On the Road Again…Kinda




Since talking about where I am, metaphorically, last Monday, this seems a good point to go over where I’ll be, literally, over the next few months.IMG_8445

Mostly, I’ll be home, getting work done. Everyone’s happier, that way. But I will be popping over to a couple of conventions this summer and beyond.

I had to turn down cons in Croatia and England. They were both lovely, and I sincerely hope they invite me again, next year, when things are a little less crazy. Also, I more than likely won’t make it to Origins this year. Not San Diego Comic Con. Cue the wailing gnashing of teeth (from me, at any rate).

The places you can find me, though, include:

June 10 – 12
Renaissance Atlanta Waverly
Atlanta, GA 
Southern Fried Gameroom was primarily a pinball (!) expo, but is building a robust board gaming presence. I’ll be playing games and talking words as a Featured Speaker. More than likely, I’ll also be seeking out old Space Shuttle pinball machines…(NOTE: I won’t be at the show on Sunday)

August 4 – 7
Indianapolis, IN
I’ll be spending most of my time with the Steve Jackson Crew, as part of the 15th Anniversary of Munchkin. I think I’ll be doing two signings a day at the booth, putting in appearances at the Munchkin Tavern, and in generally living the swank life of someone who’s spent the last 15 years drawing 5,000 Munchkin cards. But you could also talk me into a game of Double Feature from time to time. (NOTE: I won’t be at the show on Sunday)

August 1 – 4
Metro Toronto Convention Center
This is just a place-holder. Forget you saw this here.

September 18
Dane County, WI
Registration will open Monday, June 20, 2016 at csacoalition.org, if you feel like joining in with the Insane Charity Bike Ride 2016!

SPIEL 2016
October 13 – 16
Messe Essen,
Essen, Germany
This is just a place-holder. Forget you saw this here.

October 20-23
Discovery Building
Madison, WI
Plans are afoot for something fun I’ll be involved with, the Friday night of the Festival. Stay tuned for updates!

November 4 – 6
Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall
Madison, WI
I love this show, and there’s some (relatively) big news about what I and other members of the Army of Dorkness shall be doing there. Take stock (that’s hint).

It would be nice to do another European show in the autumn or early winter, and I may be back in Brazil at some point. But a con a month seems reasonable. Doubly so, when you realize I was home only ten days the entire month of March.

Hope to see you somewhere on the road!

– John

The Munchkin Card I Couldn’t Draw




This popped up on my Twitter radar, today:


To which  Andrew Hackard, my great friend and Munchkin Tzar, responded:


It all came to my attention when the challenge was accepted:


OK, then. Here we go:

I’ve drawn over 5,000 Munchkin cards at this point. Hope-and-Crosby-like, I’m healthily on the road to Card  #6,000. I’ve scribbled monsters and mayhem and bloodshed (cute, cute bloodshed) and parts hilariously torn asunder for more than fifteen years, now.

I’ve drawn brains being slurped ala Lady and the Tramp’s spaghetti scene. I have become a master of the adorable macabre. But this card, “Meals on Wheels,” from Munchkin Zombies, was the one card – the only card – of those 5,000+ that I just…couldn’t…draw.

In the spring of 2010, Steve Jackson and I got together to hash out Munchkin Zombies’ art, and brainstorm ideas. Steve being Steve, he already had most of the cards ready to go, or at least well on the way. I was particularly interested in the character design behind the zombies themselves, so the opportunity to live-sketch with the Munchkin crew (I believe Phil and Andrew were there, as well) was welcome. They’d throw card names at me, I’d do some quick takes in my sketchbook, much laughter would result, and an enormous amount Amy’s ice-cream was downed. It was all great fun…until the “Meals on Wheels” side popped up.

I froze. And not because of the ice-cream.

A few months later, the official Munchkin Zombies art spec would read:

"Meals on Wheels -- Zombie hungrily standing over two baby carriages. Eeeeuuuuw!"

Beneath it, this note:

John cannot bring himself to draw this.

Here’s the thing:

For five or six years, Judith and I had been trying to have a baby. I won’t go into details, but nothing worked. It’s enough to say there were some heartbreaking near-misses.

For a few years more after that, we tested the adoption waters. Some of you may remember we got as far as traveling to a Siberian orphanage, which was an adventure – as well as a graphic novel I’d like to tackle, one day soon. But it wouldn’t have a happy ending: after years of stalling, the Siberian government shut down adoptions to American families.

That was the spring of 2007.

Early in 2008, we discovered that – unplanned, unexpected, out of the blue, and to our utter amazement – Judith was pregnant.

It was an extraordinarily high-risk pregnancy, but (long, fraught, ridiculously nerve-wracking story short) specialists in Chicago and Madison got us through. In the autumn of 2008, or miracle daughter was born.


So, yes. In early 2010, no way, no how, could I even imagine drawing a baby in danger.

I still can’t.

I’ve penned many awful things in my day. I’ve made many horrible things adorbs. “I Make Evil Cute” is the motto I’ve toyed with, for my business cards.

But the “Meals on Wheels” card? After all my wife and I had been through, on our roller-coaster ride to parenthood?

Just. Couldn’t. Do it.

Parenthood’s a funny thing. It messes with you. Earlier that year, I published this strip:


I don’t think there’s a parent under the sun who doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

Unspeakable monsters and elder gods?

I’m your man.

A baby being threatened, or a kid in danger?

I’ll be the one cowering in the corner.

– John

Welcome Back…




Hi there! It’s been, what (Takes out pocket watch. Glances at it.) four months since I’ve posted any updates here? OOPS! Oh, ha. What an absent-minded silly I can be. (Puts watch away. Gets ready to bolt.)

Eeeek. Um, errrr…what can I say? It’s been a busy time, and I’m sorry things have slipped a bit, on the Dork Tower and other fronts.

I’ve been furiously busy with the gaming thing, mostly.

There were some huge Munchkin projects (HEY – did you know this is the 15th anniversary of Munchkin?), along with some huge Munchkin emergencies. Also, other games. To be absolutely honest. I’m not sure what’s been announced yet, and what hasn’t. I’ll try and dig up that info, and post it when it becomes relevant.

Recently, I’ve also been working on a lot of the Insane Charity Bike Ride 2015 swag. A few of the pieces are done, others just need to be colored and laid out. I’ll try and get a full update in a day or two, e-mailed to backers then posted here.

I travelled a lot. I’ve been to Europe three times this year already. I went to Brazil, Poland, Berlin and other parts last year. I turned down a couple of Very Cool, Very Nice convention invitations this month alone, because I realized I needed to Stay Home For A Bit And Just Get Some Darned Work Done ™.

I also turned down a few game illustration gigs, which is Very Hard To Do When You Are a Freelancer ™, because it triggers this little part of you mind that lets you know Jobs Like This Will Dry Up Soon Because Everyone Will Suddenly Realize You’re a Hack and a Fraud™.

Thanks for that, little part of my mind!

But I’ve missed writing and drawing Dork Tower enormously. And I’ve missed Dr. Blink. So it’s time to pull back from other opportunities for a while, and carve out some time for those.

“BUT JOHN,” I hear you (or maybe someone else) scream, “DOES THIS MEAN NO MORE MUNCHKIN FROM YOU?”

“What?” I answer, spitting coffee. “You think I’m the dimmest B-type star in the nebula? Nay, nay. I’m not a silly person. I love Munchkin – even if I’ve only ever won two games of the accursed thing – and trying to make it better with each subsequent release is a ton of bloody, back-stabby, entirely satisfying fun.”

Becoming better organized, dropping a few projects, and prioritizing my time, I see my work days going forward divided roughly thus:

MUNCHKIN and DORK TOWER – top priorities. I’ve an entire blog post ready, on the reasons why Dork Tower fell so far off my radar these last two years. But I’ll spare you from that, for now. Some Good Things are in the works, though. Surprisingly Good Things.

I should also figure out what to do with these guys.

I should also figure out what to do with these guys.

DR. BLINK: SUPERHERO SHRINK and MY GAMES – These are also important to me, but don’t (and probably won’t) take the day-in, day-out brain slots that Dork Tower and Munchkin do. As for “my” games, I’m talking about ROFL!, Double Feature*, and two or three other games I’d like to develop, if I can find the right partners.

OTHER GAMES – As I noted, I’m pulling way, way, wayyyyy back on illustrations for other people’s games. But there are a couple I’ll still be working on. Cash ‘n Guns, for example, has been a tremendous hit. There are some delightful Loan Shark Games shenanigans in the works. And there’s something cool, big and fun coming from a partnership with Cool Minis Or Not.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS – I’ve written and illustrated one that I’m quite proud of, and I need to find the right agent who’ll hopefully find me the right publisher. I’m now working on a second. I’d love to be able to work on a third, a fourth, and so on.

There’s most assuredly projects I’ve forgotten. I’ve been juggling a lot of chainsaws. Thankfully, the last couple of months have seen me clearing a ton of projects from my plate, and getting ready to work a little bit harder and a whole lot smarter, on the things that matter most to me.

With luck, you should start seeing DorkTower.com updating more regularly, soon, along with blog posts and updates on my busy, busy world.

Thanks as always for your patience with me, and continued belief in the silly little things I do.

You folks are – and have always been – the best.

– John

* Which I continue to develop, along with the guys from My First LLC, who created the original.