Adapted from BOX=ART | Interviewed by Adam Gidney in August 2020
Roger Motzkus is an acclaimed freelance artist known to gamers for his box art illustrations for storied franchises Fatal Fury and Doom.
Growing up in Northern Utah, Roger would earn his Bachelor in Fine Arts in 1987, and upon leaving university was already working as a professional artist. His early career saw him work within the TV animation industry as a story board and layout artist, alongside him growing an international career in illustration.
He broke into the video game industry producing the cover for the unreleased version of The Berlin Wall (Game Gear, 1991). Although unreleased, Roger's art would appear in print advertisements previewing the game.
His first published box art was the wonderfully dramatic Fatal Fury for the North American Neo Geo AES release, a fine example of the realistic style of character art that was becoming popular in the early 90s (also see Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell's early 90s work). Fatal Fury would showcase Roger's talent for highly detailed and expressive character art held together with a slight comic art design. Roger’s box art would be used exclusively on the North American AES release with the Japanese version being designed by SNK artist Shinkiro. Shinkiro’s cover was arguably a little too stylized for what American kids were used to at the time and was understandably replaced.
The 1990s would be full of video game advertisement gigs and further box arts, including possibly his most high profile, Doom (1995) for the Sony PlayStation. The latter would also be the artist’s first and only box art to be used in the Japanese market.
Roger's box arts were designed on illustration board coated with gesso. The initial “under drawing” was done with graphite, charcoal and Prismacolor pencils, before adding a transparent glaze of acrylic paint with a paint brush or airbrush. Finally, more highlights and details are then added using Prismacolor pencils or paint.
Artists that have influenced Roger over the years include, Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyedecker for emotional expressions and stylistic characterizations. Maxfield Parrish for colors, Bernie Fuchs, David Grove, Michael Dudash and Mark English for their technique and compositions. And the movie posters of Bob Peak, Steven Chorney and Drew Struzan.
The artist's final box art to date was Road Rash: Jailbreak (2000). Today Roger works as both a traditional and digital artist for a multitude of international clients, whilst also teaching art and celebrating his legacy through the fan art market.
OVGA has included below Roger Motzkus' full known box art catalog:
- Fatal Fury (SNK | Neo Geo AES-USA | 1991)
- Basketbrawl (Atari Corporation | Lynx | 1992)
- Doom (Williams Entertainment | PlayStation-USA/EUR, Saturn-JPN | 1995)
- Powerslave (Playmates Interactive Entertainment | DOS, PlayStation, Saturn | 1996)
- Small Soldiers: Globotech Design Lab (Hasbro Interactive | Windows | 1998) apparent composite from individual character illustrations
- Road Rash: Jailbreak (Electronic Arts | PlayStation-EUR | 2000)
In addition to his box art, Roger created spot illustrations for the Game Gear release of Streets of Rage 2 for Sega's Welcome To The Next Level ad campaign by Goodby Silverstein & Partners.