0

Your Cart is Empty

February 08, 2024 6 min read

Long before the Gatewatch, the Weatherlight crew, or even the feuding brothers Urza and Mishra, an unassuming minotaur was the first face of promoting Magic: The Gathering

hurloon minotaur

The Minotaur appeared on the back cover of Cryptych Magazine as part of a mocked up and labeled card in the first published advertisement for the game. It didn’t have a unique identifying name yet—it was simply called “Minotaur.” Illustrated by Anson Maddocks, one of, if not the most popular illustrator of early Magic and other TCGs, the Hurloon Minotaur made his first official appearance in the first Magic set Limited Edition Alpha.

hurloon minotaur alpha

Though Hurloon Minotaur was not a powerful card, a 2/3 creature with no abilities for three mana, it was a fixture of early Magic—reprinted in every core set up to Fifth Edition. It even appeared in the Limited Edition Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited editions of the Magic rulebook.

beta rulebook

An Iconic Face, a Symbol of Cachet

While not an official mascot, Hurloon Minotaur was such an icon of early Magic branding that it appeared on some of Magic’s earliest merchandise including shirts, jackets, and pins.

hurloon minotaur shirt

Wizards made several shirts featuring images of early iconic cards including Nightmare, Vesuvan Doppelganger, and others which they sold to the public. The Hurloon Minotaur tees, however, were only given to employees. The exclusiveness of these tees has since made them quite coveted by collectors as seen in a recent eBay listing asking $1,250 for a like new item.

Wizards employees also had a Hurloon Minotaur jean jacket to wear over their minotaur t-shirt for the frequent rainy days Seattle is known for.

 

While employees had access to exclusive Hurloon Minotaur emblazoned threads, fans eventually got access to minotaur merchandise of their own.

Hurloon Minotaur for The Masses

Hurloon Minotaur items like this pin from PinSource made their way to the market in limited quantities.

hurloon minotaur pin

The pin did an excellent job translating the Anson Maddocks illustration into pin form, capturing the likeness well. According to an unconfirmed source, these were released in 1994 to promote Revised Edition, and limited to one per retail store. Like the shirt and jacket, these are scarce but still pop up for sale online. The minotaur’s likeness didn’t stay confined to pins and staff-only clothes for long.

An Oversized Minotaur

For a period in the ‘90s oversized versions of real Magic cards were popular with Wizards as promotions and prizes. Measuring 6”x9” and clearly marked “not for play use” on the back, these novelty cards appeared with magazines, and as prizes in one of Wizards’ first organized play programs, the Arena League. Powerful cards like Black Lotus, Serra Angel, Chaos Orb, and others all received this oversized treatment, including Hurloon Minotaur.

The Hurloon Minotaur and Serra Angel were both given out between 1995 and 1996 as part of Wizards’ Caravan Tours where employees and artists who worked for the company travelled around to “fantasy stores” to promote Magic and other Wizards games.

The Changing Face of Hurloon Minotaur

As Hurloon Minotaur appeared in more forms, different artists began to put their own spin on its likeness. Here, artist John Bolton lends his interpretation of the minotaur to a spindown life counter done in collaboration between Wizards and InQuest Magazine:

Bolton stayed true to much of the aesthetics of the original Hurloon Minotaur, including its face tattoos. He even extended the tattoos down the body and arms in his image. As Magic: The Gathering entered the realm of comics, another take on Hurloon Minotaur appeared gracing the cover of one of the earliest issues.

hurloon minotaur magazine

The Shadow Mage was the first of several comics series published by Acclaim Entertainment under their Armada Comics imprint starting in 1995. The Shadow Mage series was written by Jeff Gomez, and featured art by Val Mayerik and others. Mayerik painted the cover for issue two, featuring Hurloon Minotaur locked in a fierce struggle with a giant spider. Mayerik’s take on the minotaur is more akin to the half-man half-bull from Greek myth than the anthropomorphized bovines that minotaurs have become in most modern fantasy. Its head bears a strong resemblance to the Anson Maddocks original, but its overall aesthetic is at odds with most depictions of Hurloon Minotaur, as we will see.

hurloon minotaur inquest

From gracing the covers of comics in ’95, to gracing the cover of magazines in 2000, Hurloon Minotaur enjoyed a good deal of time in the spotlight. By 2000, he was no longer the face of Magic, having been supplanted by the Weatherlight crew, the planeswalker Urza, and other characters with developed storylines. His image was still iconic, and InQuest put that image to use alongside the electric yellow mouse Pikachu in their issue pitting Magic and Pokémon against one another.

While I was not able to confirm the illustrator who put together the cover, the shape of the minotaur’s body bears a resemblance to the John Bolton image on the life counter discussed earlier. It was also an InQuest-related item, leading me to believe Bolton either did the work, or his image influenced whoever put together the cover for this issue.

While Hurloon Minotaur’s likeness appeared on comics and magazines, it didn’t remain confined to the flat page—it even took three-dimensional form.

Hurloon Minotaur in 3D

In 1994 Heartbreaker Hobbies produced the first of four sets of licensed figures for Magic: The Gathering. The figures were pewter, with molded bases. Most were one piece, though a few contained multiple pieces and required assembly. The very first figure in the first series was Hurloon Minotaur.

 

The packaging on the back of each figure identified the artist of the illustration that inspired it, and it was nice to see them credited. Heartbreaker’s minotaur is posed with his face turned in the same direction as the Anson Maddocks illustration—a nice touch—but with perhaps a bit more of a menacing look on its face. Its body is anthropomorphized but still bovine, with cloven hooves instead of feet. Like the John Bolton illustration on the InQuest life counter, this minotaur wields an impressive axe.

When Magic: The Gathering came to Japan, it became a massive cultural phenomenon rivaling—and it could be argued in some ways surpassing—the popularity of the game in the US. Some time around 1996, a series of paintable porcelain figures was licensed for sale by the distributor Hobby Japan exclusively for the Japanese market. Among the six figures (five from Magic: The Gathering, and one from Jyhad/Vampire: The Eternal Struggle) was Hurloon Minotaur.

Measuring about seven inches in height, this minotaur bears a resemblance to the Maddocks illustration, but clearly has a bit of artist interpretation going on, especially in the structure of the face. A few years later, a larger and truer to the illustration statue of Hurloon Minotaur appeared.

Produced by Dark Horse Comics somewhere between 1998 and the end of 1999, this Hurloon Minotaur statue was one of four statues sculpted by Randy Bowen. Measuring about 13 inches, and fully painted, the detail on this statue is remarkable. This statue really captures the face of the Hurloon Minotaur from the illustration, though the head feels a bit narrow—something the Hobby Japan statue captured better.

While all three of these miniature statues are cool collectibles worthy of display, none are as unique, or larger than life, as the Hurloon Minotaur bust owned by Steve Bard.

Hurloon Minotaur for the Ages

Back in the ‘90s Wizards owned a short-lived chain of retails stores. The flagship store in Seattle boasted not only a giant retail space, but an entire floor below the retail space dedicated to playing games. Above the stairs leading down to the play area, a massive bust of Hurloon Minotaur presided over all who entered this wonderland of games.

The unknown sculptor or sculptors of the bust captured the Anson Maddocks illustration right down to the little beard on its face. When Wizards sadly closed its chain of retail locations in the early 2000s it was believed that the massive icon of all things Magic was lost or destroyed. Fortunately, this was not the case.

Though the details remain elusive, the statue made its way across town to the backyard of local legend Steve Bard, where it now guards the appropriately nicknamed Minotaur Garden.

Hurloon Minotaur’s Digital Facelift

The Hurloon Minotaur hype faded as the ‘90s gave way to the ‘00s. The minotaur was mostly forgotten except by Limited Edition Alpha/Beta collectors, and players who lived through its era as the face of the game. Recently though, Hurloon Minotaur has experienced a return to the spotlight.

The original Anson Maddocks piece has received two new printings in the Magic 30th Edition set. While I’ll avoid getting into the debacle that was that product, I will say it’s nice for the older art of those cards to have new generations of eyes on them.

In addition to new physical printings, Hurloon Minotaur also appeared on the Magic: Arena digital client in 2020 as part of the Arena Beginner Set, with new art exclusive to that medium.

hurloon minotaur art

The Arena Beginner Set was designed as a tool to help onboard new players, meaning that in many ways, Hurloon Minotaur has come full circle. What was the face of the game greeting new players in the ‘90s is again poised to welcome in the next generation of players to the game of Magic.

Do you have fond memories of Hurloon Minotaur? What other minotaur merch is out there? What other card is as iconic? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.

Paul J. Comeau

Paul first started playing Magic in 1994 when he cracked open his first Revised packs. In the early 2000s he had his favorite artworks from the first deck he ever built tattooed on his arm, permanently stamping his love for the game on his skin. An avid Limited player, his favorite Cube card is Shahrazad. He has a print of his favorite Magic character Garth One-Eye and original art pieces for another ‘90s TCG on display in his office and hopes to one day add an original Magic piece to the collection. A freelance content creator by day, he is currently writing a book on the ‘90s TCG boom.


Also in OMA Blog

The Artwork of Magali Villeneuve
The Artwork of Magali Villeneuve

February 19, 2024 6 min read 0 Comments

Magali Villeneuve has illustrated more than 200 incredible artworks for Magic cards. Enjoy a look through some of the standouts from the over the years!
Read More
The Price of Original Magic Art from Karlov Manor
The Price of Original Magic Art from Karlov Manor

February 13, 2024 7 min read 0 Comments

What is the original Magic art from Murders at Karlov Manor selling for? Sigmund rounds up the recent sales prices of the set's best art!
Read More
The Original Magic Art Market of Murders at Karlov Manor
The Original Magic Art Market of Murders at Karlov Manor

February 07, 2024 7 min read 0 Comments

The incredible art from Murders at Karlov Manor is hitting the market, and today Sig checks in on some of the most popular pieces!
Read More

News & Updates