE or on the image for a larger version of the EARLIEST WILD LIFES ONLINE (so far)).

More to come, as I unearth the archives...and my eyes continue to bleed...


NOTE: Dork Tower will only be running Tuesday and Thursday this week, gang. My apologies - but gearing up for San Diego Comic Con is taking up an enormous amount of time. I won't have a booth, but I'll be wandering around, with lots of meetings scheduled. I may Tweet some secret times and places where you can get a "THE LUGGAGE" Munchkin Discworld card from me, so follow me at @muskrat_john on Twitter, if such silliness interest you...

The Matt Puppets

So, I popped up to Convergence a couple of weeks ago, in part to take part in the annual madness that is IRON ARTIST, and in part to meet up with various members of Team Blink, as we get ever nearer to publishing more Dr. Blink comics.

Imagine my delight as I was confronted by my pal, the puppeteer, Gordon Smuder. Not just because Gordon's a great guy, but because he had the first prototype for the Dork Tower Puppet Theater Matt puppet with him!

(Check out some of Gordon's other puppetry works by clicking on through to Transylvania Television).

What's that? You haven't heard of Dork Tower Puppet Theater? Well, let's leave that for another post. In the meantime, I'm astounded at how cool the Matt puppet is turning out. Eyeless though he currently is, and in a "vaguely wife-beather-ish" attire though he may be...

Matt Puppet Obscure Gag Fun Hour

Matt Puppet Obscure Gag Fun Hour

Matt Puppet Obscure Gag Fun Hour

Matt Puppet Obscure Gag Fun Hour

Matt Puppet Obscure Gag Fun Hour

Matt Puppet Obscure Gag Fun Hour

Matt Puppet Obscure Gag Fun Hour

By the way, "The Matt Puppets" is an obscure 1980s musical joke. Those of you who know, will know.

Muskrat out,

====== John






Quick announcement: It's the PERKY SUMMER SALE, over at Drivethru Comics, and all DORK TOWER and DR. BLINK trade e-books are 25%. Go tyere! Now! Buy stuff! Because we gotta make room for new electrons!

Super Happy Perky Sale Fun Hour


It's an enormously busy summer. Sadly, it's also mostly con-free. But by missing the Origins Game Fair last month, I did manage to have the best daddy-daughter day with Louisa I could possibly imagine. It included trips to the Farmers' Market and the Zoo, a neighborhood block party and a Madison Mallards game, ending with the first fireworks she had ever seen.

"It's like Cinderella's Castle," she exclaimed, as she danced and laughed to the pyrotechnics overhead.

I won't be at GenCon this year, nor PAX nor Dragon-Con. Partly, I just want to be around my daughter as long as I can (she's just over two-and-a-half years old, and every moment with her seems to be made up of pure magic). But then there's the fact that I'm enormously busy. The latest giant Munchkin project is in the bag, and I now play catch-up with all the things I've let slide a bit. (Hint: you'll always be able to tell when I'm busy, as I tend to run cartoons as utterly stupid as yesterday's.)

Now, if YOU'RE going to go to a con - saaaaaay, the North American Discworld Convention, right here in Madison, WI - then you'll likely be one of the first people to pick up the Munchkin Discworld one-off promo card. It was an idea I had, and fortunately, the stars aligned, and Steve Jackson's people got in touch with terry Pratchett's people, and, long story short...ta-DAH!

Super Happy Terry Pratchett Fun Hour

The full story of the card, and when and where it will be available, can be found here.

An EXTREME closeup can be found here.

Yeah, if you think I was thrilled to draw an official, licensed version of Conan the Barbarian, you can probably quadruple that for sheer geek fanboy joy I got from drawing one of Sir Terry's characters.

"l hit you on Youface. But you've got to promise to fingertag me back"...

My Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/johnkovalic, recently hit 5,000 "friends." And as facebook will readilly tell you, you can't have more than 5,000 friends and be a real person. No, sir - you need to be a corporation, celebrity or monarch.

(I am not making the "monarch" thing up. It may be a Facebook joke. It probably is. But, frighteningly, IT MAY NOT! That's just how Facebook is, anymore.)

Anyway, as a slew of other folks wanted to join the fun, so today, I took the plunge and turned my Personal Facebook Page into a Corporate/Celebrity/Monarch page.

If you were a "Friend" before, you've been automatically transported over to the new page...whether you like it or not!

