Video game box art and artist history database
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BOX=ART copyright ©2013 Adam Gidney. All rights reserved. Hosted by Dathorn.
BOX=ART is a site dedicated to the history of video game box art/ cover art and the artists responsible for them.
Box arts are profiled using high quality scans and with the intention of acknowledging the men and women who have played such a major role in shaping our gaming experiences.
Not only for video game enthusiasts, BOX=ART is for all who enjoy quality artwork.
All information on this site is through my own findings and is believed to be correct. Any corrections, errors or admissions that need to be made, or artists that would like to be involved in BOX=ART, please feel free to contact me.
Box art index - D
Artist index - D
>The late Don Ivan Punchatz famed for his fantasy and sci-fi art would achieve what would possibly be his most recognisable work in the box art for id’s smash hit, Doom.
The artist would dip his brush into a macabre pot and iconize “Doomguy” and his battle against the legions from hell in a work of art bereft of the usual surreal satire much of Don’s art encompassed. He would also be responsible for the classic Doom logo which would end up being used on both sequels.
To keep development costs down and in budget, Don reduced his usual fee and refused a percentage of Doom’s profits - little knowing it would go on to be such a mega hit. But with one of the most popular and recognisable box arts of all time adding to an already impressive legacy, I’m sure he wasn’t wasn’t overly concerned…
Doom by Don Ivan Punchatz.
North American artwork. Published by id Software globally in 1993.
DOS ver. pictured. Also availble on: 3DO, Game Boy Advance, Jaguar, Mac, PC-98, Sega 32X, SNES, Super Famicom, Windows.
Click to enlarge
Donkey Kong (ドンキーコング Donkī Kongu) by Zavier Leslie Cabarga.
North American artwork. Published by Ocean Software in 1986 for the European market.
MSX ver. pictured. Also availble on: C64, ZX Spectrum.
>Cabarga’s Donkey Kong cover would be North America’s first exposure to both the titular ape and Nintendo’s future superstar-mascot Mario.
Originally created as the game’s arcade flyer (1981) it would be one of the recently formed Nintendo of America’s (NOA) first promotional efforts, and by far one of the companies most profusely used and recognisable of the era.
Cabarga’s name would be passed on by fellow illustrator Lou Brooks who had been NOA’s first choice but was unavailable at the time (Lou would go on a produce the Atari box art’s for Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr).
The choice of artist would be inspired. Donkey Kong was originally going to be a Popeye game but Nintendo of Japan (NOJ) was unable to secure the licence from animation studio Fleisher (they would the following year). Cabarga’s Kong characterisation is unmistakably Fleisher inspired (also the house of Betty Boop cartoons from the 1930s) which is understandable with the artist’s background: golden-era, animation historian and 1980’s Betty Boop illustrator. He would interestingly parallel the game’s three characters with Popeye (Mario), Bluto (Kong) and Olive (Pauline), little knowing Donkey Kong’s original designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, had done the same.
The artwork was designed with opaque watercolour using an airbrush and he took inspiration from NOJ’s arcade flyer original – used on arcade cabinets worldwide – but would add gloves to Mario, a trait that from Super Mario Bros. (1985) onwards would become standard.
Interestingly Cabarga’s artwork would only be used as box art for the European home computer scene (Europe didn’t get the arcade version), and other than some Donkey Kong promotional designs for a Ralston cereal and Topps’ stickers he hasn’t to date produced any other covers.
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Demons Forge, The by Vicente Segrelles.
Spanish artwork. Published by Saber Software in 1981 for the North American Apple II market.
>The legendary designer Brian Fargo’s first video game, The Demon’s Forge would be home to a box art of extraordinary detail and beauty.
Its high level of artistry would raise the bar on what had come before it, and give an early taste of a style of art that post mid-80’s proliferated in the industry.
Painted in oils by Spanish artist Vicente Segrelles, it would be an early example (if not the earliest) of a recommissioned artwork used as a box art. Originally the cover art to Segrelles fantasy epic El Mercenario #3: Los Juicios (1980), it is also presently the earliest known example of a European artist’s art adorning an American video game.
The artwork was exclusively used for the Apple II, North American release, with the later PC Booster port (1987) getting a completely new cover art that paid little stylistic homage to the original - but is still rather good - and is the artists only known box art to date.
Click to enlarge
Japanese artwork. Published by Technos Japan Corp. globally in 1989.
NES ver. pictured. Also availble on: Famicom, Mega Drive, PCE.
Click to enlarge
>Double Dragon II’s box art would be a classic example in urban, beat ‘em up cover design. But where other early examples of the genre such as Renegade (1987), Shinobi (1989) and Bad Dudes (1988) portrayed their characters in drab tones, Kasumi, in a way only a golden age Mangaka would dare to, saw fit to bath his brawlers in vibrant pinks, purples and oranges. It added up to an explosive montage that saw western appeal being released worldwide on the NES.
The American and European home computer versions would take direct influence from the original but would instead unclutter the scene, tone down the palette and Americanise the characters further. It would add up to an OK interpretation of the original.
Kasumi would illustrate the Japanese Game Boy version of the first Double Dragon, and the Japanese arcade flyer for Double Dragon III, his work on the series would end there. Presently no other box arts are accredited to him.
David would obtain his B.A in Visual Communication in 1975. Until he made his name as a box artist he would be a “jobbing artist”, illustrating for catalogues and painting from pets to pubs.
He would be at the forefront of the UK’s and Europe’s box art scene in the early 1980’s. Working for Spectrum studio Quicksilva, David along with artist’s Steinar Lund and Rich Shenfield in 1982 would pioneer the use of quality art used for video game box art.
