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Monday, 2 November 2020

Martin McKenna (1969-2020)

It was with great sadness that I learned this weekend that Martin McKenna had passed away at the beginning of September. He was just 51.

Martin was an incredible artist, his illustrations for the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks some of the most realistic of all. They also dripped atmosphere, with their fine pen and ink details and sinister gothic air.

I first encountered Martin's work via Fighting Fantasy but I soon discovered that his art peppered numerous Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay products as well, and it was with genuine pleasure that I pored over his immaculate vignettes and character portraits.

His illustrations really helped bring the grimdark corners of Warhammer's Old World to life, as they did Fighting Fantasy's own Old World.

Naturally, when I started writing my own FF gamebooks, it was Martin I requested to illustrate the adventures, but it didn't happen until Curse of the Mummy*, my third FF title. Unfortunately, the illustrations weren't quite what I had been hoping for and Martin later admitted himself that they had been rather rushed. In contrast, the cover painting he produced for Curse of the Mummy** was astonishing.

The digitally retouched cover for Curse of the Mummy that Martin McKenna produced in 2007.

However, when Wizard Books started publishing new titles, I got the chance to work with Martin again. We were clearly inspired by the same source material, and the illustrations he produced for Howl of the Werewolf and Night of the Necromancer are some of my favourites.

The cover for Howl of the Werewolf, by Martin McKenna.




The Werebear, Water Wyrd, Van Richten the Vampire Hunter, Serpensa the Serpent Woman, Werebat, and Count Varcolac***, from Howl of the Werewolf.



The Sea Demon, Grave Golem, Dread Knights, Wraith Queen, Hellfire Golem, and Shadow King, from Night of the Necromancer.

He also painted the stunning cover for my zombie-pirate adventure Bloodbones, which ened up being animated for Tin Man Games' digital edition.

The cover for Bloodbones, by Martin McKenna.

When I wrote YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, I knew there was only one artist who could produce the wraparound image I desired for the book.

The cover for YOU ARE THE HERO, by Martin McKenna.

And we were due to collaborate again on my new ACE Gamebook, Dracula - Curse of the Vampire, but sadly that is not to be now.

We never actually met and we didn't even speak on the phone, but I had huge respect for Martin and his work, and I think if we had met we would have got on very well.

However, my greatest regret is that is seems Martin did not have the same confidence in his own abilities as everyone who ever enjoyed any of his immaculate illustrations. I only hope that he had some inkling of the pleasure he brought to all those whose lives he touched through his art.

In memory of
Martin McKenna
1969-2020

Martin's close friends have set up a JustGiving page to raise money, to help disadvantaged children gain access to the arts, in Martin's memory. If you feel able to give something, no more what, follow this link.


* The upside of this was that I got to work with Alan Langford and Tony Hough instead, and Tony and I have a new RPG coming out this Christmas.

** His first FF cover!

*** Martin based Count Varcolac's face on his own.

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