Stylised self-portrait from BattleCards (US)

Martin McKenna was an artist and illustrator based in the UK whose work has appeared in a number of Fighting Fantasy related publications including Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, and other related publications. He has illustrated books for numerous international publishers including Scholastic, Penguin Books, Oxford University Press, HarperCollins, Time-Warner, and Hodder & Stoughton.[1] He also had a long association with the games industry, working with Games Workshop, Hasbro, Parker Brothers, Wizards of the Coast, and Palladium Books. He worked as a concept artist on computer games (including with Eidos Interactive and other leading studios[2]), film, and television productions, and was the author of several books about digital art, including Digital Fantasy Painting Workshop and Digital Horror Art, and was the editor of Fantasy Art Now: The Very Best in Contemporary Fantasy Art & Illustration, published by Collins.[3]


Early Life[]

McKenna was born in South London in 1969.[4] His earliest memories are of drawing Cybermen on his bedroom wallpaper and as a child he drew his favourite scenes from the horror movies he watched.[5] He also got into comics, the earliest being the film adaptations in House of Hammer magazine, which he collected when he was about 7 or 8. He was a serious fan of John Bolton's artwork on Dracula Prince of Darkness and Father Shandor. Later, he was influenced by 2000AD with artwork by Brian Bolland, and it was this that made him decide that he wanted to draw things for a living. Although he never really got into role-playing he does cite Call of Cthulhu as having some influence.[6]

McKenna passed away in the September of 2020.


McKenna's first regular paid illustration work when he was just 16 was with Games Workshop, and his main contact there at the time was John Blanche. On Blanche's recommendation, McKenna sent some samples to the then editor at Puffin, and this resulted in being given a Fighting Fantasy gamebook, Daggers of Darkness to illustrate. McKenna recalled that he was a reader of the books just two years previous. He believes that the end result in Daggers of Darkness showed his lack of confidence and experience, but despite this Puffin asked him to illustrate another one, Vault of the Vampire, which he was more pleased with. McKenna has said that he had "pretty much a free hand on the look of the artwork, as long as it followed the important details in the brief." He was asked to avoid anything too horrific or gross, and an editor at Puffin tippexed out some rivulets of blood he had running across a female Vampire's cleavage.[6]


Cover Illustrator

Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks[]

  1. Number is related to Wizard Books "Series 1" numbering.
  2. Number is related to Wizard Books "Series 2" numbering.

Interior Illustrator

Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks[]

  1. Number is related to Wizard Books "Series 1" numbering.

Other Fighting Fantasy[]

His Thoughts on the Demise of Puffin Fighting Fantasy[]

McKenna has said that Puffin were perhaps a bit rash to pull the plug so abruptly. He has also said that they were definitely planning another book after Curse of the Mummy, because he remembered being offered the job of illustrating it (which he turned down due to other commitments).[6] Overall he has said that he was happy with his contribution to Fighting Fantasy, but did feel that some of his illustrations were a bit rushed. He has said that he was most happy with the interior illustrations for Legend of Zagor, with Revenge of the Vampire coming a close second.

Outside of Fighting Fantasy[]

Outside of Fighting Fantasy McKenna had begun to do a lot of work whilst the Puffin franchise was still going. McKenna's connection with Fighting Fantasy continued in his working relationships with others related to the franchise, including Marc Gascoigne, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (for whom he did the artwork for F.I.S.T. adverts). He is credited with lots of covers and interiors for various different books and games etc. As well as the BattleCards for Steve Jackson he also worked on Magic The Gathering cards for Wizards of the Coast and also lots of work for Palladium Books on their RPG related products. In 1997 he went full-time with Eidos Interactive, and for two and a half years worked as part of their development studio on games like Deathtrap Dungeon and Urban Chaos. Whilst there he worked with Jamie Thomson and Dave Morris, formerly of Fighting Fantasy fame.

He went on to work for the 4Leaf games project (concerned with a touch-screen arcade game project), and also the conceptual design for a computer game for InterActive Vision - "a gothic steampunk SF racing game". He was also commissioned for the covers of the the Sovereign Stone trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman among many others, including illustrating a book of Christmas ghost stories for Oxford University Press, and a cover for Games Workshop's Warhammer Monthly featuring a character called Hellbrandt Grimm.[6]


Main article: Battlecards

McKenna also contributed to Steve Jackson's BattleCards. His work did not appear in the UK version but only in the US version, where his artwork replaced the work of Alan Craddock which had been used on certain cards in the UK edition. This means that the card dedicated to McKenna, one of the Artists of Vangoria BattleCard types, is unique to the US set, and in fact is the only card unique to that set. All other cards illustrated by McKenna have the same text as their UK counterparts. Also, two of Craddock's cards were not reproduced in the US set at all (UK card 100 - Quest Clues and UK card 111 - Battle Secrets). McKenna used the interesting device of using artwork from other existing cards and manipulating it to form the images in his cards, thus making them seamlessly part of the set.

BattleCards by Martin McKenna
US Edition
US No. US Name
8 Martin McKenna
40 Fireball Spell
41 Sword Control Spell
42 Mental Combat Spell
43 Peaceful Calm Spell
44 Shield Dissolve Spell
45 Mutiny Spell
46 Anti-Magic Spell
47 Force Field Spell
48 Summon Creature Spell
49 Magic Shield Spell
77 Card Games
78 Campaigns & Adventures
79 Yard Games
139 The Trading PostNote 1

BattleCard Notes[]
  1. The Trading Post (BattleCard) specified that the artist was Unknown. This was to facilitate a quest (Lord Magnoble's Quest), where the player had to find the five cards whose artist was identified by a question mark ("?"), rather than by name, and having found these cards, identify who the artist was. In the case of this card, in the US set, it was Martin McKenna.


In 1995 he received the British Fantasy Award for Best Artist.[1]

Personal Life and Hobbies[]

McKenna was a keen reader of books as well, listing books such as Ancient Images by Ramsey Campbell, The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks and The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers among his favourites, as well as authors such as Tolkien, Lovecraft, MR James and Mervyn Peake. He also occasionally immersed himself in a computer game.[6]

See Also[]

External Links[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Martinmckenna.net
  2. Amazon.co.uk
  3. Harpercollins.com
  4. He described this time in these words: "The greatest decade in the history of mankind was nearly over."
  5. McKenna particularly liked Hammer's The Devil Rides Out, and anything with Werewolves.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Interview with Martin McKenna on Fightingfantasygamebooks.com