By Its Cover #5: We Believe In Textless Covers (Part 4) – Textless Goes To The Movies

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This is the third season in a column that judges a book by its cover. Catch up on the current season, or view the complete archive.

We’ve looked at textless comic covers and textless album covers, but what about other media?

Video games, to my knowledge, have yet to do a textless cover outside of reversible covers, where the buyer can flip the insert inside-out if they desire, but without text it can be difficult to tell whether it was designed to be a reversible cover or merely a very nice liner.

In the world of movies, there’s a long tradition of “no logo” or “no title” teaser posters going back at least as far as the ’60s, and possibly even further. These posters attempt to invoke a sense of mystery in order to create hype.

This teaser for A Fistful Of Dollars includes text, but no title, credits, or release date. Clint Eastwood wasn’t yet a big name in America, but the first three Sergio Leone westerns were huge in Italian theaters. The US distributor must’ve felt confident they’d be just as popular here, and it looks like they may have been already taking steps to market the films as a “man with no name” trilogy.

The teaser campaign for Ghostbusters in 1984 ramped the mystery up beyond anything anyone had previously done. They drove the car around Manhattan to get people talking, and then released a teaser poster without any text beyond a small Columbia Pictures logo in the corner.

Soon after, they followed it up with a variation that included the text, “Coming to save the world this summer.” But to my knowledge, this initial teaser is the first and only movie poster to go the fully textless route.

 

1989’s Batman had a very similar poster. You could even argue it was a copycat poster, but the airbrushed look and cropping are different and unique enough that I forgive it. Where Ghostbusters was trying to embed a brand new logo in the public consciousness, Batman had a logo that people immediately recognized from the ’60s TV show, even if it had evolved a bit since.

But Batman‘s poster wasn’t textless. Below the logo it said “June 23,” to build excitement for that date. What you see to the left is the VHS cover, the only VHS release to my knowledge with a textless cover. Even the sequels were afraid to go textless.

It’s hands down my favorite VHS cover, and not just because it’s textless. It’s just so simple and stylish and perfect. I love it. Unfortunately, the Laserdisc release included text at the bottom, keeping it from being a great “textless album cover” version of the image.

DVDs and Blu-Rays sometimes go textless, but mainly when there’s a slipcover or box to put it in. The first textless DVD I ever saw was this Iron Man special edition.

The slipcover has a die-cut and a foil finish, and the case insert is printed on some sort of holographic foil paper that gives it a strange shine. It’s like a collection of variant cover gimmicks all combined masterfully into a really impressive and well-done cover.

I kind of wish more DVD/Blu-Ray packages got creative like this. Iron Man one is probably my #2 favorite DVD package, right after the Reservoir Dogs gas can. Not that I’d want to see variant covers go this route, but it might be fun with anniversary edition graphic novels?

But the big question is: does it count as a textless cover when a slipcover with text is required to complete the package? Which is the “real” cover? Okay, maybe it’s only the sort of question someone like me asks. But I welcome your thoughts.

This Week’s Covers

Every week I pick a handful of covers that I consider particularly well-designed, not just well-illustrated. My personal criteria for a well-designed cover is that the illustration and design elements compliment each other rather than fight each other, and that the resulting image stands out from the crowd.

Captain America #702 by Michael Cho

A cover within a cover, I like this concept. But I’d kind of like to see how it’d look if the color had put the spotlight on small Cap and kept the poster in shadow? I think we’d still be drawn to big Cap initially, but it’d make it easier to look at small Cap without my eye being drawn away to the poster.

 

 

 

The Archies #7 by Fiona Staples

This is an epic, emotional cover. I especially like how the “Final Curtain” text was placed. It almost makes up for the trade dress pushing the logo all off-center. But does someone die in this issue? This is the sort of image that makes me think “tribute to musician who died,” and I’m not seeing that in the solicit copy?

 

 

 

Infidel #3 by Aaron Campbell

This is a wonderfully creepy image. I like how it’s divided into two main images, with the logo helping to split (or connect?) them. The use of color is also very nice.

 

 

 

 

The Wild Storm #13 John Davis-Hunt

I haven’t had a chance to comment on this trade dress yet, but I love the little row of numbers with the current issue highlighted. A great way to indicate a maxi-series in a stylish way. The text overlapping the face doesn’t mean anything to me, but it looks cool I guess?

 

 

 

Ninja-K #7 Alan Quah

Another great trade dress, helping to frame the main image. The colorist did a great job of making the background lighter towards the middle, which helps to put sort of a spotlight on the dark character. But he’s awfully high up…I can’t help but wonder if he can fly?

5 COMMENTS

  1. The teaser for Superman did that too:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9ZtS7Emado

    But I agree that The Shining is better, just because of that ending.

    I kind of wonder if you could get away with doing the opposite…just shots of recognizable actors leading up to a final moment, with no dialogue or overlaid text. But it’d have to be followed up with another trailer that included the title before people had a chance to forget about it.

    Ghostbusters actually did a titleless hype teaser:

  2. DVD box slipcovers definitely count since that’s what the potential buyer sees on the shelf. If you don’t count slipcovers on DVDs, then you’d have to also not count book dust jackets, and many (maybe most) hardcover books don’t have any text (or art or anything at all) on the actual front cover after removing the dust jacket.

  3. JTL: I think you misunderstood the question, I was pondering whether the cover underneath the slipcover counted.

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