Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Super, and Not-So-Super

The new, and typically half-thoughtful/half-drug-fucked, book by frequently amazing Scottish comics writer Grant Morrison is Supergods, a look at the history and philosophy of superheroes--something he knows a lot about, having written acclaimed runs of Superman, Batman and X-Men, among others. (My own personal favourite among his works is his Doom Patrol series--a funny but ultimately sad, surrealistic take on superheroic cliches--and its long-lost offshoot, Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery.)

Anyway, to Supergods. Here's the excellent US cover:

This uses the artwork by Frank Quitely from page one of Morrison's All-Star Superman series. Most comics (and movies) which retell the beginnings of various superheroes do so at wearisome length. Morrison knew that everyone reading a Superman comic already knew those basics, and summed them up in one page and four panels, getting it out of the way so that the fun stuff could start.

Click for bigger version

And here's the UK cover.

I can see why people are spending extra to import the US version.

Next post: an uncanny similarity spotted by Welsh correspondent Miss Disco.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Big Head

Here's a beautiful set of covers for the work of Oliver Sacks, from Vintage US. The designs are by Cardon Webb. Click for enbiggening.

(seen first at John Gall's blog)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

"I'm looking for a book with a naked woman lying down on the cover..."

There's a certain kind of crime writer (with an associated kind of crime reader) that I sold a lot of when I worked in a bookshop. The writer produces formulaic books with non-specific titles at tremendous speed, and the readers gobble them up and forget them half an hour later. Looking through the crime shelves, said readers are unable to remember which ones they've read, and the covers, titles and blurbs do nothing to help, since they're all basically the same. I've never seen such determination to keep producing basically the same book, though, as shown by the designers at Bantam for the work of Tess Gerritsen.

This cover was also discussed in this post, as it's a lookalike.

Lots of sleepy naked chicks in Gerritsen-land.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Caustic Cover Critic Considers Canongate Canons

Another repackaging-of-classics exercise is the imminent set of 12 (though I can only find 11) 'Canons' from Scottish publisher Canongate. They look rather nice: I like the use of white space, and the way that the cover image in every case is almost but not quite obliterated, leaving just enough visible to make it clear what you're looking at. It's especially effective given the nature of the books chosen--there's nothing much in common there other than the publisher, but this group identity works for all of them, I think.

The Spark Collected Sories was actually also announced as a forthcoming Penguin Modern Classic this year, but has quietly vanished from the Penguin line-up. I wonder what conversation took place when somebody suddenly realised that they didn't actually have the rights...

By the way, I need to say that I miss the old Canongate Classics: a huge variety of great Scottish literary works that have mostly gone out of print now that Canongate seem focused on international fiction. I guess they were a money-loser, but it's always a shame when neglected-then-resurrected books that deserve to be read end up becoming neglected again (see also most of what used to be available as Virago Modern Classics).

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Dead School

Forthcoming from NYRB, The Letter Killers Club, by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (about whose amazing Memories of the Future I wrote here):

I don't know who took the photo on the cover, but I recognise what it's a photo of: a school in Pripyat, a city abandoned when the area was contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident in 1986. See these other photos of the same schoolroom:

Abandoned school in Pripyat' / Chernobyl


Pripyat, Chernobyl

Visit those three flickr albums above for more amazing and creepy photos from the abandoned city. As you might imagine from my obsession with nuclear disaster, I can't stop thinking about these pictures.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Triplicate and Duplicate

With thanks to eagle-eyed reader Peter Herpich, a trio of matching covers (all using Edward Hopper's 'Rooms by the Sea' (1951))...

[UPDATE: And avisannschild has found another...


 ..and another pair I've spotted, using what I think is an old 'Vogue' photo.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Breaking Down The Beginners

I'm currently halfway through Rebecca Wolff's much-praised first novel (after several poetry collections), The Beginners. It's a book I'm enjoying, though it has a few flaws: describing a dream on pages 1 and 2 is a risky start (I'm with Henry James -- "Tell a dream, lose a reader."), and it needs better editing (one character's clothes change mid-scene for no reason--see pages 3 and 24), but it's also pretty absorbing, packing a heady charge of summer heat, adolescent female sexuality and the ghosts of witchcraft.

The cover design is gorgeous; it's the work of Helen Yentus and Ben Wiseman.

You need to see it to get the full effect: it's a black-and-white engraving ('The Cat and the Fox' by Gustave Doré, an illustration for the fable by La Fontaine) overprinted in gold on a photograph by Nancy Honey--a photo which calls to mind both the dunking method for finding witches and the swimming sessions undertaken by the book's teenagers in their local reservoir (under which lie the ruins of three drowned towns). Click for much bigger versions of each.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Weird Similarity...

A weird similarity:

The excellent cover to Steve Holden's Somebody to Love (about a transgender funeral parlour worker), published in October 2010...

The sleeve to a Simian Mobile Disco single released in November 2010...

Given production lag-times, it seems impossible for the record sleeve to be a copy of the book cover: just a weird coincidence.

UPDATE: Wise reader Emily points me to this interview with book designer Clare Skeats where she talks about both covers and the inspirations behind them.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Tipped Over

This post is on a topic that I find a bit mystifying. In what seems to be an attemt to fight the rising ebook tide, Hodder has published a series of what they call 'flipbacks'. They say they're "something completely original, a perfectly formed, portable, pocket-sized treat", and that they licensed the design from the Dutch publisher who invented them.

They seem to be like normal books turned on their side, and printed on what I assume to be very thin Gideon's-Bible-style paper--hardly a patentable revolution, I would have thought. Has anyone seen one of these in the wild? Is that all there is to them? Wouldn't turning pages up, calendar-wise, be a bit irritating?

And there seems to have been a missed opportunity for cover art here--they've just taken the existing covers and recropped them...

..when they could have done something new with the landscape format, perhaps along the lines of these movie-still James M. Cain covers.

If you've seen on or, even better, read one, please leave a comment and tell me what I'm missing here.