Although this is an article about books and comics, I’m going to have to start by talking about a silly videogame controversy from earlier this year. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that will hopefully become obvious later. Plus, I may have talked about some of this stuff before – so, apologies in advance if this article gets repetitive.
Back in February, there was a ridiculous amount of fuss on the internet about the planned box art for the then-upcoming modern remake of “Doom”.
The original cover art was described as generic and boring. Although it’s a cool-looking picture, it doesn’t really stand out from the crowd. It’s just a picture of a space marine posing with a gun (it also uses a rather low-contrast yellow/green/brown/orange colour scheme too). By comparison, the alternative designs later released by Bethesda look a lot more true to the spirit of the series.
The original “space marine” cover design isn’t really as good as the cover art for the original “Doom” or even “Doom II“. But, at the same time, it isn’t exactly a bad image. If I had a much more modern computer and a larger gaming budget, I’d probably still buy a copy of the new game because, well, it’s “Doom”. It’s a modern version of one of my favourite games. The box art could be completely blank and I’d still buy it.
Still, this silly controversy about the good-but-not-great box art for the “Doom” remake made me think about how important cover art actually is when it comes to things like books and comics.
Good cover art is probably only really important for catching the attention of totally new readers. Even then, it isn’t everything – the old adage of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” springs to mind for starters. I mean, I’ve bought books purely based on cover art in the past- but it’s no guarantee that they’re worth reading.
The other thing that makes good cover art important is it’s decorative value. If you’ve got a collection of books and/or comics, then you’ll know that they’re more than just functional objects that only exist to be read. They’re a way of making a room look more interesting. They’re decorative too.
However, apart from these things, cover art isn’t really that important.
When it comes to books and comics, things like online reviews, plot summaries/ blurbs, the price, word of mouth and the author’s name matter a lot more. If you’re a major fan of a particular author, then you’re probably going to read their next book regardless of what the cover art looks like. The same is true for books that are part of a series or which are based on TV shows, movies etc…
If you’ve heard or read a lot of good things about a particular book or comic, and it seems like the kind of thing that you’d enjoy, then you’re probably going to seek out a copy of it, regardless of what the cover looks like.
Likewise, whilst a good cover design might make a new reader pick up a copy of a book or comic, this will probably only hold their attention long enough for them to read the blurb and/or plot summary. If this interests them, then they might look at the first few pages. If those pages interest them, then they’ll probably buy a copy.
The price probably plays a role too. I’m no expert on book or comic pricing, but I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve seen something that looks really cool, but decided not to buy it (or to buy it later and/or to buy it second-hand) because of the price was too high.
In other words, good cover art is important, but it isn’t exactly the be-all-and-end-all of whether someone chooses to buy something.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