Marvel’s most iconic heroes and villains leap from the pages of the comics to the world of tarot in this enchanting take on a traditional 78-card tarot deck. Written by Syndee Barwick, and illustrated by Lily McDonnell, the Marvel Tarot Deck and Guidebook reimagines your favorite Marvel characters as tarot archetypes, with characters ranging from Ms. Marvel to Daredevil to Black Panther and many more.
Featuring both the Major and Minor Arcana, this stunning deck comes with an instructional book with explanations of each card’s meaning and unique tarot spreads. Packaged in a sturdy, gold-foiled decorative gift box, this officially licensed tarot deck makes the perfect gift for any Marvel or tarot fan.
The Marvel Tarot Deck and Guidebook is on-sale now wherever you purchase books!
We had the pleasure of chatting with author Syndee Barwick and illustrator Lily McDonnell about the making of this magnificent tarot deck.
With 78 cards and thousands of characters in the Marvel Universe, how did you decide which characters and objects were included in the deck?
Syndee Barwick: It was a group effort among our editors, Jessica and Elise, at Rizzoli Universe, the team at Marvel, Lily, and me. We had our primary picks and our alternates, and we discussed every character and object.
What was your inspiration behind the artistic style of the Marvel Tarot Deck?
Lily McDonnell: My work is greatly influenced by my love of ornate Art Nouveau illustration and comic book art. Rizzoli Universe approached me to work with them on the Marvel Tarot Deck because they had seen my previous Art Nouveau–inspired comic book character pieces. Their goal was to create a unique-looking set of cards that married the decorative and symbolic qualities of the traditional tarot deck with the current Marvel visuals.
Establishing an overarching design plan was crucial to uniting the massive number of images needed for a fully illustrated deck. The aim was to create a deck that was traditional but timeless, linked through color and layout.
The decorative outer frames of the cards were designed to look more futuristic, using angular sweeping shapes, than the traditionally more organic-shaped Art Nouveau borders. Motifs of space and stars used throughout the deck and guidebook can be seen as classical as well as sci-fi.
The whole deck was designed within a limited color palette to mimic the old method of printing cards. I chose rich but subdued jewel tones inspired by colors used for Art Nouveau posters. Colors bold enough to be eye-catching but would also work harmoniously across the full range of characters and artifacts.
The inspiration for the symbolically patterned circles, which I refer to as “halos,” came directly from the work of the famous Art Nouveau artist, Alphonse Mucha. These halos of symbols are unique for every card in this deck.
How did you incorporate traditional tarot into your art style and the Marvel characters?
Lily McDonnell: It was very important to me that the illustrations for the deck be beautiful and functional. I wanted to include as much symbolism and meaning from the traditional Rider-Waite designs as possible.
When designing my cards I made notes of the meaning and visual elements from each of the traditional Rider-Waite cards. Wherever possible I posed the character with the same gestures, including the graphic icons, flowers, creatures, environments, and any visual symbols, including colors, that I could employ as a link back to the original card designs. I then worked to blend those visuals into the Marvel comic universe.
As a comic fan, I also wanted to ensure that I captured every character and item as accurately and appealingly as possible.
What was your introduction to tarot?
Syndee Barwick: I was a teenager when I began exploring alternative spiritual paths away from the mainstream. Useful tools for facilitating insights in the self has always been a high priority for me—with tarot being one of those. I’ve been using tarot as a divination tool for decades—and I love collecting beautiful and unique decks, as well as pop culture decks. When Jessica approached me about writing the guidebook—and I saw Lily’s artwork!—I was sooo excited!
Professionally, I had the great honor of working with the legendary Rachel Pollack (Goddess rest her soul)…Rachel was a tarot expert, reading nuanced meanings into the cards, providing new insights. Tarot packs a lot of wisdom within the cards—you just need a guide to help you sort out the moving parts and dig deep.
Lily McDonnell: When I was very young my grandmother kept a deck of Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Cards in the box of other playing cards we were allowed to play with as children. I remember them looking like a crude combination of playing cards and a tarot deck with a simple description of the meaning printed on each card. My mother showed us how to lay out the cards but my brother, sister, and I were too young to really understand any of the predictions written on the cards.
Later in life I would rediscover tarot cards through studying art history and have been amazed at the vast number of interpretations by so many talented artists.
Although it has not been a direct influence on my style, people frequently comment that my work reminds them of tarot cards. I believe this might be from my use of symbolism or perhaps using a single image to invoke a story.