Monday, August 17, 2015

Worst to Best: Stephen King First-Edition Mass-Market Cover Art

A reader suggested this topic as good fodder for a post a while back, and I agreed that it sounded like a worthy use of my time.  Now, finally, I'm actually getting it done!
A word about the format: my goal here is simply to rank the cover art for the books.  A moment's consideration will reveal the fact that nearly every title King has published -- and he's published a lot -- has been published in multiple editions.  In some cases, there may be well over a dozen editions in America alone.  It would be a fool's errand to try to rank all of those editions; I don't even have the energy (or the interest) to attempt to catalog them all, much less then figure out how to rank them.  I'm not saying it can't be done; but I'm saying it won't be done by me.  Ever.
So, here is my criteria: for each book, I will be considering whatever was the mass-market American first edition, be it hardback or paperback.  No limited editions will be considered; no British editions will be considered; no second editions will be considered.  Hopefully, no errors will be made regarding any of this, but if errors end up being made, I apologize for them in advance.
I also apologize in advance for the certain-to-occur poor choices on my part, and also for the incredible lack of scientific method which will be evinced.  You are welcoem to point them all out in the comments!
Without further ado, let's begin with the worst, which is unquestionably:

#74 -- Just After Sunset

For once, the shitty focus of this image is not the fault of my subpar scanner.
The jacket design here is courtesy of Rex Bonomelli, who seems to have felt that it was a good idea to make potential purchasers think their eyesight might finally have begun to fail.

The less said the better, so let's move on.

#73 -- Danse Macabre

This jacket was designed by Sam Gantt, who seems to have felt there was no need for the book to have a theme, idea, or concept.

#72 -- The Bachman Books

No jacket designer seems to have been credited on this one, which makes sense, because NAL probably forget to check the nametag on the guy at Kinko's who did this.
I considered placing this one a good bit higher, for two reasons: (1) the nostalgic side of me likes it; and (2) it achieves its primary purpose quite well, that being to inform 1985-era audiences that a new book was out that included four previously unknown novels by the world's most popular author.  (The fact that it's an omnibus reprint also gave me an out for excluding the book, but I decided to go ahead and put it in here just to have something to complain about.)

#71 -- Insomnia

Neil Stuart designed this one, and I'll give him this much credit: the colors and the varying font size do combine to create a memorable cover.  
Apart from that, this is a disaster.  I'm not the world's biggest Insomnia fan; I think it's a good novel, though, and one with an abundance of material that could have made for a very striking piece of cover art.  A novel in which an old man with insomnia is able to see everyone's aura, and this is the cover?!?

#70 -- Secret Windows

jacket design by Irene Lipton
I considered not including Secret Windows, on the grounds that since it was published as a Book-of-the-Month Club exclusive, it wasn't technically a mass-market release.  But since that is -- or was (as the case may be) -- a fairly large club, I think it's allowable.
Lipton used the 1961 painting Winter Self-Portrait by Tony Vevers for the cover art.  I like the painting.  Is the figure looking toward us or away from us?  Because we don't know, it's kind of both at once, isn't it?  And that's a bit unsettling.  I also like the painting-within-a-painting aspect of it.
I'm not a fan of repurposing one person's art to represent another's, however, so for that reason I'm ranking this one maybe a bit lower than it deserves.

#69 -- The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah

Hate it; wouldn't want to date it.
The jacket illustration and design here is courtesy of Darrell Anderson, who also provided the interior artwork.  I don't like any of it, to be honest; I think his art is the nadir of the series by quite some distance.
The idea here, I assume, is to represent Thunderclap.  Fair enough; that's certainly what it communicated to me upon the book's 2004 release.  There must have been better, more artful ways of achieving that impact.  You'd be forgiven for looking at that image and assuming the vertical white streaks on the right-hand side were jacket scuffs, scanner smudges, or some other sort of physical defect.  But no; no, that's supposed to be the Dark Tower.

#68 -- Black House

jacket design Marc Cohen, photo by Mary Steinbacher
I guess that's a shoeprint, but this is another case of the cover looking like there is something wrong with it.
And that's all I have to say about that.

#67 -- The Tommyknockers

My copy of this one is fairly beat up; sorry, guys.
The jacket design here is credited to One Plus One Studio.  I picture some Mad Men style group of designers sitting in a room, throwing some shit together at the last minute.  That's maybe a bit harsh, and I have to confess that I do personally like this cover; this, again, is nostalgia at play.  It makes me think of the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in which an alien spaceship opens and light comes spilling out.  There, it was friendly blue light; here, it is sickly green light.  
Still, this is an awfully weak concept.

#66 -- Revival

jacket design by Tal Goretsky, apparently composed of several photos
I suspect this one might land at the bottom for some people, and if so, I would not fault them.  It's a striking cover in some ways; the colors work well, and the slant on the font gives it a mild 3D effect.  It's also true that the prevalence of the lightning has added significance once you've read the novel.
That said, this cover is a disaster.  It baffles me that once every four or five publications, King's publisher seems to say, "Hey, no need to make an effort this time; we're good."  I can't imagine that good art actually costs that much more than mediocre art when it comes to book-cover designs; in my mind, laziness like this is unacceptable.

#65 -- Lisey's Story

jacket design by John Fulbrook III

I feel as if this one might be ranked too lowly, but doggone it, that's where it ended up and that's where I'm a-gonna keep it.

Based on the image above, you'd probably conclude that the beflowered shovel was interesting, but that the cover did not otherwise have much going for it.  If so, know ye that that is the basis upon which I have awarded this low ranking.  but in some ways, that's a cheat, because the shovel is actually a shaped hole in the cover, and the flower material is a case illustration which is peeking through.  The full illustration wraps around the entirety of the book, and looks like this:

I'm a sucker for stuff like that, and if I liked this novel more, I'd probably be a bigger fan of the art.  It's by Mark Stutzman, who has done several other King pieces; they all fared considerably better in this ranking than did Lisey's Story.

#64 -- The Running Man

illustration by Don Brautigam

In and of itself, that's an intriguing image.  Some sort of crystal-ball activity, maybe?

I don't really know what it's supposed to mean in the context of The Running Man, however, and for that reason I'm considering it a failure.

#63 -- Full Dark, No Stars

jacket design by Rex Bonomelli, photograph by Jeff Bark

The idea here, I guess, is that Full Dark, No Stars features novellas in which women have had very bad things done to them.  The woman pictured here is using one arm to enfold herself and the other to keep whoever is approaching at a distance.

Conceptually, it works.  The execution does not; not for me.

#62 -- Rose Madder

The jacket design here is by Neil Stuart.  It's alright; I've certainly seen worse.  Technically, the cover is a wraparound; the back cover mostly consists of "wrapping paper" and an author photo, though.

#61 -- The Talisman

Another Neil Stuart design, this one is by no means a favorite of mine, but I do like it.  The back cover is the same, but with the author's names reversed; nice touch.

#60 -- 'Salem's Lot

jacket design by Al Nagy

I'm attempting to be at least somewhat objective during this post, and if I were not then I would rank this cover a lot higher; personally, I like it quite a (pardon the pun) lot.

It is not a cover like Lisey's Story, where the book itself has a case illustration peeking through a hole in the cover.  That would be cool, but no; still, the effect is somewhat similar, and when I look at the image for a few seconds I begin to feel as if I am peeking through a keyhole.  That voyeuristic feel works well for the themes of the novel.

#59 -- Night Shift

jacket design by Fred Marcellino

I should almost certainly have ranked this one a lot lower, since I've previously objected to plain-jane designs of this sort.  I'll plead "nostalgia" and move on.

#58 -- Stephen King Goes to the Movies

cover design by Richard Yoo

On the one hand, I'm not sure I should have included this book at all; on the other hand, fuck it.

