Book of the Tarot: An Introduction to the Tarot Cards Featuring Various Authors Review by Diane Wilkes
I recently received this comic book, published in 1991, as a gift. Despite the stark black and white cover with the red pentacle in a circle, this is no document of the black arts. It is, in fact, a cool collection of original Major Arcana cards created by 22 different artists, none of whom I had ever heard of prior to obtaining the comic book.
The 63 page publication devotes two pages to each of the Major Arcana cards. One is a full-page displaying the tarot card, the other page has the Rider-Waite-Smith card in the upper left hand corner, an explanation of the card's meaning, along with upright and reversed "Divinatory Attributes."
Book of the Tarot begins with an interesting, mostly historically correct introduction to the cards, that contains images of Court de Gebelin, Papus, and various cards from the Mantegna Tarot and Marseilles Tarot
The Minor Arcana are also discussed in some detail, with each suit getting its own two-page chapter. Three spreads are featured, including the Celtic Cross, which isn't named as such and is wrongly described as "one of the earliest spreads known." Another featured spread is Etteilla's Great Figure of Destiny, which contains 66 cards.
At the end of the comic book is an "Illustrator Biography" and a bibliography that some recently published authors could benefit from--it includes old standbys A.E. Waite and Eden Gray, but also C.C. Zain and Paul Foster Case.
The chief asset of this magazine is the original art, though. All of the images are done in black and white, and show a great variety of artistic styles and approaches. As would be expected, some cards, like the World and the Star, are very comic-like. Others like the Lovers and the Tower are abstract. Some of the images are bold and detailed, some refined and delicate...but all are striking in some way.
I love this image of the Strength card--there's a lushness and charm that the Bella Abzug-style hat just enhances. The finely detailed lines make this a compelling piece of art, one you could easily imagine as a poster.
There are numerous misspellings and some of the interpretations are simply odd: according to the comic, the Ten of Wands indicates "Travel likely to a new place. Reverse--Take caution, otherwise the trip will go wrong." But who cares? You're not purchasing it for the text, but the unique and striking art.
I wouldn't begin to know where to find this publication, but if you happen to come across this unique little comic book, snap it up.
Images and text © Caliber Press 1991
Review and page © 2001 Diane Wilkes