3.30.2009

Popular outcast?

Before I start snarking on the title and cover, I have to admit I'm a huge Star Wars fan. (Yes, I'm a geek. I also do logic puzzles for fun. But on the flip-side, I also ride my Harley with my dog on the weekends. Does that redeem me? No? Hmm.) I love all of the six SW movies (I've seen A New Hope at least 100 times), and I've read a good number of the "expanded universe" books (books that go beyond the stories and characters of the movies). That's why I find this cover so very disappointing.

First, let's discuss the title. "Fate of the Jedi" is a good new series/trilogy/whatever title. I'm fine with that. But "Outcast"?? Focusing on the Hero of the Rebellion? The guy who single-handedly (well, maybe with a little help from his buddy Han) saved the universe from the evil grip of Darth Vader and the Emperor?? What?? Ok, I admit, Luke was getting pretty weird by the end of Return of the Jedi, and even weirder in some of the books that tell a "later" story, but an "outcast"? I think Mr. Allston was just being lazy in picking a title.

Low, let's get to the cover's aesthetic appeal. Or, rather, complete lack of any aesthetics. Why is it just orange and blue?? The SW universe is an amazingly vibrant and dynamic setting for any story, but all we get is dichromatic blah. There's what appears to be a unique-looking city-scape behind Luke, that might be very visually stunning if it were in color(s). Not to mention either a new Death Star or a cool-looking moon in the sky -- why don't we get to see it clearly? And what's with making Skywalker all blue? They could bother with an extra color for his lightsaber but not for his clothing? What's that boring white strip along the bottom? It appears to be either another city-scape or Luke's EKG reading, but you can barely tell it's there, because... well, it's all white. And why does Luke appear to be disappearing into it? Does the cover bore even him?

I suppose it's probably hard to find artists willing to draw Star Wars art or characters at all, let alone in full color. Seriously, if you search the Internet, you'll hardly find any at all. I guess the publishers did the best they could. Blah!

12 comments:

smacky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eugeal said...

If you search for "Star Wars" on Deviantart, you'll find lots of SW artworks and some of them would look very good on a cover. :)

smacky said...

I actually like the new cover. It makes it stand out from the other 300+ Star Wars paperbacks on the shelves. As someone with a vague interest in the expanded universe novels, if I don't write down the title of the next book in whatever trilogy I'm reading, there's almost no way I'm going to pick the right book out of the pile,
since most of them have a boring headshot of a Star Wars character on the front cover and a bland description on the back that could apply to a number of the books.

GraphicAvenger said...

I have to say I disagree with you.
First of all, a bit about myself, as my name gives away, I am a graphic designer and I also happen to work mostly for a publishing house that features a lot of scifi.
I also used to be a big Star Wars geek, but the prequels really ruined the franchise for me.
Now... from my professional background, I really love the cover, it is VERY strong graphically and it is also a very bold move from the publisher. Believe me, sf publishers love to play it safe. Although we are often briefed with something along the lines of "reinvent sci-fi" in the end, we just slap another spaceship on the cover, because the people in marketing don't "get" any approach that's more unusual or innovative.
I have to say I'm a bit envious of the guys that were allowed to do this cover this way.
Also, you know, there's a thing called series design - having a basic layout, type treatment, colors or theme that just ties the thing together visually and this design is going to work really really well in that respect.
That is my opinion as a graphic designer, however.
I DO understand that the target audience might not like it, they have as - I can see in your post and the few comments - different sensibilities. So in the "A-book-cover-is-advertising" way, this cover is a failure.
I have to say that's kind of sobering.
BTW I don't want to be disrespectful, just wanted to add the 2 cents of someone with a background in graphic design an book covers especially.

BikerPuppy said...

GraphicAvenger and smacky, I don't expect everyone to agree with me, and I'm very happy to generate discussion through snark. You both make valid points (GA, very interesting insight from an insider!!). But I stand by my abhorrence of the cover. Blech! Give me a spaceship and a character headshot any ole day! (Actually, a well-drawn "alien" city-scape or landscape would do much more to get my attention.) But that's just me. :) Eugeal, I was being facetious about the lack of SW art online. :)

stankow said...

Per GraphicAvenger:
"So in the 'A-book-cover-is-advertising' way, this cover is a failure."

As smacky pointed out, this is damn near the only SW novel that is remotely distinguishable from the others. As a former reader of the series, this one would absolutely catch my eye far more than Yet Another Head Shot Over Action Scene does, and that would naturally lead to my thinking, Well, if they're finally willing to alter the pattern for the cover, maybe they're willing to shake up the writing a little, which may well lead to my buying it.

People who already have every SW novel will buy this one regardless of the cover. It's the people like me that they might be aiming for with this.

1979 semi-finalist said...

I love this cover for a sci-fi book!

Mostly ecause I think it stands out from the usual thing we see.

From strictly a design/graphic design perspective it's also fantastic, but I suppose as a non-fan of the traditional sci-fi/fantasy cover I'm not going to win this battle, thus I will slink away to fight another day...

womzilla said...

Aaron Allston probably didn't come up with any part of the title. THe marketing (including the title) of this type of film tie-in novel tends to be strongly controlled by the property owner, not the author.

Elizabeth said...

From what I've read of the content of the book, Outcast is a fitting title because Luke has actually been kicked out of polite society for some reason or another and is trolling around the universe with his *shudder* son Ben.

So while I think that is a rather lame plot line, I also gave up on the books when New Jedi Order began and have yet to read a book description since that brought me back, so I don't really know what's going on.

But yeah, apparently the title is representative of the story.

Rex Parker said...

By "A New Hope" do you mean "Star Wars?" I saw that movie a lot too. When I was 7.

That cover, as SW merch goes, is actually hot.

Anonymous said...

There is also the possibility that they used pantones to color the cover.

CMYK, or four-color process, is commonly used to print out your average spaceships-on-a-fancy-space-background cover. Just FYI, this is the same process that a home printer uses.

Pantone, or spot-coloring, is different because each special, individual ink is applied separately, like in a traditional print studio (think lithography). Pantone is used in these situations:

1. Where a brand color MUST be a certain color, especially a color that a CMYK printer cannot reproduce it. (Like Coca-Cola's distinctive red)

2. Again, where a color that cannot be produced by CMYK is needed. These include metallic inks, neon colors, glow-in-the-dark inks, certain shades of colors, and clear varnishes.

3. The client has a smaller budget. Anything less than four colors, printed in pantone, costs less than it does to print in CMYK.

I'm going to bet that the shocking orange/yellow they used is not printable in CMYK. Star Wars doesn't have a claim on any pantone colors that I'm aware of, nor do they seem to be short on cash. :)

I would like to note that it appears to me that only three inks were used, so not only would the shocking orange be graphically pleasing, but it would have been cheaper to print that way as well.

Looks can be deceiving though, and it could very well be CMYK instead of pantone. I hope this was interesting anyway.

Finally, this book cover probably looks oodles better in print than it does onscreen. :)

Katherine said...

Showing my geek colours here, but for me the real question is why Luke looks not much older than in the movies when he's supposed to be 60-plus years old at the time this book is set. Obviously no one would want to buy a book with an ageing Luke Skywalker, or maybe the Force has some really handy rejuvenation applications?

Otherwise, I like the design and think it's great they've taken a step away from the stock-standard darker tones of the rest of the series. It does seem to have divided fans, but it definitely stands out on the shelf.

(And the title seems to be fitting with the content, though I suspect it was chosen mostly for its dramatic value).