Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Paizo and the Art of Book Covers

 The older Planet Stories covers above are awesome.  Above is a selection from my library.  Most of the covers are by Andrew Hou.  The Kline covers are by Daryl Mandryk and Brandon Kitkouski, respectively.  The Moore cover is by Arnold Tsang.  Sadly, at this point, I'm still missing from my PS collection Brackett's wonderful Skaith books.  James Ryman did the covers for Paizo.  Let's not deprive ourselves of the pleasure.  Below is his illustration for Hounds of Skaith.

After the redesign of the Planet Stories line,  Kieran Yanner appears to have gotten a lock on the series.  I struggled a bit to get decent shots of them, so I took doubles.

Leaving aside any judgment on the two different formats (I'm truly torn on which I like best), the suspended series did a wonderful job of taking inspiration from the past and producing new, attractive art that generally was well-grounded in the contents.  When Paizo started its Pathfinder Tales line, it faced the new challenge of providing quality covers for the much smaller mass market paperbacks.  I guess it is not surprising that a line of new fiction, tied to the RPG setting would go with totally different artists than those used for the reprint line named for a classic pulp periodical.  But while I enjoy most of the illustrations, and they aren't bad, I generally haven't loved them like I have most of the PS covers.  Check out the line so far below.

 Of these, the best so far of PF Tales seem to me to have the same kind of feel as the best PS covers.  Those would be Lucas Graciano's for Master of Devils, Kekai Kotaki's for Death's Heretic, J.P. Targete's for City of the Fallen Sky, and Tyler Walpole's for Nightglass.  The latest volume, Blood of the City, unfortunately has the weakest PF Tales cover so far.  (While the colors are nice, and the attempt to at a high action scene is laudable, I don't think Adam Danger Cook pulls it off here.  Hopefully, this remains an anomaly in the series.)

So, this is my question for Ramblers who are more skilled in the criticism of art than I: what is that I am drawn to in these Paizo cover illustrations?


  1. Honestly, I'm in complete agreement. If you're going for retro-pulp with a slick modern touch, Kieran Yanner's your man, with James Ryman a close second.

    As for the Pathfinder Tales covers, Paizo has certainly gotten the cream of the crop to work for them. In addition to Lucas Graciano and Tyler Walpole's covers, I would also point to Jesper Ejsing's cover for 'Winter Witch' and Daren Bader's cover for 'Plague of Shadows' as superlative works.

    The main problem with the cover for 'Blood of the City,' it seems, is that the anatomy of the leaping figure is distorted and badly foreshortened, leaving it looking static and broken-looking. When that's your focal point, it makes the whole piece look sloppy, even though the rest of the image is well-executed.

  2. I agree with Dave on the Blood of the City assessment. The figures make the cover seem slightly off, whereas I you look at the background the picture is very well done. If a simpler battle scene with smaller figures was added to the background I think it would have looked much better.