Patrick Scalisi's Blog

October 18, 2017

The Legend of Jedit Ojanen is a bit of an outlier among the other “Legends” stories in the Armada comic line. While titles like Dakkon Blackblade and Elder Dragons take place in Dominaria’s deep history, this one occurs 400 years after the end of the Ice Age.

That’s the comic’s setting, in any case. I point this out because this title was completely retconned by the Legends cycle of books that were released between 2001 and 2002. And since this comic is once again related by an omniscient narrator, there’s no arguing that it could be an alternate account penned by an unreliable storyteller.

Even so, The Legend of Jedit Ojanen isn’t packed with a lot of lore to begin with, and my understanding is that the books written by Clayton Emery actually add a good deal of flesh to what is a bare-bones story in the comics. (I haven’t read the books yet.)

What is here for fans is some fantastic art by David Boller. In lieu of using traditional panel layouts for this two-part series, many of the pages are designed with intriguing graphic elements or details pulled from the story itself. The result is a rather dynamic page design in which the layout actually adds nuance to the story.

Issue 1 of The Legend of Jedit Ojanen was packaged with a Chronicles printing of Johan. Issue 2 did not include any kind of insert.

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STORY SYNOPSIS
The impetuous young cat warrior Jedit Ojanen gets more adventure than he bargains for when he ventures outside his secluded home, ultimately crossing paths with some of the most notable sorcerers and warriors of the age.

CREATIVES
Kenn Bell wrote both issues. Bell was a computer graphics artist at Acclaim / Armada when he pitched the story of Jedit Ojanen to Jeff Gomez and Wizards of the Coast. It would be his only comic writing credit. He soon left the industry to begin a career in advertising, though he reunited with Gomez as a videographer, writer, and director for Gomez’s Starlight Runner Entertainment. In the early 2000s, Bell founded GraphicPlanet Creative and began to expand his work in film and television. He also launched the video series and website called Dog Files, which he runs from Orlando, Fla.

David Boller provided both pencils and inks. Boller, who is based in Switzerland, has been a presence in the comic industry since the early 1990s and once shared a studio with the Brothers Hildebrandt. He’s worked for all of the major publishers on titles as varied as Batman, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Elf Quest, and Witchblade. He’s also done advertisement art for clients like Porsche, BMW, Ikea, Kodak, Samsung, and more. In 2014, he transitioned his comic publishing platform Zampano into a full-on comic media agency called Virtual Graphics that also offers workshops and mentorships for up-and-coming artists. Boller chronicled his time in the United States in an autobiographical graphic novel titled Endless Sky.

Mark Csaszar served as colorist. Csaszar worked on several of the Magic titles and then went on to have a prolific career with Valiant Comics throughout the 1990s. He is described at the end of issue 2 as “an accomplished painter in his own right.” The Legend of Jedit Ojanen was the last comic he did for Armada. Unfortunately, Csaszar seems to have dropped off the radar in recent years, and I can’t find much about what he’s been up to lately. Feel free to leave a comment with more information.

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(How cool are these panel designs?!)

Tony Harris did the cover art for issue 1. He collaborated with Ray Snyder on the cover for issue 2.

Harris is an Esiner Award-nominated comic artist who has done extensive work for Marvel and DC, as well as stints with indie luminaries Brian K. Vaughn and Mark Millar. He also co-created the Starman character for DC with James Robinson. Unfortunately, Harris courted controversy in 2012 when he posted a sexist rant on Facebook about female cosplayers in the comic fan community.

Snyder is a career comic artist who has produced a tremendous amount of work for DC. He is considered one of the best inkers in the industry, with recent runs on Supergirl and Wonder Woman titles.

LORE
Unlike other stories in the comic line, which take place in Terisaire or Corondor, The Legend of Jedit Ojanen takes place in Jamuraa.

Jedit’s mother is Musata. His father is Jaeger.

Adira and Hazezon were once married.

MISCELLANEOUS
Jedit rides a mount called a monox, but this creature does not appear on any printed MTG card.

Jedit’s village is attacked by barkworms, which are described as “huge snakey beasts with big teeth. In the months before mating season, the males get together in packs and travel in straight lines, devouring anything in their path.” Barkworms also do not appear on any printed MTG card.

Finally, Jedit refers to creatures called Lankaars, which do not appear on any printed MTG card.

Though many of the legends from this comic (Jedit, Johan, Hazezon Tamar, etc.) have been printed on various cards, Adira Strongheart has not appeared on any MTG card.

Though Johan very clearly states that he killed Jaeger, the last page of the issue is focused on Jedit leaving to find his father. It’s unclear if (a.) Johan was lying; (b.) this was a setup for an eventual sequel to this story; or (c.) was simply an error.

Much like Elder Dragons, issue 2 had a serious misprint in which pages 24 and 26 were transposed. This completely interrupts the flow of the story and makes it almost nonsensical until the reader realizes the error.

The back of the issue features a full-page piece of art by Mark Csaszar that was meant as a "goodbye" painting, since this was the last Armada comic he worked on.

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Published on October 18, 2017 18:19 • 29 views • Tags: comic-books, comics, magic-the-gathering, mtg, wizards-of-the-coast, wotc

October 7, 2017

Serra Angel is described on its cover as “A Fable of Dominaria,” so its standing within the broad universe of Magic: The Gathering lore need not be disputed. As a fictional story set within a fictional world, it contains practically no substantive lore and presents no canonical quandaries. The introduction to the comic states that the tale’s provenance is unknown, but that “most scholars agree that it occurred some time [sic] after the World Spell which ended the Ice Age.”

Though the story is rather straight forward, it is nonetheless heavy with creative intent. Drawn by Rebecca Guay and written by Margaret Weis, Serra Angel represents a pairing that would today be considered earth-shattering: two titans in their respective fields coming together to create something beautiful.

And Serra Angel is beautiful. As Guay’s many, many fans can attest, her artwork is like little else in both the worlds of imaginative realism and fine arts. To see her paint an entire comic is something to behold.

Serra Angel was published in August 1996 and was packaged with an oversized version of Guay’s Serra Angel card. Of note is that this card is the most valuable of all those that were included with the Armada comics: near-mint copies can sell for $75 or more.

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STORY SYNOPSIS

After losing his stronghold to a wizardly usurper, the magician Aldon summons a powerful Serra Angel to help him reclaim his domain — only to learn a heartbreaking lesson about love and loss before realizing his goal.

CREATIVES

Margaret Weis wrote the issue. Weis is a New York Times bestselling author of fantasy and roleplaying books whose titles have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. As a member of TSR’s creative team in the 1980s, Weis and co-author Tracy Hickman laid the underpinnings for the Dragonlance world. She has since gone on to collaborate with Hickman on more than 30 books, in addition to her stand-alone works like the Star of the Guardians series and the Dragonvarld Trilogy. Her newest project is the Dragon Corsairs series with Robert Krames.

Rebecca Guay served as artist for the entire issue. Guay’s contributions to Magic: The Gathering are near legendary. In addition to providing art for more than 150 unique cards, Guay also served as artist for two of the Armada MTG comics: Serra Angel and Homelands. This isn’t particularly surprising since she started her professional career as a penciler for Marvel and DC. These days, Guay is focusing almost entirely on her fine arts career and on mentoring upcoming artists. In 2017, she mounted a solo show titled “Crush” at Site:Brooklyn in partnership with R.Michelson Galleries.

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LORE & MISCELLANEOUS
(Since there isn’t a lot to cover with this particular comic, I’m going to combine these two sections for this blog entry.)

There’s a nice reference to Palladia Mors, demonstrative of how the Elder Dragons are so tightly woven into Dominaria legend.

There is also a reference to the kingdom of Shikar, which is taken from “The Dragon War” short story at the end of the Dakkon Blackblade comic. Elves apparently inhabit part of the kingdom called Calthyn.

The Serra Angel faces a creature called “Arachnia,” but this doesn’t seem to refer to any in-game card or monster.

The Fallen Angel in this comic is likely not Trine from the Fallen Angel comic. Shawn Carnes later confirms this in his “Seer Analysis” column.

This was the first comic book that Margaret Weis had ever written.

In an interview at the end of the comic, Weis had some unkind words for author Andre Norton, who wrote the first Dungeons & Dragons tie-in novel based on a concept by D&D co-creator Gary Gygax. “It was not a very good book,” Weis said.

The illustration of Weis that accompanies her interview is not credited.

Rebecca Guay was the first artist to move from working on the MTG comics to the game itself. She was hired to illustrate her first cards based on her portfolio for the Homelands comic.

It’s pretty amazing to trace Guay’s comic art from more than 20 years ago to the fine art she’s doing now. Lots of similarities, huh?

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(Top: A panel from the Serra Angel comic in 1996. Bottom: “Little Fish” by Rebecca Leveille-Guay, 2013-15. Image © Rebecca Leveille-Guay)

The back of the issue has a section titled “Convocations II,” a spinoff of an art-centric issue that Armada had put out in January 1996. All of the art in the gallery was drawn by students at the School of Media Arts in Los Angeles, a magnet school founded by Johan and Norma Klingler to pull gang kids off the street and train them to be artists for film. Johan Klinger was himself a longtime animator for Walt Disney Studios.

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Published on October 07, 2017 11:05 • 29 views • Tags: comic-books, comics, magic-the-gathering, mtg, wizards-of-the-coast, wotc

October 1, 2017

Well, the news is out. After several months of edits, discussions, and phone calls I'm proud to announce that I have signed with Owl Hollow Press to release Abe Titterman and the Key to the Universe (final title subject to change) as a middle-grade novel. The book will be published in the spring of 2019.

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The announcement for the book appeared in this week's Publishers Weekly news blast, and excitement is already running high. There's lots to do over the next 18 or so months, but I'm through the roof with excitement.

While I don't have much more information to share yet, you can be sure that I'll be posting details as they become available both here and on my Facebook page.

In the meantime, you can check out my official author page on OHP's website and the book's temporary landing page.

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I'll also be working on my other writing initiatives, including a new epic fantasy novel and my MTG Comics Reread Project.

Happy reading!
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Published on October 01, 2017 18:50 • 40 views • Tags: key-to-the-universe, news

September 18, 2017

Armada’s Shandalar series was meant to serve two purposes for two wildly different products. On the one hand, it continued the narrative that began in Ice Age issues 3 and 4, showing what happened to Faralyn, Tevesh Szat, Leshrac, and Lim-Dul after the events in that series. On the other hand, it was meant to serve as a prequel of sorts to the Magic: The Gathering Microprose video game, which was hyped with some intensity in both issues of Shandalar.

The plane Shandalar, itself, has always held a unique place in Magic’s multiverse. With the exception of Core Sets and peripheral products like Planechase, no Magic block has ever truly taken place on Shandalar. Nonetheless, important events that happened there continue to impact MTG characters and stories to this day.

So Shandalar is kind of an important place for the influence it exerts on other stories (see: the Chain Veil), but the narrative told both in the comic and the video game are largely ignored or forgotten — despite the fact that both are seemingly still canon.

And, to be sure, a few important events occur in this two-part series, the most notable of which is the death of Faralyn. Long considered one of the most powerful pre-Mending Planeswalkers, able to best Elder Dragons in single combat, Faralyn is destroyed in the opening pages of Shandalar. Talk about an ignoble end!

Yet, these kind of stakes are often what is so critically missing from Magic’s storyline today. Shandalar is easily one of the most “adult” comics in the Armada MTG line. There’s profanity! There’s violence! There’s death! Two main characters (Faralyn, Ravash Mog) actually die over the course of the story, and two others (Lim-Dul, Kenan Sahrmal) appear to die. Despite the fact that these latter two suffer “comic book deaths,” the preceding elimination of Faralyn and Ravash is enough to give a first-time reader pause: Wait, did the writers just actually decapitate Lim-Dul?! This makes for some suspenseful storytelling, and today’s Magic writers would do well to study the history found here.

Shandalar was published between March and April 1996.

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STORY SYNOPSIS
Faralyn, Tevesh Szat, Leshrac, and Lim-Dul attempt to invade the mana-rich plane of Shandalar, only to find it defended by powerful magic, stalwart warriors, and another accomplished Planeswalker.

CREATIVES
David Quinn wrote the entire series. Quinn is a Stoker Award-nominated writer who is best known for Faust, a groundbreaking creator-owned series targeted toward adult readers. In addition to co-creating Faust with artist Tim Virgil, Quinn has also written for Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider and Lady Death.

Bo Hampton provided artwork for both issues. Hampton worked in comics for many years before diversifying to a career doing storyboards. He’s worked on multiple animated series, films, and ad campaigns. He still dabbles in comics as his schedule allows.

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The entire issue was colored by a digital firm called Digital Chameleon, and boy do the colors pop! Digital Chameleon, like Atomic Paintbrush, was one of the first companies to popularize the use of Adobe Photoshop in the comics industry. Though the company closed in 2003, it provided services to many major publishers.

Finally, Zina Saunders did the covers of both issues. Saunders is a world-renowned artist, writer, animator, and educator. The daughter of pulp legend Norman Saunders, Zina began her career illustrating book covers, magazines, and trading cards (including MTG). In 2005, she pivoted to reportage illustration. In addition to publishing a book titled Overlooked New York, she’s done a variety of fantastic U.S. political satire.

LORE
Shandalar is bookeneded by two major pieces of lore. Issue 1 begins with the death of Faralyn. Kenan Sahrmal sends an Astral Dragon to investigate Faralyn’s arrival on Shandalar, but when Faralyn attacks the dragon, it overwhelms the Planeswalker by flooding him with magic. This leads to Faralyn’s seemingly permanent demise.

Issue 2, meanwhile, ends with Lim-Dul’s invasion of Shandalar. This leads directly into the Microprose video game. As far as I can tell, both the comic itself and the video game are still considered canonical, though they are mostly ignored today. For a great rundown of the Microprose video game, visit the excellent Multiverse in Review

Faralyn refers to Lim-Dul as a Planeswalker. He is not. This isn’t so much an error, though, as a reflection of the fuzzy definition of what being a Planeswalker meant at the time, as discussed in the Ice Age entry.

In issue 2, Szat says, “I threw down a dozen empires across Sarpadia and Terisaire.” This gives some indication as to how widely traveled he was after the events in the Fallen Empires comic.

Also in issue 2, Leshrac bemoans the fact that he made Lim-Dul “a swamp-king to rival Sol’Kanar himself.” We of course know Sol’Kanar from the Dakkon Blackblade comic, but the significance of becoming a “swamp-king” is less clear.

MISCELLANEOUS
Kenan Sahrmal is referred to both by his full name and as simply “the Sahrmal,” indicating that “Sahrmal” may be a title or honorific.

Bani Bakur and Ravash Mog seem to appear exclusively in this comic. To my knowledge, they have never been printed or referenced on any MTG card. Though Kenan Sahrmal has appeared in other story sources, he too has never been printed or referenced on any MTG card.

Among his accolades, Kenan Sahrmal burnt El-Aman and is the author of The Book of Rings. Interestingly, the M13 Core Set, which was set partially on Shandalar, features a cycle of ring cards corresponding to locations on the plane. See, Ring of Evos Isle, et al.

Bani has chiroptophobia — a fear of bats.

Leshrac and Szat reference Lim-Dul’s Keep and the artifacts stockpiled there — a possible reference to Tresserhorn.

Lim-Dul is depicted as holding a Jester’s Cap in issue 1. Strangely, it is never seen again.

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(See the red circles above.)

The Astral Dragon is referred to as “Astral Dragon” in the main comic but is called “Faerie Dragon” in the notes at the end of issue 1.

At one point in issue 2, Kenan Sahrmal exclaims, “By Ahrian-Rad’s Lunar Harp!” This doesn’t seem to refer to any known character or artifact.

Issues 1 and 2 contain full-page ads for a card game called The Great Dalmuti, designed by Magic creator Richard Garfield and illustrated by MTG artist Margaret Organ-Kean. Issue 2 contains a full-page ad for another Richard Garfield game: Robo Rally.

The notes at the end of both issues devote plenty of ink to the Microprose CD-ROM game. The predecessor to all of Magic’s digital products, the game enjoyed some popularity and a number of expansions. Once again, for more information head over to Multiverse in Review

The end of Issue 2 contains a page-length depiction of Lim-Dul titled “The Pale Face of Death” by Kenneth Martinez. Martinez was a computer graphics designer for Armada at the time, though I can’t find anything about what he’s been up to lately.

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Published on September 18, 2017 18:29 • 55 views • Tags: comic-books, comics, magic-the-gathering, mtg, wizards-of-the-coast, wotc

September 10, 2017

Now we’re in the thick of it. When I think about comics that made me truly come to love Magic: The Gathering, Ice Age is usually what comes to mind. This series and Shadow Mage are among my favorite titles in the line. And even though the Ice Age comic has been completely retconned by the Ice Age cycle of novels by Jeff Grubb, it still holds a special place in my heart.

Unlike Antiquities War and The Urza-Mishra War, there’s no amount of mental gymnastics I can do to justify that this comic may still be canon. It’s presented by an omniscient narrator, and there’s no reason to think the information we’re given as readers is unreliable.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton to love about Ice Age. This story’s narrative is particularly strong among Magic’s tie-in materials, and the design is absolutely stunning. From the way spellcasting is depicted to the costume and character designs, everything about Ice Age is a feast for the eyes and the imagination.

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(One example of spellcasting using arcane designs corresponding to the spell’s color and usually transitioning from one panel to the next.)

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(Freyalise in all her battle-scarred glory.)

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(Zaraya’s outfit is just one of many intricate costume designs.)

Like other parts of Armada’s MTG comic line, Ice Age is partially incomplete in that a sequel of sorts was planned in the form of an Alliances prestige one-off. Based on a synopsis found in issue 2 of The Urza-Mishra War, we know that the story would have followed Jaeuhl Carthalion and Kaysa, who fall in love during their later adventures together. Something was also meant to occur that would have caused a rift between Kristina and Taysir, leading all the way up to the Planeswalker War. To see screengrabs of this synopsis, head on over to the entry for The Urza-Mishra War.

Still, since Ice Age is a complete narrative in and of itself, I don’t have too much to complain about.

Ice Age was published between July and October 1995. Issue 1 included a copy of the card Bone Shaman. Issue 2 included a copy of the card Chub Toad. Issues 3 and 4 included sets of heavy cardboard tokens.

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STORY SYNOPSIS
Over the course of 500 years, the Planeswalker Freyalise acquires allies and adversaries while trying to end Dominaria’s Ice Age.

CREATIVES
Jeff Gomez (Fallen Empires) wrote the entire series.

Rafael Kayanan provided pencils for the entire series. Kayanan is an entertainment industry veteran, having worked for nearly every comic company under the sun. He’s provided artwork for Conan: The Adventurer, Turok, Firestorm, Spider-Man, and Star Wars. He’s also done concept work for video games, Broadway shows, and film, as well as art for tie-in collector cards. Perhaps most interesting is that Kayanan is also a martial arts and bladed weapons master! He’s trained actors and designed fight and stunt choreography for films such as The Hunted and John Carter of Mars.

Rodney Ramos (Arabian Nights) served as inker.

Eric Hope provided painted color for the issues. In addition to Ice Age, Hope worked on several other Valiant titles in the 1990s.

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Charles Vess did the covers of all four issues, continuing the streak of Armada hiring legendary genre artists to produce their MTG comic covers. Vess is a multiple award-winning sci-fi and fantasy artist who has worked in books, comics, and the fine art scene. He’s collaborated with Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint, and has been the subject of art exhibitions held around the world.

LORE
It’s interesting to see the idea of “Planeswalkers” in pre-revisionist storytelling, before the idea of becoming a Planeswalker was standardized, per se. One gets the sense from Ice Age (and other titles) that a wizard could become a Planeswalker through hard work and study, and not by a quirk of genetics or the mysterious Planeswalker “spark.”

Likewise, a wizard who tried casting a powerful spell prior to “becoming” a Planeswalker risked endangering his or her own life. This happens to Zilgeth of Clan Ruby when he sacrifices himself to Incinerate a Johtull Wurm.

Early in issue 1, we learn that Freyalise is considered a Planeswalker both before and after her death. Death itself is termed “walking the ether planes.”

Both Jason Carthalion and Freyalise are orphans, though Jason presumably married at some point and fathered children to continue the Carthalion line. Jason’s parents are said to have died “to the cold,” though we only learn this from the notes at the end of issue 2.

Jason’s descendant, Jaeuhl Carthalion, is depicted as part-Elf, and the synopsis for the unpublished Alliances comic describes him as “elven.” Since Jaeuhl begins a relationship with the Elvish druid Kaysa, it’s safe to assume that the Carthalion line intermingled with Elves both before and after Jaeuhl’s time.

The kingdom of Kjeldor is named for Oriel Kjeldos, the shaman of Clan Emerald, who led her people and others away from the crumbling kingdom of Storgard.

Prince Darian exists in both pre-revisionist and revisionist stories. Here, he is the prince of Kjeldor. In the Ice Age cycle of books, he is King Darian. Of particular note is the role he plays in issue 2 in making diplomatic overtures to the Balduvians, since Kjeldor will go on to unite with Balduvia at the end of the Ice Age to form New Argive. Darian is depicted on the card Darian, King of Kjeldor.

Issue 3 is absolutely packed with lore, so much so that it could almost be its own entry. Let’s begin with the setting: Dominaria’s Null Moon. The moon plays an important narrative role not only in this story, but also in The Thran by J. Robert King and in the Weatherlight Saga.

The Shard is described by Faralyn as a dozen planes that have been splintered from a “continuum of a trillion worlds.” However, we known of only two (possibly up to four) planes that make up The Shard, and this information is likely gleaned from the Ice Age comic. The first, of course, is Dominaria. The second is Azoria, where Freyalise and Tevesh Szat fight part of their duel. As the MTG Wiki points out, if the Null Void is a plane, it would be the third of the 12. Only one other has possibly been identified (read on).

