More than possibly any other series I've ever read, the Anita Blake series has had a... interesting variety of covers. Thus far, they have fallen into three different categories:
- Urban fantasy covers, which tend to be closest to what the earlier books were all about. They are gritty, atmospheric and potentially creepy.
- The "sexy" covers, which usually involve naked women orgasming while turning a variety of colors.
- The tool-porn covers. I think it was meant to look gritty and serial-killerish, like a Saw poster, but usually the covers just looked goofy.
Urban Fantasy Cover: I actually kind of like this one. I mean, JC looks cartoonishly villainous and his fangs are RIDICULOUS, but it has a very dark noirish look. And it does give you a good idea of what the book is about.
It does give a slightly confusing vibe, since JC's nose is almost as big as Anita's entire body, but I guess if they were reversed you couldn't even see that he was a vampire.
"Sexy" Cover #1: "I have a dead rose on my stomach. Isn't that sexy?" Okay, seriously, this is pretty tame by "sexy cover" standards (and standard for people posting pictures on facebook), but it looks really odd. Is the Purple People Eater doing porn now?
"Sexy" Cover #2: "I have dry ice in my mouth instead of teeth. Isn't that sexy?"
Tool-Porn Cover: I start giggling every time I see this cover. Yes, there's no symbolism to that cover at all - the giant thick upthrusting screw. Ironic that it's the cover to the one with no sex.
The Laughing Corpse
Urban Fantasy Cover: This is probably one of the best covers overall, despite Anita's bouffant. It looks grim and gritty, it has a simple design that is still striking. And yes, it actually represents the contents pretty well.
"Sexy" Cover: "Apparently I'm having an orgasm because of the trees growing under my skin."
This one actually confused me for a long time, because it looks like she has roots under her skin, but they're actually meant to be trees. It just gets lost in the facial shadowing. FAIL.
Tool-Porn Cover: Ice block hook tongs? Wha? Um, why is that supposed to be scary or dangerous-looking? I mean, you could certainly hurt someone with them, but they're not inherently scary. It's like "oooooohh wooooo, be afraid, for I have an old hand-weight! I could bludgeon you with it! Be afraid!"
I mean, are we supposed to be scared that someone is going to lift your ice blocks?
Circus of the Damned
Urban Fantasy Cover: Apparently the giant green Zardoz disapproves of Anita cuddling with Lord Byron's wimpier little brother.
Seriously, this cover is really cheesy. It looks like it belongs on a really old pulp SF novel, or maybe a comic book.
"Sexy" Cover: It took me a LONG time to figure out what was there, because the woman's body is so bizarre looking. Yeah, there's a cobra - but it's on the hip and thigh of a woman with weird sunken abdominal muscles. Also, it looks like her body has this huge ridge over the stomach, and over that it just STOPS. Did this artist never study ANATOMY?
Tool-Porn Cover: What the hell is that? Did Wolverine get pissed off at the book and punch it?! I don't even know what those things are!
The Lunatic Cafe
Urban Fantasy Cover: This isn't as good as the previous three covers, because it doesn't fully represent what the story is about. You can't really tell that it's meant to be supernatural - if it didn't have "Anita Blake Vampire Hunter" printed on the top in tiny easily-ignored letters, you might just think this was a straight thriller.
But it does at least show a spooky picture of St. Louis. Yup, the story is set in St. Louis.
"Sexy" Cover: "Ooooh, being tinted red is SUCH a turn on! It almost distracts me from my lack of breasts!"
Tool-Porn Cover: Oh for fuck's sake! That cover is so ugly that I don't even wanna look at it. Yes, it has one of the more effective cover items - a razor with a corroded blade, which is much less impressive than well-maintained, sharpened razor.
But the color is HORRENDOUS. It looks like someone peed in the mustard, let it age for a month, and then poured it all over the cover.
Urban Fantasy Cover: This is a striking cover, especially with the totem-pole-like arrangement of images - a shadow, a Celtic cross and a moon. It's also very striking because it's more or less symmetrically arranged, which you don't find on a lot of covers.
"Sexy" Cover: Yes, because looking at a naked woman's psoriasis-riddled arm and leg is SO much more alluring than the Celtic cross shoved in the corner, like it was a leftover from the previous cover. I'm serious: even if women turned me on, I would not find this image sexy, because the naked aqua woman in the picture looks like she has some horrible skin disease.
I know LKH tries to include lots of bizarre fetishes in her books, but to my knowledge she's never included "Flaking cracking skin is so SEXY, Anita! You don't need to moisturize!"
Tool-Porn Cover: Phallic symbols ahoy! Because nothing says "Danger! Sex! Asskicking!" like a rusty unusable knife.
The Killing Dance
Urban Fantasy Cover: This one is a little cluttered; it would have been better if the Arch in the background were left out. But we can't forget that this takes place in St. Louis. Did I mention that it takes place in St. Louis?
Sexy Cover: "I'm having a sexy arty orgasm, which will hopefully distract you from the fact that my butt is on sideways."
Tool Cover: "I like wine."
I'm sorry, am I supposed to find this menacing? I don't find corkscrews scary. Like ice tongs, they can be used to hurt somebody... but when you look at them, you immediately think of opening a wine bottle. IT'S NOT FRIGHTENING. It's not even dripping blood or anything. If I were just browsing the stacks, I don't think I would even know what kind of book it's supposed to be.
Urban Fantasy Cover: This one is kinda cheesy. No, cut that, it's REALLY cheesy. You've got a giant monster-face looming over the city, in at least four bright colors. Also, what is that weird curved thing between those two buildings? Is that supposed to be the Arch? Because here's a little tip: almost-featureless monuments don't show up well when you only show a tiny portion of them. Like so:
See? The Space Needle means nothing if you can't see the whole thing!
Sexy Cover: "I'm being burned alive, and for some reason I'm very aroused by that. Also, my feet are enormous."
Tool Cover: A broken lightbulb? REALLY? These people aren't even trying to spook us with something you'd find lying around in your attic?
Urban Fantasy Cover: So.... what is that. Is it a werewolf Christmas tree?
Well, whatever the hell it is, it's at least symmetrical and spooky.
Sexy Cover: Naked Orgasm Woman is getting a bit podgy around the middle, isn't she? She's almost eclipsing that poor wolf.
Tool Cover: Don't kill me, people, but I actually don't mind this toolporn cover. It's not half bad, compared to the shitfests we've been treated to. It actually looks like... perish the thought... someone actually put a few minutes of thought into it. They're using a hand scythe, which is the chibi version of a traditionally menacing item. It's connected to death. There's some subtle suggestion of death and danger UNLIKE THE FUCKING LIGHT BULB.
Also, using something with a crescent shape for a book named after the moon is a interesting idea.
This was the book when they ditched the urban fantasy covers and went straight to the sexy crap.
Sexy Cover: This cover is fairly decent compared to the other "sexy" covers, possibly because this book was before Hamilton went off the deep end into "sexy sexual sex sexyville." Even if that woman does look like she has the world's longest ass, the focus is on the muscular upper back and not TITS ASS TITS ASS.
Tool Cover: Oh for fuck's sake. An ANTLER? What is supposed to be scary about an antler? What is supposed to be DANGEROUS about an antler?! What, they couldn't find a Thanksgiving turkey to menace us with?
Narcissus in Chains
And... this is where the shark jump started, when Anita started having orgies and bonking as many men as LKH could cram into one book. It's also when the covers went from mildly sexy to TITS ASS TITS ASS BONDAGE SEX SEXY SEX, and when the titles went from cool, vaguely paranormal titles to a bunch of suggestive crap.
Basically the title of Narcissus in Chains tells you everything: pretty boy, references to bondage. Welcome to the Anita Blake series.
Sexy Cover: Well, at least the woman is wearing clothes. But honestly, this cover is pretty awful.
- Whee, another sexy-woman-in-mild-bondage cover to titillate people.
- Also, why does she have a fucking spiderweb shadow on her back? What does that refer to?! It looks like Spiderman is sneaking up behind her.
- And what is with that weird backward fold in her dress? Is that supposed to be her leg? Because if so, one of her legs looks a lot bigger than the other.
