Greg Martin was the American illustrator behind much of gaming's most beloved box artwork. His illustrations graced many of the most memorable games of the early 1990s, including many Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man boxes, along with several Hanna-Barbera and Hudson Soft video game properties.
From an early age, Greg loved drawing and loved cartoons, twin passions he carried on into adulthood and into his professional career. Fittingly, though Greg graduated from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California in 1980, he had already started his animation career at Hanna-Barbera in 1979. Greg took on projects relating to The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, and the rest of the Hanna-Barbera line-up, a dream come true to work on characters he had loved as a child. It would be no surprise that Greg later—as a freelancer—illustrated the packaging for both Hanna-Barbera VHS and video games releases—he already had perfected drawing those same characters!
Greg’s greatest legacy comes from having illustrated some of the absolute standout Sega and Nintendo titles of the early 1990s, including several Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man boxes (identified in detail below), along with several titles in the Adventure Island series, Super Bomberman, DuckTales 2, The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak (and several other The Flintstones titles), several The Jetsons titles, Landstalker, Felix the Cat, and Snow Brothers. Between 1990 and 1995, Greg illustrated more than 60 boxes, along with dozens of additional images for promotional use. His first box artwork of this period was most likely Little Nemo: The Dream Master, released in September 1990. Knuckles Chaotix, released in May 1995, may have been his last of this period. Greg’s airbrushed paintings were typically 24 to 30 inches and took nearly a week to complete.
Pac-Man box artwork (earliest release date identified):
- Pac-Man (Tengen 10th Anniversary Version, NES) (1990)
- Pac-Man (Namco, Game Boy) (1991)
- Pac-Mania (Tengen, Genesis) (Sept. 1991) (Note: this cover reused the Tengen 10th Anniversary image identified above)
- Ms. Pac-Man (Namco, NES/Game Boy/Game Gear) (Oct. 1993)
- Pac-Attack (Namco, SNES/Genesis/Game Boy/Game Gear) (Oct. 1993)
- Pac-Man (Namco, NES) (Nov. 1993)
Sonic the Hedgehog (and related) box artwork:
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear) (Dec. 1991)
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis) (Nov. 1992)
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Game Gear) (Nov. 1992)
- Sonic Spinball (Genesis) (Nov. 1993)
- Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Nov. 1993)
- Sonic Chaos (Game Gear, Nov. 1993)
- Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (Genesis/Game Gear) (Dec. 1993)
- Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Genesis) (Feb. 1994)
- Sonic Spinball (Game Gear) (Sept. 1994) (changes to Robotnik design)
- Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis) (Oct. 1994)
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble (Game Gear) (Nov. 1994)
- Knuckles Chaotix (32X) (May 1995)
While game enthusiasts and art collectors have come to know Greg's name through his extensive work illustrating Sonic the Hedgehog and his 1990-1995 oeuvre, his earliest game works were for UMI-published games for the Vic-20 console in 1981 and 1982, which he signed "Martin" or "G. Martin" in an early block-signature style. Among the boxes Greg illustrated for UMI, Amok and Super Amok both included visual references to his own favorite artist, Frank Frazetta, with the female figure in the Super Amok artwork in particular referencing Frank's method of rendering hair in motion. Greg was the rare person who both worked in and was a fan of the work of others in his industry, himself a collector of art books, movies, comic books, comic strips and comic art. Indeed, Greg used his very first paycheck from professional illustration to get in contact with Ellie Frazetta and negotiate the purchase of the original artwork for one of Frank's Johnny Comet strips! Greg never lost the sense of wonder he had as a teenager for really great artwork.
Beyond his work for games, Greg illustrated scores of VHS boxes, beginning around 1985. Typically, but not always, these were cartoon properties, such as Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, many of the Hanna-Barbera properties such as The Flintstones and The Jetsons, and many others. Greg’s Thundercats boxes were among his earliest VHS work; he illustrated almost the entire line. He also illustrated approximately 50 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles VHS boxes alone. While cartoons were Greg’s bread and butter, he dabbled in other genres, including horror, having done most of the box artwork for the Thriller Video releases hosted by Elvira; Greg was proud to have met Elvira / Cassandra Peterson at the time.
Fun fact: fellow illustrator Lee MacLeod and Greg Martin were best friends in real life. What’s one game box you probably didn’t know was by Greg Martin? The Game Boy release of Milon’s Secret Castle. Another surprise: Greg’s last known illustration for games came in 2002, with the Game Boy Advance release of Lilo & Stitch.
Note on misattribution: While Greg Martin did illustrate the 1994 Game Boy box for Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions, the SNES release in 1993 is not Greg's work. Similarly, though Greg is responsible for the box artwork for Super Bomberman, Greg confirmed that Bomberman II was not his illustration.
Greg passed away on May 21, 2013. Following his passing, a tribute thread on NintendoAge detailing Greg’s life and box art credits was the most viewed thread on the site, with the information having been picked up by dozens if not hundreds of websites reporting game-related material.