We caught up with artist ultimatemaverickx to chat about his vibrantly colourful art style and original panels for the Mega Man 1-11: The Collection vinyl box set.
By Thomas Quillfeldt
So there we were — sitting around at Laced Records headquarters and scratching our heads about how best to honour one of the longest-running, most beloved gaming series of them all. 11 mainline games needed to be represented in a mega package containing six vinyl discs, meaning a lot of panels to fill.
We pondered: should we hire an abstract designer for maximum arty cred? No, that would be silly, especially so given the series in question. Should we rely on existing Mega Man art assets? Possible, but where to start? And how best to knit everything together cohesively?
Suddenly a mysterious hero emerged, slicing clean through the haze of our indecision; an artist going by the moniker ‘ultimatemaverickx’ whose passion for Mega Man was undeniable. Fast-forward to the final product and the results speak for themselves: 14 pieces of original artwork including the front and back covers on the ridged board slip case; and front and back design for each of the disc sleeves.
We followed-up with ultimatemaverickx to find out a bit more about his passion for Mega Man and his process.
ultimatemaverickx first encountered Mega Man in the mid-2000s, aged 12: “My Mom took me to get a PlayStation (PS1) with 10 free games. The sales person recommended Mega Man 8, but I thought the character looked funny and definitely not my thing (ha!) — so I didn’t pick it based on that, choosing Gran Turismo 2 instead. As fate had it, when I got home we found that the second Gran Turismo disc was missing, prompting a return to the store. They didn’t have it in stock, and offered me an extra game instead — I went for Mega Man 8, and it turned out to be the best of all the games I picked up that day.”
From that point, the youngster fell in love with the series and its many spin-offs. It was three particular strands of the overarching Mega Man series — Mega Man X, Zero and ZX — that inspired him to take up art in the first place. “The art styles for the [Game Boy Advance-based] Zero and [Nintendo DS-based] ZX series in particular are amazing — I just wanted to start drawing the characters. My favourite artists working on these games include Toru Nakayama, Makoto Yabe and Keisuke Mizuno.”
The character Zero from various titles across different Mega Man sub-series.
A little later came his YouTube channel, launched in 2009, as a place to goof-off with Adobe Flash animation videos, for instance pitting Mega Man against Mario. “The inspiration came from [long-running user-generated content website] Newgrounds. I dreamed of creating something like [Flash animation] ‘Mega Man Zero Last Cataclysm’. I could only animate in PowerPoint at the time, so I taught myself Flash for fun.”
Gradually, he moved towards more polished animated shorts based in the Mega Man universe. Several of these became wildly popular including “X VS. ZERO DECISIVE BATTLE 2” which has ratcheted up 4.5 million views since 2010.
“I didn’t expect fans would like it as much as they did. I would have created more ‘DECISIVE BATTLE’ videos, but I couldn’t find the time because of school.”
When it came to static artworks, ultimatemaverickx first began uploading to the now-defunct MegamanX9.com, a fan site created to nudge Capcom into developing a ninth title in the Mega Man X series. “I entered various design contests and it was awesome to see other fans’ pieces. After that, I joined DeviantArt so I could continue sharing my fan art.”
A commission by ultimatemaverickx entitled “Rebirth of Crystallized Knowledge”.
“Being part of the [fan art] community inspired me to become a better artist and animator, but it took a while before I started creating videos again. Once I finished school, I had more free time to get back to more hand-drawn animation and artwork.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years. It’s always been a passionate hobby, never a professional pursuit.”
The Collection commission
ultimatemaverickx’s outer sleeve front cover for the Mega Man 1-11: The Collection vinyl box set, featuring the Light family.
You only have to glance at ultimatemaverickx’s DeviantArt page for a moment to know that he is not only a gifted artist, but also has a deep knowledge and love for all things Mega Man — lore, characters, art design, music and the rest. To team Laced, it was a no-brainer.
He says: “It’s a dream come true to create artwork for an official product. I’ve never aspired to move to Japan and actually work for Capcom; I’m happy working ‘online’, but I never thought I would get an official commission in this way. Thanks to Laced Records for giving a fan the opportunity to work on something with the official seal of approval.”
ultimatemaverickx’s outer sleeve back cover for the Mega Man 1-11: The Collection vinyl box set — “Evil Genius”.
Ideas for the various compositions came easily to him. “I just drew what’s memorable from each Mega Man game — it wasn’t a stretch to think of things. I also pulled some compositions from my existing work where it fitted best.”
As mentioned, his favourite art styles from the series are those of the handheld side-series Mega Man Zero and ZX: “I’m continually impressed by the way that [Mega Man Zero series artist] Toru Nakayama’s designs took a different approach [to the mainline games.]”
Mega Man Zero artwork by Toru Nakayama.
“Nakayama’s art made me want to develop my own Mega Man style too, blending the styles of the Mega Man X, Zero and ZX series; and the colour schemes of X and ZX in particular.”
Vinyl sleeve panel: “Transformation”
ultimatemaverickx’s favourite panel for the vinyl project represents the original 1987 Mega Man. “When Dr. Wily decided to take over the world, [Dr. Light’s lab assistant Rock] volunteered to be converted into a fighting robot. I wanted to draw a scene where his inner structure is shown in detail, and the whole process seems like it would have taken Dr. Light weeks, with lots of tubes coming out of Mega Man.”
The composition is based on a shot from the Mega Man 4 introduction:
ultimatemaverickx’s Disc 1 sleeve — “Transformation”.
Here is the piece as it progressed:
- Rough sketch for the composition. “I didn’t draw the background in detail because it will be easier to draw it in cleaned up line art.”
- Line art.
- Colours and shading.
- Coloured Art V1 - “I added lighting effects — mostly layers with faded gradients. I also added blending modes on Mega to add more glow.”
Vinyl sleeve panel: “Rush Jet”
Another beautiful panel is the “Rush Jet” image for the tracklist panel on the Disc 2 sleeve.
Here are some of the stages involved:
- Cleaned up line art
- Flat Colours
- Coloured Art V1
- Coloured Art V2
A few more of ultimatemaverickx’s panels from the vinyl set:
Sleeve 3: “Rush Adapters”
Sleeve 4: “Rivals
Sleeve 5: “Retreat”
Sleeve 6: “Gears of Fate”
The Mega Man 1-11: The Collection six-disc vinyl box set is available at www.lacedrecords.com (lacedrecords.co outside of the US) with limited edition ‘Mega Man blue’ discs; black disc variant available via third-party retailers.