Dork Tower

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Your dorks, clockwise from the beehive hairdo: Kayleigh, Ken, Matt, Gilly, Igor, and Carson.
"Hey, Marcia! Come and see the satanist!"
—Bookstore clerk, after Matt asks if they have RPG books

Dork Tower is the name of a comic series by famed game creator, illustrator, and writer John Kovalic. Set in the fictional town of Mud Bay, Wisconsin, it focuses on the gaming adventures and personal lives of the four main characters, a group of geeks whose hobbies and interests include tabletop roleplaying games, video games, miniature games, collectible card games, science fiction and fantasy, comic books, computers, anime and manga -- in short, anything and everything dorks (and Geeks, and Nerds, and Otaku) would enjoy.

The four main characters are:

  • Matt McLimore, the group's gamemaster. His RPG campaigns are frequently derailed by the players, but he persists in trying to deliver a rich and rewarding experience every time they play. He works as a graphic designer, but also draws his own comic book, "That Grrl," in his spare time.
  • Ken Mills, a miniatures collector, historical wargamer, and medieval re-creationist. He is a stickler for accuracy to the point of obsession. He works as a programmer at a technology company, Mon-E-Pit.com
  • Igor Olman, an extremely enthusiastic fan of everything gaming-related, who obsessively commits himself to all of his hobbies and interests. The most rash and impulsive member of the group, by far.
  • Carson the muskrat. He is arguably the most "normal" character of the group, though he does act impulsively when gaming. He supports himself through various demeaning service-sector jobs.

Supporting characters that frequently appear in Dork Tower include:

  • Bill Blyden, the owner and manager of Pegasaurus Games, the gang's regular game store. He struggles daily with both the efforts to keep the store running and the numerous annoyances of ungrateful customers. He is married to his wife Stacy, and his sole employee is Leslie.
  • Gilly Woods, a perpetually perky goth girl. Confounding goth stereotypes, she likes cute and cheerful things, to the disgust of her brother Walden. Matt has a deep crush on her, but she has been hesitant to reciprocate due to his relationship with Kayleigh. She recently moved to London to attend graduate school.
  • Walden Woods is Gilly's older brother and the leader of the Mud Bay goth gamers. He runs their recurring LARP sessions, and suffers the indignity of getting kicked out of everywhere they want to play.
  • Kayleigh Hardcastle is Matt's on-again, off-again girlfriend. They went steady in college, but broke up due to clashes in personalities and interests. Kayleigh is a journalist for a local newspaper.
  • Sujata is Kayleigh's roommate. After dating Ken, she got into gaming -- to his dismay, as she tends to be better at it than he is...

Dork Tower began as a four-panel comic in print format, published in various gaming-oriented periodicals such as Dragon magazine and Pyramid. In 2000, it became a four-panel web comic published approximately three times a week. Later, a monthly comic book was published by Dork Storm Press, and featured a mix of single-page strips, multi-page stories, and ongoing character development story arcs. The comic book had been on hiatus as of issue #36 due to personal affairs - despite plans to resume publication in 2011 in annual mini-series releases, it remains solely a web comic as of April 2017. A series of TPB collections reprint the web and print strips. The strip has won several Origin Awards, and the comic has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide.

The official site is here.

Tropes used in Dork Tower include:


"Okay, now the lollipops represent anti-personnel mines..."

Igor: "IT MUST BE MINE! HUZZAH!"

  • Celeb Crush: Several over the years, most notably Matt with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Carson with Megan Morrone.
  • Celebrity Lie: Inverted in this comic strip with Stan Lee.
  • Character Overlap: Carson the Muskrat originally appeared in Wild Life, a Funny Animal college newspaper comic drawn by Kovalic. Some characters from Wild Life occasionally make cameos in Dork Tower.
    • Bill Blyden and Pegasaurus Games also count, as Kovalic also briefly drew "Shop Keep", a parallel/spinoff strip focused on Bill.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Kayleigh, to the point where she becomes enraged simply by thinking that Matt might prefer Gilly over her.
  • Compassionate Critic: Kayleigh is often this to Matt; she harshly insults his hobbies and interests (except for Buffy) out of an ongoing effort to "improve" him.

Kayleigh: "Why can't he just be more like other guys?"
Sujata: "Sitting at a bar with a six-pack of Bud waiting for 'America's Wackiest High-Speed Chases' to come on?"

  • Crossover: One story arc featured a crossover with PvP, where the two casts attended a convention and entered a gaming competition. Matt ran a game with the PvP players, while Cole ran a game with the Dork Tower group. The winning team was an all-girl squad with Gilly, Jade, and Marcy.
    • Subverted with Dork Tower vs. Lethargic Lad:

Igor: "You know, it's funny, but for all the years we've lived in Mud Bay, we've never met up with LETHARGIC LAD."
(beat)
Matt: "That's because he's a comic book character, you blithering idiot."
Igor: "Oh. Yeah. Right. Of course."

