Boris Vallejo is a modern master of fantasy illustration. With a worldwide fan following beginning in the late 1970s following publication of his 1978 book “The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo,” Boris has illustrated more than a dozen video game boxes.
Born in Lima, Peru to a prominent lawyer, Boris was interested in art from an early age but studied the violin for seven years followed by medicine for two years before ultimately entering art college, where he was quickly noticed by his extraordinary style and talent. Boris found work and was recognized for his artwork while employed by the Peruvian branch of McCann Erickson, a large advertising agency, but in 1964 at the age of 23 emigrated to the United States to try his luck in New York. After subsisting for a few years on various small jobs, Boris’s career as we know it began when he painted a warrior fighting a creature from Greek mythology and sold the painting to Warren Publications where it was later published on the cover of an issue of Eerie Comics, a magazine often graced by Frank Frazetta paintings. Boris was soon in demand to paint illustrations for book covers, movie posters, and record album jackets.
Working almost exclusively in oils, Boris’ hyper-realistic style featuring fit, perfectly proportioned and muscular figures is unmistakable. While faraway lands filled with monsters and barbarians imbue Boris’ fantasy paintings, a bodybuilding enthusiast himself, the human figure remains the focus of his works. The distinct look and renown of Boris’ work no doubt attracted video game publishers such that Boris’ game illustrations were often signed prominently in an era when many pieces were unsigned or when publishers deliberately obscured an artist’s signature. Ballistic (Accolade) in particular promoted the art of Boris Vallejo as a selling point for their games, including mail-in offers within the game boxes for full-size posters of Boris’ artwork for the game.
Boris’ work was a frequent reference for other artists, including many that did art for video games. An extensive feature on Hardcore Gaming 101, “Tracing the Influence: Stolen Images in Games,” dedicates a page to documenting instances in which the works of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo were “swiped” by game designers or box illustrators. Among the works on OVGA, Greg Winters’ art for Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight borrows a flying monster from Boris’ book cover for Conan of Aquilonia.
Boris' wife Julie Bell is also a heroic fantasy artist and they often work together.
OVGA has included below Boris Vallejo's full known video game box art catalog:
- Dragon Wars (Interplay | Home Computers, Famicom (JP) | 1989)
- Swords and Serpents (Acclaim | NES | 1990)
- Star Control (Accolade/Ballistic | Home Computers, Genesis | 1990)
- Wings of Wor (DreamWorks | Genesis | 1991)
- Onslaught (Accolade/Ballistic | Genesis | 1991)
- Mike Ditka Ultimate Football (Accolade/Ballistic | Genesis | 1991) box signed by Boris but later credited to Julie Bell
- Turrican (Accolade/Ballistic | Genesis, Game Boy, Turbografx-16 | 1991) box signed by Boris but later credited to Julie Bell
- HardBall! (Accolade/Ballistic | Genesis | 1991) box signed by Boris but later credited to Julie Bell
- Les Manley in: Lost in L.A. (Accolade | DOS | 1991)
- Golden Axe II (Sega | Genesis | 1991)
- Conan: The Cimmerian (Virgin Games | Amiga, DOS | 1991)
- Ecco the Dolphin (Sega | Genesis, Game Gear, Sega CD, Windows | 1992)
- Phantasy Star IV (Sega | Genesis | 1993)
- Eric the Unready (Legend Entertainment | DOS | 1993)
- Ecco: The Tides of Time (Sega | Genesis, Game Gear, Sega CD | 1994)
- Shannara (Legend Entertainment | DOS | 1995)
- Might and Magic VII: For Blood and Honor (3DO Company | Windows | 1999)
- Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future (Sega | Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 | 2000)
- Demise: Rise of the Ku'tan (Artifact Entertainment | Windows | 2000)
- RYL: Path of the Emperor (Planetwide Games | Windows | 2005) signed by and credited to both Julie and Boris
Boris also painted an image for Golden Axe III in 1993 that was ultimately not used, as the game was not released in the United States. Artist Sohhei Oshiba later aped Boris' painting for the Japanese release of the game.
Among additional, non-box art game work, in 2009, Boris and Julie also painted an image for Bioshock 2 as part of 2K Games’ “Artist Series” in which they hired artists to imagine Bioshock’s world in different ways. These images promoted the game online and may not have had traditional print publication.
Note: OVGA has included Mike Ditka Ultimate Football/Power Football, Turrican, and Hardball! in the box art catalogs for both Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell. At the time, these works were represented as works by Boris, as evidenced by his signature present on the published boxes. Julie and Boris have subsequently explained that Julie had just started her career and accepted the commission for these game boxes in place of Boris, whose schedule did not allow him to take the job. Following an apparent disagreement with the art director concerning attribution, the paintings were sent in unsigned and Boris’ signature was reportedly added digitally to the published box art.