#57 -- On Writing

jacket design by John Fontana, illustration by Shasti O'Leary

So . . . I guess that image is an illustration and not a photo?  Well, I'd've lost money on that bet.  Don't ever say The Truth Inside The Lie taught you nothing!

I don't dislike this cover by any means, but I'm not entirely sure I understand how it reflects the book.  I'd probably have asked the designer to develop something around the idea of a toolbox.

#56 -- Blaze

jacket design by John Fulbrook III

This image combines several photographs, which I guess is a thing book-cover designers do in this millennium.  Whatever.

This one isn't bad -- it's ominous, at least -- but it could also have been better.  With a lot of the covers on the lower end of this list, it seems to my eyes as if the publishers simply signed off on the first image to come across their desk.  This seems as good a time as any to toss out the old line about not judging books by their covers, but I've got news for you: everyone judges books by their covers.  Whoever invented that saying was deluding themselves.

#55 -- The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

jacket design by Ray Lundgren, art by Steve Stone

I said there would be no reprint-edition covers on this list, and I meant it; this is the first edition of the revised version of The Gunslinger, which I consider to be a distinct novel from its ancestor.

I'm not a fan of this piece of art, and I can explain why fairly easily: Roland is not looking toward the Tower.  If a Tower is visible, Roland should be inclined toward it.  Period.

Also, I don't like the font used for King's name.  Is that picky?  Well, I'm picky.

#54 -- Roadwork

Dawes seems to be about two decades too old here, but apart from that this one isn't bad at all.  It screams "1984 thrift store find," which is catnip to this blogger.

#53 -- The Dark Man

I almost forgot to include this one, on account of the fact that it was published by Cemetery Dance.  However, unlike most of their titles, it was not (I hope I'm correct about this) a limited edition; and if it's mass-market, then it's gotta be here.  Them's the rules.

The book was a showcase for artist Glenn Chadbourne, and the cover is maybe the best piece of the project.  I love the colors, and I love how ill-defined the Dark Man is.

#52 -- Rage

Not bad, but I think it needed to be even more lurid.  There's no excuse for Charlie not having a gun in his hand, either.

#51 -- American Vampire

cover art by Rafael Albuquerque

Including the first volume of American Vampire is maybe a little iffy, but at worst you have to credit King as co-author; it's certainly more a Snyder and an Albuquereque book than it is a King book, but that doesn't mean it's not a King book.

The cover is stark and relatively well-executed, although I detest the style of cutting off the top of a person's/character's face in a photo/drawing so as to make it "different."  Look, fuckers: it's NOT DIFFERENT anymore.  So let's impose a moratorium on that shit, please.

#50 -- The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

jacket design by John Fontana, illustration by Shasti O'Leary

Part of me wishes I'd placed this lower; I'm not a fan, to be honest (of the novel or the cover).  But some instinct is telling me it belongs here, and so here it is.

#49 -- The Long Walk

I like this fairly well; I do not envy the artist, who was tasked with trying to depict walking in a scary manner.  He or she did the best they could.  And it works for me!

#48 -- The Dark Half

jacket design by Neil Stuart, photo by Geoffrey Cove

I mean, what is that?  A skull?  I don't understand things being out of a focus serving as a selling point.  This is said to have been one of the biggest-selling King hardbacks, though, so what do I know?

#47 -- The Colorado Kid

art by Glen Orbik

See, the deal with Hard Case Crime is they do pulp-style cover art with big-breasted dames on display.  That's pretty cool, I guess.  This is even cooler.  (Beware that link, by the way; it is decidedly NSFW.)
The reason I didn't rank this one higher is that I don't understand why all the red is there.  It would have been cooler if the newsprint formed the background and all that red was gone.  It's almost as if Hard Case Crime was afraid that if the cover didn't appear to be drenched in blood, people wouldn't actually believe it was THAT Stephen King.

#46 -- Storm of the Century

This might be my exhibit #1 in prosecuting the case of Why the Cover of Revival Did Not Work.  It had already been done!

As cover art goes, this is much better, not merely because the lightning seems to be directed at something but also because the title and the image work well together.  This is by no means one of my favorite King covers, but it gets the job done just fine.

#45 -- Doctor Sleep

jacket design by Tal Goretsky, illustration by Sean Freeman

On the one hand, I like this cover a lot; on the other hand, I think it's maybe a bit too clever for its own good.  It's sultry, and both the hat and the steam mean more once you've read the novel, but . . . I mean, doggone it, pull that "camera" back a bit and let us actually get a good look at Rose.  Also, maybe don't use color to obscure everything.  Just show us a thing, you know?

The cover is actually a wraparound, with the rear cover consisting of a photo by Macgregor and Gordon.  I can't find any images of the full cover online, so here's my scan of the back cover:

I couldn't find that anywhere online, either.  I will grant you that I did not look all that hard.  In any case, there is!  Pretty cool.

#44 -- Carrie

jacket by Alex Gotfryd

This is probably one of the more famously lambasted covers in all King-dom, but just between you and me, I don't think it's all that bad.  However...

(1)  A decade before the Firestarter movie, wind blowing through the hair was already being used to signal "wild talents" on the part of the subject.

(2)  Why the kimono?  That's . . . odd.

(3)  This also (to my knowledge) predated the half-a-face trend by, like, a good twenty years.

(4)  Any chance that's supposed to be Margaret and not Carrie?  Or maybe even Sue or Chris?

(5)  Does she look a little like Rachel McAdams to you?

(6)  What do you suppose the right-hand half is supposed to be?  Whatever it is seems weathered.  Stone, perhaps?  A well-used book cover?  Rusted metal?  Whatever it is, the figure on the other half seems -- if you choose to look at it this way -- almost to be cowering behind it in fear.

I know most King fans hate this cover, but I kind of dig it, personally.

#43 -- Bag of Bones

jacket design by John Fontana, using two different artists' illustration/photo

This one certainly catches your attention, doesn't it?  I don't know that it needs to do much more than that, and I suspect this is an image burned into the minds of many a King fan; but I can't help but gripe that this image fails to convey the essence of Bag of Bones at least as much as the cover of Carrie does in the case of that earlier novel.

#42 -- The Shining

Personally, I love this covert art by Dave Christensen.  It wraps around to the back of the book, and here is the only version of that art that I've been able to find online:

If you've read the novel, then this art almost certainly delights you.  If you haven't read the novel...?  It probably doesn't work quite as well, and it probably reeks of the late seventies.  I'm okay with that.

#41 -- The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Not bad.  What does it have to do with the title, though?  Shouldn't a book named The Bazaar of Bad Dreams have a fucking bazaar on the cover?

I do like the image, though, which is why I've gone against my gut and ranked it this high.

#40 -- The Eyes of the Dragon

jacket design by Neil Stuart, illustration by Dave Palladini

Simple; effective.  The green and the red combine extremely well, and I'm certain -- though I've got no research to back this up -- that an appealing color design is half the battle with designing a book cover.

The back cover also features art by Palladini, and here it is:

The goal with the design for this book seems to have been to indicate that The Eyes of the Dragon was a fantasy novel (which was seen as a major deviation for King at that time), and on those grounds, I think you have to say it succeeded.

#39 -- The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass

The cover art here is by John Jude Palencar, and it makes me think of the 1983 b-movie Krull, in which the fortress of the Beast disappears every night and reappears somewhere else on the globe.

I like this cover art, and a Google Images search of Palencar's name leads me to believe that I'd have been a lot happier if he had done the interior art.  I'm not a fan of Dave McKean's work for that book; nosir I am not.

#38 -- Mr. Mercedes (and Finders Keepers)

jacket design by Tal Goretsky, illustration by Sam Weber

I mean, look . . . if it was me making the decisions, I'd have tried to depict the Mercedes massacre in some way.  Maybe not show it, but show the moments leading up to it?  I don't know exactly, but I do know I would have wanted something a bit more specific to the novel.

