“I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.”
When we first lay eyes upon a brand new set of Vs. System cards, we automatically begin to connect with it through the artwork it contains. We are visual creatures; the organs we use for sight have gained a commanding influence over our entire being. Even when we try to deny their power, we are still tight on the leash.
Since the eyes have it, the soul is guided and formed by whatever personal optical preferences have developed within the individual. You like what you like, and I like what I like—it makes us who we are. As an art teacher, I could spend this entire article explaining in intricate detail the reasons for the success of certain images . . . but you will still like what you like. Certain colors, characters, and compositions will always command your aesthetic allegiance. Some pictures just grab you and never let go.
My life is dedicated to the visual arts. I am aesthetically obsessed. Four objects of my deepest devotion showed up last Saturday at our local Marvel Team-Up Sneak Preview tournament. My eyes are still burning.
I really like Thanos, Shuma-Gorath, Mysterio, and Linda Blair. Let’s take them in that order. Thanos embodies the deepest contrasts in the human experience. His palette is made of complimentary colors, which are actually opposites. Purple is the antithesis of yellow, and Thanos is the most hateful lover of all time. His heart is undyingly loyal to Death. He courts her with an obsession that is unmatched in all of romantic fiction, and he looks really cool while he does it.
Thanos is also a collector. His stash of Infinity Gems is now complete, thanks to the Marvel Team-Up set. Ego Gem is here, and the game may never be the same. The ability to draw extra cards in order to feed whatever risky strategy your aesthetics demand has never been this sparkly. Our new 0-cost jewel of an equipment card looks like fabulous fertilizer for fanciful freaks around the globe. It’s a beautiful thing.
Shuma-Gorath has commanded my attention since he first appeared in the Capcom video game called Marvel Super Heroes in 1995. He has a large, single eye and huge, annoying tentacles. His abstract essence embodies the purity of desire, free from the detailed annoyance of politics and petty squabble. In the video game, his special move is called “Chaos Dimension,” and when he beats a hero into a pathetic pulp, he taunts the vanquished in a funky voice, calling him or her a “waste of flesh.” When I am looking for a crazy character to become visually enamored with, it doesn’t get any better than that—unless, of course, it includes a fishbowl for a head.
How do I love Mysterio? Let me count the ways. Pink and green is my favorite two-color combo of all time. He has a cape, an awesome set of wrist sculptures, and lots of smoke. Best of all, he has a big, round glass globe to cover his visage. That is too cool. I think it’s the sense of abstract art coming to life that sucks me in, but it also makes his facial features pretty easy to draw.
Mysterio is always creating elaborate performance pieces to confound his enemies. When Francis Klum took over the fishbowl mantle as the third incarnation, his work was more impressive than ever. Peter Parker was employed as a teacher at Midtown High School when Mysterio’s latest evil illusions transformed the whole building into the most intense and realistic haunted house—right in the middle of the school day!
I didn’t get to play with Francis Klum ◊ Mysterio in my Sneak Preview deck, and no one played him against me all day. The fun was fully fleshed in spite of that, especially since I had a tiny touchstone to one of the most attractive public figures I have ever seen.
Linda Blair was possessed in The Exorcist, and she scared us all silly in the process. Then she came back all grown up in Exorcist 2: The Heretic. She has owned my soul ever since. My choice for Most Beautiful Actress in Film History now has a very tenuous connection to Vs. System thanks to Frank Drake. The Nightstalker is also devoted to our demonic diva—after all, he named his gun after her.
Frank Drake is more than just a great painting. His power is strong, non-team-stamped stuff if you can drop him on turn 1. I packed his firepower in my 30-card gallery for the Sneak Preview, but I never did draw him in time.
When the clock struck twelve to start the tournament, I busted my five packs and instantly turned into a Sleepwalker. I received two copies of the fancy flipper, and one of them was foil. I also had a risky finisher; Elektra, Leader of the Hand was ready to laugh maniacally if she ever got to fall into a truly hilarious fit of somnambulating beats. The meat of my deck was diabolical. I adore the Underworld, especially since I pulled myself into Death’s Embrace. It was a Strange Love indeed.
The first round was a treat that I had been anticipating for a long while. Gerren Clarke is one of my favorite local players, mostly because of a sick little Constructed deck that he has tuned to perfection. Let me tease you with the basics:
4 Longshot, Rebel Freedom Fighter
12 GCPD Officer
12 Shadow Creatures
1 Starro the Conqueror
Gerren told me about his JSA experiments with the deck, adding Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Allied Against the Dark, and The Rock of Eternity to make the police brutality more vicious than ever. I will never get tired of talking about strategies like that.
Eventually we had to play the match. Gerren jumped out to an early advantage, hitting his full curve from 1 to 5. I was catching up slowly, with Luke Cage, Neighborhood Watch becoming Underworld-friendly, followed by N’astirh with a Teleportation Ring. That paved the way for a furious Hellstorm of recurring plot twists and a mad Mephisto, Mephistopheles. Gerren missed his turn 6 recruit completely, and Elektra mopped up with initiative on turn 7 even though she didn’t get to go sleepwalking.
In the second round, I sat down against another local player, this time the central hub of our Miami Hobby League community. Dennison Fonseca makes sure we order the kits and keep the home fires burning. Now that we have the City Championships looming on the horizon, the house is going up in smoke. In case you haven’t heard, one Vs. System player will soon be immortalized on an official superhero trading card. Personally, that is the best reward I can imagine. Life is about to imitate art, and vice versa.
The match came down to one tiny endurance point, as Dennison swung his Spider-Man, The Amazing Bag-Man for just barely enough on turn 6. We were so excited by the upcoming City Championship that we hardly noticed who had won. Hobby League will never be the same, no matter what our records were at the Sneak Preview.
With one loss, I moved on to the next round against one of my Draft Party buddies. Mike Lovett is getting better and better at this game, and he displayed his skills on this day. I got frisky with Dweller-in-Darkness and Captain America, Heroic Paragon, trying desperately to stave off the final attack from Spider-Man, Stark’s Protege. Alas, it was not enough. At least we had Pro Circuit Indianapolis 2007 practice plans to make when it was over.
The final match of the day was against the classiest man in town. Rob Escalante is the kind of player that you would like your son to grow up to be. I will never forget watching him remind his unaware opponent that the defender recovers after a Validus stun. (This was with a PCQ Top 8 on the line!) Rob would rather lose with honor than win in a suspect manner. We should all strive to have his integrity.
Rob is also a mainstay of our Hobby League, and we spent time dreaming of City Championships and the opportunity to get one of our faces on a card. Then the match began and he had to underdrop on every turn after 2. We laughed for ten minutes as he was forced to turn his Beast, New Defender into a real beast when it was Banished to the Abyss while wearing a Teleportation Ring. A 2-drop with 1 ATK / 9 DEF is nothing to sneeze at, but it sure will make you chuckle. For some reason his deck just wouldn’t wake up, and my Sleepwalker trick was finally able to take flight. Elektra, Leader of the Hand soaked up a whole lotta love, and then flipped the script for the win.
My eyes have seen the glory of Marvel Team-Up, and it has made a definite impression. I’m sure you also have some new paintings that you can’t stop thinking about. Visual pleasure is increased, and our lives are that much better for it. Just think how intense the fixation will get when the City Championships crown one of our own in the halls of trading card game history. The optical endearment may last forever.
Rian Fike is also known as stubarnes and he only has eyes for you. Send a rundown of your favorite paintings to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you include a full decklist, he will research the myths that go along with it and publish your personal aesthetic obsession in a future article.