Deconstructing the Deep Penitentiary 6 Cover Art


When I release a book the out­side cov­er is just as impor­tant to me as the inside text, both form­ing a com­plete con­cept as an art object. I real­ly want the read­er to judge the book by the cov­er. An exam­ple is in my Par­adise Earth series where I pay grim homage to the Watchtower’s reli­gious pro­pa­gan­da.

In a typ­i­cal pub­lish­ing con­tract the author may have some input on the cov­er, but more often it is the pub­lish­ing house that makes the deci­sion. One of the advan­tages of releas­ing Deep Pen­i­ten­tiary 6 under my own label is hav­ing com­plete con­trol of the cov­er art. It also means that the expense of pay­ing skilled artists like Diego Galin­do and Tim­o­thy Ander­son comes direct­ly out of pock­et.  By pledg­ing to my Kick­starter cam­paign and pick­ing up a copy of the book, you’ll help me cov­er these costs.

The cov­er for Deep Pen­i­ten­tiary 6 cou­ples with the sto­ry like a fine wine rough rye whiskey in a dirty rocks glass.  It is a homage not just to pulp fic­tion paper­backs, but also grind­house cin­e­ma posters.  In this arti­cle I’ll decon­struct the cov­er and show the influ­ences that I used for the art direc­tion.

Theatrical Poster for the Big Doll House

As the sto­ry is a throw­back to 1970’s women-in-prison film, first and fore­most I want­ed to ref­er­ence a poster from the era. Of all the posters I looked at, the one for the The Big Doll House was the one that jumped out at me. I love how the movie ele­ments are set against a start white back­drop.  The com­po­si­tion of the cov­er art by Diego Galin­do fol­lows close­ly, albeit with a sci-fi spin. Front and cen­ter are my two main char­ac­ters, Theta But­ter­fly and Hon­ey Bee, loft­ing weapons. To the right is the whip-hold­ing war­den. Hov­er­ing men­ac­ing­ly above is a prison.


The sto­ry­line of Deep Pen­i­ten­tiary 6 is a nod to Wan­da the Wicked War­den. Both involve an inno­cent woman enter­ing into a nefar­i­ous prison for the pur­pose of locat­ing her sis­ter. For my cov­er art I decid­ed to bor­row some­thing from Wanda’s wardrobe and put my war­den in a black leather cat­suit with stilet­to boots.  And what wicked war­den would be com­plete with­out a whip? I gave mine a sci-fi var­nish by mak­ing it an elec­tro whip.

Black Mama White Mama

Anoth­er film that served as source fod­der for Deep Pen­i­ten­tiary 6 is Black Mama, White Mama. The movie poster fea­tures beau­ti­ful blax­ploita­tion star Pam Gri­er along with her reluc­tant white con­vict com­pan­ion. In a sim­i­lar way, the cov­er paint­ing by Diego Galin­do fea­tures my black and white lead­ing ladies in action. Also like Ms. Gri­er, my Hon­ey Bee is giv­en gra­tu­itous cleav­age expo­sure on the cov­er art.


When I decid­ed to do a pulp split-paper­back with Shane Crash, the choice to use the old Ace dou­ble books as a tem­plate was obvi­ous. In research­ing them I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised to see that William S. Bur­roughs sem­i­nal nov­el Junkie was orig­i­nal­ly an Ace pulp released under the name William Lee.  Our graph­ic design­er, Tim­o­thy Ander­son cap­tured the look of these old books per­fect­ly, not just in style, but by grung­ing them to make it look like the book has kicked around in a back­pack for a cou­ple decades.

The Final Programme

I ran across this cov­er to The Final Pro­gramme while brows­ing Pin­ter­est. (I use the site a lot for art con­cepts; it’s not just for house­wives.) The cov­er art framed by a white bor­der just screams old sci-fi to me. Tim Ander­son employs the same device for the cov­er of Deep Pen­i­ten­tiary 6, plac­ing the title above the framed space scene.

Morocco Jones Hand of the Mafia

Before Indi­ana Jones, the more exot­ic-sound­ing Moroc­co Jones was sleuthing on the print­ed page. Pulp fic­tion titles like this use the cov­er blurb to implore read­ers to fol­low the con­tin­u­ing exploits of hard­boiled heroes like Moroc­co.  By sim­i­lar­ly ren­der­ing the name Theta But­ter­fly in red print in a cov­er blurb, it high­lights her as a star worth watch­ing.

A lot of thought went into the cov­er of Deep Pen­i­ten­tiary 6 and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. While eBooks are con­ve­nient, this is one paper­back edi­tion that is worth hav­ing on your shelf.  You can snag a copy by pledg­ing to my Kick­starter at a $13 lev­el or high­er. Thanks for your gen­er­ous sup­port for me and my artists!

¶ Despatched on Saturday, May 18th, 2013 at 11:00 am and sorted in Writing. ¶ { ReTweet }

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