So Sayeth the Odinson: The Odinson’s Top 5 Covers by Larry Elmore

Greetings from the Odinson,

Whether it’s comics, novels, or movie posters, one of the most essential pieces of the puzzle to entice potential readers and viewers to partake in your product is a fantastic piece of art.  The Odinson has talked about the art of the comic book cover many times over the years in columns like The Top 10 Covers by John Romita, Jr., and soon I plan on talking about some of the best movie posters of All-Time. 

But this week, the Odinson is going to turn his attention to the art of the book cover.  More specifically the art of the fantasy novel.  No books on the market have better, eye-catching covers than sci-fi and fantasy novels.  It is the art on the cover of the book that helps make one book stand out amongst the thousands of other books on the bookshelf and/or the website.  If you want to entice somebody to read the synopsis on the jacket and become intrigued enough to buy your book, you must have an intriguing, eye-catching cover that makes them pick up that book to take a look.

That’s where the cover art comes in.

The Odinson has been a voracious reader since a very young age.  Fantasy, horror, and science fiction were always my favorite.  It’s what I loved in comics so naturally it would be what I’d gravitate toward when transitioning into novels.  I also played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons as a kid so naturally I would gravitate toward the books that brought those wonderful worlds of might and magic to life.  

The sweat on iron-hard muscles.  The crackling of black magic.  The flow of a maiden’s gown.  The intense fiery gaze of a great wyrm.  There have been so many fantastic fantasy artists over the years, artists that rendered the worlds of mighty men and monsters in such beautiful and vibrant detail.  Frank Frazetta, the godfather of fantasy art.  Joe Jusko, the master of dungeon scenario.  Boris Vallejo, the king of reference.  All these masters of their craft and others the Odinson will someday talk about at length, but today I wish to speak on the man whose art not only introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons but the man whose art drew me to the novel that would introduce me to Drizzt Do’Urden, one of the greatest fantasy heroes of All-Time.  

The Odinson’s Top 5 Favorite Covers by Larry Elmore

5 – Expert Rules (a.k.a. The Blue Box) – When your gaming adventures take you beyond the first level dungeons, catacombs, and goblin layers of the Basic Rules, this was the next step for your D&D campaign.  And like the rules within, Larry Elmore’s painting on the cover promises a whole new world of high adventure.  The great frontier opens up before you with the promises of larger adventure, bigger rewards, and more dangerous threats.  

Larry Elmore’s piece here promises all that and more.  The looming dragon diving down upon the hero like a great bird of prey, its terrifying wingspan so large that it cannot even be contained by the borders of the scene.  Its sinister talons promising a painful death, and its vicious maw already igniting with a fiery overkill.  But our mighty hero is undeterred.  He has leveled up with armor and shield and charges headlong to meet this new threat with unwavering courage.

The line of trees silhouetted against a burnt horizon only serves to make the harrowing image in the foreground pop, as the beholders of the image salivate for a titanic clash that will have to playout in our imaginations. 

4 – Time of the Twins – The second trilogy, Legends, from writers Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman set in the magical world of Dragonlance.  This time around, the twins, Raistlin and Caramon, take center stage and embark on a grand, time-traveling adventure that will take them back to the past to witness the Great Cataclysm and to the furthest reaches of sanity as they make war with the gods themselves!

The image here is foreboding.  Raistlin, with his burnt gold skin, his weakening hand grasping the Staff of Magus, stares with his cold hourglass eyes directly into your soul.  In his manipulative clutches he holds Crysania, a pure of heart cleric whose devout faith in her god, Paladin, may only be surpassed by her forbidden love for the man in the black robes.  

The growing storm clouds in the background foreshadow the dark days to come as these two opposing forces, light and darkness, enter a chess match where to the winner goes the other’s soul.  This is a powerful image that encapsulates the entire three book saga in but a moment.  

The Red Box

3 – Basic Rules (a.k.a. The Red Box) – This is the image that started it all for the Odinson.  This fabulous piece of art introduced me to the fantasy worlds of Dungeons and Dragons.  Larry Elmore captures the imagination with a striking scenario that just begs to be examined.

A fearless barbarian with nothing but sword and shield and the strength of his muscles and the fortitude of his courage enters the layer of the beast.  A cache of riches beyond his wildest imaginations spreads out before him like a sea of glittering gold.  The only thing standing in his way is a creature of immense power, terrifying grace, a juggernaut of burnt scales, flesh-rending claws, a mouth of razor-sharp death, and sinister, monstrous eyes with a glare that cuts to a man’s very soul.  

The image just screams DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS!

2 – Dragons of Autumn Twilight – This was not the first novel the Odinson ever read, but it was among the first.  And it was this magnificent image that drew me to the book. 

A backdrop of autumn, a time of transition from the warm joys of summertime to the harsh, cruel, cold of winter.  Three heroes stand in the foreground.  A fiery haired half-elf with a foot in both worlds of men and the elves, but belonging to neither.  A beautiful tribeswoman burden with an artifact and a quest that could save the world.  And, a dishonored knight whose ancestral armor, family sword, and unyielding sense of duty are the only things he owns in life.  Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows behind is a deadly monster thought long extinct and whose return could signal the end of the world. 

Larry Elmore gives us a classic image that captures the imagination and sets the stage for the amazing adventure that unfolds in the pages within.  

The Crystal Shard

1 – The Crystal Shard – I still remember the first time I saw this image.  It was a full-page ad on the back cover of my comic book.  The magnificent Walt Simonson run on The Mighty Thor had just wrapped up less than a year earlier and the Odinson was, as I am to this very day, an immense Thor fan. 

So, of course, my eyes were immediately drawn to this striking image.  I salivated waiting for this book to come out and the day I finally entered the Walden Books at old Ridgmar Mall and found it waiting for me on the bookshelf was a most triumphant day indeed.  Little did I know, this would become my favorite book of All-Time.

Three fierce warriors tracking an adversary across the tundra while enduring the blistering winds of the elements.  A battle harden dwarf with a notched axe and glare that could stop a frenzied troll in its tracks.  A mighty barbarian with a wolf’s pelt grasping the sickest battle hammer I’ve seen this side of Mjolnir itself.  And, a cloaked ranger whom I would discover is a dark elf exiled from the Underdark and feared by those he has sworn to protect. 

 I’ve read The Crystal Shard more times than I can remember.  I read it until the cover fell off and I had to buy another copy.  The dark elf hero, Drizzt, has become one of the Odinson’s favorite literary characters of All-Time and whose adventures span 39 books and counting.

Larry Elmore’s astonishing, vibrant art not only brought the Odinson into the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons, but he was a huge inspiration for me wanting to become an artist myself.  As I’m sure he was an inspiration to many others all around the world.  The man has just too many great pieces of art.  Those listed above are my personal favorites.

Do yourself a favor and someday fall down the rabbit hole of Larry Elmore artwork.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

NOTE: For past entries of the So Sayeth the Odinson blog, over a decade’s worth of comic book and pop culture articles and reviews, click HERE.  Also, be sure to check out my novels The Survivors and Autumn Dawn, which were inspired by 1980s horror – HERE and HERE

About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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