February 4, 2010

Heroes Return Cover Art + a Plea

So about a week ago Moira J. Moore announced that she'd received the cover art for Heroes Return--the upcoming fifth novel in her wonderful Heroes series featuring Source & Shield duo Lee and Taro. Naturally all of us regular readers begged to see it and she kindly obliged. Here it is:
Now. Blue lightning jazz hands aside, there are a number of levels on which this cover does not work. I would imagine that those of you who've read the series would agree that the first and foremost problem would be Taro. One of the dear boy's defining traits his his drop dead gorgeousness. Taro would not be who he is without his pretty exterior. And this guy...well, he looks rather alarmingly like Tarzan's slightly less evolved brother. He is also carrying a sword, despite the fact that he wouldn't have the first clue what to do with one. As for Lee. This girl has fringe on her boots and looks pretty...dapper...for pragmatic, doesn't care about her clothes Lee.

This series has seen two, possibly three shifts in cover art and concept and none of them, in my humble opinion, accurately reflect the awesome inside. The covers make them look hokey. And they are anything but. This is frustrating to me, as a reader, because I believe these books deserve so much more and these covers make it hard for me to recommend them and get them into the hands of other readers who will fall in love with Ms. Moore's wonderful characters and unique world. Despite the categorical unfairness of it, we all judge books by their covers to a certain degree and the truth is, if I'd seen this cover with no knowledge of the book or series, I would have run scream-laughing the other way. Sad, but true. Part of that is my fault with the cover snobbery and whatnot. But part of it's not.









My question for Ace Books is how hard is it to craft a decent cover that stands a chance of appealing to the average fantasy reader and, at the very least, does not do the author and book a grand disservice by portraying the characters and/or story as ridiculous or cliché? How hard is it to have the artist depict Taro as actually handsome and not possessed of a face like unto a foot? Before you say it, I know there are covers out there that misrepresent the characters or tone of their books, sometimes massively, yet still work and sell books like hot cakes. The Mercy Thompson series comes to mind. Mercy would never dress as scantily as she does on those covers. And yet there's no denying they are attractive and they unquestionably connect, on a visceral level, with Patricia Briggs' audience. These, however, do not. 


Interestingly, in the midst of all the responses to the description of this new cover, an anonymous poster linked to a picture by Chris McGrath, which she said reminded her of Lee & Taro. Several of us, including Moira, popped on over and were stunned at how exactly the image matched our impression of them. 

Is it not perfect? Not even a hint of the goofy, the deranged, or the simply inaccurate. It's just Taro & Lee. I adore it. Now, I've admired Mr. McGrath's work for some time now. And I happen to know he's done the covers for several new as well as established fantasy and urban fantasy authors and titles, including Seanan McGuire's October Daye series, Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden files, Kat Richardson's Greywalker novels, and Kelly Gay's Charlie Madigan series. Three of the four of those examples are published by divisions of the Penguin Group, to which Ace also belongs. Come on, Ace. No more cheap cartoon art. You're five books in now. It's time to give these books the covers (and larger audience) they deserve. 

23 comments:

  1. How frustrating! The style change is jarring, and I have to agree that the newest cover is not great. I haven't read the series, but I hate that stupid bow/tie that the guy is wearing, and if he's supposed to be attractive, the model on this cover is really not reflecting that.

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  2. Great post - I agree 100% and just pointed Moira in the direction of your blog.

    I think this is a wonderful series that has grown and developed so well, but have hated all the covers except for #3. That's not even a GREAT cover, but it's the best one so far.

    I wish the publisher would change this new one. *sigh*

    Cheers,
    Kaz

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  3. I just noticed the bow thing.

    ...

    I half want to whine about consistency in these covers too. But then.. maybe them never being right is consistent.

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  4. Thank you, Karen, for directing me here. Yesterday Angie told me she was going to make this post but I had no idea it would be up so fast.

    Angie, I have never been in danger of actually spitting coffee on my computer due to a funny comment. You brought me dangerously close with "he looks rather alarmingly like Tarzan's slightly less evolved brother." LOL!

    *sigh* Too bad it's true.

    Moira

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  5. Wow, those covers are pretty bad. But, I'll put the first book on my TBR list, because it sounds like they're good books anyway.

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  6. LOL I should have said this in the first comment I made, but I did the same thing Brenda did. I added the first book to my wishlist because the series sounds interesting (even with unfortunate covers)! "Can't judge a book by its cover", right?

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  7. Anonymous1:36 PM

    I've never been a big fan of the Chris McGrath covers you mention (except the Jim Butcher covers), but the image you've posted is gorgeous! Imagine the difference this would make if Ace asked Chris McGrath to redo all of the Heroes books in this style? Wow. I'd purchase all of them again and buy copies for friends.

    Thanks for posting the new cover. I don't like it. I prefer the earlier, goofy covers to the new style. At least they were kind of humorous.

    Recently there have been successful campaigns for new covers of books with black narrators and white cover models. In all 3 cases, the covers have been changed. Do you think writing to Ace could make a difference?

    Your review was one of a few that made me give in and finally buy Resenting the Hero. I have never regretted it. The series is fabulous and worthy of new covers in order to expand its audience.

    KarenS

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  8. Fabulously stated, as always Angie. That McGrath artwork is so, so, sooo perfect for Taro and Lee. So. Perfect. Too bad these amazing books don't have something pretty on the outside as well. It makes me almost long for the early cartoonish days - they were at least funny.