In the opening panel of issue 4, Szat indicates that he’s familiar with Phyrexia. This isn’t particularly surprising in and of itself, seeing that Szat is at least 2,500 years old and may have even traveled there at one point. What’s more notable is Phyrexia’s potential role as part of The Shard. This is never explicitly stated, but it would make sense. Szat seems to have access to a Priest of Yawgmoth from Phyrexia, and the priest later threatens to banish Jaeuhl there — something that shouldn’t be possible if Phyrexia wasn’t among the 12 worlds of The Shard.

[EDIT 9/12/2017: After I started this project, I was introduced to the excellent Multiverse in Review, in which blogger Berend is reading and reviewing every MTG tie-in story ever produced. Since he's already covered the Armada comics, I try not to read his analysis of the issues until after I've written my own so as to avoid any unintentional influence, the appearance of plagiarism, etc. In any case, Berend points out in his Ice Age entry that Phyrexia is NOT part of The Shard. Head over to Multiverse in Review to see why!]

Ravidel states that he comes from one of the 12 planes within The Shard. Since we don’t know the identity of 8-10 of these planes, we never learn his place of origin. Ironically, Kristina also notes that Ravidel is “pure at heart” and “a student of the plains” — quite a contrast from what he becomes in later comics.

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Rhuell’s inclusion in issue 3 is extremely important. Szat specifically identifies Rhuell as “an Elder Beast,” so it’s safe to assume that Rhuell is the Chromium Elder Dragon. As I noted in my entry for the Elder Dragons comic cycle, we know that Nicol Bolas is one of only five Elder Dragons still alive.

Vaevictus Asmadi may or may not have been killed in issue 2 of Elder Dragons. That’s one.

Chromium Rhuell meets his end in Ice Age issue 3. That’s two.

Before Rhuell’s death, though, Ravidel explains, “Leshrac forcibly summoned Rhuell’s brother into a duel -- the dragon was destroyed by Leshrac’s opponent.” Rhuell had two brothers among the other Elder Dragons: Bolas and Arcades Sabboth. Since Bolas is still very much alive, this may be how Sabboth met his end. That’s three.

Perhaps Palladia Mors is still buried on Dominaria.

The Labyrinth of Raynor at Soldev in issue 4 is a callback to the glacier that was pressing down on Storgard in issue 2.

MISCELLANEOUS
During the riots in Storgard in issue 1, a warrior who appears to have a hook for a left hand exclaims, “By the Ebon Hand, this quarrel must end.” This is interesting for a few reasons. First, it means that all remnants of the Order of the Ebon Hand were not wiped out by the Thrulls during the Fallen Empires era. Second, it means that some vestige of dedication to Tourach existed in the early years of the Ice Age. Of course, the Ice Age comics are no longer canon, so we can only speculate as to whether this was a flavorful addition by the writer or simply a continuity error.

Jason Carthalion’s nickname for Freyalise is Alise. Her nickname for him is Jace.

In his “Seer Analysis” column at the end of issue 1, Shawn Carnes writes, “It’s also cool to see some of the legends referred to in the upcoming Ice Age expansion (King Miko and his Staff of Ice Lords, Kjeldos, and the Kingdom of Storgard itself, to name a few).” As far as I can tell, neither King Miko nor a “Staff of Ice Lords” is referenced on any game card. However, by issue 4, it is clarified that Staff of the Ice Lords was changed to Staff of the Ages prior to the printing of the Ice Age card set. King Miko was perhaps cut entirely.

The shaman Bolar, introduced in issue 2, never has his race or species identified. He has quite a unique design, in that he has a bald head, pointed Elven ears, and two small arms growing from his chest. In the notes at the end of issue 2, he is further described as, “An aspiring Planeswalker caught in the Shard, who has chosen to make his home on Dominaria.” Given the shaky definition of Planeswalker at this point, it’s possible that Bolar is indeed a Planeswalker of a species that, nearly 25 years later, we still haven’t met.

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In issue 2, Onala calls on Oriel as “grandmother.” However, since issue 2 takes place 500 years after issue 1, this is likely an error.

Kailo utters the oath, “Miko’s blood!” in reference to King Miko of Storgard

Zaraya is seemingly given two artifacts by the Marked Ones: the Nova Pentacle, which was printed in the Legends expansion, and the “Reflecting Star,” which seemingly doesn’t refer to any printed card. It is only in issue 4 that it’s clarified that these are two names for the same artifact.

Disa the Restless and her husband Kolbjorn are introduced as minor characters in issue 3. Kaysa is their adoptive daughter. Kolbjorn appears on the Ice Age printing of Elder Druid, while Disa is quoted in the flavor text of no less than 20 individual cards.

Kaysa would not be printed on a card until the Alliances set. She appears on a card that bears her namesake. Likewise, Jaeuhl Carthalion appears on the card Juniper Order Advocate in the same set — albeit looking significantly different than he does in the comic.

In issue 2, Zaraya uses the enchantment Katabatic Winds on Lim-Dul, and Carnes identifies this as a card in his “Seer Analysis” column at the end of the issue. However, Katabatic Winds would not be printed until the release of the Visions expansion in February 1997. In the notes at the end of issue 4, the editors explain that Katabatic Winds was renamed Freyalise’s Winds. So the name was originally considered for the Ice Age expansion, was changed, and was then recycled for Visions.

Faralyn seems to think that by repairing The Shard, Taysir can return to Rabiah. Neither seems to realize that Nailah has closed the plane so that Taysir can never return. This also means that Rabiah is not within The Shard.

Faralyn has interfered in the lives of at least three Elder Dragons.

Being an ante card, Amulet of Quoz is banned in all formats.

At the end of issue 1, Editor Jeff Gomez mentions that he learned to play Magic at Chameleon Comics in Queens, N.Y. Interesting, that shop is still a thriving comic and hobby store!

Issue 3 includes a piece of concept art depicting Storgard by C.R. Lister. Lister was a penciler for Valiant Comics at the time, though he never produced any art for MTG.

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Even though the Magic comics were not published under the Valiant masthead (but instead by a subsidiary of a subsidiary), Valiant used the MTG titles as part of its “Birth-Quakes” advertising campaign.

Issue 4 has two copy errors: On page 18, the word “their” is repeated in the sentence, “Some arrive by sorcery, others upon their fastest steeds -- all to offer of their their personal mana, to the efforts of Goddess Freyalise.” On page 29, the word “has” is missing from the sentence, “At press time, the M:TG Ice Age expansion finally been released!”
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Published on September 10, 2017 17:51 • 84 views • Tags: comic-books, comics, magic-the-gathering, mtg, wizards-of-the-coast, wotc

September 4, 2017

Since the Armada MTG comics were not published in chronological story order, there is a gap of about 140 years between the end of the Brothers’ War and when Fallen Empires takes place. As I alluded to in my last entry, this means we miss the sylex blast that eventually causes Dominaria’s climate to change and instead skip ahead to the Fallen Empires story.

As I recently learned, Fallen Empires takes place within a larger era known as Dominaria’s Dark Age. (I previously thought these two eras were distinct from one another.) According to the generally accepted timeline, this period begins with the sylex blast in 64 A.R. (Argivian Reckoning) and ends when the Ice Age commences in 450 A.R. According to John Tynes’ essay in the back of issue 1, the Fallen Empires comic takes place 100 years after the sylex blast, making it about 165-170 A.R.

There were no comic titles planned (to my knowledge) that would have covered the rest of the Dark Ages leading up to the Ice Age.

Interestingly, the Fallen Empires comic is still considered canon. Unlike the Brothers’ War, no stories were later published to override what happens here. That makes this an important title because it serves as a quasi-origin story for the villain Tevesh Szat.

Fallen Empires was published in September and October 1995. Issue 1 was packaged with a full booster pack of Fallen Empires. Issue 2 included a set of heavy cardboard tokens.

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STORY SYNOPSIS
The warrior Tymolin Loneglade becomes the lynchpin of a conflict that will not only bring about the fall of the tribal communities of Sarpadia, but also a war between Planeswalkers that will last millennia.

CREATIVES
Armada Editor Jeff Gomez co-wrote this series with Kevin Maples.

Following his editorial stint at Acclaim’s comic book division, Gomez co-founded Starlight Runner Entertainment with Mark Pensavalle in 2000. This production company transforms intellectual property into transmedia franchises — such as toys, animation, or videogames titles — that extend the narrative across multiple platforms. In this role, Gomez has worked on such universes as Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron; Microsoft’s Halo; James Cameron’s Avatar; Hasbro’s Transformers; and Mattel’s Hot Wheels.

Maples was a brand manager at Wizards of the Coast from 1994-99 before moving into teaching. He is currently a religious instructor in Kentucky.

Alex Maleev (Arabian Nights) did the pencils, which were inked by Rodney Ramos (Arabian Nights).

Michael Tuccinard (Arabian Nights) served as colorist.

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Anson Maddocks painted the covers of both issues. Maddocks was one of the original 25 Magic: The Gathering artists and contributed more than 100 pieces of card art during his tenure with the company. While he no longer actively works on the game, he keeps in touch with the community through GPs and personal commissions.

LORE
Fallen Empires focuses mostly on Tymolin Loneglade and her brother Tev. Tev Loneglade, who goes on to become the villain Tevesh Szat, is a Planeswalker. Tymolin is not. She has, however, enjoyed an extremely extended lifespan thanks to a powerful enchantment cast by Tev.

Based on dialogue cues from the story, we know that Tymolin is the younger of the two siblings. Tymolin and Tev grew up together near the Sarpadian coast. They are both at least 2,000 years old at the time of this story.

At the start of the comic, Tymolin is in a romantic relationship with the dwarf Kaylen of the Sarpadian Mountains. Some outside sources identify them as husband and wife, but there is no mention of this in the comic.

Tymolin also had a love affair with the religious zealot Oliver Farrel sometime in the past. Their breakup prompted Farrel to begin spreading rumors that Tymolin was the living incarnation of the dark god Tourach and that she should be killed. Farrel takes being jilted to the next level.

At one point, Tev mentions that he could have interfered in the conflict between Urza and Mishra. “I should have forced those two upstarts to throw their tantrums elsewhere,” he says.

This strikes me as particularly interesting because it not only gives us a clue as to Tev’s level of power, but also means that a Planeswalker was present on Dominaria, knew about the Brothers’ War and chose to do nothing about it.

The last piece of really interesting lore concerns one of the side characters: Master Scout Loren of the Havenwood Elves. Loren’s father, who is not identified by name in the comic, is credited with creating the race of Thallids. That means that Loren’s father is Thelon of Havenwood.

MISCELLANEOUS
The amulet that Farrel claims to have taken from a member of the Order of the Ebon Hand matches the shield on the Ron Spencer printing of that card’s namesake.

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Issue 1 features a full-page ad for The Duelist magazine.

In his essay on the history of Fallen Empires at the end of issue 1, John Tynes writes, “[The development team] designed Fallen Empires to cluster around the median of card power, and to avoid both spoiler cards and useless cards. This design reflects their philosophy: that Magic: The Gathering should be a game of subtle cunning and constant transformation, rather than a mindless slam-happy game of brute force, where the player with the biggest wallet always wins.” I’ll let others debate how well they succeeded.

Issue 2 features ads for both the Ice Age and Chronicles expansions, which had been released a few months earlier in the summer of 1995.

Issue 2 includes a note to join the official Magic fan club: the Duelists’ Convocation. The cost to join was $18. The Duelists’ Convocation International would later become simply DCI, the official sanctioning body of competitive MTG play. It’s unclear if this fee was for a “Legends Membership,” which was supposedly $30 at the time.

Issue 2 features a full-page piece of art by Carlos Phoenix Jimenez. Jimenez is a classically trained illustrator who originally produced freelance sci-fi and fantasy art before moving into marketing, social media, and online content creation. He is also the brand ambassador for the Georgia Latino Film Festival.

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Published on September 04, 2017 18:06 • 61 views • Tags: comic-books, comics, magic-the-gathering, mtg, wizards-of-the-coast, wotc

August 25, 2017

If anyone actually reads this blog (!) you may have noticed that I had to take a brief hiatus from The Great Magic:The Gathering Comics Reread project. And for good reason — I had the chance to attend GenCon 50!

For those who may not be familiar with this particular convention, GenCon was originally founded in 1968 as the Lake Geneva Wargaming Convention. The first GenCon was organized by Gary Gygax, the legendary co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, and was focused mostly on tabletop war games.

Over the past five decades, GenCon has evolved to become “the best four days in gaming.” Magic: The Gathering famously debuted at GenCon in 1993, and the event has helped popularize other bestselling games like Settlers of Catan and Pokemon. Today, GenCon welcomes gamers and game developers of every stripe — not to mention artists, authors, and more — to enjoy hours of time-tested favorites and yet-to-be-released gems.

I had the unique opportunity to attend GenCon 50 as both a vendor and visitor. Earlier this year, Original Magic Art was surprised to receive a booth at the event after originally being waitlisted, and owner Josh Krause needed assistance in running the venture over four days. So on Wednesday, Aug. 16, I jumped on my flight to Indianapolis to assist with setup, sales, and takedown for the long weekend.

The first thing you need to know about GenCon is that it’s enormous. The event has since outgrown even the Indianapolis Convention Center and now overflows into both the Westin hotel next door and Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Indianapolis Colts play. I could have spent another four days at the event and still not felt like I had seen everything.

But what I did see was spectacular.

From cosplay to charity auctions, from creative workshops to Cardhalla, the amount of things to see, do, and play was staggering.

And the games! Board games, tabletop RPGs, miniatures, deckbuilders, CCGs, mobile apps — even the most hardened buzzkill could find something to not only play, but also enjoy at GenCon.

For such a massive undertaking — more than 60,000 people attended in 2016, and 2017 sold out completely — I found GenCon to be extraordinarily well run. As a vendor, we had access to a section lead who was responsible for all the vendors in our little corner of the convention hall. Kim stopped by every morning and every evening to make sure we had everything we needed. The bathrooms were kept spotless and stocked. The food wasn’t outrageously overpriced. And for how many people were in attendance, I never felt squished in an aisle like rush hour riders on the Tokyo subway.

Helping Josh at the OMA booth gave me a unique perspective on the show. I got to meet, interact with, and talk to countless people. I also got to see people taking in the show from a perspective other than that of a fellow attendee.

As a first-time GenCon attendee, going with a vendor was a very favorable way to see the show. With the OMA booth, I always knew I had a home base to return to after seeing one part of the convention hall. Josh, meanwhile, was more than happy to share his expertise on the best things to see and do.

