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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Black Ink Playing Cards - Inventors & Industrialists series (Part 2) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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Jody Eklund's Inventors & Industrialists series (Part 2)

Under the banner of his Black Ink Playing Cards and his website The Art of Jody Eklund (jodyeklund.com), illustrator Jody Eklund has created a series of playing card projects that now numbers around half a dozen. What makes his work unique, and has created a real demand for his decks and contributed to his success, is especially a combination of two things:
1. History: Jody shares some kind of historical story or historical personages via the illustrations and information in each deck of playing cards. For some projects he even creates a companion booklet that tells a small story about each of the people featured as characters in the deck!
2. Style: Jody combines this with a unique style that reflects a real eye for clean artistic design, and an attractive look. Even though he primarily does everything digitally, his work looks like it was done with pen and ink - hence the name "Black Ink Playing Cards" which he uses as his deck publishing brand.

After the train themed "The Golden Spike" (2014), Jody has produced several other hits: Innovation, Devastation, Inception, Titans, and his current project, Iron Horse. Most of these commemorate the great minds and individuals whose creativity was responsible for some of the greatest inventions and industries of our time. How did he get inspired to create these playing cards that are saturated with historical interest, and capture something of the most important men and women in history, especially creators and inventors? Here's how Jody himself described the origin of the first two decks of his Inventors series:

"A few months ago I watched a documentary on the History channel called, "The Men Who Built America". In that documentary the stories of John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan were told. I was glued to the TV ... I was hooked. Their stories were inspiring and I was struck by the spirit and ingenuity they showed. I decided that I should do a series of playing cards that celebrated the spirit that these kind of men demonstrated. The Inventors series was born."

Innovation was the first in the Inventors series, followed by Devastation, which introduced some of the minds that contributed to some of the inventions that had a big impact on war. Since these projects, Jody has created more similarly themed and styled projects. In this review, I'll cover some of his more recent projects that are in this vein, namely Inception and Titans.

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INCEPTION DECK

Next up is the Inception deck which is a series of three, also available separately. Shown here is the blue Intellectus deck.

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The concept here is that an innovative idea begins with a spark of light in the darkness: an inception. This is where the greatest inventions of our world began, in the minds of their creators.

So these decks are about the beginning of the thirst for knowledge, and they celebrate these revolutionaries, as Jody puts it: "The Inception playing cards were created to celebrate the people who were vanguards in their fields. Their ideas laid the bedrock for growing fields of knowledge, discovery and invention."

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Jody's more specific inspiration came from the great artist DaVinci. "For Inception my inspiration came from Leonardo DaVinci’s sketches and his obsession with knots. I wanted to create something that looked like it was created 500 years ago and use the knots as a design element that is woven throughout the project. "

The series actually consists of three decks: Intellectus (blue deck), Inceptus (black), and Illustratum (red).

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The decks are identical except that the Ace of Spades features unique artwork and the King of Spades features a unique character for each: Leonardo Da Vinci (Intellectus), Hero of Alexandria (Inceptus), and Archimedes (Illustratum).

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The card-backs are also in different colours, but aside from those differences, these three decks are the same - which means you can pick whichever colour you prefer, or get all three as a set.

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The artwork on these cards is absolutely beautiful, and in my view this is Jody's best effort yet. I love the style, which is a photo realistic black/white portrait, with a background image to add extra context and character, and very stylized handwriting that includes the person's name. Stunning!

Here's Aristotle and Galileo:

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Women are also featured on the cards, like Phillis Wheatley here, alongside Charles Babbage.

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Here's the complete list of individuals featured:

Spades: Leonardo Da Vinci (alternates: Hero of Alexandria & Archimedes), Abigail Adams, Sir Isaac Newton
Diamonds: Galileo Galilei, Mary Musgrove, Louis Pasteur
Clubs: Benjamin Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, Charles Babbage
Hearts: Aristotle, Annie Oakley, James Watt
Jokers: Henry Ford, The Wright Bros

I also love the style of the number cards.

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But the Aces are particularly stylized and beautiful.

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As mentioned earlier, a signature series is available, which includes all three decks.

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TITANS DECK

The Titans deck is one of Jody Eklund's most recently produced decks, and it's about the industrialists of the late 19th century. The tag-line for the Titans: Robber Barons deck is "Elegant playing cards depicting the Capitalists who acquired wealth by ruthless means and the women who fought for their rights."

Strictly speaking this project is not about inventors, although the historical approach and feel that is evident in the Inventors series is also present here. Here Jody set himself to take a look at the high achievers in business who stood on the shoulders of the great inventors. New industries and technology revolutionized the world, and this gave capitalist businessmen opportunity to ruthlessly build powerful financial empires.

Like some of the earlier projects, this also comes in three decks, all with classy looking tuck cases, and different coloured card backs.