Up until then in Europe, little in the way of quality art was available lest it came from North America. The European industry was still finding its feet and was a far more modest enterprise than the monolithic one in America, and box art in general was either non-existent or crudely implemented.
David’s first cover would be The Chess Player (1982), he would follow it up with the classic Ant Attack (1983). Sandy White’s isometric adventure would be well complimented by Rowe’s 1950’s B-horror movie style cover art, so much so that the game’s sequel Zombie Zombie (1984) would also be a Rowe.
He would enjoy this new artistic expression allowed by the box art medium, stating it almost demanded the art to be fun and whimsy and early box arts were a mix of airbrushed liquid acrylics, coloured pencil.
Coming into the 1990’s David would be a sought after box artist working for various publishers such as Electronic Arts, Domark and Core Design, producing diverse cover arts from the fantasy laced Risky Woods (1992) to cartooned hijinks of The Super Aquatic Games (1992).
His cover arts in this period would become more detailed and elaborate compared to his work in the 1980’s, where functional and basic covers such as The Way of the Exploding Fist (1985) gave way to creatively rich box arts such as Shadow of the Beast III (1992).
His work on the James Pond series would be familiar to children growing up with home computers in the early 1990’s and with this style of art he would bring lightness to Psygnosis’ portfolio with title’s Bills Tomato Game (1992) and Lemmings 2 (1993).
He would also move into the area of graphic design working on games such as platform hit Alfred Chicken (1993), and would be responsible for producing many magazine covers for Emap, Europress and Future Publishing. Not one to let any media left untapped, David would work within television with his greatest contribution being the interior perspective paintings for the popular ITV children's programme "Knightmare".
North American artwork. Published by Automated Simulations Inc. in 1979 for the North American market.
TRS-80 ver. pictured. Also availble on: Apple II, C64, DOS.
>The debut game in the series, Temple of Apshai would adopt a unique stencil art style that would go on to brand its many offshoots and sequels. The term box art is slightly out of place here due to the original 1979 release being shipped within a clear plastic bag, complete with printed manual and disks (as was commonplace for late 70’s home computer games). All post-1980 ports of the game would include boxes, and in the case of the CBS Electronics versions, a different cover art.
Compared to other home computer box arts from 1979, that in general were rather crude and simplistic, Temple of Apshai had more in common with the quality of art established by the 1970’s console scene (in comparison though its lack of box would exemplify the infancy of the 1979 home computer scene). This quality undoubtedly contributed to the games huge success with a massive 30,000-40,000 units sold (!)
The 1985 remake, Temple of Apshai Trilogy would do away with the originals abstract style and instead adopt the fast becoming fashionable, high fantasy look.
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Of Irish decent and growing up in a family of artists, the young Dermot would move to London in 1987 with the career aspirations of illustrating within the comic book industry.
In 1989 he’d interview with Virgin Mastertronics who, unknowingly to the artist, happened to be producing a Judge Dredd home computer game. Dermot’s portfolio of comic art strips would land him the job designing the cover.
His portrayal of Dredd was duly noted by the comic book anthology 2000 AD and within a few months of the games release he’d be commissioned to pen his first comic cover for Megazine prog #699.
Follow up cover for Virgin, Sega’s arcade smash Golden Axe (1990), would stylistically set the tone for much of the artist’s early character art. Scorned with deep, fissured muscle formations, heavily shaded and painfully bulging, his characters would feed a generation of kids still greedy for the excessive action hero of 80’s movie pop culture.
But the 80’s pomp and glossy sheen of Hollywood (see Boris Vallejo’s box art catalogue) was nowhere to be found in these covers. Dermot’s art would instead glamorize the hard-edged style that illustrators, and influences, Frank Frazetta and Metal Hurlant alumni, Moebius (Panzer Dragoon, JPN Saturn ver.) and CAZA (Kult, Drakkhen) had popularized, and would help further establish Europe’s most prolific and creative box art period.
The 1991 cover for Wonderland saw the artist embark upon a long history of illustrating Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland characters that would also take him into TV with the Hallmark series (1999), and into film with Tim Burton’s 2010 film offering.
Lure of the Temptress (1992), would be Dermot’s final box art and the beginning of an 18-year hiatus from the video game industry that would be briefly interrupted in 2010 with some design concept work for 2K’s Bioshock 2. His role on this project would be far removed from the humble beginnings at Virgin, being more akin to film conceptual design, and wonderfully illustrated the complex demands that could be required of the modern box artist.
As was common of the period all of Dermot’s box arts were created using traditional media, specifically acrylic and gouache on Cs2 paper. Today, the artist is very much a digital proponent.
Doom II: Hell on Earth by Brom (Gerald Brom).
North American artwork. Published by id Software globally in 1994.
DOS ver. pictured. Also availble on: Game Boy Advance, Mac, PC-98, Windows.
Click to enlarge
>Briefed with designing an artwork centred around ‘Marine vs. Cyberdemon’, Brom has stated he had a great deal of freedom in what he created. This would go someway in explaining the differing look of ‘Doom Guy’ from Punchatz’s original characterisation on Doom.
id’s first choice of painter for Doom was Julie Bell (Turrican, Splatterhouse 2, Eternal Champions), but the commission went to Brom after her depiction of the Cyberdemon was too much like a bulls.
The original piece was created logoless with Punchatz’s famous lettering later added.
Grand Theft Auto | Take-Two | 1997 | EU/ NA ver.
Hardwar | Interplay Entertainmant | 1998 | EU ver.
WipEout | Psygnosis | 1995.
WipEout 2097 | Psygnosis | 1996 | EU ver.
WipEout 3 | Sony | 1999 | EU/ NA ver.
WipEout 3 | Sony | 2000 | JPN ver.
WipEout 3: Special Edition | Sony | 2000 | JPN ver.
Doom | id Software | 1993.