The blue umbrella has major significance, of course, so it's not like this cover is random.  And even if it was, it's a very striking and memorable image.  I'm sure it was an attention-grabber on bookshelves, too (always a prime consideration).
UPDATE:  A commenter has pointed out that I forgot Finders Keepers, and by gum, he or she is correct.  For the sake of expediency -- by which I mean not having to renumber everything -- I'm going to just toss it in right here.  I don't know how I managed to forget Finders Keepers, but I suspect it might have something to do with me being a dumbass.
illustration by Sam Weber (no jacket designer was credited)
I love that cover.  I'd say it's an improvement on Mr. Mercedes, but I don't know if that's a statement I could justify; I think I probably prefer books to umbrellas, which doesn't make something better so much as it means I have preferences.
As if forgetting one whole novel wasn't bad enough, I also neglected to include a wraparound image of the full cover for the first book; so here's that plus one for the second as well:
Sam Weber is obviously working with a theme (or two) here; this probably has nothing to do with the band Slayer, but you never know.  I'm curious to see how the third novel (End of Watch) in the trilogy furthers this when it comes out.

#37 -- The Green Mile

Book #4 credits Robert Hunt with the cover art.  Nobody is credits for the other volumes, so maybe Hunt did them all, or maybe he didn't.  Who can say for sure?

I am cheating by combing all six of these into one spot on the list.  The thought of trying to figure out how to separate them made me grumpy, so I opted to just not do it.

The art is simple, but I think these covers were very well-designed.  The colors pop, and each volume is distinct enough from the others.  My favorite is #6, because Mr. Jingles is on it.  I do love Mr. Jingles.

I also like the wall motif that appears at the top of each cover; with a series like this, you want there to be some element that ties everything together, and that wall does it for The Green Mile.

#36 -- The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla

jacket design by John Fulbrook III

The art here is by Bernie Wrightson, of course, but I think I actually like Fulbrook's design more than I like the art itself.  I love the font used for King's name, and LOVE the font used for the subtitle (Wolves of the Calla).

One comment I'd love for people to leave on this post: what did you think when you first saw this cover?  That's something I'd like to know, especially from those of who who (like me) read the novel when it came out in 2003.

The reason I ask is that, in my case, I already knew what was going on.  King had published "The Tale of Gray Dick" in a McSweeny's anthology prior to the publication of Book V, so I already knew about Lady Oriza and her plates.  Therefore, I knew Susannah was going to be wielding them in this new book.  I'd love to know what I would have thought of the cover if I had not been armed with that info, though, so if you've got a story about that, let me know!

#35 -- 11/22/63

jacket design by Rex Bonomelli

Well, that certainly tells you something about the topic.  You know what would have made for a rad cover, though?  An image of Oswald taking aim on Kennedy from the Book Depository, and somebody standing behind him taking aim on him.  You'd have to do that just right, so it was clear the second person was there to stop him (and not to ensure that Oswald pulled the trigger), but if you could crack that, that'd be pretty great.

But I like this one, too.

It's even better if you consider the entirety of the cover:

I wonder how sales would have been impacted if the images had been flipped, so that the alternative-history version was on the front cover.  It would been cool if the book had been put out both ways; I'd have bought a copy of both, because I am a nerd.  Although I only bought one of the following:

#34 -- The Waste Lands

art by Phil Heffernan
art by Don Brautigam

I have the Heffernan one, and love it to death.  That Brautigam image is killer, though; it appears on the back cover of the other edition, and vice versa.

Why don't I have both of these, again?  Seems like a mistake in need of a remedy.

#33 -- Bloackade Billy

I'm not a fan of the title story, but I love that illustration by Glen Orbik.  It's old-timey in some way I can't explicate (reinforcing the setting of the story), and it's creepy without being so creepy that you wonder why nobody is noticing just how much Billy looks like a psycho.

The art is a carry-over from the Cemetery Dance limited edition, which did not include "Morality" but did include a Stephen King baseball card.  Neat!

#32 -- The Drawing of the Three

The interior art for the first trade paperback of The Drawing of the Three was by Phil Hale, and nobody else is credited with the cover art, so let's assume this was Hale's work.  It's so simple as to nearly be nonexistent, but I love it all the same.  The colors are terrific, and something about the oppressive darkness works for me.

Is this mere nostalgia at play?

Let's call it ka.

#31 -- Hearts in Atlantis

jacket design by John Fontana, illustration by Phil Heffernan

Once again, the wraparound is even better:

This is probably a case of my personal likes and dislikes getting in the way of an objective ranking, because given how little the cover tells you about the contents of the book from an informing-the-shopper standpoint, this one ought to go lower.  But I think the image is good in its own right, and it foreshadows elements of the novel; always a plus in my opinion.

#30 -- From a Buick 8

jacket design by John Fulbrook III, illustration by Mark Stutzman

From a Buick 8 is yet another example -- and the last we'll see in this post -- of a cover being vastly superior in its wraparound form.  I couldn't find a decent example of that on Google, so I tacked the cover to the wall and put my Amazon Fire phone to use:

Not exactly professional-grade photography, that; but it'll do.  You're welcome, Internet!

In doing this, I noticed that this particular copy (I have two hardbacks) has an upside-down title on the spine.  I have no idea if that means I have a rare edition, but it seems at least vaguely possible.

Whether 'tis or 'tisn't, I dig that cover.

#29 -- Dreamcatcher

jacket design by John Fontana, illustration by Cliff Nielsen

For Dreamcatcher, you really have to consider the entirety of the wraparound cover:

I love this cover, and have ranked it relatively highly in deference to that.  But I wonder: am I being too generous?  Does this cover creep you out like it does me, or does it look like an outtake from Bambi with weird lighting?

There is room for argument that the cover does a poor job of representing the novel; I wouldn't argue that myself, but one could make it.

#28 -- Different Seasons

jacket design by R. Adelson, illustration by Kinuko Y. Craft

This one works for me big-time.  It's very simple, but I think it sells the idea that Different Seasons is a breed apart from the rest of King's work (at the time of its 1982 release).  I dig that angry sun-face especially.

#27 -- Joyland

Here's another Glen Orbik cover for Hard Case Crime.  The first time I made this list, I placed Joyland much lower, because . . . well, I couldn't remember why, so I decided to jump it up a bit.

Bottom line for me is: you put a redhead in a short green dress, you get my attention.  If that's frowned upon nowadays, then I guess I'm ready to be frowned at.

Salacious concerns aside, what really sells the cover for me is the look of surprise on the photographer's face.  It's very striking, and while it arguably creates a false set of expectations for the novel, I don't think it damages the reading experience any.

#26 -- Thinner

jacket design by One Plus One Studio

The palm -- especially that dark patch in the middle -- has significance once you've read the novel, but or the most part this cover gives you no clue of what the novel is about.

In this case, I would argue that that doesn't matter, because the image is arresting enough that you can't help but be drawn to this cover.  The red/black elements work really well, which is part of it; but also, you look at it and say to yourself, "Hang on a bit, what's all this about?"

That's a good quality in a book cover.

#25 -- The Dead Zone

jacket design by One Plus One Studio

I could have gone either way on this one.  On the one hand, I love it; that image is seared into my brain, because it's one of the ones that really hit me during the formative early days of my King fandom.

On the other hand, is it a bit on the bland side?

Ultimately, I don't think it is.  Weirdly, it's actually the font on the title that puts the cover over the top.  I really dig that font, man.  I did a Google search for it just now to see if I could download it, and while I see a few fonts named Dead Zone (or some variant), I don't see any that actually are that font.

I gave up pretty quickly, though, so if somebody knows I'm wrong and can prove it, do so via the comments.

