NYCC: The Slayer's Tarot: Pollack and Lee talk the "Buffy" Tarot Deck

Magic and divination have always been cornerstones of the world of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and thanks to Dark Horse Comics, Buffy fans will soon have access to the tricks of the magic trade. In addition to the previously announced "Buffy the Vampire Slayer 'Conversations With Dead People' Board," Dark Horse is producing an official Buffy tarot set. CBR News caught up with the set's designer, Rachel Pollack, and longtime "Buffy" cover artist Paul Lee to talk about the Slayer's Tarot.

A former school teacher, Pollack was introduced to the art of tarot nearly 40 years ago by a colleague at the State University of New York. "One of the teachers asked me if I'd give her a ride home, and she said she'd read my tarot cards in exchange," Pollack said. "And I was immediately taken with it, I'd never seen tarot cards before, and I thought it was wonderful. So I ran around looking for a deck, and a little book, and that got me started."

Pollack has long been a fan of "Buffy," and the Slayer's Tarot has been a long time coming. "Actually, I put together some ideas for a possible Buffy tarot deck ten/some years ago," Pollack said. "Never really got anywhere, I don't know if it even got to the eyes of the people in charge of things. But when I heard through a friend that Dark Horse was looking to do a Buffy tarot, and wanted someone to write the text for it, I wrote them immediately and said, 'I'd love to do this.'"

The Death card from Dark Horse's upcoming Buffy tarot deck

Back when Dark Horse first started chronicling the adventures of Buffy Summers, artist Paul Lee and his friend and colleague Brian Horton were tapped to produce cover artwork for the "Buffy" series. "Before we started doing Buffy covers, we had worked on a number of different Buffy gigs," Lee said. "Since we work in a painterly style, it was a natural for us to do the painted covers." Lee's familiarity with Buffy and his ability to capture her liked him helped him land the Slayer's Tarot gig.

"The idea is it's a tarot deck created for (use by) slayers in their task and for their allies in struggling against the vampires and the demons," Pollack said. "So we've constructed a whole kind of world for this in which it's not simply characters from the story, it's actually cards that those characters actually use. There are characters, and some of the cards represent particular moments in the story." The Lovers card, for instance, is Buffy and Angel.

In addition to choosing the characters and situations pictured on the cards, Pollack is also writing the accompanying tarot book explaining how the tarot matches up to the "Buffy" storyline. "We have this whole back story on the tarot deck that places it within the Buffy universe, as opposed to collection of trading cards with characters on them," Lee said. "So it's been really fun figuring out how each card relates to the world of Buffy."

"Because the back story involves the cards being created centuries ago, the art style is being done in keeping with that," Lee said. "The project really suits my personal style, I get to paint Medieval themes, Classical Themes, and Pre-Raphaelite Themes. I really wish I had more time to paint these. I'm painting them digitally, but if I had the time, I would paint them all large and by hand." Lee is particularly proud of the Death Card, the Magician, and Temperance.

The Slayer's Tarot includes elements from the "Buffy's" seven seasons on TV as well as "Buffy: Season 8." "Season 8 is extending the story, and extending the ideas, so we're doing some things there that include some of what happens in Season 8, some of the characters," Pollack said. "There are also little hints of what will come, which obviously we can't talk about now. Hopefully people will be intrigued, and maybe even later on look back on it and say, 'Oh, so that's what that card meant.'"

Paul Lee was already attached to the project before Pollack was brought onboard, and the Tarot Grand Master had nothing but praise for her collaborator. "Paul was a great choice," Pollack said. "I set up descriptions for each card, and then sent them to him in groups, like, the major arcane, which are the 22 named cards, and then there's the four suits, wands, cups, swords and pentacles. And then he would send thumbnail sketches to me and to the editorial staff working on this." From there, Lee would produce the final, painted versions.

The Devil card from Dark Horse's upcoming Buffy tarot deck

"Some representations of Buffy are very, very powerful, they really capture the quality of that character," Pollack said. "Willow comes through very strongly in certain cards. They're all great, really, but the card of Justice is extremely striking. I own hundreds of tarot decks, and I've seen many more, and all of the pictures are certainly among the best tarot art I've ever seen."

Lee, too, had nothing but good things to say about his collaborator. "Rachel is really open to collaboration," Lee said. "I've been able to get a few suggestions in. There's a lot of back and forth. I really think we're creating something great."

"I've been involved in quite a few tarot decks," Pollack said. "I was one of the people who designed the Vertigo tarot for DC/Vertigo, and I did the text for the Salvador Dali tarot, and this is really one of the most thrilling tarot projects I've ever been involved in. I think people in the comics work and fans of the show and tarot fans will be delighted with it."

The Slayer's Tarot is scheduled for release this August.

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