Variants on a Theme
In honor of Mike Winterbauer's Kickstarter we thought we would take a look back through the history of 'that look.' What look? The classic Wing Commander cover art! The original version premiered in 1990 and has been redone in several different styles over the years. Here's a quick tour:
Wing Commander (1990): The original, enduring classic. The Wing Commander cover was created digitally using game assets by artist Denis Loubet. This artwork has been used countless times since for advertising, re-releases, compilations, the official guide and other ports (including the Amiga, DOS/V and SegaCD versions.) The artwork is very true to the Wing Commander experience, although it does have a number of differences from the completed game.
Wing Commander: Freedom Flight (1991) and Wing Commander: End Run (1992): In late 1991, Baen launched a series of Wing Commander tie-in novels which were heavily supported by Origin. It was only logical that the covers should bring to mind the game series. Artist Paul Alexander was comissioned for four cover paintings, the first two of which were patterned after the Wing Commander I art. It's not clear exactly what we're seeing in either image; Freedom Flight may be the cockpit of the Bonnie Heather as it sneaks behind Kilrathi lines... End Run, on the other hand, suffers from the same problem as the Wing Commander II box: the carrier's registry number doesn't match the one in the book (the TCS Tarawa was CVE-8, not 12!) The Freedom Flight cover was also available as a poster; both paintings were reused for the German translations of their respective novels.
Wing Commander (Super Nintendo) & Wing Commander (Super Famicom) (1992): Mindscape licensed the original Wing Commander to adapt as a Super Nintendo game in 1992 (and followed it the next year with a standalone version of The Secret Missions.) As noted recently, the American and European boxes used a new painting by Michael Winterbauer as the cover. In Japan, an entirely different version was created showing a significantly different Hornet cockpit, an exploding Fralthi and a Gratha. Collectors of odd items should note that this artwork was also used on a Japanese phone card!
Super Wing Commander (1994): The last canonical use of the Wing Commander I cover composition was, appropriately, the 1994 remake for the 3DO and Macintosh. This version is clearly a rendered scene rather than a painting of a stitch of existing game assets... but in many ways, it's actually the closest to the original: unlike many of these contenders, it features a Dralthi exploding through a Hornet cockpit!
Unofficial Versions: Sybex's Secrets of the Wing Commander Universe adapted the pose with Drakrhi instead of Dralthi... and even Chris Roberts' latest game, Star Citizen, gave a nod to it in an issue of Jump Point magazine. Know of any other games or products that use the same design? Let us know on the forums and we'll include them in a future post!
We have also collected 'unboxed' versions of several of these pieces over the years, versions that aren't covered by the frame or advertising present in the finished versions. Enjoy!
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