In a few months, in December 1993, on the shelves of computer stores that no longer exist today, kids from all over the world would have found DOOM in plain sight. The first thing that would have attracted their attention would undoubtedly have been box art, on which a space marine was drawn surrounded by hordes of infernal demons. And without doubt this image perfectly represents the gameplay of Doom, without frills or misleading elements.
Although it is something known to many, it is fair to recall that that image (including the logo) was not created by any ordinary man, but by the famous Don Ivan Punchatz, a Texan artist specialized in fantasy and sci-fi illustrations. A multitude of sci-fi book covers, from the 70s to the 90s, bear his signature, along with covers of important albums and magazines.
Legend has it that Punchatz doubtfully accepted the task of designing a cover for a video game and said yes only to accommodate the picturesque enthusiasm with which Romero described the futuristic demonic setting of the game. In short, he said yes to get rid of him. He was offered to receive compensation on the percentage of copies sold, but preferred to receive a flat rate in advance. Putting myself in his shoes and looking Romero in the face, I would have demanded the money immediately too. Later he will tell to journalists that he kicked himself when he discovered how many copies of Doom were sold. It was probably Romero himself who told him, parking the yellow Ferrari he had just bought on the garden in front of his house.
Punchatz went personally to the ID Software studio, armed with a camera. Doom’s graphics were based on digitized scale action figures and so a model was also used for box art, which was to mimic the pose that Romero had in mind for the cover. But since it was difficult to convey to the model the concept of “You are on a pile of angry demons trying to eat you and drag you to the underworld, while you repel them with blasters” in the end it was Romero himself, shirtless, who started posing and becoming the DOOMGUY. Unfortunately the shots are still hidden in some drawer in the dungeons of Romero’s house.
Punchatz passed away in 2009, but undoubtedly his artistic contribution, including that of DOOM, will remain in his memory. In practice, after 26 years, the Doom covers still refer to its original design, including that of Doom Eternal coming out for the nextgen consoles.
Ah, the movie poster of the first episode of Star Wars is also the work of Punchatz. Unlike the other contemporary illustrations dedicated to the film, the one made by him is recognizable for a particular: The Princess Leia is not painted like a helpless and undressed damsel at the feet of the knight, but is next to Luke Skywalker, in the front row, armed of blaster and ready for battle!