Classic Game Covers – Confessions Of An Art Junkie

I’ve a bad habit of backing gaming Kickstarters and then if and when the final product actually arrives I never get around to playing/reading it. I’ve yet to play Wasteland 2, Pillars Of Eternity, the new Elite, etc.. all of which delivered years back. One more Kickstarter on that list was Mike Winterbauer’s book on his life creating video game covers.


The Origin connection here is that Mike created the artwork for the SNES Wing Commander port, not to mention the two Xeen Might & Magic games which is certainly what drew my attention in the first place. The book covers both of these and Mike’s work on loads of other game covers and concept art. All the people in his paintings were based on photos of Mike, his friends + associates with some often comical shots included of these in the book. When you start to look for it, Mike has personally starred on quite a few game boxes over the years. He also had a line in covers for VHS movies which he includes in here. Lots of these appear to be B movies and I really want to watch The Brain now.


The picture he paints throughout the book is that being an artist isn’t a great way to get rich with getting a paycheck often being as much effort as actually doing the work. He basically did it for the love of it but it sounds like his work is finally finding a market these days. He held onto his original paintings for years until starting to sell them on Ebay some years back. I don’t have any of those but the Kickstarter did include some Wing Commander and Xeen prints at certain levels which I really have to find some wallspace in the games room for.


Some of Mike’s artwork appeals to me more than others. It can fall into that uncanny valley where it’s not quite realistic or cartoony enough in my eyes. He could do photo-realistic when he wanted though and clearly has a real talent. There are some of these paintings I would honestly have thought were photos. The book is a fun, if brief, journey through the life of a jobbing artist and the good news is you can download it for free at Mike’s website. He is also running another Kickstarter for an illustrated children’s book which is already funded but has a few days left to run if you want to get in on it.

Wing Commander Junior Novelisation

This book was a censored and simplified version of the original Wing Commander movie novel aimed at a younger market. It was published at the same time as the adult version in 1999 by HarperEntertainment and made child-friendly by the original author Peter Telep. Aside from the changes in content, it was printed in a larger format but with far fewer pages, due to the cuts and simplifications.

I would usually read any of the books before I put them up on here, but I’ve made an exception in this case as I’d prefer to stick to the original version. I was curious as to the sorts of changes that were made though so just looking at the first page for instance:-

“He looked past the whirlpool of gases, past the black hole lying at the quasar’s core like an interminably deep maw, until his inner gaze rested on a gentle blue orb bathed in a soft glow.”


“He looked past the whirlpool of gasses, past the black hole lying at the quasar’s core like a giant mouth, until he imagined a glowing blue planet called Earth.”

The same character thinks about friends rather than bikinis in the next paragraph, and fails to give his reason of needing a leak when he asks his buddy to cover for him. Clearly anything even slightly suspect has been removed. There are plenty of word substitutions also to simplify the language used.

If the first page is anything to go by, there are far more changes to the prose than I expected actually. I presumed it would just be a few cuts of the racier parts of the story. The whole book is scanned in for anyone curious to have a look anyway but I’d much rather read Pilgrim Truth first myself. I had a few days away in Wales last weekend and was going to read it on the train journeys there and back, only to discover my ebook conversion hadn’t worked too well on the trip down. Instead, I’m halfway through an Anthony Burgess novel now which I intend to finish before I start on anything else.

In the meanwhile, I’ve added a pile of other new scans including guides to Tex Murphy Overseer, Alone In The Dark 1 & 2, Tie Fighter, X-Wing Alliance, The X-Files and Lands Of Lore 3. There are still more to come but I really am down to the last few now.

Wing Commander Novel

This is the eighth Wing Commander novel. It was written by Peter Telep and published by Harper in 1999. This is a new author from the previous novels and based on the movie rather than the game. I can’t say too many bad things about the movie so this wasn’t a book I was especially looking forward to. My main hope going into this was that it couldn’t be any worse than the film. It’s quite a short book which can be read in not all that much longer than it takes to watch the film and there are 8 pages of colour photos from the movie in the middle of the book.

I won’t describe the plot here since I’ve been through it all before and the book sticks extremely closely to the movie. There is a little more detail with an occasional glimpse of things from the Kilrathi point of view. In the movie, they are fairly anonymous but here we get to hear a few discussions on battle tactics and the like. Their character is very close to that in the earlier novels with the same honour systems although they have dropped the annoying habit of describing everything in terms of the number 8. I.e. eight eights of fighters etc. This was getting old after 7 novels and it was hokey in the first place.

Another change from the movie is that Blair has a personal computer implanted into his wrist, complete with a holographic representation of the Wizard Merlin who pops up at times offering advice. This character is obviously there for comic relief and could have been the Jar Jar Binks of the movie had he been included. Thankfully, his use is sparing in the book so he just seems out of place rather than irritating.

Finally, there is a subplot with Pilgrim traitors within Confed and indeed Captain Sansky himself turns out to be working with the Kilrathi. He is exposed through Blair’s actions and commits suicide before anyone can get to him leaving Gerard to take over. The book even suggests that a war with the Pilgrims is about to break out again in its epilogue. I’ll presumably find out more about that in Pilgrim Stars when I get around to reading it.

As for the writing style, Telep proves to have some skill given what he has to work with. We are still stuck with the same storyline complete with the mystical Pilgrim element but it comes across far better with the extra exposition. Some of the scenes from the film actually work better in this form, such as Blair jumping through the gravity well which is more about what is going on in his mind than anything you would be able to see on screen. There is also some evidence of the detail that was in the Confederation Handbook I looked at a few months back being used for background detail giving it more of a sci-fi vibe. 

Compared to the other Wing Commander novels, the characters in this were far more rounded and realistic and it was less childish as a result. Without the awful casting choices to cope with I actually had some interest in what happened to the main protagonists and I’m shocked to say that this book was actually quite good. My low expectations probably helped here but maybe there actually was a half decent film in the script if some different decisions had been made. It still doesn’t feel like Wing Commander but if you ever get the urge to watch the movie, I’d strongly recommend reading the book instead.

Speaking of which, there are actually two versions of the book. There is the one I’ve read and the “Junior Novelisation” which I’ve also got. Apart from it being a different shape and size, I’m unsure of the difference but I’ll have a quick look at it at some point. I’m assuming it’s a child friendly version of the book I’ve just read but there was nothing much in this that I’d consider particularly adult.