Archive for the 'Book Covers' Category

Jan 30 2012

Witch Doctor has a very clever cover

Published by under Book Covers

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Witch Doctor is a Lovecraftian medical thriller graphic novel.  According to one reviewer, “The metaphysics they reveal through the gruesome adventures in this volume has a weird internal consistency, but it’s so cockeyed and frankly revolting that I can honestly say it never occurred to me before they scarred me with it.”


I haven’t read it, so I can’t comment on the writing, but I think the cover is very informative. Witch Doctor’s cover does a very good job of marketing itself to prospective readers that would be interested (although I’m probably not one of them).  Even the logo is eye-catching.


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Jan 24 2011

“An ape will die on every page!”

Published by under Book Covers,Comedy

Umm, okay.

7 responses so far

Aug 04 2010

Demotivational Poster: Pink Batman

Batman Demotivational Poster: Pink Batsuit

As if the nipples on the Batsuit weren’t bad enough.  To be fair, though, it was the 1950s (Detective Comics #241).

4 responses so far

Aug 01 2010

How to Design a Logo for a Comic Book or Graphic Novel

1. Use a style appropriate to your series. Ideally the title identifies something about the series even before the viewer reads the title.



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Jun 09 2010

Doing Comic Book Covers Well: 5 Tips

1. Market what you have.  The genre should be clear at a glance and the artistic should be consistent with the mood and content.  For example, if the story is a grim and macabre horror, you’d probably want something that suggested what danger(s) the protagonist will face.  Some possibilities that come to mind include a creepy mansion looming in the background, fog obscuring something sinister behind somebody, some supernatural creature, etc. 

2.  It needs to stand out at a distance of 10+ feet.  The single most important audience segment for most comic book covers is prospective readers browsing through a comic book store.  Before they examine the product, you have to grab their attention.  Bold color combinations are one effective way to do so.  I find that scenes involving motion (particularly extraordinary motion, such as a Batman karate leap) tend to be more eye-catching.  Obviously, it helps if something interesting and/or unexpected is  happening.  More on that here.  Finally, the title/logo should be legible across the room (at least 10 feet). 

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2 responses so far

Feb 18 2010


As far as supernatural fantasies starring teen heroines go, this is pretty close to perfect.  But red-blooded Americans of the non-girl variety would probably like this better.  The bloody handprints were a cheery touch.

And here’s probably the funniest Hitler-themed video I’ve seen in, umm, ever.

2 responses so far

Jan 04 2010

Popular Themes in Comic Book Covers

Characters doing a usual activity in a way or setting that is unexpected.

  • For example, someone would look pretty mundane smoking a cigar, but what if he were smoking right next to a corpse?  Probably much more interesting.
  • Holding an iPod is boring, but Thor holding an iPod raises an interesting contrast between tradition and modernity.
  • Many badass detectives and criminals carry guns, but it’s distinctly more disturbing if it’s a kid holding a massive sniper rifle… with a Kennedy campaign button.
  • A guy holding a briefcase is the epitome of dullness.  But a guy handcuffed to a briefcase or a mutant alligator holding a briefcase is more striking.

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One response so far

Jul 15 2009

Writing Contest: What the Hell!?!

Joe Jusko did his best with a rather strange comic book cover.  Please describe what you think is happening in the issue.   Take as much space as you need.

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7 responses so far

Jun 29 2009

Disco, leisure suits, dancing monkeys and other 1970s abominations


Atlas Issue #7, Variant Cover


8 responses so far

Jun 24 2009

Comic Book Tip of the Day: Use Motion in Your Covers

Published by under Art,Book Covers,Comic Books

In visual media, motion usually makes a scene more interesting.  It’s particularly important in a cover because you have to catch the reader’s eye.

For example, let’s say we have two covers that use the world as a soccer ball. (The issue’s title is Americans Don’t Play Soccer, and the issue is about Darfurian genocide and other things very far removed from the typical American’s life.  For ideological balance, we might add a thinly veiled Obama vis-a-vis the Iranian democracy movement).

Cover #1:  On a soccer field, the villain is standing next to a globe.  In the background, the hero is the only thing between him and the net. The villain’s pose would probably look lifeless, like these.


Cover #2:  On a soccer field, the villain is doing an insane flip as he punts the world at the hero.  The cover would probably look a lot more energetic and stylish.  This is particularly important because the cover will probably show the villain from the back.  It’s quite hard to strike an immobile pose from behind.


It would probably also help if the hero/goalie had some action. Bracing himself for impact is a little bit banal, so I’d like something that’s striking and makes it clear that this comic isn’t really about soccer. So let’s say the hero is bracing himself behind a transparent SWAT shield.

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Apr 02 2009

What do you think about this novel cover?

Published by under Art,Book Covers

(Picture taken courtesy of The Baltimore Sun; you can read their review here).

This novel has been published by Harper-Collins, so I’m sort of surprised by how unappealing the cover is.  It looks like it’s been slapped together for a self-published novel.  There’s a typo on the cover. (“a terrific send-up not only superheroes in general” is missing the word “of”).

What do you think?  What worked and what didn’t?  What would you have changed?

UPDATE: The author of this book has contacted us, saying that the cover is an “uncorrected draft.”  Erm, the book has been out for two months.  Isn’t it well past time to correct it?  Moreover, what were the circumstances that led a publisher to rush out a book that didn’t have a good cover ready?

