Monday, 31 August 2009

Funny Peculiar

Blogging about book covers, I have a folder where I put all of the cover scans that might come in useful. Sometimes, though, the images get detached from the notes about where they're from and what I was going to say about them. Then, when I'm going through the folder to clean it out, I find stuff like this.

Googling cannot help me track down where I found this. But really, what more is there to say?

UPDATE: A little more, as it turns out. Derek of True Small Caps identified the cover artist of this book as Eric Stanton, and a couple of his other cover images for this series of After hours books can be seen here and here.

Annoyed Beyond All Reason

I don't know why this bothers me so much, but it really does. This is the Australian cover for the new novel by Australian crime writer Tara Moss.

I've not read anything of hers, nor am I likely to, and this is again due to various embittered prejudices of my own. But this damn cover isn't helping. Why? Because, though it's a work of fiction, Tara Moss is on the bloody front. You see, she used to be a model, so HarperCollins figure why not splash her good looks everywhere they can. What kind of model?

Ah, a gorgeous, international model.

I know I'm not the only one annoyed by books being promoted or even published because of the attractiveness of their authors, but this seems a particularly egregious case. It doesn't help that you can't enter a bookshop in this country without a full-size cardboard cutout of her lurking round every corner.

Of course, feel free to attribute this bitterness to the fact that I tend to look like someone who just fell through a window, and this is only sometimes due to actually falling through a window.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

No Self-Control

I'm trying not to turn this blog into the Tutis "Appreciation" Society, but commenter Gareth pointed out something I can't resist re-posting. I quote him: "Anyone remember the joke where the doctor asks the man if his premature ejaculation has improved at all and the man replies 'No, it's still touch and go.' I only mention it because it appears to have influenced one of their D.H. Lawrence covers:

And an anonymous commenter also (mostly) solves the mystery of the pink thing from this post. "It's ... the character Sof' Boy in the comic by Archer Prewitt."

Sof' Boy is, and I quote from here, a "comic about a homeless, naive dough boy who happily lives in a crime- and filth-ridden urban neighborhood, surviving attacks by man and beast because he is made out of some kind of indestructible, infinitely elastic rubber." So it makes perfect sense to colour him pink and use him on the covers of classic novels.

Some more Tutis discoveries: another cover nicked from a Dungeons & Dragons novel, again with absolutely no regard for the contents of the book.

Speaking of Doyle, remember when he sent Sherlock Holmes off into space?

Lucky somebody else had already provided some art for just such a situation:

Of course, Arthur Conan Doyle wasn't the only writer to make unexpected ventures into the intergalactic.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


And in a follow-up to the last post, here's another Buckley-overseen wonder: Penguin Ink, which uses tattoo artists to create book covers. Here are the first two (again, click for bigger versions).

Coetzee by Chris Conn.

Foster Wallace by Duke Riley.

I'm no afficionado of tattoos, but these covers are grand. Basically, Penguin US want all my money, and I want to give it all to them.

UPDATE: I asked Paul Buckley about these covers, and here's what he said: "They come out in the first third of next year. I'm not exactly sure which month. Yes, there will be more... I just got Chris Garver's work; Bert Krak will be turning one in soon; I have a Maori one coming up, and Tara McPherson (yes, I realize she is not a "tattoo artist") has agreed to try her hand at creating some flash art for me."

Back to the Good Stuff

Turning back to the good stuff, this is just a brief post to direct you towards this flickr set by book designer Paul Buckley. He has put up all of the covers (both front and full, including French flaps) for the complete set (so far) of Penguin's Graphic Classics books, where great works of literature get covers designed by some of the best comics artists currently working. Here's a taste--click for bigger, legible versions.

Edith Wharton covered by Jeffrey Brown.

Mark Twain covered by Lilli Carré (previously discussed here).

Shirley Jackson covered by Thomas Ott.

Herman Melville covered by Tony Millionaire.

Ken Kesey covered by Joe Sacco.

Franz Kafka covered by Sammy Harkham (previously discussed here).

Really, go and look at them in all their glory. They are a fantastic, beautiful set of books.

Tutis 3: The Tutising

I'm sorry if this looks like a case of a blogger flogging a dead horse, but the more I look at the Tutis catalogue, the more "delights" I find (for earlier ventures into this strange parallel universe of hopelessness, see here and here).

First, here are some covers that could best be grouped together under the title 'Geographical Fuckwittery'.

And here are some masterful Thomas Hardy covers. I thank sharp-eyed Rich Cousins for spotting the best of these. As he says, the cover of Wessex Tales features guitarist Slash from the ridiculous band Guns 'N' Roses, stolen from the cover of computer game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.

'There's a trumpet-major... in my pants!' is a famous chat-up line in Wessex.