Urban Fantasy Cover: And this cover takes us to.... the wreck of the Titanic. The hell?
Yeah, for some reason they decided to give a different cover to the paperback edition of this book, and the theme they chose was.... ambiguity? I like it better than the womansploitation cover, but it's still pretty bad. It's murky, it's ugly, and you can't tell what the hell the cover is trying to show except chains, chains, and more chains.
Tool Cover: Wow, antique handcuffs. SO unexpected. In a book named after a bondage club.
Dammit, this is just LAZY.
Cerulean Sins is probably the only book to have only cover so far. And it's... STUPID. I guess we're supposed to think that foot is Anita's, but I'm pretty sure Anita doesn't have a tattoo (YET, since LKH has gotten a really bad one) on her ankle. And that stripper shoe doesn't exactly scream "vampire hunter" to me.
But at least it isn't all "naked lady! naked lady!"
... aaaaannd I spoke too soon.
Sexy Cover: Tits! Tits in lacy teddy bear! Blindfolded woman ready for S&M sexytimes! Spray-tan! Tits! Tits! Look at the tits, damn you! Don't look at her horribly misshapen arm! Look at the tits!
Tool Cover: Oooooh, subtle. The book with the second-highest amount of totally pointless gratuitous sex has... a phallic symbol pointing phallically at the floor, ready to thrust into something.
... and yes, I said the SECOND-highest amount.
Sexy Cover: I'm assuming the guy on the cover is Anita's rapist-cum-pet, Micah. What is he doing? Is he rock-climbing topless? Staggering drunkenly? Having sex with the door?
Tool Cover: ... wow. I mean, WOW. I can't think of a more fitting cover for this book. Can you? I mean, the cover is the color of pee, like Micah's eyes. And Big SPOILER ALERT: Micah's defining trauma (everyone in the series has at least one) is that his penis is freakishly large and no woman except Anita can ever have sex with him.
Why is that appropriate?
Sexy Cover: Oh look, another sexually-ready tit-baring woman with her hands conveniently bound. For your rape fantasies, everybody!
Well, it could be worse. Judging by that nipple-exposing corset, I'm betting that this scene comes from the end of the book, when Anita gets porked from behind by Asher, who gets so carried away that he tries to kill her.
Unfortunately Fortunately they're interrupted before he can get rid of his sexual competition finishes draining her blood.
Tool Cover: Pliers. PLIERS. I guess you could pinch someone with them. Or pull out fingernails. Neither of which happen in this book.
Are we even pretending to choose things that look even vaguely threatening, as opposed to random shit you find on your garage floor?
Sexy Cover: I can't tell if that woman is naked or not, so I'll just assume she is is. Look, more nudity! And for some reason, she's also wearing raccoon-eye makeup and ribbons on ONE arm.
... BE AMAZED AT THE EDGINESS!
I do like the inclusion of the mask, even though it's much more ornate than the book's. But WHAT is this supposed to be showing us? Is that supposed to be one of the Harlequin, making all sexy-pose there? Because it's obviously not Anita, since that woman has sort of brown-blondey hair, long legs, and smallish breasts.
Tool Cover: ... an old hypodermic syringe? WHAT IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE?! You couldn't even us a modern one, which might be SLIGHTLY threatening what with AIDS? No, you use an OLD one.
Ah, this was the first one. The first of the tool-porn covers, and it got a universal "What the hell is THAT?" from everyone who saw it. This is particularly true because the story is all about Anita pretending to be Jason's girlfriend so his terminally ill dad doesn't think he's gay. You know, a sitcom episode... with a pair of rusty scissors on the cover.
.... THE HELL? What do rusty scissors have to do with that story?! Scissors have no part in anything that happens here! I suppose you could say that the scissors are like Anita's legs - when they open, something gets chopped off.
... and now we have saw blades, in a story with no saw blades in it. I didn't even know they WERE saw blades at first - when I first saw this cover, I thought they were.... I dunno, X-rays of pineapples or something.
And again, why are they on there? Are they symbolic of Anita's "mounds of creamy goodness" or something? Oh wait, the publisher just selects random shit and slaps it on the cover with a "gritty" filter by photoshop! Anyone can do that! I can do it too! WATCH!