("Whether you like it or not," by the way, would be my entry if Facebook ever had a "Create our new motto" competition).

If you weren't my "Friend" before, well, now we can never apparently be friends ever again. Ever. At least according to Facebook.

But you CAN "Like" me.

So, "Like" me at http://www.facebook.com/johnkovalic. Why? Because we like you.


By the by, my very first post on the new Facebook page had a pretty awful typo in it. Which (a) is par for the course, and (b) what with Facebook being Facebook I can NEVER EDIT OUT, EVER means there's no better time than now to plug my "TYPOS HAPPNE" t-shirts...in both Men's and Ladies' cuts.

Super Happy Typos Fun Hour


No Origins or Gen Con for me, this year, I fear. With all the work to do, plus the generally feeling that I lost control of things these last eight or nine months, I've made the decision to just stay home and work.

And, you know, play with my daughter.


Possible new toy, in the My Little Cthulhu line: "My Little Geekthulhu."

Super Happy Geekthulhu Fun Hour

Each Little Victim would be its own geeky archetype. Though how I'm gonna covince Dreamland Toyworks to let me add bunny ears to the Fuzzy Victim, I'm not figured out, yet.

So. Basically. Imagine THIS guy...

Super Happy My Little Cthulhu Fun Hour

With glasses and pocket protectors.

Like? Thoughts?

Fingertag me on Youface and let me know...

Dork Tidings - The Rules of Engagement

Muskrat Ramblings
The Rules of Engagement
posted by John


Yes, I've seen it. Many, many times.

Many. :-)

Big thanks to all for passing the link along. I'd far rather be informed of something a few dozen times than not see it at all.

If you haven't seen or heard of it, it's a delightful Munchkin card that is getting play on icanhascheezburger.com, and has gone ever so slightly viral in geek circles:

Munchkin Engagement Card

I'm still not entirely sure of the name of the guy who printed it up, nor of the outcome (though I'm assuming all went well, as he decided to post the card and not, say, take his own life in an alcohol-fueled fit of despair).

But look, here's the thing: remember the Dork Tower I did about YouTube commenters in particular, but all internet comment pages in general?


So. The majority of the comments under the story are great - positive, affirming, heppy, heppy comments. Of course, there's a grammar thread (really? REALLY?) and even a bit of a rules discussion (this IS Munchkin, after all). So I probably should have stopped reading at that point.

And then I got to these gems:

January 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm
too long, didn’t read…

January 12, 2011 at 3:17 am
who is that card intended for ?
the bearer must get on “one’s” knee to ask for “your” hand in marriage and place the ring on “her” finger ???
the whole damn thing makes no sense whatsoever !

I suppose that's one great thing about idiots: they go so VERY far out of their way, to demonstrate that they are, in fact, idiots.


Speaking of Munchkin (or, possibly, speaking of idiots (me)), I'm hard at work on another project that I'm not sure I can announce just yet. But here's a drawing from the set:

Lady Card. With cats.

I can neither confirm nor deny that this drawing of a lady - with cats - will in the end be a Cat Lady card.

Muskrat out,

====== John

Dork Tidings - Paul Cornell's Very Clever Doctor Who Apples to Apples Set

Dork Tidings
Paul Cornell's Very Clever Doctor Who Apples to Apples Set
posted by John

In times like these, people start far too many articles with the phrase "In times like these."

They also use "Am I right?" and "Who's with me?" much too often. Especially on Twitter.

Am I right? Who's with me?

But a nice thing I've grokked since joining Twitter is that it lets me meet far more clever, interesting people than I otherwise would, these days. (By which I mean "being a generally stay-at-home-midwestern-dadda/cartoonist, who-doesn't-get-to-as-many-conventions-as-he-once-did, in-the-day.")

("In the day" is also used too often, if you ask me. As is "If you ask me.")

One Very Clever person I've been privileged to meet on Twitter is Paul Cornell, writer, wit, raconteur and cricket lover. He's written for Doctor Who, he's written Batman, he's written Captain Britain, and he's cleverer than an entire pack of foxes at a Clever Convention. But you should know this already.

If that's not enough for you, he's also beloved of the CONvergence folks. Which is darned high praise.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, the fantastic Mr. Cornell dropped me a line, saying he was doing a set of Apples to Apples Doctor Who cards, and might I - as the illustrator behind Apples to Apples - sketch a little something for his blog when he posted it.

