An earlier post about some of the cover art that I like and dislike generated some interesting discussion, leading to this post. I may make this a regular ‘series’ where I compare cover art that I like with what I dislike. Now, I’m even less valid as an art critic than a written word critic, so keep in mind that this is just my opinion. I’ve had no relevant training, so actual artistic technique and form won’t be a big influence on me. This is all what I think about the cover art – how I react and any emotional response that it evokes. It's about how this particular cover art works as art for the book it's attached to.
For my first go at this I’m going to compare the cover art of two books by the same artist – Michael Whelan. Both of these are what I would consider to be a traditional (epic) fantasy cover art, which I generally dislike. One works for me, one, doesn’t.
Starting out with the bad – the first offense and most noticeable aspect of this cover are the two characters to the left. Both are looking whimsically off into the distance, with the woman almost (but not quite) pining for the man. It would be much worse if the woman were actually in some sort of worship of the man, but it is still implied. Ugh! This is about the worst offense fantasy cover art makes – it’s belittling to women and insulting to the tastes of readers. Does the woman really have to be seen in such a subservient, worshipful way? It really does make me nauseous. At least she is fully clothed, though it’s only a small victory.
The rest of the cover is a bit to ‘pastel’ for my taste – I prefer dark, earthy colors when it comes to landscapes rather than pastels.
As for how matches the mood of the book itself – I’d call this rather pedestrian in that respect. It doesn’t directly contradict anything, though it hardly represents a scene from the book and doesn’t capture the mood – by this time in the story, things were dark and cold with little hope. A cover showing two people essentially basking in glory is just inappropriate, regardless of how the story actually finishes. Finally, these two people don't even come remotely close to my mental image for Simon and Miriamele.
This is an example of traditional fantasy cover that works. The central character is in a dark shadow, with his head slightly bowed. His stance indicates both a tense readiness and a heavy load – something along the lines of the weight of the world and his shoulders. The dress is perfect for this post-apocalyptic western feel and the dark, earthy colors reinforce it nicely. This is certainly the Roland we know – and I can here his perfect theme song in the background, Hurt as sung by Johnny Cash. The raven perched on skeletal remains and distant Dark Tower complete the cover. The mood is set and the cover even evokes an emotion actually related to the story – very well done.
So, what are your thoughts? It’s all subjective – some of you are bound to agree, while some will surely feel I’ve committed the gravest of insults with my opinions. Should I continue with the ‘series’?