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  9. Janicu, :) I knew you'd be on board.

    Katy, exactly. Nice to get a perspective from someone who hasn't read them yet. Clearly, they are not working for either group. I do hope you give the first one a shot. They're awesome.

    Kaz, thank you! Good point about the series growth as well. I love that about it. And I agree about #3. It was the best one and I was actually kind of hoping #4 would be at step up from that and then...this tragedy. Hmph! I'm gonna go ahead and say I'm harboring a small hope that we can actually convince Ace to repackage them. Or at least from here on out.

    Moira, haha! It's so true. I was looking at his face while I was typing and I was just like, "What a Neanderthal..." Thanks for stopping in! And for sharing the cover with us.

    Brenda, yay! They most certainly are good. Can't wait to hear what you think.

    Karen, I know! Can you imagine!? I get chills just thinking about it. I would do the very same. Purchase the entire set again and give them as gifts to everyone and their dog. Those recent cover changes you referred to have certainly been on my mind and I don't think it would hurt in the slightest to write Ace with our concerns. I am definitely going to.

    Michelle, why thank you, my dear. I knew you would love that art. Isnt' it divine? I couldn't believe it. I hear you about the early covers. Similar to Lisa Shearin's covers, in a sense. And I really think fans of Shearin's books, in particular, would love this series. We've got to get the word out! :)

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  10. The first thing I noticed about that cover was his sword! I'm thinking, wait, he doesn't use a sword! And as I'm sitting here, Tarzan is on in our house, and I think Disney's is hotter. :) I really like McGrath's picure, so much better!

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  11. I love that Chris McGrath artwork! It's so much better than the Heroes Return cover.

    I picked up Resenting the Hero several times in the bookstore and put it back several times because of the cover before I finally bought it. I wonder how many people were so turned off by those goofy first covers that they never tried the series. It's a shame.

    Of course I'll buy and enjoy Heroes Return no matter what the cover looks like, but it would be awesome to have really decent cover art for once (although I did like cover 3 okay).

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  12. I also picked up Resenting the Hero several times and put it down. In fact, I didn't go back to buy/read it until Heroes Adrift came out. That cover was, if inaccurate, compelling and the reviews for the earlier books were so good that I had to give them all a try.

    I never would have picked up the book with the Heroes Return cover. That kind of sucks.

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  13. I'm another person that kept seeing these around, and I always assumed the cartoonish style of the cover art meant that the books were going to be more comedy oriented. Comedic fiction isn't my thing (except for Pratchett), so I ignored them for a couple of years.

    Then I started seeing the good reviews here and elsewhere, so I finally started reading them after seeing several "They're better than the covers! Honest!" posts.

    I feel sad for good books that get saddled with inappropriate covers, but at least these days they may have more of a chance to find fans thanks to book bloggers spreading the word about the things they enjoy.

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  14. UGH, word, dear Angie! I am so very excited for the next chapter in Lee and Taro's story, but good lord these covers have been consistently horrendous. With the exception of HEROES ADRIFT.

    This new cover is...just...no.

    That said, I do love the image from Chris McGrath!!!! AWESOME. Wow.

    Come on Ace. You can give this sort of cover for the Hero books!

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  15. Maybe someone with Art Skillz (and the right software) could have a go at turning the CM art into a mock-cover for book 5... We could send them both to Ace! :)

    Kaz
    (in a rebellious mood!)

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  16. wowser how can they get it wrong so many different ways?????

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  17. *speechless*

    Seriously. Oh dear.

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  18. I really hope someone who matters at Ace reads this post and has a revelation. Your reviews led me to the Heroes series & I absolutely loved it. I try not to get too excited (or put off) by covers, but I agree - hearing a lot of people say that the quality of the books was a lot higher than the quality of the covers helped convince me they were worth a shot. It would be nice to see covers that reflect the content a little better.

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  19. Hilarious! Now I want to check out this series!

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  20. Elisa, lol, the sword does rather stick out on Taro, doesn't it? And Disney's is definitely hotter. McGrath all the way!

    K.C., sooo much better. And you make the exact point I'm shooting for. How many people are avoiding these books who would actually love them and spread the word on them? It's a damn shame. And one that can be fixed, I think. If we can reach the right people.

    Kitten, see, you're another example. In many cases, the only reason these books are being picked up is because of positive book blogger reviews. Which is good. But decent covers combined with those reviews could do wonders.

    deety, it IS sad. Very sad. And, as you say, thank goodness for book blogs these days because these covers are entirely misleading.

    Thea, my dear, I know. The only consistent thing has been their heinousness. I agree on the exception of #3. I could go with that style and I cannot understand why they took two steps backward with #4 & 5. The McGrath is simply awesome. We've got The Book Smugglers on board now! :) Listen to us, Ace!!!

    Kaz, SUPERB idea. I'm on it. *rebel*

    Liz, it's befuddling. And frightening. *sigh*

    Li, it sort of strikes fear into the hearts of readers everywhere, doesn't it?

    erin, that's my not-so-secret hope as well. I'm so glad you found this series here and loved it. And it's true, bad covers happen and it's not always such a big deal. But in this case, it's five books into a series that is pure quality and all Ms. Moore's readers agree the covers are not working--in any of their incarnations. It's time to change.

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  21. I haven't read the books, but yikes! I would NOT be picking them up with that cover. The blue hands look totally stupid and no, that man is not my idea of hot.

    I so wish I could be one of the readers fantasy pubs poll for cover art.

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