Ooooooh, be afraid! It's a marshmallow peep! OOOOOOOOOO, SCARY!
Listen, put some fucking effort into your cover!
In this case, they apparently slapped a razor blade on the scanner, and diddled around with the colors for a few minutes. This is shoddy even compared to the last two covers! Those at least put some effort into placing the items in such-and-such a position, but this plops the razor right next to the title.
It's like they came up with the cover, and then plopped the razor wherever.
Really, what can you say about it? It's a picture of a bullet that someone slapped into Photoshop and diddled around with for five minutes. They're not even TRYING to make it distinctive.
Also, when your series is all about your heroine getting bonked by a bunch of guys while constantly thinking about sex and collecting new ones, Bullet is not a good title.
I'm already ashamed to have looked up what this item looked like.
OOOH! We have a new cover! And this one introduces a NEW kind of suckitude! It looks like they were going to use a naked photoshopped picture of LKH (seriously, the face is just like her) doing her best Anita impression, but someone tripped and fell on the picture with a can of gold paint. They weren't able to get most of the gold paint off, so they went, "Fuckit, people can see enough of the photo. We're going to print with this."
I mean, look at it! It looks like there's a chibi Martian peeking out of the corner of the picture. And half of the woman's head is missing, as are her arms. Why does the gold splatter look so random? I swear, this looks like someone whipped it up in photoshop in about half an hour.
Well, at least it's truth in advertising: the woman on the cover is an idealized version of LKH, and she's wearing a dog collar and crouching over a couch arm so someone can pork her from behind. Doesn't that just scream, "Feminism in action"?
Kiss the Dead
Why hello, mounds of creamy goodness (or creamy mounds of goodness, I forget which). I hadn't seen you thrust into my face for a few covers.
This one is... pretty bad. It's not as bad as Hit List's cover, in that the woman in this one is at least wearing underwear instead of being nude and bent over a couch. But it's still pretty blatant. "Here's a sexy woman wearing nothing but stockings and a woefully undersized corset! Because this a hard-boiled action thriller! PLEASE BELIEVE US!"
Although I'm not sure if that woman is Anita. The slutty clothes, sneering expression and giant on-display tits fit the bill, but her hair looks too short and too brown, and her skin is olive. Remember, Anita has to always be the color of toilet paper! She must be WHITE! She has halfbreed angst, but she's WHITE, dammit!
And maybe it's just me, but I find that whole "opaque picture layer" thing really disconcerting. It's not as bad in THIS cover as in the last one, when it looked totally random. But the fact that it blots out part of the woman's head is weird. Also, one of those jagged bits looks like it's poking her in the boob.
Also.... WHO IS THAT GUY? Is he actually meant to BE someone, or is he just a generic "shadowy" figure meant to make this look like a thriller?
I think I've figured out the new Anita Blake cover motif: weird texture that is awkwardly placed over body parts, with a generic shadowy man facing away from us. And I gotta admit, this one is MUCH better than the last two. We FINALLY have a cover with no boobs, butts or naked bodies on display. Instead, we have a heaping mound of CONFUSION.
Who the hell is that?! I guess it's supposed to be Anita, but that woman has BLUE eyes, and we're constantly told that Anita's hair and eyes are dark (or as they put it in the books: "GAH! MEXICAN! UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN!").
And what is that stuff over her? Is that dried mud? BLUE dried mud? Or is it paper floating on water?
Either way, there needs to be just slightly less of it. It would be better if just half the face was revealed, or if that chunk covering the entire cheek was just slightly smaller. It's very disconcerting that it actually crops out part of her eye and nose.
Speaking of her nose… HOLY DAMN, does she have some sort of weird birth defect. That looks like the nose of a pig/lion abomination of science! It's all squashed in and flat, with huuuuge nostrils. Is she supposed to be squashing her nose up against a pane of glass?!?!?!
I think her publisher has just... given up. Not kidding. This doesn't even look like part of the above series - it's just a porn cover.
But I have to give them credit: truth in advertising.
And since your brain probably feels dirty after all that, here's something to clean it off: