"Hey, here's a project: Reduce the the sum of human wisdom and experience to 78 images that can be recombined in any sequence to tell every story imaginable. Don't worry, though - most of the heavy lifting has already been done. You just have to integrate the symbols with the works of a literary legend and then make sure it still functions as a key to human existence while celebrating the tales that inspired you. For tools, you get to use everything you've ever been into over your whole life. Sound good?"
Sure. How hard could it be?
* * *
I do remember saying to my publishing partner at some point, "Maybe the reason no one's made a working Tarot deck based on the Oz books using a dozen or more comic book artists is because it's actually impossible. Shouldn't we consider that?"
Luckily, she's used to ignoring me.
Because frankly it is impossible. It should not have happened. Not with the degree of success (financial, artistic, and metaphysical) that it has. That we raised enough money to pay 20 artists and designers is a miracle. That the art came in looking gloriously, deliriously right and mostly on time and from mostly the people we expected it from was a miracle. We'd never done a project with this many moving parts before. We'd never tried anything this goddamn ambitious. This was a side-project, our warm-up gig, and it culminated in a deck of Oz cards that delights L. Frank Baum's Jungian psychotherapist great granddaughter.
No, really, allow me to be brazenly, nakedly immodest and throw up her pull quote here:
"What a delight it is to use the new Wizard of Oz Tarot deck for readings. I am sure my Great Grandfather, L. Frank Baum would have been delighted with it. Such a great way to walk the yellow brick road… receive the wisdom of Oz… and find the way home."
Mir. A. Kull.
So I've no idea how it happened, honestly, but it's been a year and it did and the actual physical holy moley we made a thing it is realized and I cannot even they are real real people can see them it's not just in my head anymore Oz Tarot decks are winging their way around the globe. People are opening the boxes, fanning out the cards, flipping through the little book, and phew.
Anyway. Point is. I guess it's safe to talk about The Shadow of Oz cards now. Can't jinx what already happened, right?
(Shut it, Schrödinger.)
* * *
Over the next little while, I'll be doing short essays on random cards from the deck. Give you some background on the characters, show off any process art I might have still, share amusing stories of how this card or that caused me to hurl book X, Y, or Z across my office, startling the Dalek action figures, that sort of thing. I won't get too much into the Tarot meanings of the cards or how to use them, because I really think that's got to be between you and your practice.
Well... except that reminds me also to get preemptively defensive about one design aspect of the deck: the images on the cards are all that really matters. Seems obvious, right? Knowledge of Tarot and knowledge of Oz will enhance your experience with this deck, but it's my sincere - well, I was going to say belief, but let's face it, it's my sincere insistence that the cards work as comic book panels. They are discrete story-telling units that can be read right at face value. Controversially, then, the names of the cards as printed are deliberately occulted.
I want to encourage you, when you're working with The Shadow of Oz, to not lay down a card, read that it's the Nine of Swords, and then rattle off to yourself everything you know the Nine of Swords means. I hope you can have a fresh experience with these cards. I want you to just look at it and say, "Oh man, that bunny is having a really rough night." Then later, if you want to be certain what the card is, yeah, you can concentrate on the text. The word fades so the symbol can speak.
So that's why I did it, Officers. Further confessions are yours, should you have the stomach, as we wend down this weird road.
(The image is from the Temperance card, by Drew Edward Johnson, and isn't it lovely?)