Fradella Adventure Tarot by Frank Fradella and Katrina Hutchins
Review by Samantha Kocsis
If you would like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.
The Fradella Adventure Tarot was created by Frank Fradella and Katrina Hutchins. It was drawn by JP Dupras and digitally colored by Frank Fradella. This is a 78 card deck and is based on the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) imagery, but uses superheroes from the Ihero comic books to illustrate each card. The suits are Blades (swords), Masks (cups), Staves (wands) and Discs (coins). The artwork is in bold comic book fashion, with lots of black and primary colors. This deck follows the standard RWS ordering, numbering the Strength card as 8, and the Justice card as 11. The backs of the cards are reversible, featuring a purple background with stars and two red F’s hooked together: one upright and one reversed.
The Little White Book (LWB) included with the deck has the usual basic (upright) keyword meanings in it. It also discusses how to do a reading and a sample past, present, future spread, although the spread is not pictured. This is a very basic LWB, as LWB’s go.
The 146 page book on this deck can either be purchased separately or with the deck, and it is fascinating. It goes into much more detail than the LWB, especially on the Major Arcana, explaining who is on the card and how they fit into the card’s traditional meaning. After reading a few pages, it becomes obvious that a lot of thought was put into matching each of the superhero characters to the cards, not just picking a picture that looks pretty, but also making sure the comic character’s background really illustrates the meaning. Usually, when reading with a tarot deck, you have a meaning and try to tell a story while looking at the picture on the card and the spread. This deck comes with so much background on the characters that there is already a story, and you would think that this would make a reading harder - but it actually adds another level of depth to my readings. Each card in the Major Arcana is related to the next, with a story flowing through from card to card. The integrated story shows how the Fool learns and grows as he travels along the ‘journey’ through the Major Arcana.
The brief introduction to the deck also makes the following statement: “ The important thing to remember when reading these cards, either for yourself or others, is that the Major Arcana is first and foremost a story. It’s an amazing tale of humanity, in all our foolishness and glory.” I can’t agree more with this statement and this book really delivers. Also, at the end of the book are two bonus stories that deal with the characters on the Strength and the High Priestess cards that I really enjoyed. My only qualm with the book (and this is a very minor one) is that I would have liked to see some other spreads specifically created for this deck. The only one pictured in the book is the ever-popular Celtic Cross.
The Moon card is a wonderful example of how much thought the authors put into making this deck a great reading deck and not just another pretty art deck. From the larger book: “Card 18 the Moon - Yet again we see the balance of forces and concepts displayed. In the Moon these images spring from the subconscious- from sleep and dreams - providing the cosmic balance to the Star's meditation and thought.
In the foreground the aquatic merman known as Naiad gazes up at the sky, faced by the silhouette of sphere, backlit by Luna herself. All around them imagery of opposites presents itself: in the brightness of the lighthouse and the blackness of the oilrig, in the calm nature of the dolphin and the fearful teeth of the shark. Even the nature of these creatures speaks volumes, as one is a mammal and the other a fish, though they both swim the same seas. Naiad is a dichotomy here as well. He was born in a laboratory, half of a genetic pair, and though he can breathe air and walk like a man, he chooses to remain in the ocean. Sphere, on the other hand, has had little choice in his fate as his ability to surround himself with circular energy and forms grew too fast for him to control, and he was forced to exile himself in the heavens for fear that his growing power levels would endanger those around him..."
I love the idea of using comic book characters to illustrate the many aspects that make up a tarot deck. Many of us in our everyday lives wear two faces: an outer professional face that we use in our dealings in the work environment, and the face that we show to our loved ones. Both of these aspects of our lives are a part of us and make us well-rounded people. These comic book characters also have lives that mirror the everyday people that they work to protect. Being a superhero has does not exclude them from the problems of the mundane world. In this deck, you will also see the professional superhero and the person behind the mask illustrated wonderfully as you get immersed in their stories.
The Sun card shows the man, Ben Holiday (better known as the superhero Pulsar, who makes his first appearance in the deck on the Magician card), playing a joyous game of horsie with his two children. His family is what gives him hope and joy when the world of being a superhero gets tough. All the trappings of his other life are put away, and he takes comfort in family and the small joys. He may be the Magician, but that does not define all that he is, as he is also a loving father and family man.
The Page of Blades shows a superhero named El Matador swirling his wonderful red cape, with his sword out and ready to work. He seems full of energy, although the book states that unlike his superhero ancestors he prefers diplomacy to action. But you get the feeling that he is ready to embrace any obstacle or problem with honesty and fortitude. (Ok, I have to be straight here and say I wanted to show this fella because I just fell in love with his energy and warm smile.)
The Two of Masks (Cups) has Dr. Twilight and Serenity staring into each other’s eyes and trusting each other enough to take off the masks that they wear for the public, sharing their true secret identities. Besides the love and attraction that this card usually represents, the fact that they are now comfortable and open enough to trust each other with their secrets really hits home for me. What can be more trusting and loving for a superhero than to tell another his secret identity!
The Ten of Staves has a masked female superhero levitating ten candles up in the air. Her hands are up in the air, and are curled in a look of effort. Does the mask hide her from showing how hard she is working? How often do we work ourselves to a frazzle before we realize what we have done?
The Two of Discs shows a small superhero dressed as a dragonfly balancing on the petal of a daisy and juggling two discs connected together with energy. This card really gives the feeling that not everything in the superhero world is serious. Also, sometimes when you're juggling too much, you can start to feel stressed, but if you relax and go with the flow, it can be fun.
While this deck is fun and the artwork is derived from comic book figures, I found myself really thinking about cards in a new way that I had taken for granted in previous decks. There is a depth to the ideas behind the images that I found refreshing and stimulating. I also found myself sitting and reading the book from cover to cover, as it was so much fun I just couldn’t put it down. Anyone who is familiar with RWS decks should have no problem reading with this deck right out of the box, but I would highly recommend getting the book. The book adds a depth to the characters that I think would be missed if you were to read with this deck without reading the book first. I feel that it is one of the best books created to go with a deck that I have seen in a while, and is definitely worth the purchase, whether you buy it separately or in the boxed set. This is definitely a deck not to miss!
If you would like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.
Fradella Adventure Tarot by Frank
Fradella and Katrina Hutchins
Publisher: US Games
ISBN#: 1572814071 (deck)
Samantha Kocsis’s interest in tarot began when she was 16 where she received her first decks as gifts. Since then her collection has grown to approximately 175 decks. She is the artist of Samantha’s Tarot and the upcoming Dolphin Daze Deck and loves to paint and draw animals and tarot. You can see these decks on her website. Samantha has been adopted by Eddie, a pale orange cat that makes many appearances in the tarot decks she creates.
Review © 2003 Samantha Kocsis
Page © 2004 Diane Wilkes