Thursday, June 27, 2013

Meet the Man Who Drew Mega Man 2's Box Art

So this completely flew under our radar. Back in October 2012, Nintendo Age conducted a short interview with Marc Ericksen, the illustrator behind the now iconic Mega Man 2 box art. At the 3:00 mark, he finally spills the beans on the age-old question: why in the world does Mega Man have a pistol?

If you can spare a few minutes, it's well worth the watch. If you can't view the video, you'll find my attempt at a transcription after the jump. Check it out!

"So we're talking about the infamous Mega Man 2 where Mega Man is actually running around waving a pistol!  Okay so, the question on everyone's mind is 'how could the illustrator be such a complete idiot that he didn't realize that Mega Man had a cannon for an arm, and why is he holding a pistol for God's sake.' 
What happened was I had to go down to Capcom and do a game they just got in from Japan.  They had a beta version; they were in a hurry to get this thing out.  So I went down there.  The gentlemen was the art director was there with the beta guy and they were waiting for me and I came with my pad and they started running the game.  What we saw was this little pixelated figure of the famous Mega Man running around on the screen shooting.  Bang, bang, bang, he's shooting obviously like this with his arm [Marc points his arm forward].  So I said to the art director, 'what is he shooting? What is he shooting with?'  The art director said, 'he must have a pistol because I don't see that he's got a rifle so he must have a pistol.'
'So... a pistol? You want me to do a pistol?' And he said, 'yeah, let's put a pistol in there.'  So I did what I was told and I put the pistol in there.  Add to the fact that they only had, like, a day and a half for me to do the painting and what you wound up with was not the greatest result but certainly a result that was not my fault.  It was one of those things. Here's my opportunity: I'm saying to everybody now that was not my fault! Talk to Capcom about the pistol."
-- Marc Ericksen

And there you have it. The blame for the anomalous pistol rests on Capcom USA's then-art director. Question is, where was Inafune's Rockman 2 art for reference? You'd think those assets would be readily on hand, right?

It more or less sounds like the only thing Marc had to work with was the game itself. Interpreting 8-bit sprites isn't as easy as you might think. Marc was just doing his job with what little time and resources he had. Makes me wonder just what the hell went on during the conception of Mega Man 1's box art. 

If you'd like to learn more about Marc you should really check out his blog, There's lots of artwork to scope out and you can even order some prints. No Mega Man 2, I'm afraid. Marc's video game designs, he says, were often stored away in some Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque warehouse or thrown away completely. The original print is most likely lost.


  1. The art director told Marc to make Megaman shooting with the pistol???



    I really want to punch that idiot art director for making him looking bad!!!

    I officially blame on the art director who has no name!!! Curse him! Curse him evilly!

    1. Lol, yeah...what kind of art director was that? I mean, did he not get some proofs of the original art? How can they just assume these things. =P

  2. A rifle? Oh good lord.

  3. Communication between the US and Japanese branches of game companies was pretty poor back then, so it's not that surprising that they wouldn't have art references from Inafune. Seems that way for many early Capcom games; check out Bionic Commando for NES or Strider on Genesis for other cases where they obviously had no reference.

  4. It wasn't until about 3 and 4 that Megaman started looking like Megaman on the cover art.

    Then again, 3 has Megaman's face on the stage select screen and 4 also has large pixel art of him looking like his cute kid self in the intro, so that might have something to do with it...

  5. The art director said, "he must have a pistol because I don't see that he's got a rifle so he must have a pistol."

    ' M U R R I C A.

  6. Well hey, at least MM2's boxart was slightly better than MM1's... Even just slightly. I don't think a pistol is too far of a stretch considering the aforementioned lack of communication and difficulty in interpreting 8-bit graphics. It could have very well been that rifle they just said. =P

    Still better than Europe's silver armor too.

  7. Yeah? No comment on what's going on with MegaMan's LEFT FOOT?

    But yes, if this is what happened with MM2.. I can't imagine the insanity and miscommunication that must have happened for MM1.

    BTW Protodude - there's a typo on your post: "Interrupting 8-bit sprites", I'm sure you mean "interpreting".

  8. Well, that about explains it. Now if only we could get an explanation from the guy who drew the MM1 cover, then I can completely end this chapter of my life; this chapter of wanting to know why the first two Mega Man covers were so bad.

    Also, are those covers why Zero's buster is a pistol in the Zero series?

  9. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I was always alright with Megaman 2's NA box art. I think it was pretty decent compared to most NES games around the same time. He was blue, you can clearly identify all of the characters and even the level it's supposed to interpret which is pretty good in my book.

  10. Hahaha! No use in complaining about the box art now. It was a done deal years back. XD This is still some interesting stuff. And I'm going to be honest; way back when I was little, before I had internet and when I was still renting video games, the box art never bothered me and I thought that was the official thing. NES graphics were limited so I thought it was all just condensed to what I saw in 8-bit form. I still thought the characters looked better in 8-bit form than on the box. Still, there was no way for me to know this was a regional thing.

    Then I got the internet around the late 90s, saw all the box art from Japan, and then I started to hate any box art that came from America. XD

  11. Okay Dhylec, you've got me on the left foot deal. I can't blame anyone else for that, mea culpa. I hope before you judge me completely on MM2, you take the opportunity to review some of my other pieces: Atari 7800's Galaga, Tengens' Tetris and Afterburner, Capcom's Stryder, Broderbund's original Choplifter, Three Sixty's Das Boot, Sega Genesis' Thunderforce II and Herzog Zwei. I did nearly eighty covers, and rarely had any lead time, but I always had a blast, my friend. I even did the art for Captain Commando that's on the back of MM2!

    MM2's art deserves roasting, but I always felt pretty good about being involved. I know in the hearts of at least a few rabid retrogamers, that art, despite the shrillness of it's haters, still holds good memories. By the way, I was pleased to see in the recent release tribute to MM2 that the artist kept the same left foot treatment. You have to love that devotion.

  12. Really great interview! I was always wondering who drew the less-than-stellar game art for the Mega Man series.
    I still wonder why they just didn't use the original Japanese game art? It would've saved time and money and looks great. Did the art director at Capcom and many of these other companies think they would not be well received by an American audience.

    Photodude -please intereview Capcom's original art director, please!!

  13. So, basically, the Artist for this box art faced the same dilemma that the artist for the first box art faced. Time crunch. If I remember correctly from Mega Man Anniversary Collection, the artist only had 6 hours to draw a picture of Mega Man and DIDN'T EVEN KNOW what he looked like! Capcom clustered to success back then, but now, its showing how much of a cluster they really are...

  14. Apart from the foot, I really love this art, it gives me a MGS vibe.

  15. I've always thought this art looked cool as hell!

  16. The art is awesome. I mean this is actually drawn nice. Yeah sure this jp version is more accurate but compared to US rockman looks like a sketch or a doodle compared to megaman.

  17. Who can tell me the name of the European artist who designed the box art of MM1,2,3


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