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Force of Will Print and Epic Tale: The Magic Life of Force

Force of Will was the very first Magic card I ever did for Wizards of the Coast back in 1996.  Though I didn't know it at the time, it turned out to be quite an auspicious debut, I guess you could say.  It's remained THE most popular card I've ever done, and I've painted well over 150 images for the game since then. 

The art director for MTG at the time, Sue Ann Harkey, had seen my art from comics I'd painted for DC and Marvel… I had also done some vampire paintings for a different WOTC department that she may have seen. 

Anyhow, she called me up and asked if I wanted to take on a few cards in the upcoming set, Alliances.  Of course I was delighted and eager to break into a new venue, and accepted at once.  When she was talking to me about my assignments, she mentioned in reference to Force of Will, "I'm not sure, but I think this is going to be a good card for you."

Guess she was right.  It's been one of the hallmarks of my Magic career.

Back in those days, the art direction and descriptions tended to be a bit looser… and they came over by fax.  (For you young people, faxes came right after pony express in the timeline of things). I wish I still had the original art description, but as far as I can remember, here's all it said:

  • Red card
  • Depict a Shaman using fire or red magic
  • Working title: "Stop Spell"

I'd always thought Wolverine was a cool character, so I decided to give "Stop Spell" a don't-mess-with-me Wolverine-type attitude.  I was surprised that when the card came out, it had a blue border, instead of red. FoW

Back in the days of fax machines, I was also using another technological dinosaur… the polaroid camera.  Actually, my custom was to shoot reference with a 35 mm camera, and then drop off the roll to a 1-hour photo place, but I didn't have the luxury of that much time when I was sketching Force of Will.

It was late at night, and I didn't have much time left on my deadline, so I had to spring for the polaroid (which cost me $1 per photo and looked pretty crappy most of the time).  Neither did I have the luxury of some body-building superhero at my disposal for reference, either, so I used what I could get… someone close to home… uh… me.

Back in those days I was working out pretty hard (anybody heard of Bill Phillips?) and had about 9% body fat, so I stripped down to my underwear, set up some good underlighting and let my little 6-pack create the foundation upon which I built my studly Force of Will.

Actually, that's really kind of embarrassing to admit… in fact, after you finish reading this post, it will vanish in a *poof* of smoke, leaving no trace that it ever existed… either that, or I'll have to kill you.  I don't actually like looking at that old photo… it's not that my body looked bad, but the granny panties… geez.  I didn't know Victoria back then.

Anyhow, I painted Force of Will bigger than I generally paint Magic cards now… the dimensions were probably 18 x 14".  Even so, I want to say it came together in a couple of days… on the faster side.  And I hadn't been out of school very long, so I probably painted the whole thing with gouache and colored pencil.

In 1997 (I think?), I was invited to sign at a Pro Tour in Stockholm, Sweden.  Force went with me, but didn't come home.  He'd lost his passport and got wisked away by the Swedish authorities (the same ones that are after Assange).  No… actually, he fell in love with a "player" (some of us have that unfortunate experience).  I think his name was Sven.

Seriously, though, it was hard to let him go, but pretty exciting to be taking home a nice wad of cash from the trip.  I haven't seen or heard of Force since… I'm sure he can take care of himself, but still, I wonder.  Every now and then I'll see his face… I have these recurring dreams of painting over him, time after time after time, morphing him into other characters.  Weird.

I've sold hundreds of prints over the years, as many people want him for themselves and as gifts for their friends.  There are two sizes to choose from: