Dork Tower: The Tao of Igor
It’s been forever since I’ve thought about John Kovalic’s Dork Tower. I read the comics in the early 2000s, when they were coming out as issues and collections, but it’s been more than 15 years since then.
(I liked that they, for being a gamer comic, were still understandable to non-gamers. They were typical of the era, a bunch of guys with a token girl, but they talked about interpersonal interaction, not just collectibles, and they were likable enough. And back then, there were many fewer choices for non-superhero comics.)
Apparently, I checked in with the series in 2015, when I went to a signing by the author. It’s since been running as a webcomic. The last print releases, though, were 2007’s Dork Tower #36 and the Dork Decade 10th Anniversary Collection.
At my local comic store last week, I happened to see a new collection, Dork Tower: The Tao of Igor. (That’s because Kovalic lives here in town.) It reprints issues #30-37. That continues on, storywise, from volume 7, The Dork Side of the Goon, which came out at the end of 2004.
So picking this up wasn’t about finding out what happened in the story, as I’ve checked in with the web version, and the characters are very different from where they were back then. (Aren’t we all?)
What made me decide to get it, though, was the commentary. The book opens with a two-pager with two supporting characters talking about how an event has been ongoing for two years, as one says, “I could have sworn it was more like fifteen.” An introduction by Andrew Hackard, the man in charge of the Munchkin games that Kovalic illustrated (and someone who has since passed away), gives a brief explanation of the history of the series and its hiatus.
I wish there’d been more of that, comparing plans then to what was actually released now. There are hints and mentions, but nothing that substantial. The overarching story involves Igor trying to organize a local convention, while Matt tries to draw a comic. Yes, it’s very self-indulgent. And the material was slighter than I expected, with familiar jokes and lengthy setups for obvious punchlines about how hard it is to create.
The bits about late night at the copy shop read like a time capsule. There’s an entire digression chapter about the history of dice and gaming, and another Christmas issue. Wil Wheaton guest-stars as convention guest and life advice giver. There’s another exhibitor who demonstrates every possible bad behavior, including yelling about “fake geek girls”.
It’s a capture of what comics have moved beyond, now that we have crowdfunding and social media and much more diverse audiences and subject matter. That’s not a bad thing, to be reminded of where we came from. About the only thing I didn’t like about the book was the printing on the glossy paper. This always seemed to me an ephemeral strip, full of light humor, and the heavy, shiny paper doesn’t feel right to me.
Overall, while it was an enjoyable moment of nostalgic for the kind of comic reader I was 20 years ago, there was less to it than I had hoped. But it was nice for those few minutes to wallow in memories.