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.
In middle school, my friend Ethan introduced me to what would become my favorite game of all time, Magic: The Gathering. I had heard about it here and there before; it was an “older kids” game by the same people who made my Pokemon cards, but I had never seen it. We had a blast with it for a brief time. Every few years I would return to it briefly, but it wasn’t until college that I found a group to play with consistently. Presently, I’ve competed in a Games Day, a prerelease, and a Pro Tour Qualifier, and play competitively on a semi-regular basis; Magic is my favorite tabletop game, bar none. Yet, from the handful of games I played in my youth, why did I keep returning to this game, even when I had barely anyone to play it with? The excellent design and enjoyability of the game is a satisfactory enough answer, but I believe there is something more. Truth. That which mens’ minds and hearts are naturally drawn to with an inexorable force. To borrow a phrase from Tolkien, I believe Magic, like all great works with enduring appeal, contains in it a splinter of the Light, whose shining beckons to something deep in the hearts of all men, even if they do not realize it. Yet this Light is indeed splintered, refracted, “to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind”. The full Light would be too powerful, too blinding. Few, if any, could approach. Many might flee it. So the Light goes out in the guise of a fairy-story wizard, gathering a crowd with fantastical displays of fireballs and fairies, conjurings of goblins and great beasts; and with the crowd so enthralled, imparts a bit of itself to them. In a word, I believe Magic: The Gathering is superversive.
Another handful of capsule reviews as I continue to
procrastinate work on longer pieces.
Something I’m watching: Legend of Korra, Book 4: Balance
I was a little nervous about the idea of a three year time skip between seasons, but it worked great, and this season is off to a tight, smart start. I’m happy to see Varrick playing a bigger role in the supporting cast again, and while I don’t like how Toph was treated in Book 3, she is awesome so far now that she’s actually appeared on-screen. It’s too early to tell for certain how well Mako’s and Korra’s characterization will fare this time around, but these first few episodes have me confident that the writers will handle them well. Something else I’ve always liked about Legend of Korra as a whole that struck me watching this new season is that the show questions a lot of standard fantasy tropes, such as the romanticization of monarchy, or the idea of one superhuman solving all of the world’s problems. Also, props to Book 4 for having the best villain since Amon. Well, at least, I think Kuvira’s supposed to be the villain, but I’m a little worried that I’m mostly agreeing with her right now. I, for one, welcome our new metalbending overlord.
Something I’ve just watched: Aldnoah.Zero, Season 1 Read the rest of this entry