Jeremy enjoys dueling in between working as a chemical analyst and campus building manager.
Yu-Gi-Oh and Monster Art
While not on the scale of, say, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh's card art has drastically improved from its debut. What were originally college-level cartoon drawings have developed into full-fledged and detailed depictions of our favorite monsters.
Many fans like myself fondly remember classic monsters like Blue-Eyes White Dragon or Dark Magician, but since they were released before Konami could afford to hire the best artists, their original artwork doesn't quite live up to their reputations. Alternative versions on updated sets help alleviate the problem, but often it's the fans who prove to be the best illustrators around. Don't take my word for it; let's check out several stunning fan interpretations of the most renowned Yu-Gi-Oh monster cards!
1. Blue-Eyes White Dragon
Despite its impressive reputation, Blue-Eyes's original artwork bore an unusually large head and didn't convey the fierce presence you'd expect. Luckily, this artwork manages to capture both Blue-Eyes's slightly chubby frame and daunting nature. The lighter, almost rune-like patterns add even more to its allure.
Blue-Eyes was the strongest original normal monster, bearing a still-impressive ATK of 3000 (though needing two tributes to normal summon), and thumbnailed above you can see an official alternate artwork that I vastly prefer over the original.
2. Red-Eyes Black Dragon
Unlike many of today's entries, I actually thought Red-Eyes had decent card art even from the beginning; however, this detailed wallpaper adds depth to Red-Eyes's malicious aura. The one thing I'd change is the black background, which blends with Red-Eyes's body, but it's still an impressive piece.
Although I don't mind the original art of Red-Eyes, I prefer Konami's alternate version, thumbnailed above, where Red-Eyes appears to be charging some sort of energy beam that adds an ominous crimson light to its dark frame.
3. Dark Magician
Dark Magician's original Japanese name is actually Black Magician, making it all the stranger that Yugi's ace monster bore a purple color scheme. Luckily, this awesome Dark Magician wallpaper dons the wizard in the shadow armor he deserves, and he's even packing the light-blue skin we see on many other spellcasters like Mystical Elf and Magician of Black Chaos.
What else can I say? His overall structure remains the same, but this well-rendered color swap really sells the Dark Magician name. Thumbnailed above is a re-release that also better captures the Dark moniker.
4. Dark Magician Girl
Dark Magician Girl's youthful appearance and scantily-clad appearance have long made her into an overly-sexualized entity, so I'm glad this artwork actually emphasizes her mystical powers. She's simultaneously casting some spell (bearing the "spell counter" sign, a nice touch) while still maintaining her peppy nature, giving a classic victory gesture.
If you look closely (no, not there, this is a family article), you can even see a card below her, another easter egg that pays homage to the game Dark Magician Girl stems from.
One of Joey Wheeler's best monsters, this terrifying machine still remains a viable option even without supports. Not only does he bear 2400 ATK (which was and still is great on a single-tribute monster), Jinzo negates the activation of all traps (including yours), and prevents face-up traps from activating their effects. Basically, Jinzo is an entire trap lockdown.
Jinzo's always had a sort of tortured look to him, and this energetic art perfectly conveys that frantic, chaotic feel. Do you see the creepy face in the picture (look for green eyes)? Have fun sleeping at night with that staring at you.
6. Summoned Skull
Though he didn't have as much anime presence as most of today's other creatures, Summoned Skull was the undisputed king of single-tribute normal monsters back in the day. His dark element and fiend type worked well with field spell Yami, and his less-than-1500 DEF let you search him from your deck with Witch of the Black Forest. But most importantly, Summoned Skull tore foes to shreds with his (at that time) unrivaled 2500 ATK, only exceeded by some two-tribute monsters.
This image nicely captures the original's essence but improves it with a red aura, glowing eyes, and vicious snarl that fit perfectly with the original Archfiend.
7. Buster Blader
Quick, think of something that medieval heroes do. Odds are good you either chose rescue princesses or slay dragons, and the heroic Buster Blader excels at the latter. He needs two tributes, but gains extra ATK based on the number of dragon-type monsters your opponent controls or has in their graveyard. Thanks to a number of great modern supports (many of which alter the monster type of opposing monsters), Buster Blader remains a powerful option to date.
I enjoy the heroic yet threatening combo Buster radiates here. He's still got his trademark sword, dark armor, and glowing red/blue orbs, but the angle and pure-white background lend a fierce, chivalrous appearance to our classic warrior.
8. Slifer the Sky Dragon
Few cards are more renowned than the three Egyptian god cards who bear the unique divine-beast type and divine attribute. Like its brethren, Yugi's ancient deity Slifer the Sky Dragon takes three tributes to normal summon, but it'll reduce the ATK of all opposing monsters that are summoned by 2000, and it gains strength based on the number of cards in your hand, rewarding draw-oriented decks.
Ironically, the Sky Dragon's original art didn't show it in the, well, sky. This stunning picture remedies the issue, not only taking our red god airborne but throwing in a lightning storm to boot. And I'm always a sucker for those charged-energy attacks; Slifer looks like its ready to release one heck of an atomic ray.
9. Obelisk the Tormentor
Long ago, we determined that Obelisk is the best Egyptian God, and I still stand by that opinion. He's got a monstrous 4000 ATK and DEF without relying on the situational ATK-alterations of his peers, and he's immune to being targeted by effects. Throw in an activated Raigeki ability (by tributing two of your other monsters) and Obelisk is simply the most reliable and versatile Egyptian god.
This fiendish rendition excellently portrays the Tormentor's massive size; he looks ready to go toe-to-toe with world-destroying gargantuans like Godzilla, even if he does look a bit like a Marvel frost giant (don't tell Kaiba).
10. The Winged Dragon of Ra
Despite arguably being the most popular Egyptian god card, The Winged Dragon of Ra's legal edition is surprisingly weak, requiring hefty forfeitures of life points to even approach the ATK values of Slifer and Obelisk, and he can't be special summoned at all (unlike their temporary special summon allowance).
However, few can deny the impact he's had. Back in the day, Ra was as famous as Pokemon's Charizard or Mewtwo, and he got plenty of time in the spotlight thanks to his run as villain Yami Marik's signature monster.
This wallpaper takes a unique twist on Ra's design without deviating too far, maintain its golden scheme and overall shape but adopting a new, almost machine-like appearance. A nice piece, and I'm eager to see what other alluring Ra alternatives the Yu-Gi-Oh community creates.
Future of Classic Yu-Gi-Oh Cards
By themselves, most original cards are outclassed by newer and faster ace monsters. However, many popular originals receive modern supports that keep them relevant, allowing veterans to battle competitively and often emerge the victory. With cards like Deep-Eyes Alternative Dragon, Red-Eyes Metal Flare Dragon, and Magician of Dark Illusion, our nostalgic favorites still hold their own thanks to new archetype members.
But for now, as we eagerly await more awesome artworks of famous monsters, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next Yu-Gi-Oh countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill