Many Juggalo artists have created their own special interpretation of the Dark Carnival universe and its inhabitants, but Tom Wood is in a class all by himself. The founder of Meridian Design Works, Wood’s hyper-realistic paintings, graphic design, and visual artwork have earned him worldwide acclaim and a reputation as one of the best artists in the business. Some of the companies he’s worked for include Pepsi, the NBA, the NFL, Gatorade, Adidas; he’s even had his work featured in the legendary adult fantasy magazine Heavy Metal.
In short, Tom Wood is an artistic samurai. And he is designing all of the artwork for the upcoming deck-building game “Into the Echoside!” Tom has been creating his own interpretations of the Joker’s Cards for years for the various companies that license Psychopathic’s designs … and now he’s working directly with Jumpsteady on what promises to be one of the most talked-about deck building card games in recent history, “Into The Echoside,” which will be released at Gathering 17 this summer.
We got on the phone with Tom at his studio to discuss his involvement with the game as well as his artistic influences.
When did you decide to start painting the Dark Carnival characters? What was the key factor that made you want to do your artistic interpretation of these characters?
That’s an interesting question. Back in 2009, I was contacted by a colleague of mine who worked for a company that licensed Psychopathic merchandise – FEA – and she contacted me because she knew a lot of my artwork tended to be more on the sinister side. So I looked into it and the deeper I looked, I just thought that Shaggy’s original visions of the Joker’s Card were just genius—the different characters and all the storylines behind them. So I was asked to get the work done for (FEA). The first piece I did for them was the Joker’s Card Collection, where the characters were actually coming out of a card frame. They presented that to Hot Topic and Hot Topic just ate it up. And then their other big client, Spencer’s Gifts, they saw the Hot Topic line and decided that they wanted their own Tom Wood line. So that started the second series. And Spencer’s did a big display in the window; they really did it up right. And I was kind of the go-to ICP guy after that. But I did a lot of research. I mean, I had certainly known about ICP and their music for years, but it gave me a chance to explore the mythology of the Joker’s Cards, read through the lyrics and stay true to the material but do my own vision of what I thought the Joker’s Cards could be. I knew I had to stay true to what the Juggalos would accept though.
Is there a particular Joker’s Card that is your favorite to interpret artistically?
My favorite one is The Ringmaster because it’s just so wicked. He sets the tone for the entire original six Joker’s Cards, as far as what I want the look to be.
Growing up, who were some of the visual artists who inspired you? You certainly have a very distinct style but were you influenced at all by fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo when you were growing up?
Oh, you hit the nail on the head. When I was 7 years old, I saw the very first album by Molly Hatchet, which has the Frank Frazetta piece “The Death Dealer” on the cover. When I first saw that painting I was just blown away. He went on to do three more covers for Molly Hatchet, but “The Death Dealer” piece was the one that made me realize what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I think Frazetta is an influence upon anyone who wants to do fantasy artwork.
So now you’re working on this new deck-building card game for Psychopathic called “Into the Echoside.” Can you tell the Juggalos how you came to be involved with this project?
It was a surprise to me. Last November, Jumpsteady reached out to me and told me about this project that he wanted to be the game of games. He told me he had been playtesting it with his friends and that it was really coming out great. So he told me he needed someone to do the artwork and someone who knew the characters, so I was psyched to start on it. Around the first of the year, I launched into it, working on the box cover, the game board, and started designing the cards. It’s probably one of the most fulfilling projects I’ve ever worked on to be honest with you. Everything is just coming out beautiful and everybody is just stoked about it. I’m probably sleeping about three hours a night because I’m obsessed with making these cards living characters and making the whole thing just look as good as possible. For the next two to three months, I’m just going to be focused solely on “Into the Echo Side” and making it as good as it can be. I really am honored to be part of this project and Psychopathic is easily one of my favorite clients of all time. It’s just so exciting to be a part of this.