Monday, March 21, 2011

Another White-Washed Cover?

I’ll let you guys be the ultimate judge, but I think this yet another case of a white-washed cover – even if it’s more by omission than outright misrepresentation.

This is the cover of Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) that I originally found:

This is the cover of Midnight Riot that came with my physical book.

The main character, who is a man of color, has been turned into a complete silhouette in the final version. In my opinion this doesn’t add any artistic merit to the cover, especially since I prefer the cover that isn’t completely silhouetted out. And the silhouette doesn’t achieve some thematic representation of the book that I can see. Why do it? The only reason I can see is to hide the ethnicity of the main character.

And a look into the sequel, Moon Over Soho (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound), shows the same thing happening.

Here’s one version:

Here’s the final version:

So, what do you all think?


Patrick said...

Interesting. Definitely something going on.

Although it's not so much white-washing in this case. Is using a silhoeutte (which is indistinct) the same as displaying a character of color as white?

If anything a silhouette allows the reader to fill in the details.

Definitely something fishy but I'm not sure exactly what to think.

Neth said...

Exactly - it's not a clear-cut case of white-washing the cover. But it sure seems that the cover was altered to hide the ethnicity of the character. And that's not right.

K.C. Shaw said...

I noticed that too, and posted both covers on my blog when I reviewed the first book. In that one, I couldn't tell from the un-silhouetted cover whether the model was a POC or not--I guessed white, but he's obviously the same model who's on the second book, who is definitely not white. I prefer the British covers anyway.

But yeah, this is totally whitewashing to me. They're obscuring the main character's race, and I don't think they did it by accident.

Kendall said...

I can't tell ethnicity from the first cover. I'm not sure I can from the second, in fact (though with your post, it's easier to interpret as such). I presume it'd be easier to tell with covers in hand, in which case, yeah, it seems fishy.

On the other paw, I think the original (?) covers--the ones that aren't totally silhouetted--are better anyway. So they've possibly white-washed, and definitely made the covers blander. Bad all around, IMHO.

Kerry said...

I totally agree the original covers are better, both in representing the character and just in how they look.

This is very disappointing to see. Peter's race is a significant part of him and they've got a handsome cover model. Wiping all that away is not good.

This is a case where I'm happy to have the ebook as I can then choose whichever version of the cover I prefer.

Ryan said...

I will say that I personally don't like it when covers depict characters, because then it skews how I picture them in my head as I read, so in that sense I would prefer the silhouetted covers.

I can see your point though, and it seems strange that they'd change the covers like that. Which is completely unnecessary, I mean, the reader is gonna figure out those details about the main character anyway.

Salt-Man Z said...

It could have been done for a purely aesthetic reason: the visible face could be seen as distracting when the rest of the body is in silhouette. I personally find the "new" version of Soho much more appealing than the first.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. I have a hard time believing that this has anything to do with race. I would guess that it had something to do with a contractual dispute with either the artist or the model, and it was just cheaper to change the cover as they did as opposed to redoing the entire thing.

It just has to be something simple like that. No way Del Rey pays someone to create a cover, and then all of a sudden is shocked to find out the there's a black guy on the cover, when the protagonist is black.

Granted if they did scrub it because of race, that's incredibly stupid, which is why I think it's something else.

Neth said...


Well, I understand your hesitancy, but unfortunately there is a pretty long record of publishers white-washing covers. So, while it is a stupid thing to do, it's something that publishers seem to do with some regularity.

Kendall said...

In an artistic dispute, they'd have to simply use different artwork.

Also, Anonymous, I've heard plenty of tales from folks in publishing about covers that were changed due to chain bookstore buyer pressure (e.g., "change X or we won't buy as many copies"). So, yes, it's very believable that they'd pay for artwork and then have it changed.

Of course, it's also possible the initial one wasn't really what they were after to begin with, and the artist messed up and had to revise. There're plenty of possibilities--we'll never know for sure, methinks.

John said...

Honestly, neither the real or silhouetted versions really ring true to the Peter described in the series. This one looks far more like a bouncer than a policeman originally destined for a desk job. Too big, strong and tough looking.

Neth said...

@John, I agree that white-washed or not, the covers are bad. Though I don't necessarily think that it's such a bad representation of Peter.


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