Through Josh, I met a great number of wonderful new friends, many of whom were also GenCon veterans. It’s no exaggeration to say that they took me under their wing in terms of nighttime activities and in simply sharing stories about years past. I got to play a Powered Old School cube (meaning, a cube that sourced Magic cards from 1993-95, including the incredibly potent Power 9) as well as several games of Vintage Artist Constructed. And I got my butt handed to me in two games by a bonafide member of Wizards of the Coast’s R&D staff. (I mean, if you’re gonna lose, it might as well be to someone who, you know, designs the game!)

Possibly the best thing I did, however, was visit a recreation of the Lake Geneva Horticultural Hall, where the first GenCon was held in 1968. Situated in one corner of Lucas Oil Stadium, the exhibit was meant to mimic the size of the venue where the first GenCon occurred.

In addition to serving as a striking comparison of how much the show has grown, the exhibit also had displays of midcentury games that influenced Gygax and his contemporaries, as well as rare first editions of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. I even got to speak briefly to Gary Adkinson, the father of former Wizards of the Coast CEO Peter Adkinson.

Coming home on Monday was a bittersweet experience. It had been an exhausting weekend, and I was desperate to see my loved ones and sleep in my own bed. But I was also sad to be leaving the adrenalized world that allowed me to play games until 2 a.m., work cheerfully on four hours of sleep, and just be among the kindness and welcoming spirit that is the hallmark of so many gamers.

On the other hand, the fact that I can return to these games, especially my new GenCon acquisitions, with friends and family any time I choose is perhaps the winningest prize of all.

By the way, if you'd like to learn more about Gary Gygax, GenCon, and the birth of Dungeons & Dragons, I can't recommend Empire of Imagination by Michael Witwer enough. Enjoy!
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Published on August 25, 2017 13:01 • 84 views • Tags: dungeons-and-dragons, games, gaming, gencon, magic-the-gathering, mtg, wizards-of-the-coast, wotc

August 12, 2017

In terms of publication history, The Urza-Mishra War was the final comic produced by Armada as part of its Magic: The Gathering line. While other titles were planned — notably one covering the Alliances expansion and the completion of the Planeswalker War storyline — this was the last that readers saw of Armada’s contribution to MTG lore.

As with Antiquities War, this series was retconned with the release of the book The Brothers’ War by Jeff Grubb in 1998. Unlike Antiquities War, however, Urza-Mishra War veers wildly from the story that has since become the “official” version of this period in Dominaria’s history.

Once again, we can chalk up some of these differences to an unreliable narrator, especially when it comes to the issue of Harbin’s parentage (more on this in the LORE section). But by the second issue, it’s clear that the wheels were coming off at Armada, and no amount of fancy historical arguments can justify some of the errors that were made (see MISCELLANEOUS).

Also of note is that the cancelation of the series after Urza-Mishra War leaves a chronological gap in the lore that was never covered by the comics in any fashion. The third Urza-Mishra comic series, which would have seen the climax of the brothers’ conflict, was one casualty of the cancelation, and there were no titles planned (to my knowledge) that would have covered the period known as The Dark.

Thus, we miss the sylex blast that eventually causes Dominaria’s climate to change and instead skip right ahead to Fallen Empires.

The Urza-Mishra War was published in September and October 1996. The first issue included a copy of Phyrexian War Beast or Soldevi Steam Beast from Alliances, while the second issue included a copy of each.

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STORY SYNOPSIS
With clear battle lines drawn, the conflict between brothers Urza and Mishra grows into a kind of world war, while influences from the plane of Phyrexia advance their machinations to infiltrate the conflict and exert their own supremacy on Dominaria.

CREATIVES
Jerry Prosser (Dakkon Blackblade) wrote the entire series.

Tom Mandrake and Bill Sienkiewicz split the artistic duties on both issues.

Mandrake is a career comic artist who has worked for almost every company out there. He counts Batman and New Mutants among some of his biggest credits. With writer John Ostrander, Mandrake helped launched The Spectre series at DC. He also founded the creator-owned Image title Creeps.

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Sienkiewicz is a giant in the comics field, having worked on countless titles since the early 1980s. He won the Eagle Award for best new artist in 1981 and an Eisner Award in 2004 for his work on Sandman. Sienkiewicz is perhaps best known for his multiyear run on New Mutants, to which he brought his singular style.

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Sienkiewicz did both covers. (And I love how Ashnod is channeling Marvel’s Illyana Rasputin, or Magik, on the cover of issue 2!)

LORE
The most important item of lore to explore in The Urza-Mishra War is the mystery of Harbin’s parentage. Harbin was the son of Kayla Bin-Kroog and was raised as Urza’s child, but the identity of Harbin’s father is contested.

In The Urza-Mishra War, Kayla is having an affair with Urza’s apprentice, Tawnos. But in The Brothers’ War by Jeff Grubb, Kayla has a one-night stand with Mishra that could have resulted in Harbin’s conception.

Once again, the idea of an unreliable narrator (which I discussed in the Antiquities War entry) comes to the fore. Remember that we’re getting this story at least third-hand: the events are related by Kayla, translated with new commentary several centuries later by the Planeswalker Taysir. Though Taysir frequently praises Kayla’s honesty, isn’t it conceivable that she would want to spare Urza’s feelings by claiming that Tawnos — and not Mishra — could be Harbin’s father?

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In his interview at the end of issue 2, writer Jerry Prosser makes an interesting note in this regard. “Sometimes Taysir gets things wrong,” Prosser writes, “so there’s this tension between the text and what the plot is doing on the pages as it unfolds in front of you.”

I am personally of the mind that Habrin is actually Urza’s son, and the artists Mandrake and Sienkiewicz seem to agree. In the comic, Harbin shares Urza’s blond hair.

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(From left, Tawnos, Harbin, and Urza.)

What else do we learn about Harbin from these two comics?

During Mishra’s assault on Kroog, which takes place shortly after Harbin’s birth, Mishra permanently disfigures Harbin by cutting off his left ear.

Finally, in the second issue of Urza-Mishra War, we witness Harbin’s initiation as a warrior-priest of Argive. How this might play out later in the story, however, is never explored.

Unfortunately, we don’t know much about Harbin to this day, except that he fathered the line that eventually included Jarsyl (Harbin’s son) and Jodah.

In his commentary, Taysir mentions that Jarsyl authored a book titled Codex Phyrexia and that Jarsyl made many trips to the mechanical plane.

And in addition to Harbin’s disfigurement during the assault on Kroog, we know that the King of Kroog — Kayla’s father and Harbin’s grandfather — was killed by a Dragon Engine.

Moving on from Harbin, there’s lots of other lore to explore.

Clues in Taysir’s commentary seem to indicate that he is writing well after the Ice Age.

The design for the Yotian Soldiers came directly from the Jalum Tome.

Urza drinks from his chalice to combat fatigue and to rejuvenate himself.

Mishra’s main stronghold is built on the former site of Tocasia’s archeological school.

During the first meeting of the council at the Ivory Tower in issue 2, we meet Hurkyl — who is depicted as bald for some reason. This strikes me as an odd creative choice given that she’s shown with long, dark hair on the card that bears her namesake. Still, creative license I suppose.

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(Hurkyl as she appears in the comic (left) and in the card Hurkyl’s Recall.)

Finally, let’s look at what clues we can glean about the conclusion of the conflict between Urza and Mishra that would have occurred in the canceled comic series. Interestingly, it’s significantly different from what would become the “official” story.

