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SJGames Week: Interview with Munchkin Illustrator John Kovalic

Posted on July 27, 2011 by Flames


Kill the Monster – Steal the Treasure – Stab Your Buddy

    To celebrate the Munchkin 10 Year anniversary, FlamesRising.com asked John Kovalic, the main illustrator for this collectible card game, to open up the floor to questions from his fans for this interview. Every question you read here was asked by a fan on John Kovalic’s Facebook page. In his own words, find out how John works on Munchkin with Steve Jackson Games, what some of his memorable experiences are, and more.

    Fan Interview with John Kovalic


    How much direction do you get for an individual card?

      Usually, just a line or two of text. After ten years of working together, Steve and I seem to have a weird psychic art direction bond: I know exactly what he wants with just a few words. At times, Steve will even just send along a “You know what to do, John” note.

      Which card was your favorite?

        Hard to say. I usually have a top 10, which seems to rotate. Recently, anything involving a toilet usually has a good chance of being on that list.

        What is your most endearing “fan” memory?

          At a local show, a dad stopped to thank me for signing some stuff for his severely handicapped son, and taking the time to personalize some stuff for him. The father told me about his son’s greatly reduced life expectancy, and how nice it was that playing these games made his son feel so good. That absolutely tore me up, inside – it still does. We all have inside us the power to make others happy, or to feel better about the world, even if only for a little bit. And yet we take it for granted so often…

          If you could preserve and/or immortalize one card for future generations, which one would it be and why?

            Probably the most recent version of the Super Munchkin (here have been three, so far), which is also the cover image on the latest edition of the basic game. It appears to have become quite iconic.

            Which was the hardest card to draw? Easiest?

              The hardest card I had to draw was possibly “The Churninator” from Munchkin Cthulhu 2, as I didn’t realize how Steve had envisaged that as being wielded. It should have been an easy card, but just wasn’t. Another challenging card from Munchkin Cthulhu 2 was the quite intricate “Green Reaper.” I’m surprised I have no hard feelings about Munchkin Cthulhu 2!

              Easiest? Oh, I don’t know if there’s ever an “easiest” card to draw, but some of the simpler illustrations have definitely turned into some of my favorites, because the graphic design is allowed to stand out a bit more.

              Why only three fingers?

                Four just seems to make a hand too crowded.

                What concept was the hardest to convey via card artwork?

                  Spitting. Spitting always seems to be difficult, whenever it pops up. Stop spitting, Munchkins!

                  When will we see the return of Tony Bourdain: Vampire Hunter?

                    Soon, I hope, in Dork Tower. He’s never appeared in Munchkin. So unless there’s a “Munchkin: Foodie” expansion somewhere down the line (HINT: There is NO “Munchkin Foodie” expansion down the line…)

                    What cards would you *like* to draw but haven’t yet?

                      I can’t tell that without revealing a huge Munchkin surprise that’s still about a year away.

                      Where do you get your inspiration to match the artwork to the card?

                        Working with Steve, in all honesty. It’s a thrill that my artwork seems to match his warped sense of humor so well. The mix was good from the start. We’re kind of like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of the game world. “You’ve got Cuteness in my Evil!” “Oh, yeah? We’ll YOU’VE got Evil in my Cuteness!” (I may have just aged myself, with that reference).

                        Are there any Munchkin illios where you realized after publication: “Wow, this could’ve been funnier/cooler if…”

                          Several, but I think most cartoonists always think they could have done better. Recently, though, I started using a tablet to edit and correct the cards once I scan them in. That leaves me a lot more time to make changes and variations before I have to deliver them per my deadlines. I’ve been taking advantage of the extra time and have been trying to make them funnier/cooler before sending them off to Steve Jackson Games. Munchkin 8 will be the first to benefit from this.

                          Have you ever come up with an idea for a card’s artwork and told Steve Jackson to find a concept for it?

                            Occasionally, I’ll come up with a drawing or a pun that I like so much, I’ll run it past Steve or Andrew. There’s a Cleric with a Mitre that has a cannon coming out of it. “Killer Mitre.” Get it?

                            Which card did you hate the most?

                              Easy question: the Loaded Die. I despise that card. It’s an ugly drawing. And I made it! It. Has. Run. In. EVERY. Set. EVERY one! Steve knows I hate it. I believe he keeps it in to taunt me…

                              What is your favorite Munchkin expansion?

                                Usually, whatever the last one I worked on was, but I tend to prefer the later games, as a whole. I feel my drawings drastically improved: Munchkin Cthulhu, The Good, the Bad and the Munchkin, Munchkin Booty, Munchkin Zombies.

                                Which alternate version of Munchkin did you enjoy the most?

                                  I’m a Munchkin purist: my favorite game is the original, with two or three of the fantasy expansions — at the most. Did you know what happens when you combine The Good, The Bad and the Munchkin and Star Munchkin? You could make a fine game called “Munchkin Serenity”…

                                  Believe it or not, I have never played (and will never play) a “One With Everything” Munchkin game. There are more than 3,000 cards in print. that way lies madness…

                                  How does it feel to be recognized world-wide as an artist?

                                    It’s delightful to be able to go to Italy or Germany and have people know ad enjoy my work. I’m a very, very lucky cartoonist.

                                    Will we see a stand-alone Dork Tower Munchkin set one day? How about Monty Python?

                                      Maybe. Possibly. Never say ‘never.’ But not for the foreseeable future.

                                      Interview compiled by Monica Valentinelli

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                                      2 Responses to “SJGames Week: Interview with Munchkin Illustrator John Kovalic”

                                      1. Michael Schatz says:

                                        You know the minute you mentioned Munchkin:Foodie that the geek foodies out there started salivating. Just imagine the “Tom Colicchio’s Game of Thrones Food Truck” card. ..

                                        Reply

                                      2. Jason DeWitt says:

                                        Great interview!

                                        Reply

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