A Review of the Justice League Tarot Cards
What we’ve been waiting for.
The biggest item on my psychic merchandise wish list has always been a tarot deck that truly speaks to me. No, that’s not what I mean. When the tarot deck actually starts talking to you aloud, you need to get up from your chair, back away slowly, and run as if Godzilla were chasing you, while shrieking, “DEMON TAROT DECK!! DEMON TAROT DECK!!!”
However, when it “speaks” to you, it means you’ve finally found a collection of mythological archetypes that you can intuitively connect with. Those decks are used as a really neat meditative device. It’s like looking at a Rorschach test – except without all the dirty images. The last ink blot I saw involved two monkeys copulating on a trapeze over a hot tub full of chocolate pudding.
Some ink blot-makers have filthy minds.
But I digress.
The Justice League tarot deck is the ultimate gift to any comic book loving psychic geek who has a love for parapsychology. Based on the traditional Rider-Waite deck, this seventy-eight card deck uses many of the DC comic book characters fans have grown to love over the last eighty years. Unlike the Vertigo Tarot produced in 2008 and illustrated by Dave McKean, this deck features heroes in both the major and minor arcana.
Is it perfect? No.
But, is it good? Oh yeah. It’s really good.
However, there are a few caveats. I don’t want you going out and buying this deck without being forewarned.
What the deck includes
This smartly packaged tarot deck of awesomeness is not readily recognizable by the packaging. It’s not like it has a big red “S” on it. The box features one of its more obscure characters, Madame Xanadu (The DC’s signature tarot reader).
Unless you look it up at Thinkgeek.com or ask for it at your local comic collectible shop, you won’t readily spot it. Happily, if your local comic shop does have it, I guarantee it will be under lock and key.
The seventy-eight cards themselves are made from sturdy high-grade card stock made for use. They’re perfect for the card handler who likes to do his “riverboat shuffle” and can take the punishment that most tarot readers deal to their decks. They are the same size as the standard Rider-Waite deck and fit well in any adult hands outside of the White House.
Representations of all common images within a standard Rider-Waite deck’s major and minor arcana have been smartly printed against a black background and the illustrations are superb. Sara Richards’ artwork is quite good. I rank the pictures to be comparable to Darwin Cooke’s work in DC The New Frontier.
Also included in the deck is a smart black imitation velvet bag with “Justice League Tarot” printed smartly in silver. My only complaint about the bag is that it’s a tight fit for the card stack. However, once the deck is in the bag, it stays until it’s removed.
And that’s it.
There’s only one glaring absence in the package – the “little white book” has been excluded. While most tarot readers don’t pay much attention to it, with this deck, it’s a necessary evil unless you’re thoroughly familiar with both the DC mythos and the meanings of the standard archetypes of a normal tarot deck.
As this is the first edition of the deck, I would expect second or third editions to have a more detailed companion book to be included within the packaging. For me, it took at least an internet search to identify a pair of characters (Apollo and Midnighter) that only arrived in the DCU after the Flashpoint Paradox from the Wildstorm universe. Fans should also know that the figure represented in the five of swords is General Zod and not Vandal Savage.
Readers who are not familiar with DC’s rich comic book continuity may have problems recognizing some of the characters and how they relate to the tarot deck archetypes.
However, if you are familiar with the full histories of each character, this is the deck you’ve been waiting for.
I have to say, some of these images hit the nail square on the head as far as how they translate to tarot interpretations. The ones that do are perfect. Really. Someone put a lot of thought into it.
Here are some cards that really stand out.
The eight of wands is the Flash. Traditionally, the meaning within a standard deck is eight wands flying through the air. It’s meant to show quick forward movement. Things are moving quickly. Well, nothing moves faster than the Flash.
Judgment is The Spectre. Who better than “the wrath of God” to represent the concept of a Judgement Day? After all, that’s the Spectre’s job – to deliver judgment to the wicked.
The nine of swords is the Scarecrow, Batman’s fear based enemy, attacking Robin. There are several interpretations to this card, but the most of them go back to sleepless nights based on imagined fear – a nightmare that isn’t happening in reality. It’s fear and worry.
The Wheel of Fortune (signifying destiny) in the major arcana is Two-Face flipping a coin. The major arcana card for Justice is Batman. The two of Pentacles (a balance of opposites) is Hawk and Dove. The major arcana card for The Tower (chaotic destruction) is The Joker.
As I said, some of these are really perfect representations in this deck. When I saw that Plastic Man was on the nine of cups with a sack of treasure it just didn’t get any better for a card which signified perfect contentment and wish fulfillment. It was right up there with Billy Batson’s transformation into Captain Marvel to signify the happiness and good will of “The Sun”.
Hawkman and Hawkwoman are “The Lovers”. The Hermit is the Watchmen’s “Doctor Manhattan” – internal wisdom and yet a being who is apart from humanity.
As I said, when a deck “speaks to you” it really resonates perfectly. There are home runs. However, some cards in the deck don’t speak so much as mumble at you.
While some cards in the deck encompass a concept perfectly, others require a degree of conceptual yoga with a lot of stretching. Some don’t make much sense at all. Some need real “out of the box” thinking.
For example, the following didn’t make much sense.
The Ace of Swords was Sinestro and the Sinestro Corp. At first, I was really confused by this. Aces are beginnings and represent mental activity. The very first thought I get whenever I see Sinestro as the head yellow lantern is his mission to spread fear across the galaxy. That’s what the Sinestro Corps does. It wasn’t until I sat down and really thought about who Sinestro was in regard to his corps. Sinestro, with the Parallax energy within the yellow rings, was so ticked off by the time Green Lantern: Rebirth ended that he started a new lantern corps. This was the beginning of a new initiative – which is what the ace of swords is all about.