In an interview at the end of issue 1, Pete Venters says, “At the climactic battle at Argoth, the war between Urza and Mishra comes to an end with the input of the Phyrexian demon [Gix]. The demon activated a dimensional portal that was so dangerous that when it closed, it actually atomized Argoth.”

This, Venters says, caused the Ice Age. There is no mention of the Golgothian Sylex.

Likewise, at the end of issue 2, Shawn Carnes writes, “As for our brothers, legend has it that neither were ever seen again. Some say that Mishra perished and Urza survived. Some say that both perished. Still others say that both were spirited off to another distant plane to continue their fighting for eternity.”

This once again makes one wonder how much of Urza’s fate was planned out by the story team at this point.

MISCELLANEOUS
Korlis is once again misspelled as “Korliss” throughout.

Taysir mentions that a specimen of Ashnod’s Transmogrants exists in the museum beneath the College of Lat-Nam. However, this doesn’t make chronological sense since the college was destroyed during the war, and Taysir is writing much later.

Urza refers to himself at one point when he really means Mishra.

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(“I’ve gone crazy and I’m talking about myself now.”)

There’s a very confusing segment in issue 2 in which delegates from the council at the Ivory Tower are sent to Urza and Mishra. The delegate from the College of Lat-Nam looks exactly like Hurkyl, as depicted in the comic. When she’s interrogated and killed by Mishra, it seems that Hurkyl herself is killed when this isn’t the case — she shows up later in the comic.

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(Hurkyl is pictured on the left. On the right is the emissary who is killed by Mishra.)

In issue 2, the whole section regarding Gix and the Ivory Tower council at the Caves of Koilos is … confusing to the point of being almost nonsensical. On this and the point about Hurkyl’s doppelganger I’d love to hear what went into the creative process. Were pages left on the cutting room floor? Was the shakeup with the cancelation of the comic line to blame? Anyone with info, feel free to write in the comments.

In an interview at the end of issue 1, Skaff Elias mentions that he and his team used their experience as war gamers to design the Antiquities expansion. They went so far as to chart out battles and designed cards based on the balance of power in those conflicts. Neat!

In an interview at the end of issue 1, Pete Venters mentions Sorine Relicbane, but misidentifies his gender. (Venters calls Relicbane “she.”)

In his interview at the end of issue 1, it is mentioned that Tom Mandrake’s wife, Jan Duursema, was meant to do the pencils for Prelude to War, one of the canceled MTG comics. Ironically, much of the interview’s focus is on the comic industry downsizing and canceling titles.

The interview with Bill Sienkiewicz at the end of issue 1 fails to mention one of his most famous titles to that point: Marvel’s New Mutants!

In the same interview, Sienkiewicz expresses his admiration for Rebecca Guay. Guay would go on to become not only one of the most popular MTG artists ever, but also an accomplished gallery artist.

Issue 1 carries an ad for the canceled Alliances comic, complete with a plot synopsis and art, meaning that at least some of the issue had been completed when the Magic comic line was canceled. What I wouldn’t give to see those pages!

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[EDIT 10/5/2017: I had a brief chat with Doug Wheatley, who was kind enough to give me some information about the Alliances comic. He explained that "the book was canceled soon after we began. I remember doing one cover and eight interior pages." He also said that the art was unfortunately not returned to him after the project was canceled, so it is likely lost to the ages.]

Issue 1 carries a full-page piece of art depicting Ashnod’s Transmogrant that is uncredited except for the initials “KM” and “AR" in the bottom right corner.

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The interview with Dennis Calero of Atomic Paintbrush at the end of issue 2 mentions that they use Photoshop 3.0 to digitally color comics.

Jeff Gomez and Geof Vita used their editorials at the end of issue 2 to disclose the bad news that the comics had been canceled. Along with information about the upcoming titles that had been planned, they also showed off some of the cover art that had already been finished. Let’s close this entry with what might have been.

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(Prelude to War by Greg Hildebrandt.)

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(Planeswalker War 1 by Rags Morales.)

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(Planeswalker War 2 by Rags Morales.)
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Published on August 12, 2017 15:26 • 55 views • Tags: comic-books, comics, magic-the-gathering, mtg, wizards-of-the-coast, wotc

July 30, 2017

The Antiquities War comic series has a fascinating and troubled history. Multiple artists were needed to finish the four-part series (more in the “CREATIVES” section), and the third act that would have completed the overall story arc of Urza and Mishra’s conflict was never published because the Armada comic line was cancelled. Then in 1998, two years after the comics were published, the entire story was essentially retconned with the release of the book The Brothers’ War by Jeff Grubb.

This, however, does not mean that Antiquities War is not worth reading or even that it can no longer be considered “canon.” In fact, the Armada editors displayed an uncanny sense of prescience at the end of issue 3 when they wrote, “The Brothers’ War is a long and complex one. According to Wizards of the Coast, there have been several interpretations of exactly what happened between Urza and Mishra, and [comic writer] Jerry Prosser’s take on this history, while probably quite close, is sometimes purposefully ambiguous.”

So let’s put on our researcher caps for a moment. In terms of Magic’s timeline, the Antiquities War is considered ancient myth. Depending on which calendar you’re using, Urza and Mishra were born approximately 4,500 years prior to MTG’s current storyline.

Compare this with, say, the Norse mythology of our own world. According to Kevin Crossley-Holland in The Norse Myths , the greater part of Norse mythology took shape between 1000 B.C. and 1 A.D., with some elements dating back as far as the late Bronze Age (xxxii).

Additionally, the Norse myths spring from six primary sources, some of which differ, overlap, or even contradict each other.

May we not look at the stories from Dominaria’s deep history the same way?

The Antiquities War comic series is presented as “a new translation and commentary” of a work by Kayla Bin-Kroog, Urza’s wife. We’re already starting with a version of the story composed by a potentially unreliable narrator. Now couple that with the fact that this translation and commentary is being done by Taysir of Rabiah, who is offering his own interpretation of the tale. (By contrast, The Brothers’ War by Jeff Grubb is told by simply an omniscient narrator.)

Taken together, the story of the Antiquities War as told in the books, comics, and trading cards that comprise the Antiquities line probably tell the whole story of this epic conflict. And just like the myths of legends of our own world, these stories have become, shall we say, a bit complicated with the passing of ages.

Antiquities War was published between November 1995 and February 1996.

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STORY SYNOPSIS
As young men under the care of the archeologist Tocasia, the brothers Urza and Mishra discover the Mightstone and the Weakstone in the Caves of Koilos, setting them on a destructive path that will ultimately change the fate of Dominaria.

CREATIVES
As I mentioned earlier, Antiquities War had a difficult birth. No less than three pencilers worked across four issues.

Issue 1 was done by Paul Smith, an iconic comic artist known particularly for his work on X-Men and X-Factor. In particular, Smith is famous for debuting Storm’s 1980s punk rock mohawk look and for the cover of Uncanny X-Men 173, featuring Wolverine and Rogue.

Smith’s run on the series was, unfortunately, cut short. The editors note at the end of issue 4 that scheduling conflicts prevented Smith from finishing the series.

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(Smith’s work, above, had a great sense of motion in his panels.)

Phil Hester took over penciling duties for the entirety of issues 2 and 3. Hester is another career comic artist who has worked on Swamp Thing and Alien. During his run on Green Arrow, Hester co-created the characters of Speedy and Onomatopoeia with filmmaker Kevin Smith.

