This week, Neil Gaiman rather suddenly announced a new paperback edition of his mighty novel, American Gods. Rob takes a look at the cover, which is really quite something…
According to a blog post from the author on Wednesday, the upcoming TV adaptation of American Gods has led to an increased demand on copies of the novel, leading the publishers to rush out this edition, part of a new wave of Gaiman paperbacks, all illustrated by venerable cover artist Robert E. McGinnis with layouts and graphics by Todd Klein.
I love this!
The object of the exercise right from it’s inception was to recreate the kind of marvelous painted covers that used to be made in the past, with each novel being depicted as coming from a slightly different era. This one seems to come from some time in the seventies, layered as it is with the doom and gloom of that decade, as well as it’s odd, varied-yet-muted colour palette.
Depicted are the two main characters, facing off in the middle of the blasted land of America’s inner country. The everyman lead, rendered appropriately faceless by his stance, stands defiant against the power of a god, which fills the landscape with lightning and the horizon with fire.
Shadow doesn’t appear exactly as I’d imagined him, looking here as if he really does come from the seventies, but that’s appropriate really, as description of him beyond being tall and black is kind of thin on the ground. Also, his slightly hunched posture is rather odd, and less than heroic, but again, that could be appropriate for the character at certain points in his journey. Wednesday on the other hand seems to have veritably leapt fully formed from the pages of the book, granted i’m applying a bit of a double standard here, as Wednesday should really be red-haired and stocky rather than this rangy Gandalf-in-a-suit, but his stance and attitude is perfect for the character and has won me over.
The sense of a connection to the land itself and its inherent power is a strong undercurrent within the novel, and is also conveyed brilliantly as well as subtly by this cover, the vast emptiness of the plain and sky making the men seem small by comparison, and the oncoming storm of the books events, slyly hinted at by the wind stirring Wednesday’s hair and tie.
Robert McGinnis is 90 years young and so can’t rightly be said to be doing a homage to art styles of yesteryear here, as he is the art of yesteryear, and is simply carrying on as he always has. Though this cover does mark a dramatic departure and an evolution from his signature style of the past, McGinnis had previously been mostly known for James Bond posters and mystery thrillers, all liberally covered with scantily clad pin-up girls. This work displays a level of artistry in the composition not hitherto seen by me in McGinnis’ work, and in terms of style has a lot more in common with some of my favourite cover art, particularly Bruce Pennington‘s cover for Dune,
and the original cover of The Stand by John Cayea.
The new edition of American Gods is available very soon, though we’ll apparently have to wait some time before we see the rest of the new Neil Gaiman covers, I for one cannot wait.