23 February 2013

You can’t judge an apple by looking at a tree

It’s no secret that for me it’s form over function. I stumbled into art school, fell out the other side and have spent nearly 30 years in the design industry in some capacity or another. In all that time, I’ve never been anyway near a book cover design, I once was freelancing at a studio where one of the designers had produced illustrations for book covers in the past and a soon to be famous children’s author used to pop in, but nothing for me.

I, as I’m sure many people have done, have bought books (and records) because of the artwork. I have two or three copies of 1984 around the place, but I know that the next time I’m in a bookshop and I accidently see Penguin’s new redacted cover; I will buy it, a simple, brilliant design. http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2013/january/great-orwell-penguin-david-pearson

However, once the books have been read and admired they get consigned to the shelves and the art is hidden away, which brings along an interesting conundrum. At some point over the years I started to reject books that had movie tie-ins flashed across them, usually with an unimaginative image from the film on the front with a cast list on the back. But as they are eventually hidden away, does it really matter what is on the front, as long as the title and author are visible on the spine?

I went through a number of copies of the James Bond books before I ended with a complete set of sixties graphic covers, at one time I had covers with either Sean Connery, Roger Moore or Daniel Craig, all of which, with the exception of Goldfinger, were afterthoughts based on the movie posters.

When I started this train of thought I was reminded of a long forgotten book. My paperback is from 1975, it was first published in French in 1963: La Planète des Singes. Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle. My copy has a close up of a gorilla in a helmet with a red slash across the image: the book that inspired the film PLANET OF THE APES.

Although this is the type of artwork I reject now, it is almost the perfect cover. The Charlton Heston movie from the late sixties is pretty faithful to the story, with a necessary change to the final twist as the book’s version would be difficult to film. It is the usual science fiction castaway that I wrote about a few weeks ago (http://read-it-in-books.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/sending-out-sos.html). But all in all, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, the title in English is clunky: Monkey Planet, the original French: La Planète des Singes, is more elegant, as is the movie version: Planet of the Apes.

The books inspired the film, the film had several sequels and inspired a TV series, all of which produced books. I bought the book and watched the TV series because of the film, and then bought another book, this time based on the TV series. 

In this case the film tie-in cover seems appropriate, would I have ever read the book without first seeing the film? 

Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle, the book that inspired the film Planet of the Apes

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