I was thrilled to be asked, and instead of a sketch, I did up the cartoon you see on the site today. I mean, who wouldn't leap at the chance to draw Tom Baker, a Cyberman and a Dalek - a FREAKING DALEK!!! - playing a silly little card game, when offered the chance?

I note this to explain the apparent random nature of today's cartoon. But also, it's a chance for me to plug Paul's rather brilliant Doctor Who Apples to Apples red apple card set.

You'll have to print this up yourself, of course. And I'm not sure the inkjet blank Apples to Apples cards that Out of the Box once produced are still available in quantity, anywhere. But I'd love to hear from anyone who creates their own deck and gives it a go. Especially over this New Year's Weekend.

You know: in times like these.

Who's with me? Am I Right?

by Paul Cornell

Today's blog is going to be a bit boggling for those who haven't played Apples to Apples, a wonderful party card game that I was first introduced to at Convergence (the world's best convention TM). Since the game's now being sold in the mass market in the UK, and indeed, being pushed a bit in the Christmas rush, I feel rather more confident about presenting the basics for an absolutely non-official, no money to be made, Doctor Who version. Apples to Apples works by using two packs of cards, green cards, which have adjectives printed on them, and red cards, which show nouns or phrases. The game is about finding the green card which best describes a played red card, and that's where the hilarity lies. Doing a Doctor Who version would be less hilarious, I feel, if the green cards were changed to be more Who-ish, with adjectives like 'dimensionally transcendental', so my version keeps the green cards as is, also reflecting DW's mainstream nature. So a player will indeed have to decide if the Sensorites are 'quaint'.

Thus, my 162 red cards, complete with their 'flavour text' descriptions (which don't really describe the subject unless it's very obscure), would be:

