Finally, a product that combines my first love, sequential art (comics to you plebeians), with my latest infatuation, playing card decks.

Launched off the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2011, Magicians Must Die is series of decks that serve as short comic books. Created by card manipulator De’vo Vom Schattenreich and artist Jay Peteranetz the decks follow the story of card manipulator, D, as he tries to rescue his sister from evil, child-kidnapping magicians. The comic itself looks like one of those exploitative, Euro books that toes the line between outright stupidity and tongue-in-cheek goofiness. I don’t think it’ll be winning any Eisners any time soon, but it’s the medium rather than the message that caught my eye here.  

While the decks clearly don’t work as playing cards – the comic is printed on the back, making them useless for most tricks and games – they do make surprisingly good comic books. The cards are printed by USPCC, and while I occasionally find myself at odds with the company’s apparent love for garish skeleton decks, their printing process is great at producing the bright colors and deep blacks good comic art needs.

While Peteranetz’s art style translated well, he did have to reconsider his approach to page layouts, given that the audience would be reading the comic card by card rather than page by page. As he told CBR back in 2016: 

Unlike turning the page of a comic, and getting that entire “thought” in a quick glance, with “Magicians Must Die” you slowly reveal each beat of the story as you lay the cards out. When laying out the cards, you may only get to see the top half of a panel before the panel is completed when the next row of cards is laid out. So I needed to carefully consider the necessary information on the top row of a “thought,” then complete and enhance that with the bottom row. I think I really figured that out with issue #2. You can read the comic by laying out every other row, but the secondary rows really fill out the story and give context to the action.  

The first Magicians Must Die #1 was launched in 2012, and its initial 2500 unit printing sold out in just days. The deck, and all subsequent “issues,” have since been reprinted and can be picked up from some select magic supply sites; check the last issue’s Kickstarter for more information.