While I was gathering inspiration for the cover of my horror novel, Gevingey, I obviously looked to the King for guidance. His books often have multiple covers, which meant multiple different ways of telling people about a story in a new or different way (which is bully for an amateur designer trying to find her way). Walk with me while I discuss three novels and their covers.
Beware: potential spoiler alerts if you haven’t read any of these classic King novels.
Pennywise never looked better than when Tim Curry was in the clown costume, but I thoroughly enjoyed the most recent version. The original cover recreates a scene from the novel, and the setting of It – the sewers beneath Derry.
The movie-tie version for Tim Curry’s 1990 television mini-series stretches the font of the title, which foreshadows the creepy proportions this clown has – stretched limbs and elongated fingers. And is there anything creepier than Tim Curry in makeup (whether he’s Frank N Furter or Pennywise? The dude just exudes creep and we love him for that).
The most recent cover takes a more minimalistic approach, but sticks with the elongated IT text (a good choice, in my opinion). It of course features poor Georgie whose fate is perhaps worse than death. The iconic red balloon and a Victorian-esque Pennywise reaching for it gives me chills.
The use of shadow in all these covers really sends a shiver down the spine. My favourite of these three would be – you guessed it, Tim Curry. Because look at those eyes!
Dreamcatcher is one of those Stephen King books where I saw the movie first and then read the book – and managed to like both for completely different reasons.
Buuuuut…let’s talk about these covers.
Dreamcatcher is scifi mixed with body horror. The first edition with the deer has a nod to scifi with the weird analog text, I guess, and a nod to the setting (the book takes place at an isolated cabin in the woods). But other than that, you would pick up this book without any clear idea of what it is. And after reading it, I think you would agree that this cover does not accurately reflect the amount of horror inside. It doesn’t even accurately reflect the story – unless we’re supposed to take away that our characters, like deer, are being hunted by something.
The second cover is even more confusing. At first glance I have no idea what is going on here, but I think the room is the “mind-room” of Jonesy, one of the main characters. He does psychological battle with the alien antagonist who possesses him. Jonesy gets trapped in his own mind, guarding the secrets he doesn’t want the alien to know. The thing is, he’s still along for the ride and can see everything the alien is doing while in charge of his body. I love this concept, but this cover does not do it justice.
Finally, we come to the movie poster which was replicated on the movie-tie cover. Darker and more monochrome than the other two covers, this one directly references a scene (and a rather unimportant tertiary character, but a defining moment for the main characters) and also has the title object in question – a dreamcatcher.
However, none of these covers really do it for me. Dreamcatcher is a complicated novel with a lot of main characters and many themes. Neither of these three covers do a good job of setting up the vibe of the story inside.
3. The Shining
Another example of loving both the book and the movie despite or because of their differences. But I digress.
The original cover has pulp horror vibes with the illustration, the superimposed people and the floating hotel. There’s also a faded, badly illustrated dog? For some reason? This one I like, because the cover is so manic that you just know some bad shit is going to go down.
The cover featuring just Danny, our resident creepy/telepathic/abused child works, but it kind of stops working when you realize that Danny is kind of just a victim. Or is he??? Some fan theories suggest that Danny was in fact causing his father to go insane.
My favourite is the third, and was a poster for the Kubrick film, designed by Saul Bass (a legendary graphic designer). This was about the 300th version of the poster (Kubrick was known for being a demanding perfectionist). There’s something just so startling about this poster – the distorted face, the pointillism vibe and the font that you would almost see on a poster for a comedy – it all comes together in this way that leaves you a bit unsettled.
Which cover do you think communicates the story best?