Thursday, 30 July 2009

More Motte

The first book designer who was kind enough to let me interview him was Nicholas Motte, who (in collaboration with Danielle Dutton) creates the wonderful covers for Dalkey Archive. (The Motte interview is here, Dutton's follow-up comments are here, and an overview of Motte's first Dalkey covers is here.)

Since then, Motte has produced a huge number of further Dalkey covers, remaking that publisher's line into one of the most eye-catching and unusual on the shelves. Using often abstract shapes, lots of white space and heavy black lines, fields of solid (usually primary) colour, and frequently with much of the illustration apparently falling off the edge of the cover, or zoomed in on to the point of losing obvious meaning, these are bold, beautiful graphics.

So here's an extensive selection of Dalkey eye-candy, both recently published and due later this year and in early 2010. Click for bigger versions.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Angry Rabbits

A different sort of apocalypse this time: Australian writer Russell Braddon's The Year of the Angry Rabbit, first published in 1964. This is the first comic take on the end of the world I've covered here: usually I prefer my armageddons done with deadly seriousness, John Christopher-style. But Angry Rabbit has a certain embarrassed place in my heart. Here are the hardcover and softcover jackets.

Australia has long had a feral rabbit problem, the apparently inoffensive creatures devouring vast quantities of crops and driving a number of native animals to near-extinction through competitive population pressure. A fairly horrible virus, Myxomatosis, was introduced here in 1950 in an attempt to wipe the rabbits out, but they have, for the most part, developed an immunity to it.

Angry Rabbit features scientists developing a new disease, Supermyx, to defeat the cunning rabbit hordes. The problem is that it doesn't do anything to the rabbits, but turns out to be instantly lethal to humans. Naturally enough, the Australian Prime Minister decided to use this accidental biological super-weapon to hold the world to ransom, leading to Australia's unlikely conquest of the globe. As you might expect, though, things do not go according to plan, the virus gets away, and worldwide carnage ensues. It's daft as a brush, but quite a lot of dated fun.

The story about the book does not end there, however.

In 1972, the book was unwisely filmed as Night of the Lepus. The setting was inevitably moved to the USA, and instead of a rampaging super-virus killing humans, the plot now involved a rampaging super-virus turning rabbits into bloodthirsty predators who then set about killing humans.

The central problem with this film, aside from the laughable acting, pathetic script-writing and woeful directing, is that rabbits are, in fact, incredibly cute, and not in the least bit scary. The poster artists did a valiant job...

..but these frames from the film all are too revealing.


The movie's trailer will leave you in no doubt as to the scale of the folly of this enterprise.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Great Ideas 4: All 20 Covers

I finally have high-quality scans of all 20 covers for the next round of Penguin's Great Ideas. They are the work of David Pearson (art directing and designing), Phil Baines, Catherine Dixon and Alistair Hall. And they're gorgeous. I especially like this witty cover for Robert Louis Stevenson's An Apology for Idlers...

..but they're all ace. As usual, part of the joy of these books will be found when holding them as physical objects, with all of the embossing, debossing and other such tricks making an encounter with these little books a sensous, tactile, three-dimensional experience (at least for a book tragic like myself).

Click each cover for a big high-resolution version.

My only complaint, as before with this series, is that many of these are extracts from bigger works, which seems to go against the whole founding ethos of Penguin Books ('COMPLETE UNABRIDGED' as the first Penguin covers had it).

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Giovanni Thermes & Alberto Moravia

This is a very quick post: I'm doing some freelance design work which is swallowing up all of my free time at the moment, but will be back to more substantial posting soon. In the meantime, some recent (for me) discoveries--the dramatic covers Giovanni Thermes designed for Alberto Moravia's Penguin Books editions in the 1960s. Click all below for much bigger versions.

Rather better than this old Panther cover, for example:

Or, indeed, this more recent Penguin cover: