Cover and Plot for Henchmen 2

First off, the actual title is Henchmen: Arise.  It refers to the changes in the power structure in the Henchmen world.  You’ll just have to read the story to get the details.

My old graphic design teacher used to tell us if we had to explain a graphic we had failed in the design, so I’ll forgo any explanation other than the technical description and some of the inspiration for it.  Everyone can decide for themselves if the cover “works,” so to speak.

Early this year, I stumbled across a series of comics called “God is Dead.”  The premise was interesting; the gods came back to Earth.  All of them.  And when they came back they started tearing the place up and, of course, immediately fighting among themselves.  The whole series is kind of an indictment on how we envision our gods and what we expect from them.  It’s seriously a good series and Hickman, as usual, writes some good stuff.  What caught my eye about it, though, was the minimalist cover art.  Most comics have extremely dynamic covers, filled with action and promises of an exceptionally engaging story.  “God is Dead” had some of those as well – remember the days of comics having a single, titular covers are gone – but the minimalist imagery is what caught my eye.

God is Dead #1.  You can find the entire series here: http://www.comicvine.com/god-is-dead/4050-67042/
God is Dead #1. You can find the entire series here: http://www.comicvine.com/god-is-dead/4050-67042/

Now, I’ve never been a spectacular designer, but I always liked bold, clean images; they’re easier for the eye to come to grips with.  You can look at a good, clean design and be able to easily process it.  Sure, there may be subtle nuances that you only get after examining it for a while, but the baseline meaning should be immediately obvious.

Book cover design should work essentially the same way as any other type of graphic design.  Grab the eye and convey a message.  There may be more text on a book cover, but the image should stand out in some kind of meaningful way.  Remember, the first thing a reader is going to see is the cover.  If the cover is crap, you’ll never get the reader to read the blurb, which is the second layer of book promotion.

The first few iteration of the cover for Henchmen were crap.  In fact, the one I first published with was crap.  The second edit I published with was crap.  I like the third one, though.  I don’t think it’s crap.  You can check the history of the covers on my website, if you’re curious.  The final one is up there, too.  The real early designs, like first gen black and white stuff obviously looked pretty lame, but I’m still thinking of getting a Henchlife tattoo.  Just a bit of cleaning up and I think it would look pretty cool.

The minimalist design that I liked so much with “God is Dead” was first explored in the Henchmen Awaken short; a story that two or three people have read and enjoyed.  It’s stark, but it works.  I took that philosophy and expanded the color palate for the Arise cover and wound up with a couple of covers that looked like they belonged together.  Unfortunately, that left a turd in the punch bowl in the form the original story, so its cover had to be altered.  So, here’s your interesting but useless bit of trivia for the day, Henchmen was the first book, but the current cover was actually designed after all the others.

So it goes and so it goes.

The “God is Dead” series used a logo and text to establish a theme and then switched the icon and colors to reflect each new issue.  I never could figure out what kind of an icon to use for a dream, short of a dream catcher (which is kind of overplayed in my opinion), so I opted to continue using my Dreamer silhouette and switch out the background art.  It’s kind of the same thing if you don’t think about it.

All the covers were done in a couple of remarkable open-source image tools: Inkscape and GIMP.  If you ever have need of a vector illustration program, it’s hard to go wrong with Inkscape and GIMP is a great photo editing tool.  Think of them as free version of Illustrator and Photoshop respectively.

So, without further ramblings about graphic design theory, here’s the new cover.

HenchmenAriseCover

I’m still quite a fair piece away from actually publishing the book, so any input is certainly welcome.

Now, as for the plot:

It starts off six months after the events of the first book.  Congress is pretty much gone (and no one really mourned their passing), D.C. is now the nightmarish home of the God of Dreams, and the group from the first book has scattered to the winds.  In releasing the Dreamer from his cage, Eve’s little group managed to piss off the gods, who have given her a choice: kill Steven as a proof of loyalty, or kill the Dreamer.  She opts for the hard path and, with some extrahuman help (and hindrance), the team gets back together to find a way to assassinate a god who can move through dreams.

From a quiet morning in Hesperus, CO to the climactic conclusion in Dulce, NM, Arise is a non-stop thrill ride filled with minions, gods, gun fights, Nazis, and monsters.  In the end, blood will spill, a god will fall, and a hero will arise.

(obviously, I’m still working on the blurb.  I’ll let ya’ll know when it’s published)

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