Christopher Rush has died. I’m still in a bit of shock. Not last November (the day after All Hallow’s Eve no less) I met him for the first time at GP Indianapolis, a short, friendly man with an air of mischief and energy about him. Exactly the kind of man you’d want illustrating a game about dueling wizards slinging spells at each other. He signed an Unglued Plains for me, one I picked up from a vendor when I realized I had brought no Rush-illustrated cards with me, and we talked briefly. I asked him if he had known, back in 1993, when he was doing the illustrations for Black Lotus and Lightning Bolt, if he knew what he was getting into, if he knew his artwork would grace the most iconic cards in a game that would still be played 22 years later. He told me no, that, given how little Wizards could afford to pay artists back then, he and the other early Magic artists contracted for as many cards as they thought they could deliver on time. He chose Black Lotus and Lightning Bolt because, in his words, “It was a flower and a lightning bolt. They sounded quick and easy to bang out”. He said he that though he hadn’t done any work for Magic recently, he was very happy that so many people still loved the game, and his illustrations.
In addition to Black Lotus and Lightning Bolt, the game’s most iconic cards, Rush also illustrated the game’s two rarest cards: Shichifukujin Dragon and 1996 World Champion, with only one copy of each in existence (the printing plates for the latter being ceremonially destroyed). Furthermore, as the designer of Magic‘s mana symbols, and co-creator with Jesper Myrfors of the card back, his artwork appeared, and will continue to appear, on (almost) all of the cards in the game! He was also the first and one of the few non-Japanese artists to illustrate a Pokemon card, the Wizards Promo #12 Mewtwo.
So R.I.P. your Blacker Lotuses tonight and raise a draft to one of Magic‘s finest artists. Mr. Rush, you shall be missed! May Seraphs and Archangels guide your Shade to the Safe Haven of our Heavenly Father.
NB: Rush continued to work as a fantasy illustrator up until his death. As such, he is eligible for nomination under ‘Best Professional Artist’ in this year’s Hugo Awards. So far as I can tell, there are no rules preventing the posthumous awarding of a Hugo. His work can be viewed here. His work for Magic can be found here.