#24 -- Skeleton Crew

jacket design by One Plus One Studio, illustration by Don Brautigam

I considered ranking this one even higher, but the simplicity of the design held me back a bit.

Only a bit, though.  This is another image that is burned into my brain, and while I might have preferred to see The Mist represented on the cover as opposed to "The Monkey," that's only a quibble.

Another very mild negative: you could make the argument that the Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind had beaten Skeleton Crew to the punch by a good seven or eight years when it came to creepy-monkey toys.  In that regard, this cover might -- from a 1985 vantage point -- have been seen as a bit of a retread.

But let's face it: who cares?  The image is creepy and effective, and that's what we care about.

#23 -- Faithful

Confession: I wanted to rank this a lot higher.  Like, top ten, maybe.  And if I were a Red Sox fan, I might have put it at number one.  A Yankee catching a faceful from the Sox certainly sells the idea of Faithful, no doubt.

Thing is, I'm not a Red Sox fan.  I'm not a baseball fan.  I'm not really a sports fan at all, generally-speaking.  Therefore, I've made the conscious decision to drop this cover down the list a bit; but this is as low as I could go.

#22 -- Cycle of the Werewolf

I assume the cover art for Cycle of the Werewolf is by Berni (who sometimes spells it "Berni" and sometimes spells it "Bernie") Wrightson; in fact, I believe that may be a slight repurposing of the werewolf from this piece of interior art:

I really like that cover a lot.  When I first got into reading King, I didn't have any luck finding a copy of Cycle of the Werewolf; nobody locally had it, and I suppose I must have had no idea that bookstores could special-order things for customers.  Anyways, we're here to talk about how dumb 1990 Bryant was (pretty damn dumb).  We're here to talk about how thrilled 1990 Bryant was when he walked into a bookstore in Tempe, Arizona -- he was in town for the Fiesta Bowl (in which Louisville beat his Alabama Crimson Tide like a fucking drum) -- and found a copy of the book.  Did he buy it?  Oh yes he did.

By the way, in case this occurs to any of you, know ye one and all that I did consider including Silver Bullet on this list.  I decided against it because I am -- in a decision I may come to regret and bemoan -- classifying it as a reprint of Cycle of the Werewolf.

#21 -- Firestarter

jacket painting by Steven Stroud

As I've mentioned a couple of other time, this image is permanently imprinted on the back of my brain.  If I get Alzheimer's, I'm betting I'll remember this book cover even after I don't remember my own name.

A lot of people don't notice the detail of the enormous explosions that are reflected in Charlie's eyes.  (I say "a lot of people" assuming that this is the case; I myself did not notice it until I saw the image in its enlarged appearance in the pages of Knowing Darkness.  So I'm assuming everyone is like me, whereas it might be true that everyone BUT me noticed it right away.)

Demerit for the lipstick; Charlie is too young for lipstick, Steven Stroud.

#20 -- Everything's Eventual

jacket design by John Fulbrook III, illustration by Mark Stutzman

No point in delaying the inevitable:

The cover art for Everything's Eventual takes it cues from "Lunch at the Gotham Cafe," which was a good choice.  King's collections are, in my opinion, extremely hit-or-miss when it comes to the cover art.  The reason why seems obvious: do you attempt to come up with an image that offers a cohesive theme, or do you pick a plot point from one of the stories?

There are good and bad examples of the former in King's first-edition canon, but the latter seems to have always paid off.  Makes sense; I don't think you are going to go wrong very often by opting for a quality piece of art that communicates a bit of story.

#19 -- Duma Key

jacket design by John Fulbook III, cover art by Mark Stutzman

Another great wraparound by Mark Stutzman, and once again you really have to see the full image:

I've got a lot of affection for this novel, and it might be that I've allowed that to unduly influence my rankings.  I'd argue, though, that the image works extremely well even if you're only taking the front half into account: it tells you that Stephen King has written a novel set on the beach, and that a dark cloud hangs over the setting.  Open the image up to include the back half, and you get some really beautiful colors, a frog hopping out of a canvas, and a foreshadowing of a major plot point.

What's not to love?

#18 -- The Wind Through the Keyhole

jacket design by Rex Bonomelli, illustration by Platinum FMD represented by Ray Brown

I'm not sure I like the idea of a cover artist actually being a conglomerate, but when the end result is something as beautiful as this cover for The Wind Through the Keyhole, I can make myself zen with it pretty quick.

I would very much like to own a wall-size print of that image.  If anybody knows a way to make that happen, drop us a line, won't you?

If we hadn't already, we have certainly, with #18, reached the place on the list where I begin to feel guilty about not having this cover ranked at #1.  You could put the list's top (at least) eighteen in virtually any order and I would agree with the rankings.  I mean, honestly, how do you not put this next cover at #1?

#17 -- Pet Sematary

jacket by Linda Fennimore

That's fantastic, that is!  The font on the title is terrific, the yowling cat is creepy, and the image of Louis carrying Gage into a cemetery is (though admittedly plot-inaccurate) horrifying.  The colors work like a charm, too.  All those earth-tones...

#16 -- Cell

jacket design by John Fulbrook III, illustration by Mark Stutzman

Great use of blood as a reflective pool, and having the blood issue from the cracked cell-phone screen is a nice touch.  So is the crumpled coffee-cup.

If there's a downside to this cover, it's that that model of phone is so incredibly out of date by 2015 that the entire novel becomes a historical curiosity.  Weird to think (for those of us who didn't grow up with smart-phones), but true.

#15 -- Needful Things

jacket design by Neil Stuart, illustration by Rob Wood

Yet another case of a wraparound cover.  This time, I couldn't really find any decent examples of the full image, so I once again had to resort to taking a shitty photo of my own copy.  In this case, the results are especially poor:

Better than nothing.  Maybe.

Most of these wraparound covers offer a scope that makes one feel kind of sorry for the book-cover designer who is limited only to the front cover, with its vertically-taller image eaten away by mundanities like title and author.  It must sometimes be a bummer to figure out how to effectively utilize such a limited space.

#14 -- The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower


The cover art here is by Michael Whelan, and it's pretty great.

I initially had this one ranked a lot lower, though, for a simple reason: I maintain that if Roland is standing in front of the Dark Tower, he would NOT be looking away from it.  That feels like a major gaffe to me.


In writing this post, something occurred to me: Roland is looking away from the Tower, yes; but he's doing so in order to have one final look backwards at us, his audience, before he walks inside its walls.  This is a man who is going to meet whatever destiny awaits him, and who is looking back upon the world for one final moment.

I suppose you could cry foul on account of the cover spoiling the fact that Roland does reach the Tower.  I don't recall being bothered by it, but that's just me.

#13 -- The Stand

The art here is by John Cayea.  I've arguably cheated somewhat by putting both editions under the same ranking, but since the art is substantively the same, I thought it made sense.  Anyways, how would I go about separating them?  If you pressed me, I'd say that I prefer the 1978 version, because of the wide-open space at the top of the image; but I also really like the color-coordination on the 1990 edition.

The image does a lot to suggest the good-versus-evil struggle that takes place between Boulder and Las Vegas.  It also reinforces the notion (stated by King in various places) that The Stand is intended to be a sort of American equivalent to The Lord of the Rings.

All of this works on me, and for that I give the cover(s) high marks.  However, the devil's advocate in me has to ask: do the epic-fantasy trappings and the good-versus-evil imagery actually work against the novel?  Some readers -- myself included -- have voiced a degree of dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the resolution.  We seem to have expected that there was going to be something a bit more fulsome during the climax; we expected Flagg to have to be overthrown.  Was this cover in some way responsible for that expectation?

It's a possibility.  If so, does that actually make the cover a poor one?  If so, should I have ranked it a lot lower?

