For the young among us, Fabio Lanzoni is an Italian model who found his perfect niche in 1987, when he modelled for the cover of legendary historical romance novelist Johanna Lindsey’s book, Hearts Aflame. He then became a legitimate cultural phenomenon appearing in ads, TV, and his own calendars, not to mention over 400 romance novel covers.
And, for a brief, shining moment in 1989, his chiseled visage and muscular torso appeared both in your mother’s underwear drawer stash of romance novels and in your stack of NES games precariously balanced atop your CRT.
(Heaven help you if you snuck something out of the former and left it with the latter, but I hope you learned something along the way.)
Yes, when faced with marketing the sequel to Wizards & Warriors, publisher Acclaim took one look at the finished game and went, “you know what I’m hungry for? Beef.” They were the ones that hired Fabio to portray the protagonist, Kuros, to the consternation of developer Ste Pickford. After all, Kuro is a knight who spends the game in a suit of armor, not a bare-chested barbarian babe.
But I would argue that this is just savvy marketing. First of all, capitalizing on the existing Fabio market was a stroke of genius, especially when comparing it to other NES box art on the shelf at your local store. But mostly important, the cover ends up slyly implying that, underneath all that armor, Kuros is, in fact, a stunning handsome slab of a man. You might never see it in the game, but… it’s there. It’s kind of a staff Samus deal, knowing that these little pixels conceal a regulation hottie.