25 responses so far

Mar 16 2009

Cover Comparison for Savior 28

Check out these alternate covers for Savior 28. I’d like to know what you think.

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4 responses so far

Feb 24 2009

Would you like to give me some stylistic feedback?

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16 responses so far

Feb 17 2009

I’d appreciate your design input… yet again

When we last left off, we were working on a cover for the first issue of Superhero Nation.

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4 responses so far

Feb 14 2009

I’d appreciate your design input… again

When we last left off, we were working on two main items…

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10 responses so far

Jan 25 2009


I wish I were making this up.

4 responses so far

Jan 15 2009

Please give me some stylistic feedback

Let’s see.  Right now I’m working on the cover of our first issue and a series logo.

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25 responses so far

Oct 19 2008

Beta-Reviewing Our Latest Book-Cover

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4 responses so far

Oct 11 2008

Comic Book Covers: Samples from War Heroes

War Heroes held a contest where fans could pick the cover they’d end up using.  Many of the submissions were quite good.

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4 responses so far

Oct 03 2008

Now you can find visual references more easily

On art-sites like DeviantArt, if you do searches for things like “superhero” or “book cover,” more than 90% of the results will be utter garbage or half-past-strange.  If you think that searching for visual references shouldn’t feel like a creepy waste of time, you might like our new DeviantArt wall of favorites. You can use that to check out hundreds of visuals we’ve found impressive.  We have separate folders for superhero stuff, fantasy and sci-fi, depending on what you need your visual for.

You can also see some of the artwork we’ve had commissioned for our novel and webcomic.

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Oct 02 2008

Oblivion Society’s trailer was pretty smooth

This trailer sells an unusual premise effectively.  It also makes a skillful pitch to its target audience with reviews that specifically say that geeks will enjoy the book.  I found its comparisons to other works of geek-culture helpful.  However, I thought that its emotional cues were a bit mixed.  The book-cover makes this look like a light-hearted comedy, but but the only clear emotional image in the trailer is her sobbing as mushroom clouds loom in the background.  There isn’t very much in the trailer that suggests the book is actually funny, or what kind of humor it uses.  For example, if this is a dark comedy about the protagonist and her failure friend trying to survive, it might have helped to show us a glimpse of the comedic relationship between the two characters.

The cover-art was very eye-catching, even though it rips off a famous scene from Dr. Strangelove. My main question is that she appears to have wings on the cover, but the trailer doesn’t mention that strange detail at all.  (My guess is that it’s a nuclear mutation).

7 responses so far

Sep 24 2008

Grading book covers

Published by under Art,Book Covers

Thinking about what to put on your novel’s cover?  Jacob grades six covers.

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Nov 25 2007

Header Art: Marketing Comic Book Novels

I’ll recap some of my past observations about cover art.

  1. Readers are extraordinarily sensitive to the quality of header art. In my four months running this site, nothing has been as important as my header art in determining how many people bounce from the site. The quality/quantity of my writing only began to influence readers after I added strong cover art.
  2. Readers respond better to characters that look like they could be related to. This is somewhat different than the conventional wisdom that “readers respond better to characters that look like them.” Readers reacted reasonably poorly to a draft of the cover art that had Agent Orange, Jacob Mallow and Catastrophe (respectively the dragon, the bleached-out super villain and the Mewtwo parody). Most readers I’ve asked have responded warmly to the addition of Lash and Oliver Ryan. If readers wanted characters that looked like them, presumably white readers wouldn’t respond well to a black character and women wouldn’t respond well to male characters (no on both counts).
  3. Nonhuman characters are not received particularly well, though it’s probably worked out better for Superhero Nation than might have been the case. For example, look at the British cover art for Soon I Will Be Invincible below. It focuses on Elphin (the fairy) and Feral (the conspicuously muscular tiger-man thing) at the expense of more relatable heroes, like Corefire and Fatale. I suspect my art makes Agent Orange look somewhat more relatable. His sunglasses, trenchcoat and badge suggest how the reader should interpret him. The only way to be more blatant was to give him an M-16 and a flag. Catastrophe has a labcoat (albeit one cut off by the logo). I don’t think he came off as well, but making a parody of a well-known cartoon character look relatable is damn hard.

SIWBI Coverart in Britain

Future experimentation on reader reaction to the header art

I can’t access my art materials right now, but I will remove Catastrophe from the header for a month or so.

Here are a few reasons I suspect that will be productive.

  1. Nonhuman overload. Reader longevity improved drastically after I added Lash and Ryan to the header art. Removing Catastrophe, at least until I’ve actually written him in, will probably help.
  2. Instinctive ripoff concerns. Readers that stay with the story will obviously pick up that he’s a parody of Mewtwo, but at first glance it might look like a poorly done ripoff or, worse, Pokemon fan fiction. *shudder*
  3. Header claustrophia. It feels cramped. Removing Catastrophe should make it easier to enjoy.
  4. Maybe having five characters feels overwhelming to new readers?
  5. Showing Catastrophe in the header before he’s actually in the story seems like cruel teasing.
  6. Character confusion. When my caption mentioned that one of the characters is a scientist-turned-hegemon, some readers assumed I meant Jacob Mallow (the only scientist introduced so far). I meant a different scientist, actually. Whoops! The picture heightens the confusion by placing Catastrophe immediately right of Mallow– Westerners naturally associate left-to-right with before-and-after.

After a month, I think I’ll be able to draw some assessments about how Catastrophe contributed to the header art.

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