These are valid questions.

#12 -- The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

Here's another Michael Whelan Dark Tower cover, and for me, this is handily one of the best Tower-mythos images.

One might conceivably accuse me of hypocrisy for not mentioning the fact that Roland is looking away from the Tower on yet another book cover.  In this case, I'd disagree that that is what is happening; I'd argue that what we are seeing is a representation of the Tower, not the Tower itself.  Specifically, we are seeing the image of the Tower as it appears in Roland's mind's eye.

What do we think of the bird?  Is that Zoltan?  Or might we decide to think it's an aspect of Flagg?

#11 -- Nightmares & Dreamsscapes

jacket design by Neil Stuart, illustration by Rob Wood

Such a simple idea: a scarecrow in the middle of the road.  Why would it be there?  Well, it's wearing a Castle Rock Rockets shirt, so you've got to figure that's got something to do with it.

One notable aspect of that: Nightmares & Dreamscapes was released a couple of years after Needful Things, which had very prominently been billed as the final Castle Rock story.  So for there to be a Castle Rock reference this soon must have made King fans raise a quizzical eyebrow.  As I recall, the town only appeared in one of the book's stories ("It Grows on you"), but I could be mistaken.

This cover is a goodbye of sorts; it was the final time the name "Stephen King" appeared in that design and font on the cover of one of his hardbacks.  It had been on most of his hardbacks in that style for over a decade at the time of this book's publication, and when my mind sees the name "Stephen King," it seems it designed in that fashion.

Not to worry; we're about to see it several more times.  Not immediately, though...

#10 -- Desperation and The Regulators

The credits for both are as follows: art direction and design by Paul Buckley; front jacket art by Mark Ryden; special effects by Shasti O'Leary.

You might once again accuse me of cheating by lumping these two books together.  However, in this case, the two covers are actually part of a single image:

I wish that website snipe wasn't there.  Let's all agree never to visit that site in retribution.

I would give either cover high marks in their own right, but their sum total is even greater.  It's a wonderful concept, with wonderful execution.  Why did Mark Ryden work on no subsequent King books?  That seems like a loss.

I particularly admire the fact that if you were to look at either cover individually with no knowledge that the other existed, you would not sense that anything important was missing from the image.  Once you've seen the full piece you know; but individually, I think they both work quite well.

#9 -- Dolores Claiborne

jacket design by Neil Stuart, illustration by Rob Wood

If there is an argument against this, it's that the perspective might be said to not quite sell the idea that Dolores is looking down upon you while you're lying crumpled at the bottom of a well.  You might instead feel like you're looking through some weird sort of wall.  But once you've read the novel, you definitely know, and at that point I think this cover becomes a big-time winner.  It's obviously one of my favorites.

#8 -- Gerald's Game

jacket design by Neil Stuart, illustration by Rob Wood

This cover could be said to be expressing much the same idea as the cover of Full Dark, No Stars: woman, violated and cowering.  Each of us is entitled to our own opinion, of course, but mine is this: in that cover-versus-cover showdown, Gerald's Game wins in a first-round knockout.

Say, didja notice that the font and coloring of the title on this cover is the same as on Dolores Claiborne?  I like that.

#7 -- Four Past Midnight

jacket design by Neil Stuart, illustration by Rob Wood

More excellence from Rob Wood, who was on fire with his King work during the early nineties.

This one is another example of the simple-but-iconic approach (especially as regards collections).  The image works in tandem with the title, and at first glance you have no clue what either means.  But who gives a shit?  It's such an intriguing image that you practically have to open the book to find out more.

And once you've done that, the book is about halfway to being sold.

Great colors, too; the oranges, greenish-golds, and blacks work together really well.

#6 -- Misery

jacket design by Neil Stuart, illustration by Bob Giusti

I thought real hard about making this #1.  The fact that I didn't bothers me even now, as I type this; but it will bother me less when I'm typing about the five that (narrowly) beat it out.

I've got nothing else to say.  This one speaks for itself.

#5 -- Under the Dome

jacket design by Rex Bonomelli, illustration by Platinum FMD represented by Ray Brown

Normally, if you told me a book cover's credits read "illustration by Platinum FMD represented by Ray Brown," I would take that as a warning sign of impending suck.

And I'd have been dead wrong, because this is a great cover.

It would probably rank highly even if it consisted only of the above image.  There's a lot more to it than that, however:

Don't blame my scanner for any flaws you see here; I didn't scan this one, I stole it from someplace on the 'net!
That cover isn't merely a wraparound; that sucker extends onto the dadgum flaps!

Here are a couple of cleaner concept versions, just for good measure:

I have a feeling that the reputation of Under the Dome will be tainted for years to come by the subpar television adaptation.  What a shame!  It's not one of my favorite King novels (Junior and Big Jim get on my nerves something fierce), but I think it's solid.

One caveat about the cover: the scale and perspective make the dome seem a lot smaller than it actually is.  I think that's a sin you can forgive in the name of concept salesmanship, though.

#4 -- Cujo

jacket design by R. Adelson, illustration by Steven Stroud

Seriously, I've got nothing to say here except "fucking AWESOME."

#3 -- Creepshow

The art for the comic adaptation of Creepshow was by Berni Wrightson.  Given that, would you be surprised to learn that the cover art was by Jack Kamen?

If so, then I say: ha-ha!, charade you are!  It says it right there on the cover!

I've got that in poster form, and while it's a reprint and not an original one-sheet, that don't bother me none; I love it dearly, and have it displayed on the wall above the two short bookcases where all my King movies are kept.  Righteous.

#2 -- Christine

jacket design by R. Adelson, illustration by Craig DeCamps

For the longest time while writing this post, I had Christine ranked lower.  For a while, it was a great deal lower.  But then, every time I got to it and began considering what I wanted to say, I'd look at it for a moment and think to myself, "You're not really putting this this low, are you?  What the fuck is wrong with you, shitter?"

I'd consider the situation for a bit, nod sagely to myself, and promptly rearrange things, moving it five places or so higher up.  And then I'd do it again later.  And again.  And again.

And finally, here we are.

I'm hard-pressed to say exactly why I think this cover works so well.  I think it has something to do with the fact that DeCamps successfully conveys the word CHRISTINE in a manner that one could imagine being a car company's logo.  And something about the shape and inclination -- and the streamers coming off the back of the skull -- conveys both the essence of a car and the idea of speed.  I look at that image, and I see a car.  My mind knows it isn't one; but my eyes accept it as one all the same.


But not quite enough to land it the distinction of being number one.  That honor goes to:

#1 -- It

jacket design by Neil Stuart, illustration by Bob Giusti, title lettering by Amy Hill

How could I, in good conscience, put anything other than It at #1?  I couldn't, so I didn't.

Once again we see how powerful simplicity can be if the concept is strong enough and the execution measures up.  That poor, poor parafin sailboat...

I'd already planned on making mention of how much I love the design of the title, but when I went to check the dustjacket to see who'd been credited, I was delighted to see that the title got its own credit.  Hill did iconic work there; and this seems to be the only instance of a title letterer being credited on a King dustjacket, so she's got some bragging rights based on that alone.


And there we have it.  I'm sure you've disagreed with the vast majority of this; lord knows I would have if I were you!  Feel free to descend into the comments and tell me all about it.

See you next time!


  1. “Dark Tower: Gunslinger” re: the font – that is absolutely not picky. It’s the wrong choice absolutely, particularly since there’s so much print on the page already. I’m not saying it has to be the same font as the rest of it – though to my eyes, it might look nicer that way – but choose something that doesn’t grate against it the way this-chosen-font does.

    “American Vampire” – could NOT agree more on this trend, and all trends that people do to be edgy/ different in complete ignorance of their already-having-been-done-to-death-already.

