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  • Lee MacLeod (b. 1953)


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    Interviewed by Adam Gidney in January 2021

    Lee MacLeod is a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based plein air and studio painter that began his career in commercial illustration for book covers, game boxes, and film posters.

    Lee often combined traditional illustration with photography, noticeable in many of his early game illustrations, including for his first game box art in 1989, Death Bringer, for Cinemaware’s secondary label Spotlight Software where he was prompted to emulate Boris Vallejo. In fact, the pose of the woman on the Death Bringer box is a direct reference to Boris Vallejo’s cover art for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1975 novel I Am a Barbarian.

    Lee employed a similar style in his box art for Cinemaware’s The Kristal, an approach also noticeable in his Super C poster for Volume 12 of Nintendo Power (May/June 1990). Lee went on to contribute several interior pieces for Nintendo Power magazine: posters and spot illustrations, including the iconic Street Fighter II, Castlevania III and Final Fantasy posters. He did not produce any magazine cover art for Nintendo Power.

    Beyond his Nintendo Power work, Lee’s most visible game projects include many of the North American box arts for the NES, SNES, and Game Boy releases of the Ultima series. Lee also did several projects for Sega. Alien Storm for the Sega Genesis was among Lee’s earliest Sega titles, but he did other several projects for Sega, including for the Genesis (Out of This World, Rolling Thunder 2 and 3), Sega CD (Rise of the Dragon), 32X (Tempo), and even Sega's Pocket Arcade series of LCD games.

    Lee integrates the vivid colors of New Mexico, Colorado, and the American west into his work, so much so that game art collectors have come to know that game covers exhibiting vivid purple and/or pink mountainscapes stand a good chance of being Lee’s work.  Prominent examples include Lee’s Castlevania III poster for Nintendo Power, many of his Ultima titles, and King’s Bounty for New World Computing, Inc.

    While rarely visible, Lee MacLeod signed his illustration work with his “LM” initials surrounded by a circle. Fun Fact: Lee included several of his game illustrations in a 1994 Cardz trading card set, in which each card includes on the back a brief commentary from Lee on the illustration or project details.

    OVGA staff favorites include Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos, RPG Maker, and Saturday Night Slammasters.

    OVGA has included below Lee MacLeod's full known box art catalog:

    # Title Year Publisher Platform
    1 B.A.T. 1989 Ubisoft Amiga / Amstrad CPC / Atari ST / Commodore 64 / DOS
    2 Death Bringer 1989 Spotlight Software Commodore 64
    3 The Kristal 1989 Cinemaware Amiga / Atari ST / DOS
    4 Chiller 1990 ShareData / American Game Cartridges NES
    5 King's Bounty: The Conqueror's Quest 1990 New World Computing / Electronic Arts Amiga / Apple II / Commodore 64 / DOS / FM Towns / Genesis / PC-98
    6 Ultima: Quest of the Avatar 1990 FCI NES
    7 Alien Storm 1991 Sega Genesis / SMS
    8 Elevator Action 1991 Taito Game Boy
    9 Rolling Thunder 2 1992 Namco Genesis
    10 Ultima: Runes of Virtue 1992 FCI Game Boy
    11 Dracula Unleashed 1993 Sega Mega CD (Europe Only)
    12 Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos 1993 Virgin DOS
    13 Out of this World 1993 Virgin Genesis
    14 Paladin's Quest 1993 Enix SNES
    15 Rolling Thunder 3 1993 Namco Genesis
    16 Stellar 7: Drazon’s Revenge 1993 Dynamix 3DO
    17 Ultima: Warriors of Destiny 1993 FCI NES
    18 Ultima: The False Prophet 1993 FCI SNES
    19 Alien Legacy 1994 Sierra On-Line, Inc. DOS
    20 Rise of the Dragon 1994 Sega / Dynamix Sega CD
    21 Saturday Night Slammasters 1994 Capcom Genesis / SNES
    22 Star Control II 1994 Crystal Dynamics 3DO
    23 Ultima: Runes of Virtue II 1994 FCI Game Boy
    24 Alien vs. Predator 1994 Capcom Arcade (marquee)
    25 Pocket Arcade Baseball 1994 Sega / Tiger Electronics LCD
    26 Pocket Arcade Football 1994 Sega / Tiger Electronics LCD
    27 Tempo 1995 Sega 32X
    28 Chronicles of the Sword 1996 Psygnosis DOS / PlayStation
    29 The Horde 1996 Crystal Dynamics Saturn
    30 RPG Maker 1997 Agetec PlayStation
    31 Rush Hour 1997 Psygnosis PlayStation
    32 Schoolhouse Rock!: 3rd & 4th Grade Essentials 1997 Creative Wonders Windows
    33 Schoolhouse Rock!: Thinking Games
    (and Thinking Games Deluxe)
    1998 Creative Wonders Windows
    34 Chase H.Q.: Secret Police 1999 Metro3D Game Boy Color
    35 Ski Resort Tycoon 2000 Activision Value Publishing Windows
    36 Skateboard Park Tycoon 2001 Activision Value Publishing Windows
    37 Serious Sam: The Second Encounter 2002 Take-Two Windows / Xbox
    38 Snowboard Park Tycoon 2002 Activision Value Publishing Windows
    39 Cruise Ship Tycoon 2003 Activision Value Publishing Windows
    40 Medieval Lords: Build, Defend, Expand 2004 Monte Cristo Multimedia Windows
    41 A Sound of Thunder 2005 BAM! Entertainment, Inc. Game Boy Advance