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Here's how Jody describes the people featured in this deck:

"Titans are defined as "one that is gigantic in size or power: one that stands out for greatness of achievement." The men in this deck of cards were referred to as "Titans of Industry". For over three decades, the rise of new industries and technologies revolutionized the entire world. This made many men very wealthy and with their great achievements, came ruthless behavior an abuse of power. The capitalists of the late 19th century became know as "Robber Barons". The kings and jacks depict those that build empires through ruthless means, and the queens are women that spent their life's energy to liberate those oppressed in many ways. It's a story of juxtaposition; misuse of power and strength from weakness, oppression and liberation."

Here is John D Rockefeller, alongside the ornate and beautiful card back from the Standard edition.

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I love the fact that this deck has a real contrast, because it features unscrupulous men who employed unethical and abusive business practices to get wealth, while in contrast it also features women who dedicated their lives to free others from this kind of oppression.

Here are Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Truman:

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Some more Robber Barons - Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick:

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The Aces and Number cards in this deck are also very stylized, and have a very elegant feel to them.

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A Signature Series with all three decks in the series comes in a special package, with stylish gold foil.

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CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

There's a lot to like about Jody Eklund's decks of playing cards, and here are some notable elements:

History: Firstly, it is clear that Jody enjoys history. He's found a way to keep his own nose in the pages of history, as part of the research that goes into the creation of each project. But with his playing cards, we also get the opportunity to take a look at the movers and shakers that have helped make today's world what it is. His accompanying booklets that are available are a good way to learn more about these things. Certainly I found it rewarding to study the historical figures that he has featured on his decks, and it motivated me to find out more about their lives and achievements.

Inventors: Not all aspects of history are equally interesting, but I do share Jody's fascination with innovation and invention - in fact it's probably true for most of us. As a result, the Innovation and Devastation decks are of special interest, in how they document some of the men and women who changed the way people lived, or who changed the way people died.

Trains: There are a lot of people who have a real interest in railroads and trains. In the game industry, there "train" theme is a very common one, and "train games" make up a much larger component of games than what would otherwise be representative for a single theme. This interest should mean that the Golden Spike deck and the Iron Horse deck will have a broad appeal to a lot of people. The Iron Horse deck also has somewhat of a Western setting, which is another common theme in the game industry, and will also be a point of attraction for many.

Style: After looking at some of Jody's decks, it's very clear that he has a style of his own, especially with his black ink type images. It's this style that many appreciate about his work, accompanied with his attention to historical detail. At the same time it is evident that his style has evolved over time, and I especially love the look of his later decks.

Experience: While Jody has quite a bit of experience under his belt, with several successful campaigns so far, it's clear that he wants to keep challenging himself with new territory to explore, and also to continue to refine his style. With the current Iron Horse project, this is evident in the fact that the theme is tied to a fiction story which is made available as part of the project. Coming up with an idea that people are going to support is never easy, but he's managed to find somewhat of a formula that has attracted a solid support base, while at the same time he's prepared to make changes and adapt where necessary. His experience is only going to hold him in good stead going forward.

Refinement: Not only does Jody's style become more refined over time, but he's also exploring new ideas, as is evident for example in the Inception series, where he chose to make a trilogy of decks that differed only in the Ace and King of Spades as well as the card backs. He's also explored a range of different and unique add ons that many backers might enjoy. Even though I've not had opportunity to read the story that accompanies the Iron Horse project, I appreciate the fact that this does bring something new and interesting to the table, and offers an additional element that takes this project beyond the ordinary.

Quality Cards: From the cards and decks I've seen, the quality of the cards is great. Jody only uses reputable big name companies, so we are guaranteed of a good product. The decks I have are all produced by Legends Playing Card Company, which I have previously reviewed here. The Classic Finish that Jody has opted for is a high quality product that consider to be at least the equal of USPCC produced decks, and in some respects even surpasses it.

Signature Series: I especially like the Signature series of decks, which come in their own special stylish case.

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Recommendation

I'm pleased to have discovered Jody's decks, and come across his website. If you're interested in picking up some of his playing cards for yourself, the first place to look is his webshop here or the Iron Horse Kickstarter here. Supporting his efforts directly via his website is the best thing, but the selection there is somewhat limited, so another place you can look is over at Rare Playing Cards.

There's a wealth of historical background that goes into the creation of these decks, and I can see them having educational benefits for families with children. This is particular the case for decks that are accompanied with the historical booklet that Jody often creates for his decks. But besides that, they also look very attractive; I'm especially partial to the limited Black Ink versions, which look particularly stunning and classy. But the reality is with all these decks you get Jody's signature `black ink' style, which is his distinctive and unique contribution to the world of custom playing cards.

Jody has acquired somewhat of a loyal following as a result of his dedication and contributions to the world of custom playing cards, and the decks shown above are all excellent examples of his work. They should appeal to anyone who enjoys playing cards, but also to anyone who has an interest in history or in science, and they could also make an excellent gift for the historian or scientist in your life. I enjoy using his decks when playing Cribbage and other traditional games with my family - beautiful decks like these can add to the enjoyment of a great game!

Want to learn more?
The Art of Jody Eklund: http://jodyeklund.com
Iron Horse Playing Cards: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/910......ng-cards

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BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==
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