It’s that new idea that brings a mission together.
But then there’s Catwoman as the High Priestess. Catwoman to me is in that gray character who might be good when the situation suits her. She’s a cat burglar. The High Priestess has always been the holder of a more profound and secret way. The only explanation I could think of is that’s what Catwoman has – secret ways. She knows how to get around things that are blocked. The special knowledge as a cat burglar that gets her past things which would stop most people. That’s my guess, anyway.
Lex Luthor is the tarot’s Devil. This one took a lot of meditation. The devil represents a few things. One is bondage to things that don’t serve you. The other is the temptation to do things that are bad for you. As I said before, sometimes these things don’t strike you immediately. The thing that binds Luthor is his hatred for Superman. He can’t see Superman as a force for good. All he can see Superman as is someone who is “better than he is”. He can’t get by his own hatred to be the great man he has the potential to be. Instead, what he does is dedicate himself to his enemy’s destruction – despite the fact these plans could kill, maim, and destroy others. It is that attachment to a bad philosophy that leads to his own destruction.
The seven of pentacles is challenging, too. In this case, we see Deathstroke the Terminator holding his hand out like a puppeteer over Terra (Tara Markov). The seven of pentacles card signifies planting seeds and waiting for a small harvest. Sometimes, the interpretation means “too much work for little reward”. In this case, readers have to be familiar with the Teen Titans story, “The Judas Contract”. It’s about the history of Terra and how she joined the Teen Titans secretly through Deathstroke. She gained the trust of all the members and even seduced Garfield Logan (aka Changeling, aka Beast Boy) and then betrayed all of them from within.
Deathstroke saw the inner psychopath potential she had combined with the power she possessed and then waited for her to strike from within.
As I said, a companion book might have been a good idea for this deck.
There are others like Ras Al Ghul as the Hierfont (representing religion and conformity). The six of swords is The Flash‘s Professor Zoom running through the time stream to represent a person moving to better places. Black Adam as the major arcana card for “the Moon” makes almost no sense as does the Phantom Stranger for the ace of wands.
How to read these cards
One of the few perks of my life is that I’m married to a tarot card reader. She’s really good at her job, too. She’s been doing this since she was a teenager and has had at least three decades of experience dedicated to her craft.
The first thing she asks new tarot reading students with a new deck is, “What do the cards mean to you?”
Her philosophy is to just throw away the little white book that comes with the deck and meditate on the image. Simply, it’s like an inkblot test (without those truly filthy images). Try to interpret what you see in the card in relation to the question you’ve asked.
In my mind, because I’m so intimate with the DC Universe, the characters are very real to me. They have dimension. For example, when I see Sinestro, I don’t see a black and white character. He’s not the just the yellow power ring bad guy that got his origin story in the sixties. To me he is a complex character driven by pride and a need for order. Depending upon what question I’m meditating on, the answer can mean anything from a warning on being too prideful to an overwhelming need to put my life in order. When I saw him as the ace of swords, I saw it as a need to do something better than the people running the show.
The Swamp Thing representing the five of pentacles show him at the bottom of a swamp tracing the letter “A” in the dirt.
When I look at this figure with the traditional meaning of the card it means “no choice” (one interpretation of that, anyway). The “A” is the big question. Is the “A” for “Abigail”, his wife – a character he inevitably will outlive as an earth elemental? Does it mean he has to endure life with that knowledge? The “A” could also stand for “Alec” – he could be pondering his old mortal life as a human and how he had “no choice” in becoming an elemental. His creation came about after Alec Holland’s lab exploded and blew his chemically soaked body into the swamp. The Swamp Thing isn’t Alec Holland but he has his soul.
Then there’s the five of cups card. Traditionally, this card has meant that the querent is focusing purely on the negatives of his life and not looking at any of the good things he actually has. In the DC deck, this is represented by Batman’s nemesis “Mr. Freeze” kneeling at the preserved body of his wife, Nora. For all intents and purposes, his wife is dead until he can figure out a cure for McGregor’s Syndrome. Plus, even if he should find a cure, he’s still stuck as a monstrosity that can’t survive in any atmosphere that isn’t absolute zero. The only upside is that his wife can still be cured. But he can’t focus on that. The only thing he sees is his misery. The reading is an obvious message to try and find the silver lining in the situation or that of focusing on the negatives.
The entire point of this is that with a DC deck, the archetypes are alive for any true DC fan who wants to use these cards for divination. For me, they are certainly entertaining. They are certainly food for thought when I’m trying to explore my own feelings. These characters mean something to me.
Other people might find meaning in other decks. If J.R.R. Tolkien resonates better for some people, there are decks for those people. The comic book decks have been hard to find. Some of the ones out there have been outrageously expensive. Now, there’s a deck for DC fans. If the mythology works for you, and your serious about purchasing this collector’s item, it might be worth the $60 bucks to purchase on Amazon.
That’s right – sixty bucks. It’s not cheap. Is it worth it?
If you’re a comic book geek seriously looking to find a deck that works for you, it is better than one that does not. My wife would be the first person to say that if a deck resonates with you, use it. You’ll get better readings. I recommend that you learn how a standard deck works first. If you can work with that, and you know your DC comic book mythology, and you can spare the scratch – buy this deck. It would also make for a nice addition if you are a collector of all things comics or DC.