I'm really going to try to leave Tutis alone after this, but I can't make any promises.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Fish, Barrel, Gun: Tutis

For a self-styled "caustic" cover critic, Tutis is the gift that keeps on giving. They show an interesting willingness to appopriate other people/publisher's cover art for their own shoddy POD editions.

Example #1: This is the Larry Elmore cover for the first of Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis's wildly-popular-in-the-1980s Mormon-propaganda, sub-Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons spin-off novels:

Here are a couple of Tutis's classics:

Setting aside the complete inappropriateness of these covers (though at least they Photoshopped out the dragon), this is the unwise theft of a cover which millions of people will recognise.

Example #2: When Weis and Hickman started writing their own sub-Tolkien Mormon propoganda that wasn't affiliated with Dungeons & Dragons, the first cover looked like this:

Enter Tutis:

Example #3: Trashy fantasy novels seem to be a useful resource for Tutis. Here's the cover for one of the bestselling Terry Brooks' many, many Tolkien-"inspired" novels: again, a book cover seen by millions.

And here's Tutis's edition of The Man Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures--remember, by the way, that said man-eaters are actually lions, not made-up airborne monsters.

Example #4: This Tutis Wilkie Collins make use of a Charles Addams painting of the Addams family home.

Example #5: Why reuse other people's covers when you can reuse your own, whether or not they suit the book at all (though who knows where this image came from originally?)

With their usual care and attention, they've left off the author's surname on that second book--it's actually by P. G. Wodehouse. But what is that thing? Look into its cold, dead, pink eyes...


Iconograpy from Home: An Interview with Roxanna Bikadoroff

Last year I displayed some of the intriguing and eye-catching covers which Canadian illustrator and designer Roxanna Bikadoroff had done for the books of Angela Carter.

Since then I've discovered she was responsible for the beautifully bold and simple covers for the US editions of Flannery O'Connor's work, created with silk-screening, as well as much else.

Roxanna was kind enough to agree to be interviewed about how she does her magic.

CAUSTIC COVER CRITIC: What media do you use to create your illustrations? I'm guessing at ink and watercolour, but I'm really not sure.

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: You guessed right. But I'm using more mixed media now - one has to keep oneself entertained.

CCC: For many of your covers, you include the author and title type as part of the illustration. Does this make the job harder, in that the client may love one element, but want to change the other? And do you actually include them together in the artwork, or is the type added later?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: I always do it on a separate layer, in case of a spelling mistake or ink blob, or some last-minute change.

CCC: The Angela Carter covers especially interest me, as everything from the type to the publisher logo is hand-drawn (and they let you mess with their logo, too). How did this come about, as it's very unusual in cover design?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: Actually, I think Penguin had been doing the logo thing with other illustrators at the time (the early ‘90s were more fun in that respect). Some vague recollection of a Gary Panter Penguin logo comes to mind, but I could be imagining it.

Both the logo and hand-lettering were the inspiration of one art director, Michael Ian Kaye, who I worked with early on at Penguin and FSG. I'd sent him some samples with hand-written envelope (pre-computer days!) and he just ran with it. Or maybe it was inspired by a cookbook cover I did with hand-lettering... I forget now. In any case, it seemed to start some sort of trend.

CCC: You have done a lot of editorial illustration, and I see that you have a background in animation work as well. Is book cover design your main love, or is there something you prefer more?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: I've always veered toward art that communicates/tells a story/accompanies a story, so editorial and book jacket illustration came almost naturally. It seemed a decent way to make a living doing art while staying home and keeping my own hours, too.

But outside my paying work, I've always been more of an iconographer. I love using symbolism, mythology, psychology, astrology, archetypes, etc, to tell visual stories and I try to apply this to my commercial work whenever possible. If I have to draw a likeness, for example (not my forte!), I might look up the subject's birth chart to get more insight into their personality/spirit. Especially if its a dead person. Or sometimes a myth or mythological subject can be used to illustrate to a current topic.

CCC: What are you working on now? And what covers should we look out for in the near future?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: Tarot cards, tapestries, an anthology of my best editorial/book work, Russian fairy tales...and whatever interesting illo gigs come my way, for starters. I'd like to get out in the world more, both physically and art-wise.

CCC: Is there early work out there in the world that you'd suppress if you could?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: Any pieces that were way over-art directed/edited and ended up looking too tight and just wrong. But I've long since stopped having personal attachment to every job, they can't all be gems!

CCC: What would be your dream book to do the cover design and internal artwork for?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: My anthology, number one! Some lesser-known fairy tales. It would be nice to eventually not have to do piecework.

CCC: Finally, is there a great book that nobody seems to know about that you'd like to see shouted from the rooftops?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: Hmmmm... Well, if you haven't seen the children’s book illustration of Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone, they're worth a look. Very frilly stuff... especially the Cowboys! My 'bible' is The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker, which is not so unknown, yet perhaps not known enough.

CCC: Thank you, Ms Bikadoroff!