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Sega-16 – Interview: Marc Ericksen (Artist)

Sega-16 – Interview: Marc Ericksen (Artist)

Anybody who owns a NES or a Genesis is aware of the artwork of Marc Ericksen. Those that grew up within the ’80s and ’90s might properly keep in mind his artwork as part of their childhoods, a everlasting hyperlink to the period and all the good video games that stored them up late and from doing homework. Ericksen has been making recreation artwork for nearly 40 years, and he’s liable for a number of the most well-known items of the Eight- and 16-bit eras. A few of his immediately recognizable piece embrace the field artwork for Strider, Dangerous Dudes, Mega Man 2, Thunder Pressure II and Metal Empire. He additionally did the artwork for Capcom’s promotional poster that includes Captain Commando. With quite a lot of types, Ericksen has maintained an enormous presence within the online game business, creating virtually 150 items, together with field artwork for 90 video games.

Sega-16 was lucky to talk with Mr. Ericksen about his experiences creating recreation artwork.

Sega-16: What made you determine to grow to be an artist?

Marc Ericksen: I actually wasn’t certified to do anything. My dad was an Air Pressure officer, so I used to be raised was within the army. I left Excessive Faculty in 1965. With out the means, or frankly, the grades, for a college, I went to Sacramento Metropolis Junior School for one semester, dropped out in 1966, and was promptly drafted into the U.S. Military. I spent six years on lively obligation and spent two of these years in motion in Vietnam. So, once I left the service in 1972, I used to be 25-year-old veteran, a highschool graduate, and a civilian for the primary time in my life. I used to be chargeable for supporting my spouse Dianne and our toddler sons Christian and Richard, and my solely helpful talent units concerned area stripping and firing each NATO and Soviet weapon recognized to man. However there WAS my drawing… as a toddler, I had all the time beloved drawing. I used to be fairly good and had drawn all by way of my teenagers as nicely, however I hadn’t drawn something via the prior six years within the service.

So, I assumed, What the hell, and determined to use to an artwork faculty. I created and despatched a small portfolio of six drawings and 6 work to Artwork Middle (in L.A.), Pratt Institute (in N.Y.) and the artwork division of The College of California, Berkeley. Pratt and Artwork Middle accepted me, and U.C. turned me down based mostly on my highschool grades. Thank God. I’ve since discovered that College artwork faculties are pretty ineffective for studying sensible illustration.

I selected Artwork Middle School of Design (ACCD) due to its nice popularity and by no means regretted it. They gave me credit score for time in service, and based mostly on the portfolio, allowed me to bypass some primary determine drawing courses. Even with the GI invoice funds ($115 a month), my freelancing skilled work as a scholar, and Dianne working, we nonetheless ran out of my financial savings from the army about midway via and couldn’t meet the funds. ACCD inspired me to proceed and gave me a piece scholarship, and with that assist, I received my BFA with honors in 1975. The instruction was phenomenal.

Sega-16: How did you get into making artwork for video video games?

Marc Ericksen: I had spent my first yr after Artwork Middle as a studio illustrator in Chicago, however my spouse and I made a decision to maneuver again to California. There, I used to be employed at one other studio group referred to as Artworks in San Francisco. Lots of my buddies in illustration questioned that as a result of the truth that there wasn’t a lot happening there. (Steve Jobs was nonetheless working in his storage.)

By the point the ‘80s came, the tech bubble was going crazy, and I was freelancing on my own out of North Beach and was working with groups like Intel, Varian, and Coherent Technologies, as well as companies like United Airlines and Clorox, when I got a call from a group named Broderbund. They were creating early stage video games for platforms like the TRS-80. I wound up doing covers for a half-dozen of their earliest games. The money wasn’t nice but, however the paintings was a blast to supply. They might give me carte blanche to provide you with something I needed, so long as it was enjoyable and thrilling. As soon as the Broderbund artwork was on the cabinets, I started getting inquiries from different recreation corporations. Between 1982 and 2002, I created over 95 recreation covers for 30 totally different corporations. All through these twenty years, I additionally continued doing illustrations for main firms, toy corporations, and publications throughout the U.S.

Sega-16: How do you put together for creating a bit? Do you play or examine it beforehand?

Marc Ericksen: The method labored greatest face-to-face with the artistic workforce on the corporations that referred to as me in. With Broderbund, I labored instantly with Doug Carlston, the founder and a particularly artistic individual. However as a result of I by no means had the time to truly play the video games, I all the time required that they be performed by means of all their ranges by an worker whereas I watched the display and questioned the gameplay, and as I sketched concepts and ideas proper there with the workforce.

I beloved my life as an illustrator, however I had by no means had a lot enjoyable with it as I did in gaming. Sadly, I used to be by no means able to gameplay. When my very own boys tried to show me, I might be lifeless in a snap, time and again. They thought it was hilarious; I assumed it was pathetic, however when you consider it, 30-year-olds weren’t enjoying these video games, 12-year-olds have been. The saving grace for me was that few of the 30-year-old graphic designers I used to be working with might play them both. The software program guys have been principally beneath 25. Typically, the individual they might usher in to play the sport for me have been of their teenagers!

Sega-16: Your NES artwork used quite a lot of totally different types, and one can be inclined to consider a number of artists have been accountable as an alternative of simply you. Was the altering types your selection or dictated by the corporate you have been creating the artwork for?

Marc Ericksen: I had all the time forged a broad internet relating to the accepting of jobs. I did technical cutaways of tech gear and processes, cartoons, tight renderings in air brush, unfastened illustrations completed in pastels and watercolor, black and white work in pen and ink, and work in oils, all for printed work. I additionally did what’s referred to within the commerce as Preliminary Artwork: storyboarding work and complete sketches for all the key promoting businesses and design companies within the S.F. Bay space. So, the continuously totally different seems kind of characterised what I so loved in illustration.

And no, nobody ever dictated a “look.” It all the time appeared to develop organically based mostly on the kind of material was concerned… nobody ever complained.

Sega-16: You created the long-lasting artwork for Mega Man 2 for the NES? How did that come about?

Marc Ericksen: In July 1989, I acquired a name from Tollner Design, who was working for Capcom America, for a job that required the design of a spokesperson hero named Captain Commando, asking me to ship samples of my work to point out to a Capcom America artistic group. Nothing additional occurred till late September, once I acquired one other name from Tollner asking is I used to be interested by creating a picture for the field artwork for a recreation referred to as Mega Man 2, together with the rendered Mega Man 2 emblem, and the massive poster sized picture of Captain Commando, which was ultimately made right into a poster, and appeared on the again of the Mega Man 2 field artwork. That month, I used to be already engaged on Capcom’s Strider, Knowledge East’s Heavy Barrel and Dangerous Dudes, Activision’s Chop ‘N Drop, and SNK’s Guerrilla Conflict, along with a canopy for PC Video games journal. (It was commonplace for me to be engaged on numerous levels of numerous illustrations over a single time-frame.)

We arrange a gathering to observe the gameplay and to sketch. It was at that fateful assembly that I queried one of many attending artwork administrators within the make use of of Capcom America, asking him a easy query whereas watching the gameplay: “What is that he (the tiny pixelated icon that was Mega Man) is firing with?” His reply was: “I don’t see a rifle… so… give him a pistol.” I sketched in a pistol, and the remaining is historical past. For Professor Wiley he simply stated “put a professor there“ however didn’t clarify that there have been two professors. I sketched the flawed professor, and nobody corrected me.

I’ve taken a variety of flak surrounding this artwork, however it doesn’t take a genius to acknowledge that the idea of an illustrator jamming by means of a rogue illustration with out the discover of lots of of company viewers via sketch, colour tough, completed artwork, and copy, and quite a few press checks and colour proofs, after which receiving a heat thanks and a fats examine merely doesn’t fly. And in addition, what freelancer would torpedo his profession so pointlessly?

I solely created what Capcom America instructed me to create. It got here as no shock that inside a yr Capcom shut down Capcom America and resumed operating the corporate from Japan.

My final level is a poignant one: For his or her large re-release of an exquisite and unique Mega Man 2 this yr, Capcom acknowledged how a lot the artwork meant to Mega Man 2 followers, that they didn’t change a single merchandise in my unique picture. That spoke volumes to me.

Sega-16: You’ve talked about all of the errors in that piece, and also you debuted the “corrected” model on the 2018 Portland Retro Gaming Expo. How was it acquired?

Marc Ericksen: The organizers of The Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE) requested me to create a bit of artwork based mostly on Mega Man 2 for the 30th Anniversary of NES. I agreed, and we celebrated Capcom’s nice Mega Man 2 as a logo of the influence of NES. We labored very onerous to advertise the sport and NES with an illustration that corrected the errors of the unique and included the spires of the Oregon Conference Middle, in addition to development presently being completed there. It was used on the cling tags for the attendees in addition to the exhibitors. The artwork was very nicely acquired, and I signed all comers)!


