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  • Pete McDonnell (b. 1959)


    Pete McDonnell is an American freelance illustrator that has worked in advertising, comics, and publishing, including for video games. In addition to box art for a small number of games, Pete worked on numerous, diverse projects related to video games, documented throughout his biography below. OVGA has hosted a gallery with some of Pete's projects, which can be seen here and on a side-pane on the right (on desktop).

    Pete’s first game project was also one of his most substantial: the box art for Activision’s Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 releases of Double Dragon in 1988. 

    Pete’s work with Activision would continue with an ill-fated Sega Genesis project under the name Mondu’s Fight Palace. With the game set to be published in the fall of 1990, Pete was tasked with creating art for inclusion in the game’s manual: illustrations of each of the game’s characters as well as a mini-comic to introduce the game’s premise. However, amidst financial issues, including multi-million dollar patent infringement lawsuits, Activision pulled out of the Sega market. Though the game would later reach the Sega Genesis under the name Slaughter Sport from U.S. publisher Razorsoft in 1991, Pete’s work for Activision would go unused. A prototype manual for the game can be seen on the website of Steve Englehart; the back cover of the manual includes Pete’s art for the character Guano.

    While Mondu’s Final Palace would be scrapped, Pete would take on one final project for Activision: the box art for The Adventures of Rad Gravity for the NES in late 1990. Pete’s art would be created in two separate layers. After inking the line work on paper, Pete worked with a local film processing shop to make both a black & white film overlay and a “blue line” version of the art on illustration board. In what would become the final color art for the box, Pete would color the blue line version with dyes, basically vivid watercolors. The supplied film overlay was then laid on top of the color as a composite. He would utilize this process for coloring his art up until 1996, when he entered the world of digital coloring! Though the final art for The Adventures of Rad Gravity incorporates the game’s title, Pete created separate Rad Gravity title art for use on the sides of the game box. Frank Cirocco illustrated the art for Rad Gravity’s comic book manual, another Steve Englehart project.

    In mid-1990 and likely sequentially before his Rad Gravity work, Pete played a significant role in Data East’s Werewolf: The Last Warrior for the NES. Pete is responsible for all of the artwork for the game’s pack-in comic, but he was also the game’s character designer. Fun fact: before the game was set to star a Werewolf, Pete created and Activision focus-tested character concepts for not only for a Werewolf but also for a Lizard man and a bear named “Kodiak.” Pete designed the title logo for the game and created the concept for the game’s box art, though he did not illustrate the final box art.

    Pete additionally illustrated Werewolf: The Last Warrior art used on a seemingly obscure or undocumented promotional flyer (front / back).

    In 1991, Pete would pencil a comic included in the instruction manual for Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin for the Sega Genesis. As Steve Englehart tells it, while it was not Sega’s policy to pack a comic in with the game, Steve touted Activision’s approach and sold them on the idea. Long-time Spider-Man artist John Romita provided final ink revisions for the comic, ensuring the correct look for all of the characters’ heads and faces. Curiously, while Steve could not recall that Pete had penciled the project, it was likely Steve’s involvement and an assumed network of mutual acquaintances that landed Pete the job, having both overlapped for Mondu’s Fight Palance and more indirectly for Rad Gravity. Following the same process as for Rad Gravity, Pete additionally colored some of his Spider-Man comic panels, for promotional usage including in issue 6 of Sega Visions magazine and on apparel

    The following year in 1992, Pete created advertising art for The Combatribes for the Super Nintendo. The same year, Peter collaborated with his friend Michel Bohbot on the packaging art for Ranma ½: Hard Battle for the Super Nintendo. As Michel typically worked from photo reference and as Pete had a more comic book-oriented drawing style, Michel recruited Pete to ensure the final art captured the anime style of the characters. All of Pete’s involvement was directly through Michel, with Pete creating a few concepts and thumbnail sketches, then refining the final poses and characters that Michel then referenced in painting the box art. Surprisingly, one of Pete’s sketches appeared on an ad sheet used to promote the game. The final painting for Ranma ½: Hard Battle is signed “BOHBOT/PM,” in acknowledgement of Pete’s contributions.

    Beginning in the fall of 1993 through early 1995, Pete would work closely with Sega for a handful of projects likely run out of a newly-created Sega Toys division for electronic games and toys. In what was intended to be a line of proposed “electronic comic books,” Pete created new comic art for stories featuring Batman, the X-Men, and the Eternal Champions. Presentation in subsequent years at the New York Toy Fair appears to have driven both Eternal Champions work, beginning in January 1994, as well as his final projects—color comic pages of Batman—in January and February of 1995. Ultimately, the project never saw the light of day, and Tiger Electronics’ acquisition of Sega’s electronic toy line, announced at the 1995 Toy Fair, likely killed off the electronic comic book concept.

    The only mention online of Sega’s idea of electronic comic books came in a preview in Popular Science magazine in April 1995. The preview shows a prototype unit and reveals it was intended to be a cartridge-based system that would have seen special comic books placed onto a touch pad that would let the reader/player direct the plot. The article mentions X-Men, Batman, and Superman, though Pete had no involvement in a Superman project, if it existed at all. Depicted in the preview is an X-Men page illustrated by comic artist Luke McDonnell, Pete’s twin brother.

    Lastly, amidst Pete’s ongoing work with Sega on the Electronic Comics concept, in early 1994, following the start of his work on an Eternal Champions comic, he contributed to the in-game art for the Tiger Electronics LCD handheld for Eternal Champions: Special Moves Edition, as part of the Pocket Arcade series. Among the first Pocket Arcade games to be created, it was apparently designed by cartoonist I.B. Nelson in the space of a month. While I.B. Nelson appears to have done an initial design for the characters (as previously shown on his website), Pete McDonnell was brought in to clean up the in-game character images to ensure the game was consistent with the look of the Eternal Champions property. The final game uses art based on Pete’s inked lines.

    Peter McDonnell

    Pete McDonnell (b. 1959)
    Born: July 19, 1959
    Nationality: American
    Location: Petaluma, California
    Education: California College of the Arts (1980); Academy of Art University (1984)
    Known For : Double Dragon (Atari 2600/7800)
    Years Active: 1988–1995

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