    “Carrie” – those are all excellent questions. I don’t think it even registered with me how weird these various elements are, combined, and reflective of the book.

    “Wizard and Glass” – holy crap, that DOES recall “Krull,” doesn’t it!

    Count me on the side of the defenders for the “Dreamcatcher” cover. I love the headlamps through the trees effect.

    I might have bumped “The Green Mile” a little higher myself, and you like the Gunslinger covers more than me, but that’s the nature of horse races. Hard to argue with the rankings here, particularly your top 10. Your top 20, really.

    And no, I hadn’t noticed that about the 2 In the Path of the Eclipse books! Nice catch.

    1. I don't believe I have ever thought about fonts as much during the rest of my life as I thought about them while writing this post. Font design is a bit like a punter on a football team: basically invisible except when it sucks, unless you are paying really close attention and manage to realize just how incredibly important it can be.

      I'm glad you're a fan of those "Green Mile" covers. I like them a lot, too

  2. I don't have much to complain about, although as a relative new King fan, and still having more than 2/3 of his bibliography I've yet to read, I'm definitely not qualified to critique how well some of the artwork ties into the stories on at least half of these. My biggest agreement and disagreement, though: you are 100 percent on the money about Roadwork. The guy on the cover is far too old, and way more tanned and blond than I'd picture Dawes. And I'd have placed Hearts in Atlantis way higher. I can't say for sure to what extent that cover made me choose to check it out from the library before other King masterpieces, but it was pretty substantial, and after reading it, I love it even more. It really captures the mood and sadness of the book, and the strategically placed "Lost" sign particularly embodies the theme of Vietnam, with all the lost soldiers, lost youth, and lost innocence. But thanks for compiling this list. I enjoyed it very much.

    1. I suspect that with the cover to "Roadwork," they were going for a Charles Bronson sort of thing so as to appeal to and get the attention of working-class men (who, unbelievable as this may seem nowadays, were at one point a valued demographic for publishing companies). I can see how that might have made sense from a marketing standpoint.

      I hear what you're saying about "Hearts in Atlantis." That pull you felt from that cover sounds very similar to what I felt for "It" and "Christine" (and a LOT of paperback covers not included in this post). I love it when that happens!

  3. You forgot to include Finders Keepers.

    1. Did I?

      I did!

      You know, when I scrolled back through the whole thing to make sure I'd numbered them correctly, I thought I remembered that there had been 75 of them and not 74. I wonder how I managed to leave that one out?

      I will adjust accordingly. Thanks for the correction!

    2. Where would you have placed it?

    3. I have now added it, and I took the lazy-man's approach and just combined it with "Mr. Mercedes."

      As I recall, when I was making the list, I had trouble figuring out where to put it. I can say definitively that I prefer the "Finders Keepers" cover to "Mr. Mercedes," but I cannot quite figure out why. In terms of quality, I think they are on more or less the same level; I like them both. So for that reason (as well as the aforementioned laziness) I decided to just lump 'em together!

    4. I prefer the Finders Keepers cover because of the creepy tree on the back.

    5. We are in agreement there. Especially given the significance of the tree within the novel.

      That said, I like the ice cream truck a lot, too. The idea of Brady -- a bona-fide serial killer (or, if you prefer, mass murderer) -- working in an ice cream truck is very creepy.

      I'm curious to find out if the raining-blood theme will end up having any significance to the overall trilogy. I've been assuming it's just there to create a mood (and to tie the books together visually), but who knows? Might end up being more.

  4. It occurred to me that I -- arguably -- left off a couple of things which might have needed inclusion.

    "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" -- I actually did consider this, because the soundtrack was released in a deluxe "hardback" edition that included King's libretto. However, in the end, I have a hard time thinking of it as a book; the libretto is NOT a hardback, and is designed as nothing more than a thick set of liner notes. So I opted not to include it.

    "The Plant" -- This one depends on your definitions of "published," "mass-market," and "book," I guess. Also, it's debatable as to whether it even had a proper cover image.

    "Blood and Smoke" -- This audio-only release is one of several that might theoretically have been included. However, opening the door to audiobooks seemed like the wrong move, simply because I would have had to decide whether to include audio-only releases of stories that were published in collections. Seemed like a big headache, so I skipped them.

    "Nightmares in the Sky" -- I'm still undecided as to whether this counts as a Stephen King book.

    If anyone has strong opinions on these (or any other excluded titles), let me know and I'll consider revising the list.

  5. Good to see "It" got the coveted spot. Then again, for me, I don't if there's much to be said for the majority of King covers, except for a handful, along with "It", "11/22/63" and perhaps the mass market paperback cover of "Hearts in Atlantis" and I think the alternative cover for "The Dark Half" which features the George Stark Tombstone as the centerpiece (I've wondered if adding a typewriter to the scene would have completed things), "The Dead Zone", "Pet Semetary" and "Regulators/Desperation". My favorite cover, aside from "It", still remains the "Nightmares and Dreamscapes" art, as it still seems to be the one image that neatly sums up all of King's work in some fundamental way.

    Those aside, I guess, I don't know how the others should be ranked as art.


    1. Yeah, agreed -- that "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" cover would be a good choice if one were picking a single image to represent all of King's work.

      I like that "Dark Half" cover you mention (and would say that a typewriter would have made it even better), but I prefer the original paperback edition, which had the two sparrow faces combining to create a sort of combination face. Not AS much as I like the paperback cover to "The Stand," which is similar; but close. I dig them both.

  6. And a long post gets a long comment:

    Revival is definitely on the bottom for me: compare that cover to Mr. Mercedes's, which came out the same year. I definitely remember thinking that Revival was getting marketed as the lesser novel of the two (and I think it is the lesser novel, actually, but there's no reason to send out in the world looking like it is). But I do like Insomnia: the harsh white and crimson look always made an impression on me, and the color use gains resonance with the Crimson King knowledge you get from the novel itself.

    My theory about the On Writing cover was always that it was both meant to be surprisingly sunny (taking a friendlier, more generally-accessible tack to marketing the inside-King's-head memoir/guide), a nod to the below-the-surface workings of the writer's mind, and an interestingly highbrow allusion to the "cellar door," which is (per Wkipedia) one of the phrases in English that is considered "purely beautiful in terms of its sound," even without any idea of its meaning. Since King credits Amy Tan for helping him write the book by reminding him that "no one ever asks about the language," I always took the cover and the dedication as inseparably linked.

    Danny's eyes on The Shining cover, though, have always deeply disturbed me. Jack looks wonderfully normal, though, which is a nice tactic: it encourages the reader to identify with him, which makes the book all the more painful and tragic.

    I love those Glen Orbik covers. He passed away recently, only a few days after I'd gone around telling people that I could die happy if I ever wrote a novel that got a Glen Orbik cover.

    That is an incredibly great point about Roland looking away from the Tower. That's fundamental! I can't believe I never noticed that before. And I love that you highlighted the wraparound covers--they really added a lot, especially with ones like Under the Dome or Everything's Eventual, where the front has hints of unease and the back compounds it. And I love how painterly (appropriately enough) that Duma Key cover is. And the monster imagery of IT is perfect marketing: it's the best hint at what you'll be getting, something that evokes and plays with all the monsters, and is scary in and of itself, and tied to childhood (Georgie's boat). Great #1. I also have a soft spot for From a Buick 8, which really does capture that that novel is going to be more subtly unnerving and ambiguous than anything else: I *think* I like that book, but I *know* I like that cover.

    1. Long comments are fine by me! I'm usually the one leaving them. ;)

      I agree that the "Revival" cover made it look as though the publisher wasn't confident in the novel. Although I suppose you could argue the opposite, that a weak cover like that is actually a sign of confidence. Like they were saying, "This book is going to sell so well it wouldn't matter if the cover was a plain brown wrapper." I'd love to interview someone who was in charge of the decision and ask them how it happened, and why.