"Perhaps she didn't realize you painted the brains, skulls and mutilated victim details yourself...?"

    • Then there was the time Igor gave Carson a muskrat pie for Christmas...
  • Dungeonmaster's Girlfriend: Subverted with Kayleigh, who joined a session run by Igor to try to understand Matt's hobby. After some initial confusion, she became a rule-mastering power gamer, stomped all over the game's enemies, and reduced Igor to curling in whimpered submission.

"Turbonium dragon? More like Turbonium BEE-YACH!"

Matt: "We've forgotten what made gaming GREAT in the old days!"
Carson: "Incredibly badly-drawn women in gratuitous cheesecake chainmail bikini shots?"

"Good idea, three meads for me too".

"If anyone needs me, I'll be seeking the Spirit of Christmas Spirits. 98 proof."

Sujata: "Hey, dog-chow! It's Halo time, and I believe your butt is MINE! Woof! Woof!"

Igor: "I kill Gandalf."

Walden: "Great Clans of Mud Bay, I have called this gathering in the Poochy's Last Stand pet cemetery for one reason!"
Goth: "Because Beef-A-Roo won't let us gather there anymore?"
Walden: "APART FROM THAT!"

Ken: "Let's admit it, Kovalic's about as organized as a wet mound of marmots."

  • Serious Business: Going to a movie with Bill and Ken can be very difficult, as they take historical accuracy very seriously.

"Oh gawd! They just called the glaive-guisarme a bill-guisarme! I'm writing to Roger Ebert!"

    • One strip had Ken freaking out whenever his character acquired or lost any gear, as he insisted on having his miniatures figure match it exactly.

Matt: "...and so that rarest of artifacts, 'Bigby's Grasping Rodent of Eternal Wealth' is yours..."
Ken: "AIEEEEEEEEE! ...shut up and pass me some superglue, an X-Acto knife, and a 25mm marmot..."

Matt: "You think my friends are annoying!"
Kayleigh: "You think my friends are pretentious!"
Matt: "You hate my hobbies!"
Kayleigh: "You think I'm a snob!"
Matt: "You ARE a snob!"
Kayleigh: "It's better than being a looser dweeb with no initiative, no fashion sense, no job, no prospects and a 'Buffy'-hater to boot!"
Matt: "THAT was a LOW blow! ... I love 'Buffy'."
(beat)

    • KISS**

Ken: "I've got a bar of SOAP here, and I'm not afraid to USE IT!"

"We're still relevant, dammit!"

George Lucas: "Well, pardon the FREAK out of me for providing you with so many years of GREAT MEMORIES and ENTERTAINMENT!" *Bam!*Crash*Pow!* "I mean, of course that's all RUINED for you now because GREEDO freaking shoots first!" *Biff*Paf*Oof!*

DM: Joe, you're dead. Bill, you're dead, and so's your dog. Ok, everyone rolled up a new character? Ok, they're all dead.

  • Tome of Eldritch Lore [context?]
  • Too Dumb to Live: Many of Matt's gaming sessions end with all the (game) characters dying due to this trope.
    • One adventure ended with their characters chasing a Demon Lord to Hell and getting instantly destroyed... which they insisted must be an illusion.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth / Your Brain Won't Be Much of a Meal: In this strip, Igor engages a mind flayer with purple nurples and "the dreaded doom wedgie". Since this effectively proved his character didn't have a brain to flay, he actually won.
  • Trick Dialogue: A frequent source of comedy. One story begins with Gilly and Matt preparing for a blind date. We then see them at a table talking, and seeing how they share lots of common interests and hobbies. The final panel shows that they are actually sitting at two different tables, each talking to someone else who think their hobbies are weird.
    • Inverted in another story, where Matt starts off talking to Ken about how Gilly is his ideal girl, while Walden is talking to a stranger about finding a Nice Guy for Gilly. After a page and a half, it's revealed that Matt and Walden ended up talking to each other, not realizing that they're both referring to the same Perky Goth... or how Matt would be perfect for her.
  • Tsundere: Kayleigh, much to Matt's dismay.
  • Tropes Will Ruin Your Life: Demonstrated here.
  • Unicorn: One appears in this comic teamed up with a penumbral hulk, a kobold, a paladin, and a kuo-toa...
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: No-one seems in the least bothered that Carson is an intelligent bipedal muskrat. This was played with in a strip (later adapted as an animated short)-

Narrator: "And now...the secret origins of Carson the Muskrat!"
Carson: "Father was a muskrat...mother was a muskrat." (shrugs)