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Mortal Engines cover

Back in September I created, for my own entertainment, a cover for the third book in Philip Reeve's terrific Mortal Engines quartet, Infernal Devices. It was to complement an existing cover I'd worked out several years previously for the first book, Mortal Engines itself, which I'd continued to be very fond of.

I was so happy with the result for Infernal Devices I started thinking about redoing the Mortal Engines cover to match the vector style.

I had a couple of specific details I wanted to try differently too. E.g. I put wheels on traction-London originally, because I was referencing this Abram Games poster plus I thought it was better for selling at a glance the basic concept of the city also being a vehicle. But I was curious to see if the image would work with tank-like treads, which is actually how the city moves in the text.

But mainly my intention was just to trace the drawing in Illustrator and remake it in digital form. However, I ended up adjusting the drawing and changing things till it ended up transforming quite a lot.

The biggest change was in flipping the orientation of the city-vehicle. It niggled at me that the cities on the covers of Mortal Engines and Infernal Devices faced different ways, since they're books 1 and 3 of the series. In a hypothetical full set of covers either all the cities should face the same way, or maybe alternate. But eith way, covers 1 and 3 should be facing the same way!

So here's a couple of stages in the evolution:

I changed a few details in addition to the ones I already mentioned. I added the London Eye, which I think picks up nicely on the wheel of the Infernal Devices cover. I eased off on the Victorian touches (after all, Mortal Engines isnt steampunk), replacing a building front inspired by the V&A with one inspired by the Brutalist Trellick Tower and so on.

And... I dunno? I like the new version but I don't prefer it.

The original pulls more towards cohesion. The styling of the buildings regardless of real-world versions matches a single, matching, kind of Industrial-revolution look. The colour palette is narrow. The overall shape is solider with a clear vibe - a friendly, rounded cartoon-bus-like shape which counterpoints with the viscious jaws at the bottom.

The new version looks more hard and jagged overall. The slight adjusted in outline mades me think less of a friendly cartoony vehicle and more of a skull or zombie face.

Book covers are always selective and these two versions of the same basic idea just highlight different, equally valid, representations of the book. I think for publication purposes something more like the new version on the right might be preferred, because the audience likely being sought is going to respond more to that edgy/SF/action vibe than the quirky retro-ness of the other.

Here it is against the Infernal Devices cover.

And as a point of interest a different version I went on to but ended up liking less:

For now I'll certainly keep the old version of Mortal Engines in my portfolio, but I'll put this away to revisit at some point when I'll look at refining the palette and adding some more detail, and see how I feel about it then.


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