      "Insomnia" -- It makes complete sense to me that people would love the cover. I mean, I'll say this much for it: it does, at the very least, have a design aesthetic to it. And you make a very good point in mentioning that the Crimson King connection adds a layer. It would have been even more effective if they'd opted for a crimson cover instead of a red one, but it's close enough.

      "On Writing" -- An excellent point about the "cellar door." Does King actually mention that in the book? I always think of "Donnie Darko" when I hear "cellar door." But you are correct that the cover probably is working in the way you mention, which does indeed make it seem like a stronger reflection of the book. (By the way, I also tend to think of the "secret window" idea when I see that image.)

      I didn't know Orbik had passed away. That's a shame. He leaves a lot of great work behind him, though, and that's a good thing to have said about you in your absence.

      "the front has hints of unease and the back compounds it" -- Yep! I intended to write a bit more about this, but forgot to do it, so I'll do it now. For me, the best of the covers function in a manner similar to how really good comic-book art works. If you're reading a comic, the skillful writers/artist can use splash pages to have a big emotional impact simply by arranging the panels in such a way as to have the image which presents itself on a page-turn be surprising or eye-catching. You're reading a two-page spread on which people are just talking or whatever, then you turn the page and WHAMMO, something massive happens on the next page or two. The wraparound dustjacket can be similar in that if you look at the cover to, say, "Under the Dome" and think you grasp what is being communicated, then pick up the book and turn it over to see what's on the other side, and then find that the concept is obviously a much more dramatic one than you'd assumed. I love stuff like that!

      "I *think* I like that book, but I *know* I like that cover." -- Well said, and I totally agree. I'm really looking forward to rereading "From a Buick 8," because whereas I remember liking it a lot, I don't actually remember many specifics about it. Having a lousy memory isn't ALL bad, you know.

    2. I almost just referred to the "cellar door" concept as "that Donnie Darko thing": it's cool to know that I could have. :-) The "secret window" idea is good, too, and that's certainly an image we've seen a lot in King's work!

      I hear you on the benefits of having a slippery memory of a book. I love rereading, but it's definitely best when I can revisit something a few years later, when it's a rediscovery as much as a revisit. And "From a Buick 8," for some reason, isn't that "sticky" for me: the only part that's become incorporated into my everyday thinking is the part that talks about how scared cops can be to approach a car they've stopped.

      Forgot to add: I kind of hate the "Stephen King Goes to the Movies" cover for briefly convincing me, the first time I saw it, that it was a "Danse Macabre" sequel. Hopes raised so high only to crash down.

    3. Yeah, seriously, where IS our sequel to "Danse Macabre"? He and Joe Hill should write one together.

  7. I think I'm the only one who liked the cover of Revival.

    1. Oh, I doubt that; I'm sure tons of people like it just fine. Not everyone is a picky grump like I am!

      It's grown on me, by the way. I still wouldn't say I like it, exactly; but after reading the novel, I found that I got a lot more out of the cover (for obvious reasons) than I had before.

  8. Great idea for a post! I think I would have put Different Seasons higher, there's just something about it that I like. Anyway, Do you have any favourite covers that aren't originals? I like my copy Night Shift (the children of the corn cover) But there is probably nostalgia in that.

    1. Oh, yeah, I definitely do. I'm probably going to do a follow-up post on that subject at some point relatively soon, but the ones which come immediately to mind are the original paperbacks of "The Stand," "Night Shift," and (especially) "Danse Macabre." Oh...! And "The Bachman Books."

      There are lots of great ones, though.

    2. Awesome.I'll look forward to reading it.

  9. Wonderful work here Bryant.

    The cover of The Shining I first saw - and the only one I knew for years - was the silver one with the silhoutte of Danny. Loved that cover.

    As for On Writing - which I would place higher - always took the cover to showing the cellar doors leading down to the basement where King has said his muse resides. So I find the cover very apropos.

    Not sure what my favorite cover is - it rotates between Nightmare and Dreamscapes, The Gunslinger, and The Stand.

    1. Oh, yeah! That paperback cover of "The Shining" is absolutely one of my favorites. It was the first one I had, too.

      Good point about the cellar door on "On Writing" leading to his muse. Very cool! You guys are selling me on the idea of bumping that one up quite a bit when the time for revision rolls around!

  10. In response to your question on the original Gunslinger cover: Nah, that's Roland's hawk David! Great article!

    Also a random comment. I decided to blow off season 3 of Under the Dome...without your entertaining reviews there was absofuckinglutely NO reason to keep watching! :)


    1. Hah! That's hilarious. And let me tell you, I wish I'd been making/finding the time to keep on writing them. The show has been so insane this season that I'm on the verge of actually becoming a fan. For all the wrong reasons, too.

      Regarding "The Gunslinger," my first thought was that that was intended to be David. However, I don't think hawks look like that; aren't they typically brown, and with a hooked beak?

      I tend to think it's Zoltan, personally.

    2. Hmmm, I'm not sure on the physical characteristics so I'll take your word for it. They seem a little too buddy-buddy for it to be Zoltan in my view...maybe Whelan was a bit confused? Or maybe he's even smarter and that's some sort of representative composite of the two! :D

    3. It might be purely artistic license on Whelan's part, and it could even have been an accident; it's possible that he intended to depict David, but somehow remembered him as being a crow or a raven instead of a hawk.

      It really wouldn't make much sense for Zoltan to make the cover, though, now that you hint at it. And certainly not in that position, as an ally of Roland's.

      Then again, I've always felt like there was more to Zoltan than met the eye. So maybe it's that I'm inclined out of sheer bias to see him as being there.

  11. Hopeful future blogging suggestion--

    I'm rewatching Storm of the Century--this is the first time I've actually spread it out properly, with one episode a night for three nights--and it continues to impress. Since I'm noticing all kinds of little details this time around that are either very cool (the set, for example, was clearly designed by someone who's actually been in a little small-town general store, because Mike Anderson's place even comes with a small rack of VHS tapes; part of the check-in process at the town hall storm shelter is asking after an elderly woman's prescriptions; etc.) or very thematically resonant (Linoge's "hell is repetition," for example). I know you're a fan--any chance you'd be up sometime for doing one of your detailed analyses/breakdowns of it?

    1. Oh, most definitely.

      It's on the agenda, for sure. I think there's a lot there. The verisimilitude of the small-town-life stuff is something that might not have occurred to me; I appreciate your mentioning it and will try to remember it!

  12. Awesome post man. If i'm not mistaken i might have been the one who suggested this! I can't disagree with anything you've got here.

    I'm always amazed when book covers like Insomnia come out by a big time author. I mean how long does King take to write a book of that length? 8-9 months? And then its given a cover like that…how much say does he have in the covers for his book? (esp the first edition US hardback?) It seems like he has no say or just can't be bothered and lets them do whatever they want.

    I imagine it takes longer for King to write a book than it does for say McCartney, Bowie or Dylan to write and record an album but they are always heavily involved in the concept of the cover and art work for the booklet (even when they are not that good, you can still feel their hands on every aspect of the finished product). Why do authors not seem to feel the same way - not to mention the multiple different versions of covers that come out for different countries, editions, hard/paper back etc. I mean every time they reissue Sgt Pepper its the same cover right? Why is there a million different versions of The Stand out there?? Its a mystery to me! :)

    Actually, in saying that, an interesting post might be a comparison between the UK first editions and the US first edition covers to see who had the best concept for the cover. I remember a few early King UK editions from my youth and they are totally different to the US editions shown above. Rose Madder had like credit cards with bulls heads on it if i recall, Hearts in Atlantis had raindrops with TVS in them. Desperation was pretty cool, was a blue ball with vultures in it or something )not sure what it had to do with the story mind you, been a while since i read it). Always thought the UK Needful Things looked like a Dirk Gently book by Douglas Adams, even the font for the author name)

    Oh..and i really liked the UK Insomnia cover…was like an empty bed with the impression of a head in the pillow.

