Magic: The Gathering is a visually beautiful collectible card game. The worlds that the game takes place upon, planes, have hundreds of depictions that create an utterly unique immersive experience. I write on a weekly basis here for GatheringMagic covering art and storyline, the Vorthos elements of the game, and the visual experience is what sucked me into the game and retains my hard-earned dollars and interest in a time of ever-present options.
One past Magic official art book has been created with one small collection in a comic book as well. Lizz Baldwin edited that 1998 book, and fifteen years later, that book has skyrocketed to over $50 for 122 pages of beautiful art. The Magic encyclopedias are also rather popular, as very few copies exist even on eBay or Amazon. While they aren’t art resources, per se, they are handy compilations to see a lot of art easily.
We can honor the last fifteen years and use art assets for an introduction in every Magic-playing home, on every living room table, by creating a new book. We cannot have a book printed unless we, as the player base, unite to ask that one be made. Without people signing up to say, "Yes, I would like this," no future art compilation book will be created—ever.
With that, I’m taking up the charge to have a book made of in-game used art. I talked about it being made in a Future Magic Trinkets article, but that was not enough. I foolishly thought others would make it. That is on me. In this world, if you want something done and know others do, too, take the first step, and get that damn ball rolling. So I did, and I am.
Step 1 – Petition Wizards
I have heard rumors, estimates, really, that Agents of Artifice had a print run of about 5,000 copies. With those copies, an alternate-art Jace Beleren was added as an incentive to the book. I bought my hardcover book for $25 and received my planeswalker. It’s now nearly $150 for that planeswalker due to the print run. I figure that if an art book needs to be made, we will need at least 5,000 people interested in purchasing the art book, with 7,500 being more realistic.
- I cannot guarantee Wizards will pay attention to us.
- I cannot guarantee a planeswalker would be included in a future book.
- I can guarantee that if an art book does see print, some concept art will be in there.
- I can guarantee that if an art book does see print, it will be something worth owning.
So, to start Step 1, I made a petition. The site is pretty barebones, but frankly, that’s all we need, and it’s free. Interest trumps aesthetics, at least, at this point.
What is the first and most important question? Thankfully, they’ve already answered it: Will my information be kept private?
Frankly, I won’t share it with anyone. There’s no reason to at this point. Maybe things change when Step 2 arrives, but before Step 3 arrives, we need two things:
Step 2 – Wizards Gets Onboard
Once Wizards knows we want a book, has the consumer numbers to make it financially viable, and trusts the process, we receive approval. Approval will be a multi-stage process through the Brand team of @ElaineChase and co, the Creative team, and of legal documentation—but more importantly, it will be important deciding what art assets can be included and which ones cannot. I would push for an entire plane’s worth of all sketches, all final art products, and all style guide images of a set that is not in Standard tournament play, such as Mirrodin or Kamigawa, at this point.
A trip to Wizards corporate office would be required, and all sorts of meetings would be required. (They do love their meetings.) Legal teams would have a field day with contingency planning, liability, and PR aid if or when things would be required. It wouldn’t be an exciting time, but it would be wholly necessary. The devil truly is in the details here.
Step 3, Part 1 – Create Team
I know a few people who have done successful Kickstarters. Anyone can swing for the fences once and be funded, but it’s the creator who has done a half dozen or more campaigns whom we would need.
- I worked with Shane Tyree when I was an art director, with him being an artist, and he has done a bunch of projects both independently and through Albino Dragon. He’s a work horse and is one of those people who just gets shib done. He’s already volunteered to help any formation and then be a paid member on the team as soon as the project is ready.
- John Picacio, a mentor of mine and a crazy-successful cover artist in the industry, could serve as an advisor/consultant. Also, he could be the voice to prevent the book from being terrible-looking. I figure he could insulate us from being a non-Magic artist—and therefore unbiased. He just finished his first Kickstarter on Loteria, and he has a greater plan coming. He gets it and could be of aid if we need.
- Light Grey Art Lab is my favorite gallery in Minneapolis, and they often make exhibition guides for their art. They’re brought in some pretty serious artists to do classes, talks, and workshops. They’re the ones who did the Pokémon Battle Royale, which asked artists to get one image of each original 151 Pokémon and interpret it. Like Biggie, it blew up like you thought it would. They’re down to ride if this gets off the ground.
The team would not be limited to these members, or even be guaranteed to be them, but the talent is available. I would have a considerably longer list of proofers with community-minded members of Magic.
Step 3, Part 2 – Crowdfunding
A normal distribution plan could be fun, just as with Agents of Artifice, but the risk is higher. Just as licensing agreements prevent massive potential sunk costs, I would suggest a crowd-funding initiative. This would also be a way for Wizards to test out whether their consumers would use that as a funding area for any potential future projects.
Step 3, Part 3 – ???
Step 4 – Profit
I care very little how much any project like this would raise in private capital, but rather, I am looking to see the “community profits” from a creation like this. It creates a standard of Magic art instead of upcoming artists having to buy four or give Spectrum Annual books to see what Magic looks and feels like. If volumes were possible—Rath, Mirrodin, Ravnica—it would create standards for artists to hit by emulating masters of imaginative realism and, I hope, push art-making forward.
In addition, Wizards would profit tremendously by having an advertisement of their game in homes. You think a tee-shirt grabs someone’s attention? How about a five-pound book that sits in plain sight every minute of every day? Word.
We’re at Step 1. Sign the damn petition, and let’s get this rolling.
Tweet at me with questions. Let’s do this.