In our previous post we mentioned Transformation playing cards: decks in which the pips have been incorporated into an illustrated scene. John Littleboy's playing cards -first under his Inky Dinky label, now as Artiphany- feature dogs, cats, birds, mermaids and blood-thirsty characters in charming, imaginative arrangements.
Let's first take a look at the decks that are still in print. Pack of Dogs and Kitten Club show pets playing with flowers and bed sheets, watching a fish bowl, and leaving paw stains on the floor. The court cards depict them dressed in period or contemporary costumes, and even as fin-de-siècle painters and intellectuals. Popinjay is bird-themed and retains the black, white and red palette of the other two decks except for the court cards which are in colour.
Mermaid Queen and Bag of Bones are sadly out of print (you may be able to find them in shops that sell vintage cards). The first one is illustrated with marine scenes: shoals of fish, crabs, whales and sharks, with mermaid royals in the court cards.
Bag of Bones, on the other hand, is delightfully macabre. In the suit of Diamonds, a head is rolling down the stairs leaving blood stains in every step. The beheaded owner shows up in the last cards, presumably to pick what he lost. Vampires, demons and mad kings adorn the courts.
I wondered if Bag of Bones might come back in print one day but, judging by the artist's statement in his blog, it seems unlikely: "The darker, sardonic themes I've done do indeed appeal to some of my audience, but not enough to keep doing them" (referring to his Halloween Advent Calendar). Cats and dogs just sell better.