Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Really Bad German FF Covers

It's a funny thing book cover design. You get used to a certain style of graphic design and then you go on holiday abroad and you see foreign books and you think "WTF?". And then you remember that the people that put them together know what they are doing and know their target market and they are selling to people from a different culture and what works in England won't always work in Germany so of course things will be different. It's not worse, it's just what you are used to isn't it? Even in Anglophone nations this happens - I mean to say all American book covers and NES boxes are absolutely shit slightly challenging to somebody brought up on UK graphic design

And then you see German covers for FF books...

Right there here's the first one in which a 1970s Hobbit contemplates the petrified corpse of a massively obese wizard that has been hollowed out to allow Brothers Grimm characters to nest inside. Note that the Warlock's treasure is in fact outside the mountain thus defeating the object of much of the book. This actually isn't the worst German cover and the two red D6 turn up on other early covers of German FF books which is a clever touch but... I think it's the child-like nature of the main character and the daft assumption that a children's book with "You" as the hero implies that the murderous robbing bastard out to off the Warlock and thieve his gold is in fact only 11 years old.

Let's be honest though - if John Blanche drew a 1970s Hobbit contemplating the petrified corpse of a massively obese wizard that has been hollowed out to allow Brothers Grimm characters to nest inside for WFRP it would be fucking epic.

For the second releases of the German FF tranlations it appears that the publishers just reused some fantasy artwork from "somewhere else". Perhaps this was cheaper. Anyway this does mean that somewhat awesomely the late Josh Kirby has illustrated Discworld, Corgi's UK printing of the Tunnels and Trolls series and a Fighting Fantasy book. Superb! We'll overlook the fact that this is clearly a tiny detail section of a much larger Kirby illo and makes no sense at all in this context since he is battling with something "off screen" visible only by the fingers of it's right hand. Kirby - good. Layout - shocking.

What a lovely cover. It looks an ideal book to read a chapter from to your 8 year old at bedtime. Friendly font, watercolour. Charming children's book. I bet the young hero is a lad whom your nipper would identify with - perhaps a proto Harry Potter. The Warlock and those cuddly monsters look happy and pleasant as well.

(West German parent in the 80s flips through book with the nipper for bedtime tale. Goblin being whipped by Goblin overseer who accidentally has two right hands, Nicholson's infamous Ghoul illo, Zombies, an arrow of Vampire euthanasia, chain-smoking Dwarves a mad old bastard knee deep in filth and excrement that accidentally gets run through with sword and plenty of amoral killthemandtaketheirgold and grimdark. GROSS GOTT WHAT ARE THE INSELAFFEN READING TO THEIR CHILDREN!?)

There's more of this to come including possibly the worst piece of stock artwork reuse evah.

(All pics from with totally no permission whatsoever.)


  1. Bad cover illustrations or not, you have to add that Der Hexenmeister is a lot cooler than "The Warlock."

  2. Well, this island ape really likes the child friendly WoFTM cover, if they dropped the Russ Nicholson interior art (sacrilege!) and went with something similarly cute, then this could really work for the under 8's. Can't remember if there is anything actually horrible in the text.

    German book-jacket design is generally awful and any German I've talked to about it do largely prefer English design. Having said that, German childrens picture books are often a lot more adventurous in their subject matter (nudists and ghosts in "where's wally" style books).

  3. Nudist ghosts? Sans sheets?

  4. I really can't see Warlock working for the under 8s - that said I'm so wedded to the artwork in FF books that I can't see Warlock working without Russ Nicholson. That said, my nephew was once (at the age of four) discovered to have put the television on by himself, switched onto the History Channel and was in tears of laughter laughing at footage of the Battle of Stalingrad so what do I know? Bloodthirsty swine I don't know where he gets it from...

    This post started life as a post about how bad American covers for FF and Lone Wolf were but then I found these German ones (and a few Dutch ones too)

  5. There was actually a fourth cover for "Der Hexenmeister" published in 1984 by Bertelsmann book club. Text and interior art were identical to the Thienemann edition above. Cover art was a coloured version of the dragon picture in the book (I'd provide a scan but I'm currently relocating. That book must be somewhere in one of those boxes....).

    As you already presumed, the second release by Goldmann was intended to be cheap in production. Pages were scaled down fom the Thienemann edition to fit the smaller pages. And the cover... well, if it had a wizard, any fantasy or science fiction artwork it was good enough.

    Those Goldmann books were available for 7,80 Deutschmarks IIRC (Thienemann edition 19,80 DM) and ended up in large amounts in bargain bins.

    Thienemann and Carlsen edition looked like children's books, but hey - it worked! Got my "Hexenmeister" at my 10th birthday and was completely hooked on this new book concept (after an initial "Huh? Numbers? Dice? What kind of book is that?"). And I still consider it the ignition spark of my interest in fantasy literature, games, roleplaying, etc.

    So - Yes, it's a great cover to bring some new blood to fantasy literature and games. Never judge a book by it's cover... ;o)