(Attention book collectors: Artist Douglas Klauba and I are both scheduled to appear at PulpFest 2023, if you wish to get rare signed copies from author & artist — particularly the very striking hardcover edition.)
Pathway to a postmodern, pulp-style book cover:
The Zana O’Savin Series is my passion project and love-letter to the classic pulp magazine characters and Superman-inspirations Doc Savage & his cousin Patricia Savage, Doc’s five-man team of adventurers, as well as The Shadow, and The Avenger (with one or two more classic pulp characters lapsed into the public domain possibly still to come in Zana #3).
THE MOTHMAN MENACE debuted on July 1, 2023—the same year Doc & Pat Savage celebrated 90 years as variously (seemingly-sadly-fading?) pulp, paperback, radio, film, and comic book icons.
Ironically, I was introduced to the Doc Savage series at single-digit age by the novel mostly regarded as sporting the weakest of Doc Bantam Books paperback reprint covers: THE LAND OF TERROR.
But little me didn’t care: I was deeply captivated by dinosaurs and those Bama-painted black-and-white, photo-realistic depictions of my new heroes on the back cover looked like real people to little me.
That pulp novel is also an outlier, because it was the second-published Doc Savage pulp tale, and Lester Dent (AKA, “Kenneth Robeson”) and company were still finding their feet: Doc was particularly, ahem, very “savage” in his meting out of justice in this sophomore effort.
Still, the blood-and-thunder story fully sold me on Doc Savage & Co.
And truthfully? I still favor that far edgier version of Doc Savage with freak-fisted civil engineer “Renny” Renwick as Doc’s obvious second-in-command.
But soon enough, I found more Doc Savage novels, but these graced with the brilliant covers of James Bama.
Uniquely, I’ve nearly always had unusually significant say or even near-full control of my own books' dust jacket and cover illustrations, even to a degree with the “Big 5” New York publishing houses. (Perhaps reduced to the “Big 2” or even “Big 1”, via dire mergers, by the time you read this.)
When it came to my Zana O’Savin series, I craved something in the vein of James Bama, but focused on my version of Pat Savage—“Zana O’Savin”—and depicted in a very particular
and tasteful tone.
When it comes to neo-pulp novel illustration, I’ve come to conclude there are two approaches: The literal—depict an actual scene from your novel, which is more in the vein of classic pulp magazine cover approach—or symbolic/representational, which is what Bama and his followers mostly strove for with the Bantam covers.
I far prefer the latter approach for many reasons beyond simple nostalgia: It’s simply more in tune with the tastes of current book audiences to be more symbolic, and, I believe and heartily submit, it's infinitely more impactful on a visceral level, which is, frankly, the level on which books rise and fall when covers are first glimpsed and buying decisions made.
My other condition: Not reduce our heroine to a heavily sexualized spin on her cousin with exaggerated proportions and strategically torn shirt.
My Zana cover artist of choice was Doug Klauba.
Collaboratively, Doug and I have had very little back-and-forth when it comes to covers.
I come to the table with a very particular concept in mind, and Doug has consistently and immediately delivered the goods and then-some, with a minimum of roughs, revisions, or further dialogue between us before barreling toward the final image.
The concept for THE BLOOD OGRE, ala-James Bama, was quite simple: Give us Zana and her legendary Peacemaker, backed with a matching shadow of a Shadow-like silhouette with one of his notorious .45’s, “The Shadow’s” shadow doubling for the shadow of Zana and her 1875, modified Colt revolver.
As to the cover of THE MOTHMAN MENACE? Characteristically, I had this vision, even before I wrote the novel: Again, I wanted nothing limiting in a literal sense in depiction of an actual scene from the novel—because I maintain those sorts of images ultimately stunt audience reaction devoid of deeper context.
Rather, I wanted a cover illustration at once modern but also leaning lightly into nostalgia.
There is a musical tradition tracking back to the mid-20th Century of the so-called “answer song.”
A tune becomes a hit, and begets similar, popular tunes in answer to the lyrics of the earlier ditty.
Several of James Bama’s classic Doc Savage covers were imitated by a variety of artists. But for me, nowhere where they more strikingly paid tribute than via three or four of artist Peter Caras’ Avenger covers for Warner Books reprints of the 1940 pulp novel reprints issued in the 1970s.
The most obvious of these Caras homages to James Bama is The Avenger cover for THE FROSTED DEATH, paying tribute to James Bama’s iconic cover of the Doc Savage Bantam reprint cover THE DUST OF DEATH.
I pitched the cover of THE MOTHMAN MENACE to Doug as the capstone to a kind of pulp paperback cover triptych, while remaining very much its own piece of slick packaging.
You can order THE MOTHMAN MENACE at: