Mention “romance,” and it’s easy to conjure an image of a shirtless man with flowing hair clasping an enraptured damsel in mid-swoon. Of course, when it comes to reading material, the type of book adorned with such a visual isn’t something we’d want to be caught with in our possession. So, with Valentine’s Day nearly here, we decided to give the cliché a little twist, and imagine what popular romance novels would look like if they featured some of our favorite classic video-game characters instead of, well, Fabio.
To accomplish the task, we dreamed up titles and taglines based on some of our most loved 8-bit heroes (from a lovelorn Link to an enviously green Luigi), then sent them over to illustrator Echo Chernik, along with access to the Shutterstock collection and free reign to paint over and adapt our images in any way she could envision. Read on to see the results and get some insight from the artist on her process for each piece. Which of these books do you wish you could actually read this Valentine’s Day?
Collector of Hearts, starring Link and Zelda
“Link and Zelda took the least amount of piecing together, as I discovered this wonderful image of two models kissing. I downloaded some elf ears to montage in as part of the reference, as well as some belt buckles. Their outfits I painted on, but to make the shiny shoulder-piece that Zelda wears, I cut up the reference photo of a knight in shining armor and used that as my base. From there, I painted over the reference material on my Wacom Cintiq in Photoshop.”
The Forbidden Peach, starring Mario, Princess Peach… and Luigi
“The concept for Mario was a jealous Luigi. It took a while to find the right reference — something that left a nice negative space for Luigi, while also not looking too similar to the Link and Zelda cover. The image I found of a man on his knee kissing his bride’s hand was perfect, as it reflected Mario’s short stature, while being romantic in nature. I wasn’t keen on the woman’s face for the princess, though, so I replaced it with a different photo that looked much more like a physical representation of Princess Peach.”
Fierce Moves, starring Ken and Ryu
“Street Fighter was fun. I wanted something genuine. I toyed with a fight-scene romance, but finally settled on an image from a very romantic gay-marriage scene, where one man was gripping the other firmly by the lapel. I downloaded textures for the gi collars, and even a hand wrap. To allude to the fight that led up to the romantic situation, I montaged in a wonderful fight scene. Once my montage was in place, I painted on top.”
Hungry for Love, starring Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man
“Pac Man was a challenge: How to represent flat, bright circles as a Harlequin Romance? I went for a masquerade-ball look, and was able to download many beautiful ballgowns, romantic couples, and masks for reference. The window holds a clipping mask with a hedge maze masked in. It was easy to download and change to achieve exactly the right look.”
Shot to the Heart, starring Dog and Duck
“Duck Hunt took several different dogs and several ducks to get exactly what I was looking for. I also montaged a few skies together and changed the duck reference photos in the background. I used a vector scope, but modified the sight, so as to not leave crosshairs over the dog. I even knocked out the teardrop to put on the dog.”
Echo Chernik is an award winning art nouveau advertising illustrator, whose clients include Miller, USPS, Proctor & Gamble, McDonald’s, and many more. She has been a professional illustrator for 18 years, an instructor for 5, and currently resides in the Seattle area. Check out more of her work at echo-x.com or echochernik.com.
Which other video games would you like to see as romance novels, and what would their titles/taglines be? Let us know in the comments!