Sega-16: You started creating paintings for Sega Genesis video games with Thunder Drive II, starting an extended collaboration with the corporate. How did you come to work with Sega? Did the corporate strategy you or did you attain out to it? 

Marc Ericksen: There was a mixture of working patterns among the many giant gaming corporations. Many had in-house design teams, and others relied on outdoors design companies. I by no means wanted to strategy potential shoppers when it got here to gaming. To my nice fortune, I used to be continually over-employed. As I associated earlier, I all the time had greater than sufficient work, I feel to a big diploma because of my flexibility in types and design.

Sega appeared to work with various outdoors design companies, who would design the graphics and organize for printing, level of buy advertisements, and so on. The work I did for Sega got here by way of teams like Jaciow Design in San Jose, for G-LOC, Hankins and Tegenborg in New York for Metal Empire, and Michael Patrick Design in Palo Alto for Thunder Pressure II.

Sega-16: You talked about to me that there was a narrative behind the covers for Herzog Zwei and Thunder Pressure II. How have been they associated?

Marc Ericksen: I’ve all the time harbored a reminiscence of being advised Thunder Drive II and Herzog Zwei as being “brother” video games. I’m unsure, however I consider the unique name I acquired from a designer at Michael Patrick Design named Dan stated he was instructed by Sega to ask me if I used to be out there to create the artwork for a brand new recreation referred to as Herzog Zwei (German for Duke 2). Sega needed me particularly due the truth that I had illustrated the field artwork for Thunder Drive II. A consultant named Anna at Sega wanted ten days to acquire a 16-bit unit and the beta variations cartridges to play at our sketch assembly (these particulars are from my work log). By Monday the 29th 1990, I made one other notation indicating the artwork was due by that following Thursday. They requested that I create the view from behind an attacking plane for the Herzog cowl, a lot as I had executed on the Thunder Pressure II cowl. When you look at the artwork for each under, you’ll be able to simply see the similarities.


Sega-16: Which was your favourite Sega cowl to create? Why?

Marc Ericksen: G-Loc was one among my favorites. The inside of the cockpit posed such a problem, and I used to be actually glad in the best way it turned out, however I beloved all of them. Metal Empire, and Tremendous Baseball 2020, Thunder Drive II ,and Herzog Zwei have been all proper up there in my affections. What nice video games!

Sega-16: Have been you ever given any particular calls for for artwork for a recreation by Sega (or another firm)?

Marc Ericksen: In need of giving the youngsters an thrilling visualization software for what have been primarily entertaining pixels of brightly coloured icons, I by no means in 90+ items of separate artwork had shoppers ever demanded something however enjoyable and interesting artwork. They have been typically in a rush, and with my jammed schedule my life at occasions received chaotic. I spent many nights working till daylight to make deadlines, however that was all the time my determination. I by no means turned a recreation field artwork job down.

Sega-16: Are there any Sega covers you’d have favored to have illustrated? I do know you probably did the duvet for the NES model of Strider, and I actually want you would have accomplished the Genesis model!

Marc Ericksen: As busy as I used to be, I’m afraid I by no means actually thought in these phrases. I favored just about each recreation I received to do, I assume I had my arms too full to be taking a look at different prospects. I actually recognize your emotions for the Strider artwork. Thanks! It was a variety of enjoyable to do.

Sega-16: Have you ever been doing appearances and gross sales at recreation conventions through the years? In that case, how has the fan reception been to assembly you in individual? Have you ever been stunned at their reactions?

Marc Ericksen: Truly, the one present I attend is PRGE, which Dianne and I’ve a sales space and have attended every October since 2012. The very last thing I suspected was that the followers would ever care who did the artwork. The reception I’ve had at PRGE from retro recreation followers has been nothing however superb. Conversely, on-line, there’s been a number of painful vitriol fired at me over the problems surrounding Mega Man 2. As a person raised in a unique time than the younger youngsters I did artwork for, I discover right now’s types of web interplay permit voice to far too most of the small-minded and foulmouthed. My marketing campaign of making an attempt to get the reality concerning the creation of the Mega Man 2 is lastly starting to unfold, and there are various who not blame me. The exhibits permit me to work together precise women and men who as youngsters beloved the video games I created artwork for and categorical their heartfelt gratitude in actual time as actual individuals… that’s my most revered present!

And by the best way, my Sega prints are amongst my highest promoting prints, together with Mega Man 2!


We drastically respect Mr. Ericksen for taking the trip for this interview! For extra details about his work and learn how to get hold of prints of his artwork, take a look at his web site and print gallery. Within the meantime, take a look at the gallery under for a few of his most well-known items for the NES and Genesis!

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