    1. "It seems like he has no say or just can't be bothered and lets them do whatever they want." -- I guess it would depend on how the contracts were written as to whether King has any creative control over artwork and marketing, but one thing is beyond doubt: if he wanted that control, he could have it by insisting that the contracts be written that way. So ultimately, it comes down to him either being pleased by the covers he's getting or not caring one way or the other.

      I think the reason why albums have the same cover art in all countries is that (I assume) it's the same record label issuing the albums in all countries. Books, on the other hand, have different publishers in each country, and even within the same country. Therefore they wouldn't own the rights to another publisher's artwork. I find that to be frustrating in many ways, not the least because it sometimes means some other country has a better cover!

      I'd enjoy doing a post covering the UK covers, many of which I probably haven't seen. The research for that might make it difficult, though. It's filed away in the future-ideas department, though -- thanks!

  13. I see the cover for End of Watch came out today. Any thoughts about where it will rank on this list? I'm curious how the fish will tie in with the story like the covers for the previous two books in the trilogy.

    1. My gut reaction was indifferent-leaning-negative. It doesn't seem to follow the theme of the first two books' covers, which is both surprising and mildly annoying.

      But, at the same time, it intrigued me. I mean, what's with all the fish? What's with the pink one (which, King said on Twitter, one should avoid)?

      So in short, I don't quite know how I feel about that cover yet.

  14. Interesting. I didn't know he'd said that on Twitter. I'm guessing it will definitely tie in with the story somehow. We'll have to wait and see how it ties in and also what is on the back cover. Those things might give you a better idea about where you'd rank this cover.

    I'm getting ready to read 11/22/63 this week. I've heard good things so I'm pretty excited about it. Have you been reading any good books (Stephen King or otherwise) lately?

    1. My book-reading has been pretty meagre lately, actually. I've been working my way through an 1100-page collection of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, and that's been a blast. I've been writing a little tidbit about each story for this blog as I go, so eventually that will get published here.

      I also read the new James Bond novel, "Trigger Mortis," by Anthony Horowitz. Very good if you like the original Bond novels by Ian Fleming; probably only so-so if you don't.

      I suspect you will enjoy "11/22/63" quite a lot. I thought it was great. Keep us updated!

  15. The colorful fish are from the game app demo that Brady stares at in Finders Keepers

    1. Cool! Thanks for pointing that out, I'd probably never have remembered it. Gotta get myself a better memory one of these days.

      I'm still not sure how I feel about how Brady's storyline is headed. But I trust King, so I'm happy to give him plenty of room to make it work.

  16. Would you ever consider a follow-up to this post? I'd like to see you take a look at some of newer cover art.

    You could do it two ways; rank the books according to cover-art sets or simply take what you think is the best example of cover art for each book and rank them accordingly.

    1. It's something I'll probably get around to in some form. Hard to figure out precisely what format to take, though; there are way too many covers to be comprehensive, and if I'm not being comprehensive then a ranked list seems like a bad idea. Something like a "10 Worst and 10 Best" seems like the way to go.

      Not in 2015, though, I suspect!

    2. Yeah, it would be a major undertaking. I was just looking back through these covers and thinking about some of the really cool covers some of the books have gotten through the years. I love The Talisman's cover with the car on the road. So mysterious.

      By the way, I'm really stuck for an actor to play Randall Flagg/Flagg from EOTD/Walter Padick. I'm not there yet (just started my Salem's Lot re-read) but I'm thinking about it in advance. For my blog I want one man for all roles. The problem is someone seems like a great Randall Flagg but a terrible Walter. I presently have Robert Knepper in the role, and he'd do a good job, but I was hoping for more of a film actor. Any thoughts?

    3. For years, Tom Cruise is the guy I've wanted to see play Flagg. But that applies to the Flagg from "The Stand" moreso than to the Flagg from anything else. I'm not that big a fan of him in most of his other incarnations. Flagg, I mean, not Tom Cruise; I love Tom Cruise in just about everything.

      Can't see him as the Flagg of "The Eyes of the Dragon," though, or as Walter.

      The only person coming to mind right this second is Bryan Cranston.

    4. Can't say as I have ever thought of Tom Cruise as Flagg, though he WAS the guy I pictured as Mike Noonan when I read Bag of Bones. I like Cruise just fine, but he's got two problems; he's way too handsome to be an everyman and he's incredibly short.

      Bryan Cranston is a transformative actor that could do anything. But I don't want him as Flagg. I'd rather see him in a role that's heavy on "screentime" but age-appropriate (he'd make a good Bill Hodges, but I'm sure I'll come across another role that's even more suited to him).

      Walter is such an elusive role. I think of an actor who seems great and then something stops me. So far I've thought up Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Ed Skrein, Jack Huston, Lee Pace and either Ralph or Joseph Fiennes. I'm just totally stumped.

      When I first read The Stand I pictured Billy Bob Thornton in the role. He'd be an okay Flagg but a piss-poor Walter. Same thing for Matthew McConaughey, who is hotly rumored to be new The Stand director Josh Boone's pick.

    5. Cranston should be Glenn Bateman, I think. He'd be very good for that.

      I don't think that Josh Boone's version of "The Stand" is going to be made. The continual lack of news means somebody somewhere isn't happy with some aspect of it. And my bet is that whatever that is won't get solved.

      It doesn't seem like it ought to be that difficult a nut to crack, in all honesty. But every time somebody works on it, it goes nowhere; so I guess it must be.

    6. He'd be great as Bateman. Heck, he'd be great as just about anybody, but I had JK Simmons in mind for that role. I want Cranston in the lead. Maybe a Misery remake, or Tommyknockers, or something I haven't even thought about yet.

      You might be right about Boone's version. I kinda hope he doesn't get it because I sincerely hope that some Kevin Feige-esque producer somewhere at some time realizes that the King shared universe would make an excellent Cinematic Universe, and then makes the Dark Tower movies and The Stand as a 10-hour maxi-series on something like HBO, Showtime, Starz, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, et al, and uses the same actor for Flagg/Walter. That's about as likely as Chris Christie becoming the next US President, but I can dream!

    7. You can indeed, and it's a good idea. I think that if HBO could somehow get ahold of that idea and make it a reality, I would probably faint from happiness. I'd call it dehydration so as not to look like quite as big a chump, but we'd all know what was up.

  17. The Regulators and Desperation are my personal favorites, it's such a crying shame Mark Ryden never did another King cover.

    I cant' disagree though with IT as number 1, absolutely classic over.

    1. I'd love to buy a poster of that Regulators/Desperation cover. I'd love to buy a poster of a LOT of these, actually.

  18. Where would you place The Bazaar of Bad Dreams?

  19. The Aussie cover of 'Bazaar' ranks as one of the worst I've seen. Look like someone sneezed on it.

    1. That really is abysmal. I think it's the cover in the UK, as well.

    2. Our region is redeemed by Skeleton Crew's cover.$_57.JPG$_57.JPG

      The title and first name is gold embossed, the last name is nice and fanged looking, and King himself looks pretty scary on the back. That ghoul on the front looks to be having a great time. Plus it's probably his best collection. Just a winner all round!

    3. I go back and forth between that and "Night Shift" as his best, but yeah, either way it's great stuff.

      And I LOVE that cover. I'd never seen it before, so thanks for sharing it!

  20. If you haven't discovered it yet, I suggest checking out the Croatian cover art for Insomnia -- image search Nesanica Stephen King.

    1. I like that! It's a simple image, but haunting in a not-easily-identifiable way. I'll take that over the American cover every time.