Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Covers: Light and Dark

This week I was jazzed by two covers. Neither of them were adult mysteries, but if I were to see these covers in the mystery section, I'd pick them up in a second.

The Apothecary is a children's book (middle-readers). It has mystery and magic, and it is historical -- but from the 1950s, rather than the Victoran/Edwardian era the title and art evokes.

The artwork here reminds me, indirectly, of Edward Gorey. I haven't decided how. But it sets a mood: dark and imaginative, but with a certain simplicity. It suits a children's book, and IMHO, it really suits a great old-school cozy mystery. A lot of modern cozies do go for this mood.

I was thinking about why I like this sense of simplicity and I finally put my finger on it. Great cozies and great children's books have two things in common: they have moral clarity, but they have a subtly twisted world view which allows for a lot of complexity inside the broad brush strokes of a slightly cartoony world.

The Sisters Brothers has another simplified and moody cover. I love this because it makes great use of pure design. The shapes are all symbol and/or text. The text itself uses modern typographical design -- stacking the words of the title to make a neat box, and then throwing some grunge "distressing" over the top. The characters are each holding a gun, but that hand/gun shape is almost like a typographical symbol of some sort. Their bodies make a big black "M" shape, which works with the two triangles of the nose in the moon/skull behind the. (As well as giving the moon/skull a more skull shape.)

And of course, the heads are the eyes of that moon/skull, complete with hats for eyelids, and their own eyes act as the pupil of the background figure.

The colors -- red, black and off-white -- I just love what they do with so little. The whole thing screams dark crime comedy, and that appears to be exactly what it is. From the description, it sounds like it's darker than I would really enjoy but this cover certainly gets me to look at the description and maybe a sample.

See you in the funny papers.

No comments: