OK, I like mine more because I spelled "Levin[e]" correctly on my cover.

[I can't believe I lost this in the shuffle of moving cross-country and getting a new computer; but this post has been sitting, finished, for months. Mea culpa:]

Earth Mightiest Essayist, Bob Levin, has an amazing more-or-less bimonthly series of memoirs about growing up in Philadelphia archived here, and his blog is there. Go read, now. Really. The rest of this post can wait until you're done.


I often ponder why and how bullshit covers -- the placeholders in catalog solicitations, especially in seasonal catalogs that publishers assemble for distributors to drum up pre-orders on their books, usually long before things like dust jackets and covers are finalized -- somehow live on long after the actual cover is created and printed. I love making placeholders -- for reasons I've never quite understood, every pub I've ever worked for was happy to have an amusing image for the material that was going to help buyers decide whether or not a book would even reach their shelves, but executive-assholes slam shut at the mere thought of the printed cover being something less than totally serious.

One evening, probably while eating dinner at my desk at the JOURNAL, I amused myself by making this bullshit cover for Bob's just-finished THE PIRATES AND THE MOUSE, a magnificent book profiling the Air Pirates. If I remember right, the book's designer wasn't coming up with a good hook for the jacket -- I assume that, like all art directors, the designer wouldn't/couldn't read all those, um, words, to find an arresting image from the story that would work.

I liked the idea of taking the famous headshot of Mickey Mouse from the cartoons and using the outline of his head -- Matt Groening's absolutely right, it's a good idea to design your characters so that they're instantly recognizable even in silhouette -- but back in those days, there weren't massive archives of movies title cards to choose from, so the best, biggest jpeg I could find of the classic Mickey Mouse cartoon headshot-corona wasn't big enough to make a decent-sized printed image for a bullshit cover.

The black bars are thus an unavoidable hash and the fonts were just the ones I had shortlisted and handy in Photoshop; I still would like to see how the general "Mickey's silhouette against a yellow corona" conceit would have looked at a full 6x9" although even I'm not bold enough with other people's money to advocate that the cover use the actual corona from the real Mickey headshot. There also weren't so many books out that used yellow as a ground, and I still kind of like the idea of presenting Bob's book as the coolest paperback ever sold in an airport's newsstand; I clearly have less-than-mainstream taste in vacation reading.

[Here's another amusing ghost in the publishing machine; it not only has my temporary-ish cover -- it looked great at 12x12, although picking fonts has always been my Achilles Heel -- the description of the book hasn't Stalinized out my creator credit the way the printed book has.]

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