First off: I never claimed I was all that sexy, although Cathy Nicoloff has taken to posting my stuff on Meridian Magic as "2 Sexy Meddish" on occasion.
While I seriously doubt that I can truly be put in the same class as George Clooney, in the greater scheme of things, it’s far better to be regaled as "The Sexiest Guy in Magic" than "Mike Long."
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful (not when there are so many other good reasons).
On to the topic at hand.
I’m working on my new Sligh deck. It’s going to include that tapping-out wonder critter, the Spur Grappler. Definitely a great creature. And the name is extremely evocative. The term "spur" has several connotations. Obviously, it can refer to those jingly-jangly things cowboys wear, ostensibly to use on their mounts but also because they make that cool jingly-jangly sound. It can also refer to an organic protrusion, such as a tree limb or root, or a reinforcement to a battlement.
In all likeliness, however, it is probably meant to stand for the verb form of "spur," which is "to goad or prod into action."
One would think such a creature would have a more impressive piece of artwork. Something along the lines of Ridgeline Racer, perhaps. What do we get?
I caught the last half of the gawd-awful remake of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" last weekend, and I’ll be damned if the Spur Grappler doesn’t look like that weird midget was Marlon Brando’s sidekick.
That’s just disturbing.
In the last few expansions, I’ve been noticing something. I’m not saying the artwork is getting worse, but my complaint is that it’s getting more homogenous. It’s losing its distinctiveness and variety that made people want to collect individual cards not for the power of a card, but for the artwork upon it.
Look through Prophecy, and is there any card in particular that truly stands out? Maybe one or two. I like the background on Avatar of Woe. But beyond that? No, not really.
I remember the "good ol’ days," back when the Magic artwork was dominated by names like Foglio, Maddocks, Hoover, Benson. All had very distinctive styles that stood out even to the casual observer.
Heck, there was even Fay Jones’ one and only piece for Stasis. The obvious choice for a card with that name and effect would be something like, well, Static Orb. Instead, we get a neo-cubist design. In a funny way, though, it makes sense.
When’s the last time you saw a Magic card that you needed a B.A. in Art History in order to understand?
Art’s a funny thing. You find something in the images that don’t always seem to make sense.
And let’s not forget Drew Tucker.
With Drew, there is no middle ground. You either loved him or hated him. Me, I fell more or less in the former camp. It is very hard to pin a label on his work, his pieces being more conceptual and extremely open to interpretation. And in watercolor no less!
Some of his work did, indeed, defy explanation, especially his work in Fallen Empires. But I liked it just the same, just because it was so different.
Believe me, I’ll take Drew Tucker over Justin Hampton and his Fyndhorn Elves with eight-foot arms any day.
So why aren’t we seeing more of these old favorites?
Primarily, it’s money.
When WotC was starting the endeavor that would become the world-wide phenomenon that would become Magic, they didn’t have much money to offer artists. So, they did what many startups do when they don’t have the cash: Offer stocks and higher royalties in lieu of money up-front.
This worked out better than the artists could have dreamed. Once Magic took off, some of the original artists were pulling in almost $200,000 a year, which for any artist not named Picasso is a lot of cash.
When WotC decided that this was a bit much to be paying artists, they renegotiated contracts to make them a little more in their favor. Understandably, many artists didn’t care for these new contracts and cut ties with WotC.
And the community was up in arms. No more Maddocks, no more Benson, no more Hoover? Blasphemy!
Eventually, though, tempers cooled and many of the original artists returned to do work for WotC, not just for Magic but for their other games as well. Several now actually work for WotC, notably Jesper Myfors and Pete Venters.
But we hardly see enough of them. There’s precious little of Quinton Hoover’s work in the last three expansions, no Venters, no Maddocks, no Kane-Ferguson.
This is not to say bringing in new artists is a bad thing. I like several of the newer artists, especially r.k. post (Avatar of Might excluded).
But I miss the humor of Phil Foglio, the ubiquitous checkerboards in Margaret Organ-Kean’s work, the stylish inking of Quinton Hoover, the lushness of Richard Kane-Ferguson and the amazing detail that Anson Maddocks brought to his work.
I guess part of it is that a link to the early days of Magic, when the game was still new and the environment was a little more innocent, is gone as we lose these connections to Magic’s past.
New art has its place, but there should be a place for the pantheon of artists who can claim some responsibility for the popularity of Magic.