So, it appears that my good friend Gigantic Joe Kuth and I were scouring the internet looking for New Sun and Severian-related art at the same time. I found a few pieces ranging from odd to quite good and Joe passed along some really amazing finds as well. I'm going to post them here, with full artist attribution and links back to the artist's web sites. As far as I can tell, with a few obvious exceptions, none of these have been published and they were all created for personal reasons. Off we go.
First, let's take a look at the evolution of Severian's appearance as he first appeared on the American editions of the books with covers by Don Maitz. I know RF was not fond of the initial cover for The Shadow of the Torturer but, perhaps due to nostalgia, I always quite liked it and felt that it was an excellent introduction to the strange world of Urth and the tale of Severian's rise to the throne.
The young, masked journeyman torturer Severian appears fairly similar on the cover to book two, The Claw of the Conciliator, another cover I liked although I was always a little put off by the histrionic man-apes.
I felt that things started to go downhill with the cover to volume three, The Sword of the Lictor. Severian looks acceptable, although I'm not too sure about the spiky hair, but this Baldanders simply looks dreadful. Far too brutish, lumbering, and ape-like. And in some way, far too mundane. This was Severian's competition as the bringer of the New Sun?
But it's the cover of the fourth volume that really derails the whole affair. I understand that by this point, Severian has journeyed hundreds of miles through the wilderness, he has been lamed and scarred and starving, and he is older. But how does that teenage journeyman from the cover of the first book become a massive, muscular, cross-eyed, blue-skinned barbarian?
Stranger still, I found this preliminary cover treatment by Maitz showing a very different scene. Severian, with appropriately colored skin, in battle against the Ascians' bizarre unit of dwarves riding giants. An eerie and memorable scene, definitely, although Severian does look entirely too static in the midst of what was battlefield chaos.
As an aside, I wanted to include this cover, from what I believe was the British edition of the second omnibus Sword and Citadel by Jim Burns. Although decidedly more realistic and somewhat subdued, I feel it captures some of the heaviness of Severian's sombre nature as well as the grim necessities of warfare.
Centipede Press recently published exclusive limited editions of each of the four books. Actually, I am not certain if they have completed Citadel yet but I know they planned to. At first, these really appealed to me because they were large, lovely, and illustrated. But they were priced around $200 each and while I am certain they were worth that due to the amount of care and labor poured into each title, I simply couldn't justify to myself spending nearly a thousand dollars for a series I already owned in multiple formats. Additionally, once I saw the illustrations, by German artist Alexander Preuss, I wasn't as enthusiastic. To me, they were far too slick, cold, impersonal, and digital. They just didn't seem to fit a series of books that, to me, always looked backward as much as they looked forward. Here are a few of Preuss' illustrations. First, Severian leaving Nessus.
Finally, Severian confronting the dying sun. I love the solar and divine imagery here.
Another fact which has only recently come to my attention is that at one point there was an attempt to turn New Sun into a comic. I believe it was going to be a series of mini-series, like Pacific and First did with the Moorcock Eternal Champion books back in the 1980s. Innovation was the publisher, and only one or two issues were put out though. Ted Naifeh handled the art, and there are a few images floating around online. I straight up stole these from this fascinating post by Mordicai (who is quickly becoming one of my go-to people for all things fantasy book related), and, like he said, these seem to be "surprisingly un-terrible." Heavy echoes of the early Vertigo Sandman comics here, which is not necessarily an awful thing, although the cover is astoundingly wrong.
Now, on to the unpublished art. I'm not comfortable with the term "fan art" because that seems faintly derogatory and dismissive. I'm not sure what to call these though, so I'll stick with unpublished. First, a drawing of the crest that Severian visits in his tomb, from very early in Shadow, by artist and cartoonist Joel Priddy. I liked this because the crest was always hard for me to really see in my mind, although I do think Priddy was a bit literal.
Priddy has done four other drawings exploring New Sun which you can see here. Most of them feature a very young Severian, and I'm not sure how I feel about them. I really like Priddy's work, and his graphic novel Pulpatoon Pilgrimage is exquisite, but I really think his Severian is just too cute to work well.
Ordinarily, I am diligent about bookmarking sites and crediting artists, but even with the assistance of a Google image search, I cannot for the life of me find where I first saw this piece. I am sincerely sorry that I can't credit the artist, and if anyone knows where this is from, let me know and I will immediately edit the post. This is an odd piece but its almost Medieval crudeness and heavy religious imagery appealed to me immediately and seemed somehow strangely appropriate for Severian.
Too cartoony for my tastes, but I did like seeing the avern in this piece by Rebecca Dart and she seems to have the details down very nicely.
A bit of a Gothic / steampunk vibe to this Severian by Paul Chung. Mostly good, but the boots aren't doing much for me.
And now we start to kick some ass. Yeah, this one is cartoony and rude and in your face, but I like it. It seems to fit, somehow. This is a portrait of Severian by artist Jimmy Giegerich. Definitely metal, but I am always a sucker for that.
On his Tumblr The Ayatollah of Rock 'n Rollah Jimmy mentioned fellow artist Andrea Kalfas and her Tumblr where she posted this remarkable illustration of Severian being confronted by one of the undines. A very memorable scene, incredibly imagined by Andrea.
Which Jimmy then responded to with his own phenomenal drawing of the conclusion of that scene with the undine. This is fucking mindblowing.
It's really hard to top that so I'll close with some oddities. First, a strange illustration of Severian's temporary traveling companion, the little Severian, getting blasted on the gold ring of Typhon. This one is by Thomas Herpich and it is so strange because it takes a truly shocking and almost heartbreaking scene and makes it kind of, well, alarmingly amusing.
What post would be complete without a Playmobil Severian? No post, that's the answer! This gem is from this intriguing post on the blog of Don Doggett. And I LOVE it.
And finally, I will close with this incredibly bizarre cover, again from the UK, for a paperback edition of Citadel which, for some reason, features one of the Autarch's flying semi-nude female harpy soldiers (I can't remember what they were called. Can anyone help?)
Many many thanks to all the artists who have created art based on these magnificent books. I have an idea for a drawing of the Hierodules Ossipago, Barbatus and Famulimus that I may contribute to this growing body of work. All I need is the time. Also, many many thanks to my compadre Gigantic Joe Kuth for his help unearthing some of this art and to Mordicai for posting about the comic. Have a good weekend, everyone.