Daily Illuminator

November 19, 2014: Daily Illuminator 20th Anniversary

Twenty years ago, I was working on my first professional gaming illustration gig – Illuminati: New World Order, for Steve Jackson Games. How I came to leave the newspaper business, and wound up creating cartoons and games for a (rather wonderful) living was in itself a bizarre series of coincidences. Almost Illuminati-esque, you might say. Which seemed appropriate, all things considered.

In 1993, I'd drawn an editorial cartoon for the Wisconsin State Journal – Madison, Wisconsin's morning newspaper, where I was on staff – about the OJ Simpson trial (look it up, you young whippersnappers). One of OJ's lawyers had claimed that there was a "conspiracy" to get their client, and I ran with this idea for a cartoon, creating a weird (and – I hoped - hilarious) set of interlocking theories, expounding on the absurdity of it all. Being a bit of a gamer – not to mention a Steve Jackson fanboy -  I threw the Bavarian Illuminati into the conspiracy cartoon.

Long story short, a reader faxed it (look it up, you young whippersnappers) to Steve, in Austin. Steve must have liked it, because he asked me to take over the Murphy's Rules feature. (He also pointed out a typo in the cartoon, which is about as Steve as it gets.)

Anyway, flash forward a few months, and INWO was behind schedule. So when I e-mailed Steve, asking if they needed help, he threw twenty cards my way. I was beyond thrilled! This was an actual, real, honest-to-goodness Steve Jackson-created collectible card game I was working on! As the project approached its end, I'd heard that Steve Jackson Games had thrown some card samples online.

"Online"? What was that? Was it anything like e-mail? I'd ditched my old AOL account earlier that year, switching to a local internet service provider. But while I'd read of these new things called "web browsers" in Wired magazine, I had no actual experience with them, per se. Wasn't really sure what folks were talking about.

Thus, one evening, over at our friends Cassie and Igor's house, I asked Igor – a computer scientist - if he'd be able to look this Steve Jackson Games "page" up, somehow.

"They call it the Daily Illuminator," I helpfully added.

Igor -- I'd one day name the Dork Tower character after him, but that's another story -- of course, could go to this web page, simply, easily, and apparently magically, and *click* the Daily Illuminator appeared:

Nov. 26, 1994
We announced this in the INWO FAQ a few days ago, but just to make sure nobody misses it . . . we now have a confirmed printer ship date for Illuminati: New World Order. It will ship from the printer on December 7 (two days after the planned date . . . we'll live). Distributors will be able to release the game to retailers on Friday, December 16. This means that motivated retailers will have it that same day, and the others will have it within a week.
 For more information - and previews of the art, if you've got Mosaic - check out our INWO web page.

-- Steve Jackson

Why yes, yes indeed, Igor had Mosaic (look it up, you young whippersnappers), and *click* there it was: the INWO page. Well, when I say "click" it was more like "chug, chug, chug, chug." Then "chug" again, and a bit of clanking or something. This was 1994, remember, and I'm not sure what the speed of the dial-up modem was, but I'm not sure I can even count that low, these days. Still, even though it seemed to take forever, up - slowly but surely - came an image.

Of an INWO card.

One of my INWO cards. The Deasil Engine!

ON MY FRIEND'S COMPUTER!

Look, I may be easily impressed, but this blew my mind. You have no idea how things like this just did not happen before they started happening! And it got me to thinking: If Steve Jackson Games could put pictures of INWO cards online, well, maybe, um . . . why couldn't I put my then-comic strip, Wild Life, online? Somewhere, I read I was one of the first ten cartoonists to post comics online regularly. I'm not sure if that's the case or not, but wow, was it ever cool back then.

A couple years later, when Wild Life painfully ended, and Dork Tower burst forth, I put that online, as well.

And look where that got me.

Happy 20th birthday, Daily Illuminator! Thanks for changing my life.

– John Kovalic


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