The magician walks into a tattoo parlor and asks how much it would cost to get a tattoo of a heart surrounded by scrollwork with the words "I love Brad" (or a similar message) on it. After the tattoo artist works up a price, the magician waves a hand and the discussed tattoo appears on the magician's arm. "No thanks," says the magician, "I've already got one!" Having wasted a professional artist's valuable time, the magician runs for the street.
(Additional effects are reportedly also possible. Despite the effects name, the tattoo doesn't have to consist solely of the word "Joe," and magicians named something other than Joe can perform it by making a few simple modifications.)
Tattoo Joe was developed by magician Joe Russel in association with Paul Harris and Exotica, Coney Island's own tattooed woman. Its name is a reference to Hervé Villechaize's character in the old "Fantasy Island" television show. There is a rumor that Russell wanted to name the effect after himself, but that Harris convinced him that putting his name all over products was not a good idea.
Any message, picture, or short animated feature can be displayed on the magician's skin using this system. The magician merely waves a hand above the skin, and the chosen image appears. Reset is instant. Mystification is intense. Pain is minimalized to the extent possible.
The workings of the effect are remarkably simple.
To begin, the magician decides ahead of time what tattoo should be made to appear. This might be the value of a selected card, a signature, a ransom note, a naked picture of a spectator's mother, a cheat sheet for a physics test, or anything the magician can imagine.
The magician draws the selected image where it will later appear using a sharpie or other marker. Once this looks good, the magician visits a tattoo artists and supplies the artist with a bottle of special ionized ink (included with the purchase of the effect) and an extra-long tattoo needle (readily available from body modification shops, bondage dens, and neighborhood craft stores). The artist creates the tattoo, setting the ionized ink deep enough below the skin's surface that it is not normally visible.
Once the swelling and scabbing are past, the magician is ready to perform.
To make the tattoo appear, the magician waves a powerful magnet (hidden within a flesh-colored glove) above the skin. The magnet draws the ionized ink to the surface, making the tattoo appear. The tattoo is vanished by flipping the magnet to reverse its polarity, thereby forcing the ink back into the magician's body.
Note: Some performers have complained that they are nervous about getting a tattoo with ink that is largely made of water, lead, and mercury. However, science has proven that water is entirely harmless to the human body, and you can rest assured that to date no long-term users of this effect have lived to complain about it.