The Arts

Drawn Wisconsin!

Comic reading Drawn Wisconsin by John Kovalic

Open “Drawn Wisconsin.”

Theories abound about how to find a profession that brings you joy, but my favorite asks us to draw inspiration from a simple question: what did you love to do when you were ten years old?

At that age, John Kovalic ’86 was attempting to re-create Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strips. He was a fan of Snoopy and captivated by Schulz’s seemingly minimal lines. And he watched his mother write Hops, a comic strip for the children’s magazine Weekly Reader.

For this issue, Kovalic created “Drawn Wisconsin!” (view it), a tribute to his time at UW–Madison and to fellow artists who drew comics for the Daily Cardinal in the 1980s. Since then, Kovalic has worked as a successful cartoonist and cofounded a game company. He’s illustrated more than one hundred games, including Apples to Apples and Munchkin, for which he has drawn more than five thousand cards.


Carson, a muskrat, appears in every comic strip by John Kovalic, who first made his name as a cartoonist for the Daily Cardinal. Image courtesy of John Kovalic.

Kovalic drew a poignant tribute to Schulz in 2012 that caught my eye and prompted me to ask if he would be willing to create a UW- focused strip for our readers. On what would have been Schulz’s ninetieth birthday, Kovalic devoted his Dork Tower comic strip to Charlie Brown’s creator and charted his own growth from that ten-year-old struggling to copy Peanuts to drawing his first daily comic strip, Wild Life, for the Cardinal. Kovalic noted that Carson — a muskrat who has appeared in every strip he has produced since high school and looks like a member of Snoopy’s extended family tree — owes a debt to Schulz.

At his mother’s urging, Kovalic wrote to Schulz in 1998 when Wild Life was syndicated. Schulz sent back a letter of congratulations, and it contained wisdom that suggests that we should all listen to our inner ten-year-old.

“If I were to give you any advice,” Schulz wrote, “it would be simply to work as hard as you can, and to always be yourself.”

— Jenny Price ’96, Co-editor

Published in the Spring 2016 issue


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