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(Hester’s panels, above, opted for a more illustrative look.)

As with Paul Smith, Hester was unable to complete the series. He did the opening and closing spreads for issue 4, but the heavy lifting was done by “J. Dekker.” Unfortunately, I can find no information on this artist, and Comic Book DB lists this issue as his only credit -- ever.

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(J. Dekker, above, finished the series. I thought maybe this was a pseudonym for Smith, since their styles are similar, but the art is different enough to give me pause.)

Tom Ryder did the inks for every issue. Ryder was a career comic artist with Valiant, Acclaim, and DC in the 1980s and 90s. He later became a storyboard artist, working on animated shows like Ultimate Spiderman, Ben 10, and Batman. He currently works for the animation studio Titmouse.

Jerry Prosser* (Dakkon Blackblade) wrote the entire series.

Michael Tuccinard* (Arabian Nights) did the colors. He was aided in an uncredited capacity by Chrysoula Artemis-Gomez, the wife of Armada Editor Jeff Gomez. Chrysoula currently serves as the creative director of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a transmedia company co-founded by Jeff.

Finally, artist and illustrator George Pratt did all of the covers for the series. Pratt is an Eisner Award-winning artist who has worked on numerous titles and whose fine art has been displayed at galleries around the world. He also illustrated 14 MTG cards.

*NOTE: To avoid redundancy, I won’t repeat bios of artists or writers who worked on previous titles that I’ve already reviewed. Please see the blog post for the title noted to read the artist or writer’s full biography.

LORE
While Antiquities War was later retconned by The Brothers’ War by Jeff Grubb, the broad strokes of the story are essentially the same.

Issue 1 introduces Urza, Mishra, and Tocasia. Urza and Mishra are, of course, brothers. We are also introduced to the Weakstone and the Mightstone.

Issue 2 introduces Kayla Bin-Kroog, Urza’s eventual wife.

Issue 2 also introduces the Yawgmoth Demon. Though it is never explicitly stated in either Antiquities War or The Urza-Mishra War, this particular demon is meant to be Gix. (This is fleshed out more in The Brothers’ War by Jeff Grubb.)

Issue 3 introduces Tawnos and Ashnod, Urza and Mishra’s respective apprentices. It is insinuated that Ashnod and Mishra are lovers, at least at the start of their acquaintance. We’ll see how this plays out as we move toward The Urza-Mishra War.

MISCELLANEOUS
“Koilos” (as in the Caves of Koilos) is said to mean “secret” in High Argivian.

The king of Kroog is in possession of the Jalum Tome, which he gifts to Urza.

In his commentary, Taysir mentions Jarsyl. Jarsyl was (possibly) Urza’s grandson and is mentioned on Gate to Phyrexia.

In Issue 3’s edition of “Seer Analysis,” Shawn Carnes states that Urza and Mishra are not planeswalkers, which makes one wonder how much of Urza’s fate was planned out by the story team at this point.

Korlis is misspelled as “Korliss” throughout the series.

The star doorway that Mishra and Ashnod use to transport to Phyrexia in issue 4 shows five points of mana that correspond to the colors and their placement on the back of a standard MTG card.

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Published on July 30, 2017 07:35 • 119 views • Tags: comic-books, comics, magic-the-gathering, mtg, wizards-of-the-coast, wotc

July 19, 2017

Arabian Nights is an important keystone in the overall story arc of the MTG comics since it tells the origin of Taysir, one of the most important pre-Mending Planeswalkers. We don’t know when it takes place chronologically, except that it occurred in the deep history of the Multiverse. According to the official chronology offered by the Armada editors, it comes after the three Legends comics already covered. However, since that list ordered the Legends titles incorrectly, this opinion may be suspect. This isn’t a huge sticking point because we know that this story must occur prior to Antiquities, but since it doesn’t take place on Dominaria it can simply be read before we get to the story of Urza and Mishra.

Arabian Nights was published in December 1995 and January 1996.

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STORY SYNOPSIS
In her own quest for power, Nailah the Sorceress Queen travels across the infinite planes of Rabiah in an attempt to manipulate and unite five parallel aspects of a man named Taysir.

CREATIVES
Writers Susan Wright and Jeofrey Vita co-authored this series. Wright is a USA Today bestselling author of more than 30 novels and non-fiction books. She is also the spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

Vita was the assistant editor at Armada Comics and wrote or co-wrote several of the MTG comics. Unfortunately, I can’t find much information about what he’s been up to since. If you’re familiar with his work, please let me know in the comments.

Penciler Alexander Maleev is a Bulgarian-born artist who has worked in comics and advertising since the 1990s. He has provided art for Daredevil, Batman, and Spiderwoman. When Marvel Comics reacquired the rights to Star Wars, Maleev was one of the creative forces behind the well-received Lando miniseries. His corporate clients include Scion, Nike, National Geographic, and Target.

Inker Rodney Ramos is a career artist who has produced a prodigious amount of work for Marvel and DC.

Colorist Michael Tuccinard began his professional life as a career artist for DC and Marvel. He later went on to become a creative consultant in the corporate world, helping companies like Fidelity, Coka-Cola, and Staples discover how visualization and storytelling could be used to help solve real-world problems.

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Michael “Mike” Dringenberg did the covers of both issues. This is kind of a big deal because Dringenberg is no less than the co-creator of Sandman with Neil Gaiman. He also, I learned, illustrated 41 MTG cards! Do a search on MagicCards.info to see the imagination he brought to his assignments.

LORE
As I mentioned, this is a keystone story, not only in the annals of old MTG lore, but also for many of the story cycles that came later. Unlike many of the early comics, Taysir’s origin story has never been retconned. (Thanks for the help with this Cary Thomas!) That means that this is still his official origin.

The plane Rabiah, on which most of this story takes place, would later lend its namesake to the Rabiah Scale. In short, the Rabiah Scale ranks the likelihood that the game will return to a specific in-game locale, with 1 being very likely and 10 being very unlikely. Rabiah ranks 10, mostly because it is based on intellectual property that WOTC does not own and/or is in the public domain. In the story, Nailah closes off Rabiah so that Taysir can never return. Thus, we have an in-canon explanation for why MTG will never return to Rabiah.

El-Hajjâj is identified as Nailah's father.

MISCELLANEOUS
Taysir uses the Ring of Ma'rûf to travel between destinations. In game, this card allows you to grab a card from outside the game and put it into your hand.

According to Wizards of the Coast's Gatherer card database, "Ma'rûf" is the correct spelling for Ring of Ma'rûf. In the comic, it is incorrectly spelled "Maruf." On the card it appears as "Ma ruf."

Nailah is quoted on the Fifth Edition printing of Sorceress Queen.

The comic includes several references to Muslin culture, including "Allah" (often used as an oath, as in "By Allah!") and "dervish." This is a big no-no for today's Magic design team, so much so that they almost couldn't include the card Wrath of God in From the Vault: Annihilation. As Gavin Verhey explains in THIS article, "Magic creative has been trying very carefully to not put a spotlight on cards that reference the real world, and this religious connotation is firmly within what creative normally (and completely understandably) tries to eschew."

In the notes at the end of the issue 2, it is stated that Earth is part of the Multiverse!
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Published on July 19, 2017 11:30 • 78 views • Tags: comic-books, comics, magic-the-gathering, mtg, wizards-of-the-coast, wotc