    Lee has commented that no single original painting exists for Paladin’s Quest (1993) and that it was cobbled together digitally, mixing elements done by Lee with those from another artist. While only Lee’s box art for Enix’s Paladin’s Quest is included in his catalog above, Lee may additionally have been involved with the box art for Soul Blazer (1992), also by Enix. Lee’s art for Paladin’s Quest was done for Work House USA, the same firm through which Lee did a lot of his Nintendo Power work, including a Soul Blazer illustration—with similar composition to the box art—in the August 1992 issue. Like Paladin’s Quest, Lee recalls the Soul Blazer box art as being a composite image, possibly using or based on his work. However, no elements between the two images appear to be a one-for-one match, and given the uncertainty, OVGA has omitted Soul Blazer from Lee’s box art catalog. As a side note unrelated to Lee: the U.S. box art for ActRaiser (1992) from Enix was also almost certainly the product of the company’s early digital hijinks, making it unlikely a true original exists.

    Tempo for the 32X was released with separate box arts for the Brazil and U.S. releases, both of which OVGA has credited to Lee MacLeod. The Brazil TecToy release features what has been regarded as an earlier version of Lee’s art (and how he recalls it leaving his studio), with subsequent revisions having been made for the U.S. art. While Lee doesn’t remember making the revisions himself, speculating that they could have been atop his original painting by Greg Winters (who was responsible for the preliminary art/layout upon which Lee based his painting), the final painting for the U.S. Tempo box art is collector owned and was purchased from Lee. Only one painting exists.

    Lee MacLeod is additionally responsible for a handful of box art images that went unused:

    Title Year Publisher Platform Status
    Light Quest 1991 Ubisoft Amiga 500 Unreleased
    Beastball (a.k.a. Brutal Football) 1993 Spectrum Holobyte Genesis / SNES Unreleased
    Dig & Spike Volleyball 1993 Hudson Soft SNES Art Unused
    Star Cruiser 1993 Namco Genesis Unreleased
    Stellar Assault
    (a.k.a. Shadow Squadron)
    1994 Sega 32X Art Unused
    Aztec: Empire of Blood 1995 Microprose PC Unreleased
    Ratchet and Bolt 1995 Sega Genesis / 32X Unreleased
    Tower Assault 1995 Unknown Unknown Unreleased
    Ballblazer Champions 1996 LucasArts PlayStation Art Unused
    Pitball 1996 Accolade PlayStation Art Unused

    Year information listed above corresponds to the year Lee painted the art, not the year the game would have been released. Aztec: Empire of Blood appears to have ultimately been released in 2000 in Europe for Windows under the name "Theocracy"; however, given that Microprose was not the ultimate publisher, OVGA has listed it as unreleased. Tower Assault was presumably intended to be a console port of the Amiga/DOS game Alien Breed: Tower Assault; however the intended platform and publisher are unknown. As a fun twist, Mick McGinty would end up illustrating the final box art for both Dig & Spike Volleyball and Pitball!

    Lee MacLeod

    Lee MacLeod (b. 1953)
    Born: May 16, 1953, Los Angeles, California
    Nationality: American
    Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
    Education: Colorado College (1976), ArtCenter College of Design (1980)
    Known For : Ultima series
    Years Active: 1989–2005

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