The First Doctor: Not a mountain goat, and he prefers walking to any day.
The Second Doctor: Oh my word!
The Third Doctor: A cosmic yo yo.
The Fourth Doctor: What?! Ah!
The Fifth Doctor: Interesting!
The Six Doctor: Repeat three times, loudly.
The Seventh Doctor: Burnt toast and bus stations.
The Eighth Doctor: Half human on his mother's side.
The Ninth Doctor: Coming to get you!
The Tenth Doctor: He likes a little shop.
The Eleventh Doctor: Geronimo!
The Master: That jackanapes.
Davros: Made the Daleks in his own image.
The Daleks: Exterminate! Do not deviate!
Skaro: From the Lake of Mutations to the Petrified Jungle, the Dalek home planet.
The Kaleds: Kind of fated to become the Dalek race.
The Cybermen: You will be like us.
Mondas: Cyberman home, Earth's twin, with it's own Isle of Wight.
The Tardis: With a swimming pool, a boot cupboard and a typewriter control surface.
The Tardis food machine: You can get goo that tastes like bacon and eggs.
The Key to Time: A crystal that can stop everything so the universe can be fixed.
K-9: The shooty dog thing.
Playing Doctor Who in the playground: Who were you?
The Fourth Doctor's Scarf: Made by a witty little knitter.
The Song of the Ood: Ood mood music, made psychically.
The Blinovitch Limitation Effect: You can't mess with your own history (except when you can).
Luke Smith: He's not a real boy. But he is Sarah Jane's son.
Captain Jack Harkness: Does time travel the long way round.
Torchwood: Have never bothered with a pension plan.
The Slitheen: Always just a zipper away from revealing themselves.
The Sontarans: Sontar-ha!
UNIT: United... Something... Intelligence Taskforce.
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: Enjoy saying his full name.
River Song: The Doctor's wife... oh, isn't she?
Rory Williams: No longer a Roman, or made of plastic.
Rose Tyler: Bad wolves like chips.
Martha Jones: A proper doctor.
Mr. Smith: Sarah Jane's computer partner.
Gallifrey: Seems to produce its share of renegades.
Christmas Special: A BBC institution.
The Archimandrite's Hat: From 'Androids of Tara', extraordinary millinery.
The Scarecrows: There's got to be a word for that lolloping they do.
Amy Pond: Come along, Pond!
The Sensorites: The Ood must hate it that their neighbours are psychic.
Spoilers: It sounds better coming from River Song.
My First Episode: You're old enough to have seen 'An Unearthly Child', right?
My Sonic Screwdriver: Could it be a bit more sonic?
My Favourite Companion: Who would you take on adventures?
My Favourite Story: Or the one you'll admit to.
My Doctor Who Fantasy: Could be a what, could be a who.
My Squee Moment: When you screamed at the screen in delight.
My Fan Fiction Experience: Do we want to hear about your Adric fic?
My Opinions on Dalek Design: No, go on, tell us.
My Doctor Who Impersonations: Your Mum says they're very good.
My Merchandise Collection: Do you have a special shelf?
My Convention Experience: What, really, in the elevator?
My Cosplay Moment: As Captain Jack, in the library, with the lead piping.
My Green Cathedral: I could play all day in it.
Bessie: The Third Doctor's car. I'm betting 'yellow' isn't in the pack.
Allons-y: Redirects to 'Tenth Doctor' on Wikipedia.
Donna Noble: Watch it, spaceman!
Executive Producer: One day it'll be you.
Question Mark Umbrella: The Seventh Doctor never seemed to need it for rain.
The Rod of Rassilon: Controls great power on Gallifrey.
Doctor Who Annuals: Used to be the only book about the show.
Terry Nation: He created the Daleks, and Blake's 7.
Silurians: The Earth's theirs, we're just squatters.
The Peking Homunculus: Otherwise known as Mr. Sin in 'Talons of Weng Chiang'.
The Pandorica: A trap for a Time Lord.
The Meddling Monk: Didn't seem bothered about the laws of time.
Adric: He had a badge for mathematical excellence.
The Zygons: Enjoyed life in Loch Ness, organised local charity functions.
The Ogri: Every stone circle is probably them.
The Zarbi: An actor inside every ant.
Venom Grubs: The grubs don't work, as The Verve nearly said.
Jelly Babies: Would you care for one?
UNIT Dating: Well, we don't know what they got up to, do we?
Running Down Corridors: About a whole episode's worth in the old days.
The Last Great Time War: They'd know it's the last one.
The End of the World: The episode or the concept.
Jago and Litefoot: The impressario and the doctor from 'Talons of Weng Chiang'.
Being Exterminated: You can get a cream for that now.
Sonic Lipstick: Careful with the settings.
Multi-Doctor Stories: So there are five of me now!
Regeneration: When two becomes three.
Venusian Aikido: hai!
Quarries: Sometimes not standing in for alien planets.
The Fall of Troy: Is there a Doctor in the horse?
Time Paradoxes: I hope I never have to write another one.
Quarks: They had strangeness and charm.
The Weeping Angels: Don't look away from this card.
Alternate Universes: Where there are always dirigibles, for some reason.
Vincent Van Gogh: Go on, describe his troubles with a funny noun.
Kroll: Kroll! Kroll! Kroll!
Harry Sullivan: Only qualified to work on sailors.
Movellans: Like the seventies never ended.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow: Can solve anything.
The Miniscope: The galactic zoo from 'Carnival of Monsters'.
Getting Knocked Unconscious: Tom Baker does it three times an episode.
The Fast Return Switch: Written in biro on the Tardis console.
The Destruction of Atlantis: You choose which version.
Target Novelisations: Often by Terrance Dicks.
Kissing the Doctor: Yuck, soppy stuff!
Screaming: Something companions used to do.
Waistcoats: Most Doctors favour them.
Spraining Your Ankle: Only happened three times in the whole series.
Slash Fiction: We've all written some adult fiction involving series characters.
Chameleon Circuit: He could fix it if he wanted to.
A Junkyard in Trotter's Lane: Where we first met the Doctor.
The Cloister Bell: Goes boom when there's doom.
Event One: The start of the universe.
The Panopticon: Named after a prison.
The Next Doctor: Carried a real screwdriver.
The Ark: At least they preserved a small elephant.
The BBC Radiophonic Workshop: Where bleeps come from.
The Spacetime Vortex: Seen in the title sequence.
Omega: Born Gallifrey, Died Amsterdam.
Frock Coats: The Doctor tends to favour them.
Hypnotism: The Doctor's skills in this vary wildly.
Autons: Plastic but fun.
Traken: Where Nyssa comes from.
Russell T. Davies: The man who brought back Doctor Who.
Steven Moffat: Current Executive Producer.
Rani: At least three characters called that.
The Eruption of Vesuvius: You have to save somebody.
Bigger on the Inside than the Outside: To put it simply.
Queen Elizabeth: We think we've worked out what happened.
The Doctor's Dancing: He could have danced all night.
Madame De Pompadour: The girl in the fireplace.
Ianto Jones: Made the coffee.
Retcon: The drug that... erm...
Question Marks: On the Doctor's clothes, sometimes.
Wearing a Fez: He does that now.
Giant Maggots: They're on the slag heap. I think they're breeding.
E Space: Not like our own universe. Cheaper.
The Mara: Not just a big snake prop.
The Mona Lisa: Or possibly in the plural.
Pete Tyler: Always crashing in the same car.
Cat Nuns: Armed and fabulous.
Hello Sweetie: Should be on a t-shirt.
Sally Sparrow: The angels have the phone box.
Being Ginger: The Doctor would like to be.
The Vashta Nerada: Stay away from the shadows.
Sarah Jane Smith: The defender of Earth.
Gold: What Cybermen are afraid of. Well, one of the many things.
Talking Straight to Camera: Tom and Matt both do it.
'Doctor in Distress': A charity record to save Doctor Who.
The Great Fire of London: The Doctor's responsible for almost everything.
Janis Thorns: What Leela uses to kill things.
Bad Wolf Bay: Looms large in Rose's legend.
Mickey Smith: Not just a tin dog.
Wilfred Mott: Was in the Paras, you know.
The Adipose: Made of fat, like so many good things.
The Shadow Proclamation: Were the law in the universe.
The Judoon: Fo Mo Po Ro Sho!
The Matrix: Not that one, where Time Lords go when they die.
DVD Easter Eggs: Just click all over the menu.
The Family of Blood: Not unjustly dealt with at all.
The Not We: How the Kinda tribe describe outsiders.
Paris: 'City of Death' as we call it, to the French tourist board's chagrin.
Pure Historicals: Stories with no monsters.
The Yeti: The ones with the spheres in their chests.

