The Magic of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser Art of Jeffrey Catherine Jones

The covers that Jeffrey Catherine Jones did for the ACE Paperbacks have to be my favorites!  Not because they were the first editions that I bought–used and worn from Half-Price Books–but for their richness and evocative nature. Before you read a single word, the art is already whispering softly in your ear, warning you of dangers to come, luring you with the promise of adventure, and apprising you of the dark and gritty world that you are about to enter. And yet the art is coy, not wanting to tell you too much, but just enough to seduce you to step inside.  Faces are indistinct or hidden.  Darkness, mists, or fog obscure the scenes.  And even people, forms, and objects that should be solid become part of the fog along the edges. You'll notice that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are not visible.  The Mouser is presumably the man in the foreground on the cover of Swords and Deviltry, but his face is looking away from the viewer.  BTW, I do not recognize that figure looming over him from any of the stories of that volume.  Perhaps it is a composite of all the oppressive and powerful men that oppose him in the stories–Duke Janarrl, Krovas, and Hristomilo? Most editions nowadays invariably feature Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser standing side by side or at least in some scene of action on the covers.  Not that that is illogical, but there is something magical about how the Jeff Jones covers pull you directly into the story that is unfolding.  Instead of looking at the two staring at us as if we were studying some portrait, we are viewing the action as if we were part of the scene, standing just off to the side but still vulnerable.

Discussion

David Howarthkhahkht, 2010/06/23 06:49

While the old paperbacks were my introduction to the adventures of the Twain as well, and therefore do hold some nostalgic value for me, I have to disagree about the cover art. Theyre nicely done, but as you point out, they dont really depict anything from the stories they contain. I prefer the covers in the “heroes shown side by side” tradition. Two Sought Adventure, the very first volume devoted to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser ever published, so it isn't really a new thing as you seem to imply. BTW, love the site, and glad to see youre still posting occasionally. Also, I have recently come into possession of the original Jim Cawthorn “Land of Nehwon” map. If youd like a photo (cant scan, sorry, its in a frame) of it for the Maps section, please let me know and I''d be happy to provide one.

Charles Fewlasssrithofthescrolls, 2010/06/23 14:15

Welcome, David and thanks for the compliment. I really should post more often–or at any rate work on finishing the Gazetteer–but life does seem to have a habit of occupying the time I could otherwise be working on the site! :-) I didn't mean to imply that the “side by side” thing was new, just that it seems to be pretty commonplace nowadays. Although I didn't mention this in the post, I also find a lot of modern fantasy art to be too literal as well. You are certainly correct about the Two Sought Adventure volume. I disagree about the covers not depicting anything from the stories. As I mentioned, the cover of Swords and Deviltry certainly seems to be symbolic, but the other covers either depict actual scenes or at least give you the gist of one of the stories contained within: Swords Against Death: To me this cover represents the Sea King's wrath towards Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser that occurs after the story When the Sea-King's Away. Which I admit is strange since that story occurs in book three and not book two. More likely I think is that the cover symbolizes their voyage across the Outer Sea in “The Bleak Shore”. Swords in the Mist: This one is pretty straightforward. The cover shows one of the bravos that is taken over by the Cloud of Hate. He appears to be suspended off the ground. Swords Against Wizardry: My guess is that the bearded man on the cover is one of the Lords of Quarmall from the story by the same name. The Swords of Lankhmar: This one is probably the most straightforward. The cover shows Karl Treuherz riding his Sea Dragon. Of course, the dragon is suppose to have two heads, but maybe the other head is off camera as it were.

David Howarthkhahkht, 2010/06/24 07:40

Thanks, and youre right of course about the covers. I missed your speculation that the Deviltry cover was symbolic–I suppose that might be the case. I no longer own the paperbacks, and didn't realize you had posted all of the covers. After looking at them again after all these years (I initially read these when I was about 15), I see your point. The Swords of Lankhmar cover obviously depicts Treuherz. I somehow never made the connection with the Cloud of Hate on Mists cover. The Wizardry cover seems to have the least connection, IMO (none of the Lords of Quarmall are bearded, for instance). Perhaps the guy is meant to be Hirriwi's and whats-her-names father (the invisibles of Stardock), though of course he would be invisible too, LOL. In any case, he''s clearly a wizard, and there is no requirement that there be a literal relationship between the covers and the stories. Back when these were published a more impressionistic school of thought prevailed. Sorry if I came across as pedantic.

Charles Fewlasssrithofthescrolls, 2010/06/24 15:53

Good point about the beard. Certainly, it seems to have the least literal connection to the story next to the cover of Swords and Deviltry. Don't feel bad about the Swords in the Mist cover. After all these years I only made the connection recently. I had an “Oh, that's what it is” moment. I missed out on the original release of the comics, but I grabbed the compilation as soon as it hit the stands. Glad I did.

Charles Fewlasssrithofthescrolls, 2010/06/23 15:00

BTW, the White Wolf covers by Mike Mignola are my second favorite. Even if they are from the “standing side by side” tradition. His style overrules in this case. I'll probably do a post on his art at some time.

David Howarthkhahkht, 2010/06/24 02:40

Yeah, after the Two Sought Adventure cover, my favorites are the WW Mignola covers. Also his art from the graphic novels. They''re the only four “comic books” I own, haha.

Rose Baileyrose_bailey, 2010/07/08 03:36

BTW, the White Wolf covers by Mike Mignola are my second favorite.”

These are my personal favorites. Mignola really nails the characters. The Dark Horse covers are disappointing – too much focus on the word “swords.”

Charles Fewlasssrithofthescrolls, 2010/07/08 13:46

Hi Rose. Yeah, I agree. They''re stylistic and modern…but kind of boring.

Allan T. Grohe, Jrgrodog, 2010/06/25 10:29

I love the Jeff Jones covers as well, and I was very excited to see Jeff Jones art originally being used for the Castle Zagyg project too. Unfortunately the Jones pieces went the way of the dodo, even before the rest of the line eventually did :-( Allan.

Charles Fewlasssrithofthescrolls, 2010/06/27 15:42

Thanks for the link, Grodog. There are a couple of classic Jeff Jones paintings being used for a couple of those covers. There are also a few that I didn't recognize, but look to be his style.

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