News Article

Prolific Video Game Box Art Illustrator Greg Martin Passes Away

Posted by Damien McFerran

Created covers for Sonic, Duck Tales 2, Adventure Island and many more

The name Greg Martin may not mean anything to most gamers, but if you've been playing since the days of the NES then you will definitely have seen — and no doubt appreciated — his work. Martin created the amazing western covers for plenty of Sega and Nintendo games, such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3, Pocky & Rocky, Adventure Island 3, Duck Tales 2, The Flintstones, Landstalker and Shining in the Darkness.

Sadly, it has been announced by one of Martin's friends that he has recently passed away, laying down his airbrush for the final time.

Martin began his career working at Hanna Barbera, but it is his game covers which perhaps showed him at his best. Each cover was massive in size — around 24 to 30 inches — and all done with an airbrush. These masterpieces would often take Martin an entire week to complete, and — for many players of the era — were the first indication of a game's quality when you walked into your local games store. Back in the early '90s, an eye-catching cover made all the difference, and Martin's art graced many a solid-gold classic.

While Martin's work is certainly stuck in a certain era — it's hard to imagine these covers gracing any modern game — they define the period perfectly. Many of us in the Nintendo Life office can vividly recall staring at these very same covers in awe, not even realising that the same talented hand which gave Sonic life was also responsible for Talmit's cheeky grin on the cover of Marvel Land, or the fantastic cover to Woody Pop (which is arguably the best thing about the entire game).

Which Greg Martin cover is your favourite? Share your tributes by posting a comment below.

[via nintendoage.com, kotaku.com]

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User Comments (43)

KeeperBvK

#2

KeeperBvK said:

Oh man, those were all made by the same guy? So many great childhood memories are attached to these works of art. Rest in peace Mr. Martin. :(

Nintenjoe64

#3

Nintenjoe64 said:

'Back in the day' we only had box art to help us decide what a good game was. Quite how Megaman's PAL boxes ever sold any copies I will never know :)

64supermario

#4

64supermario said:

I always loved his artwork, his Sonic 2 one always scared me a little, but it still made me want to play the game.

BakaKnight

#5

BakaKnight said:

The box art of Sonic 2 is for me basically the emblem of my begin as a gamer. I holded so so so many times that box when I was a kid.

Amazing how much this guy meant for all the people playing in the ninties, even if few of us knew about him.

May he rest in peace and his art never forget in the game and art worlds.

shinokami

#6

shinokami said:

he may have passed away but his art will live on along with this classic gems

TreesenHauser

#7

TreesenHauser said:

I remember being younger, and the box art for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was what influenced me to play it. I have a feeling a lot of us gamers that grew up in the 90's owe Greg Martin a debt. If it weren't for him, we might have passed over otherwise-excellent games. May he rest in peace.

Kaze_Memaryu

#8

Kaze_Memaryu said:

Wow, I never knew! And that's a shame... I couldn't give this guy any proper respect in his lifetime. But at least I can appreciate his small legacy.

edhe

#10

edhe said:

These really put modern box art to shame. Of course, design techniques have evolved since 16-bit, but there's so much charm in artwork as intricate and painstaking as this.

My favourite is the header image - Shining in the Darkness.

Deadstanley

#11

Deadstanley said:

That's crazy. Just yesterday I was at my parents' house and I happened upon my old games, most of which are shown in this article.

I miss the days of good box art on both the front and back. It doesn't really happen so much anymore.

NintyMan

#14

NintyMan said:

With the smaller sprites these games had back then, it was necessary for artwork to sell the game creatively, and it shows. He did some fantastic work.

WiiULoveSquid

#15

WiiULoveSquid said:

Not a very recent passing of this legendary artist but nice that the news is getting mention now I suppose.

Obituary:

GREGORY JAMES MARTIN 10/14/56 - 5/21/13 Son of James C. Martin and the late Betty L. Martin, died unexpectedly in Boulder, CO. He was born in Loma Linda Hospital. Greg was a very gifted artist. He graduated from Poly HS in 1974, and the Los Angeles Art Center with a Bachelor's degree in 1980. He worked for Disney & Hanna Barbera Studios of which he created & drew the Ninja Turtles, worked mostly as a freelance artist. He is survived by sister Sherry Ann Pemberton; father James C.; aunts and uncles, Pattie and Harold Cade and Joella Hatcher; many nephews, nieces, and cousins who truly loved him. A great son and man to everyone. No services are planned. Any donations can be made to your favorite scholarship fund.
Published in Press-Enterprise on June 11, 2013 - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/pe/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=165268935#sthash.ViTZwng3.dpuf

(interesting that this obituary credits Martin with the creation of the Ninja Turles.)

Nareva

#16

Nareva said:

When I was a kid, I wanted Little Nemo The Dream Master almost solely because of that cover art. Sadly, I don't think I ever actually played it.

zionich

#19

zionich said:

Pray for his family in their time of loss.

Awesome art.

So many childhood memories looking at those box covers =)

PrincessEevee9

#20

PrincessEevee9 said:

I may have not grown up with these games but I know how significant they were to the industry. Rest in peace.

9th_Sage

#21

9th_Sage said:

What's the one in the header? It looks really familiar, but I can't quite remember what it is.

CharlieLoneWolf

#23

CharlieLoneWolf said:

I love all his artwork. He definitely had a
distinct style that is easily identifiable. His
artwork for the Sonic games is very near
and dear to me. Just looking at it floods
me with wonderful childhood memories. I
played through Adventure Island on the
GameBoy for the first time a few months
ago. It’s cool to see that he was a part of
that too. Also, who doesn’t love Hannah-
Barbera? That studio is responsible for
some of the greatest, most iconic cartoons
ever. Rest In Piece, Martin. You came, saw
and conquered as far as I’m concerned.

moment of silence

JimLad

#25

JimLad said:

I'm also ashamed to say never knew of this man until now. Yet those box arts were a fond part of my childhood. I wish the innocence in gaming hadn't been lost like it has, but maybe it was inevitable.
Rest in peace Greg.

James1993

#27

James1993 said:

Greg Martin thank you very much for the beautiful artwork you have created. And for playing an essentially important role for Sega especially.
Thank you sir.

I wish I may have had just the chance to thank you in person.
I hold gaming in the 1990`s close to my heart, it will forever be the greatest decade for gaming to me.

Rest in peace sir.

Tasuki

#28

Tasuki said:

Out of all of those probably the one that holds the most memories for me is the Sonic 2 cover art. I remember it cause it was included with one of the best Christmas gifts I got when I was a kid a Sega Genesis with Sonic2 as the pack in game.

Robo-Knight

#29

Robo-Knight said:

I have always loved the older Video Game Box Art Covers, that level of Quality, it was a work of Art in of itself, heck, sometimes I'll even go too the 3DS Eshop just too look at all of the older Box Art that's in the Virtual Console Section.

R.I.P. Mr. Martin, you're painting with God now, you're legacy will always leave a lasting impression on people like me.

Royalblues

#30

Royalblues said:

Some of the best box-arts back in the day. Heck, it still holds up today in my opinion. Rest In Peace.

MeWario

#31

MeWario said:

Never realised it was the same guy making all of these... Actually I never thought about where the artwork came from as a kid - I just assumed it came from a magical place. RIP and thanks for the memories!

speedyboris

#32

speedyboris said:

Most of his cover art is excellent and eye-catching (particularly his Sonic ones), but the decision to take decidedly anime-style characters and turn them into... whatever Pocky & Rocky's American cover art was, was a bad one. Then again, that could've been a decision thrust upon him by some marketing group. I dunno, I wasn't there. At any rate, that was one of the few unappealing covers amidst a lot of quality ones.

RIP Greg.

audiobrainiac

#33

audiobrainiac said:

This man's artwork inspired and influenced my own artwork SO MUCH. I owe him a lot. R.I.P. Greg Martin :)

PrincessSugoi

#34

PrincessSugoi said:

Looking at the obvious similarity in the artstyle, I feel so silly not ever realizing as a child that it was the same artist doing these covers. RIP Sir Martin. You truly did have a talented hand in creating a whole generation.

Urbanhispanic

#35

Urbanhispanic said:

Wow, I've never heard of him until I read the article. I have played a good number of games in my life and always used to stare at some of the covers on the box.

R.I.P. Greg Martin......your work will never be forgotten.

DamoAdmin

#37

Damo said:

@speedyboris You have to remember that when the SNES and Genesis were hitting their stride, anime wasn't mainstream and certainly not as popular as it is now. These games were being marketed at western players and that's why changes were made. I personally think that Japanese box art - by and large - looks a lot better, but Martin's style was just so appealing that I often overlooked this. The western cover for Landstalker - despite being almost entirely different from the content of the game - totally grabbed me when I first saw it. The Japanese cover actually looks a bit goofy, IMO.

MagicEmperor

#38

MagicEmperor said:

An example of a man whose talents were amazing, and I didn't even know his name until he died. Guilt. :(

RIP, sir. Thanks for all your work!

Kolzig

#39

Kolzig said:

The Sonic cover artworks were amazing. Those really caught my eyes when I was a kid.

There was a Ducktales 2?

Beau_Skunk

#40

Beau_Skunk said:

I never would've thought the art for the Sonic games, Duck Tales, and Little Nemo were done by the same person, but now that I compare, I can see it, and it's sad to hear he passed away. His artwork was pretty good. Sure the Sonic art was "off-model" compared to the Japanese official art, but I think that's what made them so appealing, and unique. I like how he rendered the "Milton Knight" Robotnik/Eggman design for "Mean Bean Machine" to.

Beau_Skunk

#41

Beau_Skunk said:

@Kolzig Yeah, there was, in fact, the Gameboy version was rereleased at some point in the '90s with the "Million Seller/Player's Choice" label in it.

Moviefan2k4

#43

Moviefan2k4 said:

Never heard the name, nor did I ever suspect those pieces of artwork were painted. I always assumed some studio head had them drawn with markers or colored pencils...seriously. Since I never knew Mr. Martin, I can only say I hope he's in heaven with God now, and that his family's being comforted in every way.

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