(Apples to Apples is (T) and (C) the Mattel corporation)

Muskrat out,

====== John


Muskrat Ramblings
Igor needs our help!
posted by John

I hope that those times when I really ask for your help are few and far between.

I also hope that, for the most part, when I ask for a Tweet to be RT'ed, or an online poll to be shamelessly manipulated, you grin, and go to it with the good humor intended.

This is different.

I need your help. Specifically, I need your help, helping my friend Scott.

In case you don't know, my friend Scott Olman is the inspiration for Dork Tower's Igor. In a sense, he IS Dork Tower. Had I never know Scott, there's a good chance Dork Tower would be enormously different from what it is today. Scott's - and by extension, Igor's - love of life, and ability to laugh in the face of hard times, has been an inspiration both to my work and (more importantly) to me.

Scott is a cancer survivor, and has had struggles with health issues over the last decade. A few years ago, he almost lost his leg. For a while, he was driving to Milwaukee almost on a daily basis for treatments that - though painful and costly - eventually saved his leg.

Fortunately, Scott and his wife, Dawn, have health insurance. But here's the catch - with a 20% deductible, they still ended up having to pay more than $50,000 for the treatments. And that wiped out all of their savings. And then some.

Now, there's been a relapse, and Scott has to return to Milwaukee, for continued treatments. As a result of this, Scott and Dawn's financial situation has turned from on-the-edge to fully, terrifyingly over the precipice.

Now, apart from new medical expenses, they also face the very real threat of eviction, with back-rent owed.

It's not as if they're not trying: Dawn holds down a couple of jobs, and Scott's been job-hunting every day, though he's had no luck for a while. This is not a great time to job-hunt, anyway. So he's sold the majority of his gaming collection (along with many other things) just to help make ends meet.

Here's a small part of what I'd like to do to help.

I don't sell the covers of anything I've ever created - not a comic book, not a collection, not a game. I just don't. There's not one out there. They're special, to me. But to help Scott with his medical expenses - hell, to help Scott and Dawn with their back-rent, and, you know, NOT GET EVICTED, I'm selling one of my personal favorite pieces: the original artwork for Munchkin Zombies.

Munchkin Zombies cover

Click on the image or here for a larger version. This is a BIG piece - 14" x 17", pen and ink on bristol board, and it's REALLY nice.

The high bidder for the artwork will ALSO get a special Munchkin rule that ties into the Igor Fund, written JUST FOR THEM, by Munchkin creator Steve Jackson himself.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! I'll also draw the special rule card up, on a blabk Munchkin card, and that will be included in the package. You'll be able to play it in ANY game of Munchkin, to the extreme jealous of your co-Munchkins.

