What crazy and completely pointless bit of art have I been doing lately you ask? That would be gluing comic book panels to Magic the Gathering cards!

Back in the early 1990s in my Marvel Bullpen days a bunch of us used to play MTG at lunchtime. It’s a fun collectable card game and I enjoyed playing it but I haven’t played it in decades. Sometimes I’ve played it on the iPad but it’s not the same. Those games I used to have with my friends and co-workers were a lot more fun.

One thing I have done in the last five years is to make “Altered Art” MTG cards. That’s where I strip the art off a card with acetone, prep the card for printing, and then print a new picture on it with my inkjet printer. I’d sell them for a few bucks on eBay. It’s fun to do but it takes a lot of meticulous work to get it right. I stopped making those in the summer of 2021. It stopped being worth the time and effort.

Back when I started making those I still had most of my original MTC collection but I wanted to order some other MTG cards to experiment on. You can get about a thousand random MTG cards on eBay for about $25. I ordered a batch. It was fun getting all those new cards, playing around with them, and putting them in order. Even though I have 950 of them left I occasionally still want to order more. But I haven’t. Until now.

The other thing I have in great supply around here is comic books. I’m an active collector of those so I go to my local comic shop every week and get new ones. One week, a couple of years ago, my LCS owner gave me a stack of about 20 comics that were so battered and worthless that he was just going to toss them out. I sometimes draw on such comics so I gladly took them for the paper. Each has around 32 pages and I don’t do that many drawings on comic books so they’ve sat around for years.

Besides the tedious method of stripping the ink off a MTG card and then printing on it another method I’ve used is to print an image on sticker paper and stick it over the art. This isn’t as pretty or desirable a method but it works in a kludged together way. I printed some images from old Steve Ditko horror comics on some cards. It came out okay. But I didn’t do many of them.

I think it was the memory of those Ditko cards that made me put two and two together. That’s when I had the idea to take the old battered comics and cut out panels from them to glue on some MTG cards.

When I write “Glue” that’s a colloquialism. I really use something called “Positionable Mounting Adhesive” (we used to call it 3M paper). That’s a paper that comes with sticky stuff on one side. You apply that sticky stuff to the paper (or photo) you want to mount and transfer it to the paper by applying pressure to the back of the PMA. It can be tricky to work with but it’s much cleaner and more precise than glue.

After making a couple of test cards I decided to buy a batch of new random cards. I spent $25 on a new bunch of 1000 cards and waited for them to arrive. Why did I need more cards? I don’t know but I’ve enjoyed looking through them and putting them in order. Sometimes arranging things is soothing.

The first comic I chose to cut up is a battered copy of Conan #40 from the 1970s. It took me some trial and error to figure out a technique to get the size of the cut out correct. I eventually settled on using and actual MTC card as a cutting guide. I used an X-Acto knife and straight edge to precisely cut out the art on a card. The I placed that card on the comic page and chose the art to cut out. Using the edges of the hole in the card as a guide I carefully cut the paper with the X-Acto.

Working with newsprint from the 1970s takes a delicate touch. That stuff is thin and fragile. One wrong move and it tears. Especially once the sticky stuff is on the back of it. It takes a steady hand to line up the cut out panel right over the art on the card that it’s going to cover up. I ruined a few of them but the newsprint sticking when I didn’t want it to and then tearing it as I tried to correct the placement.

It turns out that there are a lot of good images in that single comic to work with. I’ve made about 15 cards so far and have only used four pages of the comic. Sometimes it’s just a piece of a drawing but at other times I can get a cool word balloon in there too. I like the way they are coming out.

Magic the Gathering card art is generally pretty good to begin with. They have some talented artists working for them. But pasting the comic art on them makes each card an individual piece. That changes things. Putting the printed comic book art on a card also re-contextualizes the art. That means if you use art for a different purpose other than it’s original one it looks different. Or, at least, it makes us look at it differently.

I notice that I find myself looking at these cards with new eyes now. Each piece of art that I cut from the comic has a new composition. It’s removed from its original place on the page and is now a single piece of art. This makes me look at it as such. I find myself looking at the comic book art on the card and taking in the details of it in a new way. What was once one tenth of a page is now its own thing. It says something new. I find that interesting.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with these cards or how many I’ll even make but for now I’m finding it a fun way to make something interesting.