Tuesday, 27 July 2010

More Really Bad German FF Covers

Now, I was going to do these in order, but that's the sort of regulated and planned approach that just annoys me and ends up causing me to keep putting off the post, so here we are going to jump all the way to FF#5 City of Thieves or Die Stadt der Diebe as the German lingo version has it.

Right, here's the original German cover...

...which is pretty bloody dreadful. That sort of "fourth wall" business with the red D6 is again quite clever but the whole illo is flat and naive and is reminiscent of the first piece of acrylic painting artwork that lifers do in prison. What's worse is that it's a really poor piece of work inspired by an excellent Iain McCaig interior illustration from the same work so clearly the German artist had an UK original UK copy to work from.

Now for the hilarious re-issue cover, plucked from the portfolio of recycled-artwork-on-the-cheap.

Actually before we get there let's refresh ourselves on the plot of City of Thieves. This is another of Ian Livingstone's brutally unfair scavenger hunts whereby the player sweeps through Port Blacksand (basically Lankhmar on crack) in order to find some geegaws with which to do in the BBEG (spiky-headed skeleton Zanzar Bone) at the end of the book, hoping that he's got the correct apparently arbitrary collection of geegaws with which to do it and hoping that he hasn't actually got the incorrect apparently collection of geegaws. The usual in other words. Despite typical Livingstone bastard unfairness it's quite atmospheric, has some great urban encounters and is a good example of early Brit grimdark.

It's fantasy. In Allansia. Fantasy world. Dwarves, Orcs, Wizards, skullz. Not spacemen in spacesuits on alien planets trying to brain alien fauna with a laser rifle.

So this appears on the later German printings of City of Thieves.


Not only has the later German publisher not read the book, they probably haven't even read the back cover blurb. Perhaps somewhere there are German copies of Space Assassin with a dead good cover illustration of a fantasy city. It's the only explanation I have to offer.

And this use of completely inappropriate stock artwork continues. Having decided to just give up and start using the UK covers with some neat layout changes thusly...

...which is pretty good and probably jumps off the shelf with the bold red surround and dice logo, the reissue comes up with this surreal offering...

...showing the classic moment in Deathtrap Dungeon in which a T-shirt clad denizen of the early 1980s gets surprised outdoors by a griffin or possibly an Owlbear. I remember it as if it were only yesterday. Again, note the savage cropping that suggests that quite a lot of picture was cut off below the human character's midriff. Although when you look at what stayed in, whatever got cropped must have been really, really, really unrelated to Deathtrap Dungeon.

Scorpion, Praying Mantis? Close enough for jazz. That'll do.

Do you remember early 1980s computer game covers? Especially the unlicensed ripoffs of Space Invaders, Galaxian, Galaga, Asteroids, Defender etc. that used to appear on tape for the 8-bit machines? Remember the dreadful airbrushing with soft edges and that white not-quite-glare-not-quite-reflection misting that used to go on everything? Remember the true horror of the digital watch font?

No? Well, you will now with Starship Trav, German-style.

The German edition of Temple of Terror just fucking defies description so I'm not even going to attempt to offer any.

Now when we think back to the great pains that J&L took with the art, their drive to ensure that there was a consistent artistic link to the UK RPG scene that their other business interest was promoting and their deep understanding of the importance of the Britart scene....

...I can only imagine the pair of them must have sat there silently weeping into their piles of £50 notes.

(Again, all pics from gamebooks.org with totally no permission whatsoever.)


  1. I... er... ah....

    Temple of Terror? Wha? Not only is it a grossly inappropriate image for the book, I can't figure out what the grossly inappropriate image is even of.

    Is that a laser harp? A shower? A theremin?

  2. I can only imagine that it was produced for a novel at some point in the past (maybe 1970s) that had perhaps a computer, a diamond and, I dunno, perhaps a female character. The silver/grey thing on the right is supposed to be a then-futuristic computer screen/keyboard - I think. Perhaps.

    Out of it's original context it makes no sense whatsoever and what it was supposed to mean originally is just unfathomable.

  3. The first edition had really ugly covers indeed. There were only 18 books of the FF series published in Germany (plus 4 Analand Saga books by Steve Jackson).
    The most ugly are #1-5 (up to city of thieves). From #6 (Deathtrap Dungeon) on, thienemann used the standardised cover layout with red bars and identical font like pictured above for "das Labyrinth des Todes".

    The Goldmann edition was a just cheap rehash. The publisher didn't care if the cover fits the book - as long as it remotely had something to do with monsters or fantasy it was ok. :o)

  4. Whenenver I look at the covers of "Die Stadt der Diebe" (1st), "Das Labyrinth des Todes" (1st) and "Das Universum der Unendlichkeit", I behold the essence of nostalgia. When I was a kid, these pictures fueled my imagination like nothing else did. Even though their connection to the actual content of the books may have been quite limited (to say the least) they bore a promise of excitement, danger, creepiness and secrets to be unveiled in a way I rediscovered only much later, when I was introduced to rpgs...