The world of Steve Jackson Games' "Munchkin" is about to get a whole lot bigger thanks to a new comic series from BOOM! Studios.
The game takes many of the tropes of the fantasy gaming world and pokes fun at them. Even the name, "Munchkin," is a gaming reference as the word is used to describe an overly aggressive player, focused only on winning even when he or she isn't directly competing against fellow players. Created by Steve Jackson and John Kovalic ("Dork Tower"), the card game proved super-popular, spawning a variety of follow-up series' including licensed ones based on "Axe Cop," "Adventure Time" and "Pathfinder."
In order to bring the irreverent humor and over-the-top action of the series to sequential life, BOOM! enlisted the talents of regular writer and artist combo Tom Siddell and Mike Holmes, along with "Dork Tower" creator John Kovalic, who illustrated several of the "Munchkin" card game series, Jim Zub and Rian Sygh to contribute to the series. CBR News spoke with Kovalic, Siddell and Holmes about getting involved with "Munchkin," the game's irreverent sense of humor and what fans can expect from the new series.
"I started off drawing the venerable 'Murphy's Rules' feature for [Steve Jackson Games], kind of snuck my way into doing some cards for the 'Illuminati: New World Order' collectible card game, then got asked to illustrate 'Chez Geek' and later 'Munchkin,'" Kovalic told CBR, recounting his extended experience with the property. "'Munchkin' was the first game I worked on as the sole illustrator that was also designed by Steve Jackson, and I tried to to be too obvious about how ridiculously happy I was, illustrating a game created by one of the legends of the hobby."
For Siddell and Holmes, the job working on the "Munchkin" comic came about thanks to pre-existing relationships with publisher BOOM!
"My comic, 'Gunnerkrigg Court,' is published by Archaia, which merged with BOOM! a little while back," Siddell said. "While working with them, they mentioned that they thought I'd be a good fit for a 'Munchkin' comic, and since I've been wanting to do more work outside of 'Gunnerkrigg,' I thought it would be fun to give it a try!"
"After two years, I wrapped up my run on 'Bravest Warriors' and 'Adventure Time' and started work on a new book called 'Secret Coders' for First Second," Holmes said. "Shannon Watters, my editor at BOOM!, and I were talking about coming back to BOOM! in the future to work on a project. Over the summer, she asked if I'd like to work on the 'Munchkin' project, and it sounded like fun. I love fun!"
Even though Siddell and Holmes had no experience playing the game prior to signing on, they had both heard good things from friends who soon helped acclimate them to the "Munchkin" world.
"I have a lot of friends who play card games and I was familiar with it, but I'd never played it," Holmes said. "Thankfully, they helped me ease into this world a bit."
"I've not played many tabletop games before, but when I was visiting some friends in the US I had a chance to play the 'Adventure Time' version of 'Munchkin' and thought it was good fun," Siddell said. "I was really interested in the mechanics of the game, but also how a match almost played out like a crazy story in itself."
The creators agree that those pre-existing story elements combined with the upfront sense of humor and wacky cast of characters make the transition from game to comic all the easier.
"The thing I love about it is the open-endedness of the game," Kovalic said. "I've drawn over 5,000 cards for its various iteration, so it really does give a writer the opportunity to do almost anything with it. There can be ongoing stories, shorter stories, one-off gag strips, just anything, set in almost any universe. It's an embarrassment of riches to suddenly be handed, as a creator."
"The nature of the game means that almost anything can happen while still remaining true to the crazy internal logic the world of 'Munchkin' seems to have," Siddell said. "I'm hoping to do the same thing with the comic, and I think a lot of the humor will lend itself well to comics as a medium. The game is really lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek, and it's very outright about the fact that it's not meant to be taken seriously, which is something that appealed to me straight away."
"Think of the world's worst 'Dungeons and Dragons' or 'Pathfinder' party," Kovalic said, laying out the overall tone in terms gameers can truly understand. "Think of every dungeon master who's ever taken a game far too seriously. Think of every awful roleplaying experience you've ever had. 'Munchkin' will be your own personal revenge on all that."
"I don't want to give too much away, but I can say that I started off with a couple of short stories introducing not only 'Munchkin,' but also the kind of humor and world I want to be playing around with," Siddell told CBR. "It's such an open-ended property that I'm really looking forward to taking it in directions I wouldn't otherwise get to do working on my other comics.Â The game expansions also open up many different avenues to explore, and I'm going to be drawing a lot from all over the game in its entirety to hopefully write a series that people will find fun and unpredictable."
A large part of the unpredictable nature comes from the game's cast. "A few characters appear in all the sets, in one form or another, so there are some things that glue it all together," Kovalic said. "It's a very silly thing, with a lot of room for different styles and interpretations. I've been enjoying other artists' takes on characters I designed twelve years ago. It's humbling and delightful.
"I'm loving drawing some of the older creatures from the very first sets again," Kovalic continued. "I probably haven't drawn some of them for over a decade. It's like revisiting old friends. But mostly, I'm loving the interplay between Spyke -- 'Munchkin''s iconic mascot/character -- and Flower, the female Munchkin from the cover of 'Munchkin 2.' To me, their relationship should reflect the back-and-forth between Sam and Diane from 'Cheers,' but trading puncture wounds instead of barbs. You know -- hilariously."
As the series artist, Holmes feels like he's "just scratched the surface" of the world at this point, and is excited about not only diving deeper into the existing characters, but also creating a few new monsters.
"I was free to play with the existing look of the game, and help bring it into the world of comics," Holmes said. "I've always been able to adapt to different styles -- my 'Mikenesses' project is one of the reasons I've been asked to work on these great books -- but this was trickier, as it's a bit of a mash-up between my own style and John's. I feel like I've gotten a good handle on how I want the series to look, and I'm interested to see it evolve."
All-in-all, the process of putting "Munchkin" together has been a positive one for Siddell and the crew. For his part, the move from creator-owned to a licensed book have offered interesting new aspects to the process.
"I'm used to working alone, as someone that works on a creator-owned property. This is the first time I've been part of a larger team working on a licensed property, so I'm really eager to see the final comics and the amount of polish and effort that is put in the them. These days, webcomics and traditional comics are made in pretty much the same way, it's just the distribution process that's different. Instead of uploading pages to a website, traditional comics are printed on paper. However, I'm glad to have a company like BOOM! behind the wheel when it comes to dealing with the printing and publishing side of things!"
"Munchkin" #1 from Tom Siddell, John Kovalic, Mike Homes and BOOM! Studios hits shelves on Jan. 28.