All proceeds from this auction will go directly to Scott and Dawn. I realize the $2,000 "buy-out" amount may be a bit of wishful thinking, but who knows? I *may* have a multi-millionaire follower in the Army of Dorkness, and if so, well, hey, maybe they'd like to act like a multi-millionaire RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE! :-)

But $2,000 is the goal to shoot for, between everything. "Everything?" you ask? Well, I've also encouraged Scott to set up a donation page on his blog. Asking strangers for money is never easy - at least not for people like Scott and Dawn, who want to work for their money. But this is important, and this is necessary.

I know that times are tough all around, and that many people across the country are going through stuff that's as bad as Scott now is. But Scott IS Igor, and without Igor, I dread to think what my career would have ended up as. Scott's not just my inspiration, he's also my friend. I want to help my friend out.

So please, if you've ever had a moment where Igor's made you smile, bid on the Munchkin Zombies cover. If that's out of your range, consider dropping something - anything - Scott and Dawn's way. It doesn't have to be a lot. But the Army of Dorkness is sizable, warm-hearted, and every little bit - even just a couple of bucks - helps.

You can bid on the Munchkin Zombies cover art HERE.

You can make donations directly to Dawn and Scott HERE. There's a button in the upper-right corner of Scott's blog, to contribute to the Dawn and Scott Help Fund!

I realize the economic times we're in. Please don't worry if you can't afford to help out right now. But if you can, well...I'd deeply appreciate it.

And who knows? If we can reach out goal of $2,000, I'll come up with something special, for everyone who helped out...

Just remember: YOU could be the ONLY person in the world to own a Munchkin cover - AND you'd be helping out Dork Tower's Igor - ermmmm...I mean, "my friend Scott" - at the same time!

Muskrat out,

====== John


A column I wrote, 20 years ago - when I was a newspaper person in another life - about something that happened 30 years ago.


By John Kovalic
Wisconsin State Journal

About five years ago, I walked out of Paul McCartney’s “Give My Regards to Broad Street” and into the offices of the UW student newspaper, the Daily Cardinal, to type up my careful, considered review of the movie.

“Somebody,” I wrote, “shot the wrong Beatle.”

In the days that followed, as the Cardinal devoted what I’m still convinced were special issues – but may have been merely entire pages – to my hate mail, I decided to crawl underneath my desk and rethink my position. Friends told me Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene had become so violently incensed with my review that he stopped writing about Elvis Presely for a full five minutes to compose a column on how young people these days didn’t understand Paul McCartney.

The Bob Greene reports may have been spurious – I have yet to track down any such column – but if I ever get around to penning my autobiography (tentatively titled “I Wandered Lonely as a Clod”), I’ll probably gloss over what later came to be known as “The Broad Street Affair.”

Instead, I’ll try to focus on McCartney’s recent world tour. Specifically, on a three-song medley he performed in the middle of a block of Beatles numbers at a mobbed Soldier Field in Chicago.

I can’t even remember if he introduced the medley, yet its songs were unbearably wrenching: “Help!” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Give Peace a Chance.”

Songs John Lennon wrote.

To be honest, McCartney’s versions of “Help!” and “Give Peace A Chance” didn’t strike me as anything to write home about at the time. They seemed rushed, and slightly harried. Maybe not dishonest, but not from the heart.

But the emotions I felt as he moved into the opening chords of “Strawberry Fields” were overwhelming.

Maybe it was the deferred hope diffused in “Strawberry Fields” that McCartney captured that night. Or perhaps it was simply his relative difficulty in relating to the lonely pain of “Help!” or the subdued urgency of “Give Peace a Chance” that made the middle song so powerful by comparison.

But – at that moment, during the opening chords of an abbreviated song he hadn’t even written – McCartney transformed his performance from Oldies Concert to Happening.

There seems to be a division among some Beatles fans, between Lennon supporters and McCartney apologists. It’s as if nobody can quite accept the fact that the band that produced “And Your Bird Can Sing” also put “Good Day Sunshine” on “Revolver.”

Every other radio station under the sun will be playing blocks of Lennon’s music today, on the 10th anniversary of his murder. “And Your Bird Can Sing” will undoubtedly be among them.

And at some point, there’ll be a Lennon song – it may be this or any one, it depends on how I’m feeling at the time – that gives me pause, that makes me think back to a cold day during my first year at the University of London, when I couldn’t believe the news.

