As it’s Halloween, it’s a good time to remember the true masters of horror. One that immediately springs to mind is of course scarer extraordinare Stephen King, with his hair-raising ability to reduce many of us to quivering wrecks through menacing characters and devilish plot twists.
So when Sterling Publishing approached illustrator Jon Contino, he jumped at the chance to design a cover for the author’s first three novels. Combining Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining in one big volume, Jon was keen to not “lean too hard on anything particularly ‘Stephen King’ since we wanted a fresh take, so I took what I knew of the stories and mashed them up with what I thought would be kind of terrifying”.
Despite listening to death metal, watching Jeepers Creeper 2 and researching mutilated animals to really get into the zone, the result is a beautiful bonded-leather bound book crawling with spindly trees that curl in the midnight sky and a spooky house that’s based on the author’s own home.
“We transitioned from what was originally going to be grotesque to something that could sit on the front shelves of Barnes & Noble and grab attention”
What’s great when looking through this project are the rough drawings Jon’s included of sketchy white lines detailing iconic scenes in the books. They reference a change in brief for Jon. “Initially the idea was the make the collection three books in one volume to create a beautiful collection, so that’s where all those single story sketches come from", he explains.
“Halfway through the process, I found out the three books were actually going to be combined into one as part of a special edition anthology instead, so we had to shift gears a bit […] We transitioned from what was originally going to be grotesque to something that could sit on the front shelves of Barnes & Noble and grab attention without having a negative impact on potential customers.”
It’s fascinating to get an insight into the depth a project like this actually has and be able to fully appreciate the outcome as a well-considered, fitting tribute to Stephen King’s work that not only gathers the best bits of classic horror imagery but utilises them in a way to appeal to audiences new and old.
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