Look for the union label

This tickles me in a very “Sergio Aragones” kind of way. I bet you find work like this in the margins of the Phyrexian edition of Mad Magazine.
I agree with Josh – both here and in his Men of Magic interview. I love the flavor and story of Magic, but I tend to love it more the way we encounter it in bits and pieces through the cards. Other than Arena, which I read after buying it to get Sewers of Estark, I haven’t read any other Magic novels. Although I’d like to be able to detect the story from the cards – I realized today I have no idea what underlying plot was actually supposed to be happening during Lorwyn block – I don’t really want the super-drawn-out novel version.
The way we interact with cards is actually the way we interact with a lot of history and the real world – in bits and pieces. When I check in with the BBC, I don’t get the next chapter in our protagonist’s narrative. Instead, I get a story filed by a British reporter who’s stuck in Misratah and hasn’t seen much outside of his apartment block, but who’s been able to check in via phone with the local hospital.
For more about the joys of Magic worlds as seen through these snippets of card, check out the latest Inkwell Looter post.

Seriously? Come on, Wizards.

So, Mirrodin Besieged is fast approaching and Wizards just recently announced the Prerelease Promo card – Hero of Bladehold.
Stats-wise, this is a perfectly reasonable card. It survives Lightning Bolt and is sort of a mini-Titan, bringing on the bonus soldiers each time it swings.
Here’s the actual preview art:
Which brings us back to my title for today’s post.
Are you kidding me?
I’m used to feeling that the promo art is generally worse than the original art for a given card.
But there’s a wide gulf between “I don’t like the promo art for Anathemancer” and “please don’t let your freelancers use porn for their photoreferencing.”
One of the things I’ve genuinely appreciated about Wizards over the years is their approach to issues like how women are represented in their games. I’ll return once more to a now five-year-old article that I’ve talked about before in which Matt Cavotta cites this line from the Magic: the Gathering Style Guide:
Feel free to paint beautiful women, as long as they’re shown kicking ass. No damsels in distress. No ridiculously exaggerated breasts. No nudity.
So how are we doing on that four-part test?
Is the Hero kicking ass? Hard to say, but I think we can at least credit her with the intent to kick ass, considering her expression. And she has a spear or something, so there’s that.
Is she in distress? Nah.
Ridiculous breasts? Now we’re sliding off the four-point scale here. Exactly how is it helpful for her to go into battle in that steel push-up monstrosity?
Nudity? The Hero is not formally nude, but she’s more “end-stage-stripper” in attire than anything else.
And although Matt did not specifically address this in the section he quoted from the Style Guide, the combination of emaciation with those gigantic breasts really cements the impression that either that Auriok heroes moonlight as porn stars or that Scott Chou, whose art I otherwise tend to like, thought that this was a good fit for the concept of “hero who fights world-devouring menace.” Although, in fairness to Scott, Jeremy Jarvis had to have approved his initial sketch, which presumably was just as porny-rather-than-heroey.
Incidentally, Scott Chou can illustrate kickass hotties who aren’t horrifying:
The Spiritdancer is actually a pretty solid counterpoint to the Hero. She’s also basically in a bikini, yet instead of feeling like we interrupted her pole dancing routine, we imagine that she’s about to have all her magical beasties kick our asses.
But then, Mirrodin has always been, inexplicably, the land of random boobs:
I mean, what doesn’t that picture convey about the feeling of having one of your spells played against you?
Or something.
Anyway, the Hero is not just bad, but kind of insultingly bad. It’s also a rare major misstep in terms of art from Wizards, which is why I thought I’d bring it up.
Less of this, please. Seriously, always less of this.

While you’re waiting – awesomeness!

I am super-busy-man for one more week here, so you all have to suffer through another week without In Development and The Field Report, I’m afraid.
In the meantime, however, check out this awesomeness from my pal Inkwell Looter:
Click here to see the full-size original of this poster.
And can we have some kind of standing contract for Inkwell Looter and Justin Treadway to produce Fillmore-style posters for each PT and GP?

Promo cards and things like that

Magic players do like their bling, especially in the form of new card art for old cards – this is pretty much the point of all those FNM promos, right?
Curiously enough, I often find that the “special” art strikes me as being markedly worse, for one reason or another, than the original art. This was true of the recent FNM Anathemancer. Here’s the original:
…and the FNM promo from last month:
The original Richard Whitters art is elegant and mood-setting – that is, indeed, a Zombie Wizard, back from the dead to do horrid things to mages who had the temerity to run non-basics. In contrast, the Mark Hyzer variation looks like a level boss from Doom. Sort of.
This must be some variant-art phenom, because Mark Hyzer’s other work is much better, and that generally holds true for other displeasing promos (e.g. Bloodbraid Elf).
Moving away from quality of the piece, we have the new special art Swords to Plowshares:
The art here is lovely. It’s just that the piece doesn’t so much say “Swords to Plowshares” as it does “Swords to other Swords, and oh yeah I’m about to kick your ass.”
Compare that with the original art:
Although this art doesn’t actually show the transition from combat to pasture, it certainly does convey the end result – the gentleman is clearly plowsharing and not swordsing at all.
For me, the perfect note for Swords was struck by Kaja Foglio in her art for the Ice Age edition of the card:
Everything about this is just so right on the mark. Done in the style of iconic imagery (in the religious sense of “iconic”), it captures that moment where the soldier makes the transition from war to peace.
So I’ll stick with Kaja’s version as the archetype of Swords to Plowshares, against which all future special variants must necessarily be measured.

Posted in Art

Modest Nissa

This is special promo card you receive for preordering the new Duels of the Planeswalkers expansion:
I’ve seen a fair amount of traffic on Facebook and twitter asking why the promo card doesn’t have new art. In fact, it does. Here’s Zendikar Nissa:
The difference? Less cleavage.
The promo card uses the art from the original Duels release, which features rather less cleavage on Ms. Revane, most likely to suit the request of the XBOX folks.
So if you like your planeswalkers modest, you’ll enjoy this alternate art.

Posted in Art