At the time, I was a staunch McCartney apologist. In a sense – a few movie reviews to the contrary – I still am.

But when I heard the news, I felt cold.

Ten years ago, the BBC pulled its regularly scheduled evening broadcasts in the wake of the murder, and ran the movie “Help!” instead.

At some point today, a radio station will play a song. And I’ll start thinking about how one man can touch so many lives.

(c) 1990, Wisconsin State Journal

I always hated the headline. But the column was - and remains - heartfelt.

Muskrat out,

====== John

NaNoWriMo and More

Muskrat Ramblings
NaNoWriMo? NoNoNoNo
posted by John

So if you follow my Twitter Feed or catch my facebook page, you might have heard tell that I'll be doing a regular podcast with WEREGEEK's Alina Pete and GOBLINS' Tarol Hunt.

We're trying to get a few in the can, to work out the bugs and have a bit of a backlog. We're not announcing what it'll be called, yet, but I love the name and we've grabbed the URL. (Hint: given my Wisconsin residency, it will not be called "Two and a Half Candaians). Thundernerds are GO!

It's been a far more interesting project than I'd have imagined. And goodness knows, I'm sure adding another "gawrsh what fun!" gig to my schedule that I don't get paid for thrills the Lovely and Talented Judith no end. But last night was an...odd recording. At least for me: It's been almost a month since I've drawn a Dork Tower comic strip (I was four weeks ahead of the game, for a while there, but spent almost the entire month of October working on Munchkin Zombies - the first full, 164-card Munchkin game in nearly three years). So I was feeling a bit disconnected from my work, as we were discussing it in great, great detail.

Obviously, my life has seen some enormous, and enormously wonderful, changes these past three years, and overall I've been quite happy with Dork Tower these last 12 months. For the most part, I've kept to the schedule pretty DARNED well, which was one of the goals. Plus, I've been mostly happy with the quality of the gags, which was another. But finding time to do it - and to do it well - certainly gets more difficult as Louisa gets older.

Louisa's WidgetIndeed, Louisa is home sick, today, and what little time I'll have to work on the Dork Tower bible (that some Hollywood folks want - trust me, not NEARLY as glamorous as you'd think) and a new backlog of strips (which I think will be quite good) will come during the Bean's nap.

DO NOT GET ME WRONG: any time spent with my daughter is magical and memorable, and is to be cherished. Right now, she keeps running into room in as I'm writing this, to hand me pictures of Brobee, Muno and Foofa (from Yo Gabba Gabba) that she's colored...along with one of Widget (from Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! - my pal Bob Boyle's show, which is like crystal meth for kids).

For the longest time, if you'd given me one wish, it would have been to develop into the best cartoonist that I could possibly be.

Now, that's changed. By far my main goal in life is to become the best possible FATHER I can be, to this beautiful little blonde-haired, blue-eyed sprite who keeps running into the room, thrusting crayon drawings at me, and yelling (alternately) "HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY" and "HAPPY HALLOWEEEEEEEN!" Which is particularly thrilling, as it's neither my birthday nor halloween.

There are places I want to go, things I want to see. There are cons I want to attend. But there is NO place I'd rather be, than with my wife and daughter. Right now, life is magical, and I don't ever want to take that for granted.

I just wonder, though...are being the best Dadda I can be, and being the best cartoonist I can be, mutually exclusive?

Probably not.

Maybe I'll figure that out, sometime.

Possibly one of these days, while Louisa's napping.


It's National Novel Writing Month (or, as professional authors call it, "November").

Chris Presta-Valachovic, on my facebook wall, asked "John, by any chance, could you repost your NaNoWriMo strips from a couple years ago? Pretty please? I've lost my prints of them...and they gave me impetus to keep going."

Well, far be it for me to go all Casey Kasem Request Line on your consciousness, and painful as it is for me to look at ANY piece of my work that's more than a couple of weeks old (srsly)...here you go. From 2007, the Matt Takes On NaNoWriMo series

Super Happy Robot NaNoWriMo I Fun Hour

Super Happy Robot NaNoWriMo II Fun Hour

Super Happy Robot NaNoWriMo III Fun Hour

Super Happy Robot NaNoWriMo IV Fun Hour

Super Happy Robot NaNoWriMo V Fun Hour

Muskrat out,

====== John

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