Tuesday, November 02, 2004

KING COVERS: Firestarter (1980)

Not one of my favourite books, certainly, though it did have all the right elements. People with pyschic powers, an evil off-shoot of the government attempting the capitilize on those psychics, lots and lots of things on fire.

I don't know exactly what it was about Firestarter that never quite worked for me, but it always seemed to be lacking something. It's a pretty brutal story, in some ways, and drifts about as far away from a happiness as a happy ending can get, which is something else I usually like in my novels, and...

And it's been so many years since I read this book, that I really can't remember much of it at all, least of all why it didn't make a lasting impression on me. All I know for sure is that it didn't. That just thway life goes sometimes.

We'll start the festivities tonight with the original Viking hardcover release, a strong contender for design superiority right out of the gate. A striking yet simple image that is burned -- pun not-so-terribly intended -- forever in my mind. When I think Firestarter, this is the image I will always thing of, as this is the image that graced the cover of the book for years, first in hardcover...

...and later in two differently coloured Signet paperback editions.

I think I like the black one better.

You know the one thing that does bug me about this design? From a purely tyopgraphical perspective, what the fuck is a hyphen doing in there? Seriously! Why are hyphenating your title? That looks retarded. Use a more condsensed font or something, and get it on one line!

Lazy typographer bastards...

This later Signet releases manage to maintain the basic look and feel of the earlier paperback cover -- flames, eyes -- while giving it a slight redesign. Unfortunately, it's a redesign that drifts a little too far into "boring" for my tastes.

Another Signet design takes a slightly different approach, though I guess there's only so much you can do with a story about a young girl who lights things on fire. We've got the young girl, and we've got the fire, so that's got all the story's bases covered. Plus we've got smoke! Or maybe clouds. Or, I guess, maybe fog. BUt that doesn't matter, because we've got a young girl and we've got fire!

England goes with proven success of the whole fire and eyeball thing, except they choose to use -- for reasons that their designer will likely take to their grave -- what appear to be photos. Crappy photos. Crappy superimposed photos.

All is not lost, though...

...as the British redeem themselves with this design -- the winning entry. A massive burst of fire fills almost half the book's cover, with a tiny sillouhette in the midst of it all, bringing hom not just the ideas of "fire" and "little girl" but also "lots and lots and lots and lots of fire" which is pretty important to the story, actually.

This cover from Estonia (!) takes a close second, with a rather intriguing and inventive choice of images -- brain scans and a zippo lighter. Unfortunately, I think this cover design would have failed in the U.S. as it likely would have required a few too many steps of putting two and two together before it would make any sense. And thus, a creative design suffers in the hands of the great unwashed. Or something to that effect.

As for this cover from France, I'm really not sure what's going on. A...dragon? A sword? I can't quite make out what it's a picture of, so maybe if it were clearer it would make more sense, but I'm not betting on it.

I absolutely love the look of these two Japenese covers. The simple black and white images are fantastic, and more than any other cover these two pictures capture the loneliess of Charlie McGee's life, on the run from a government agency that wants to harness her powers for their own use. Unfortunately, it's lacking the all-important fire imagery required for a proper cover to a book called "Firestarter". Which is too bad because, once again, these really are incredibly beautiful.

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