Mortal Kombat Co-Creator Explains How He Came Up With the Iconic Logo


Mortal Kombat's co-creator has explained how he came up with the game's iconic logo – and how it almost got trashed for looking like a seahorse.

On Twitter, John Tobias unveiled the original hand-drawn logo he created for the first Mortal Kombat game… and delved into its background.

“Here’s a recently discovered image of the very first drawing of #MortalKombat’s dragon icon,” he revealed. “I designed the icon as both a symbol of our game and its fictional tournament.”

Tobias’ original pencil drawing was digitized by both Tobias himself and Mortal Kombat artist John Vogel, who traced over the digitized image with pixels. Why a dragon? Well, Tobias explained that was all because of the game’s original name.

“The inspiration to use a dragon as the fictional tournament’s symbol came from ‘Dragon Attack,’ which was in contention as our game’s title before [Ed Boon] and I changed it to ‘Mortal Kombat,’” he revealed. “Here’s my rough marker sketch of the marquee logo.”

Apparently, the name “Dragon Attack” came from Ed Boon’s love of the Queen song by the same name, but this was eventually changed to the Mortal Kombat we know now. Still, the logo stuck, and its design emerged when Mortal Kombat artist John Vogel saw a golden dragon statue on the desk of Midway Games general manager Ken Fedesna.

“The inspiration for the dragon icon’s design started when John Vogel saw a golden dragon statue on the desk of Midway’s general manager, Ken Fedesn,” recounted Tobias. “John borrowed it to digitize for use in our game’s backgrounds.”

When Tobias saw the dragon statue, he incorporated it into the design for the game’s coin-op cabinets, but the design soon inspired the game’s logo itself.

“I had been thinking of creating an icon to represent the fictional tournament, but also to brand the game with a symbol… like Superman’s “S” or Batman’s bat symbol,” he explained. “I used the dragon from my cabinet side panel sketch to inform the look of the dragon icon as our symbol.”

Interestingly, the logo faced both left and right up until Mortal Kombat II. At this point, with the console release of the games, they had to pick one or the other for trademarking purposes.

“We chose facing right and it’s been that way ever since,” he confirmed.

“The eventual icon design was an attempt at replicating the yin yang symbol, which represented balancing of the furies – a core part of MK’s early fiction,” continued Tobias.

Brilliantly, the entire logo was almost scrapped after Tobias’ sister mistook the design for a seahorse. Thankfully, the team stuck with it – and the Mortal Kombat logo has become one of the most iconic in gaming history.

Want to read more about Mortal Kombat? Check out where Mortal Kombat sits within our 10 best fighting games, as well as how Johnny Cage himself may have teased Mortal Kombat 12.

Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.

Leave a Comment