I'm a bad news first kind of guy, so here it is: HR Giger has died at 74. This day officially sucks.
Like most Americans, book designers tend not to know all that much about the rest of the world, and since they don’t always have the time to respond to a book on its own terms, they resort to visual clichés. Meanwhile, editors sometimes forget what made a manuscript unique to begin with. In the case of non-Western novels, they often fall back on framing it with "a vague, Orientalist sense of place," [Knopf's Peter] Mendelsund says, and they’re enabled by risk-averse marketing departments.
So there you have it, the reason why so many books about Africa have covers featuring acacia trees and sunsets, as if they were "designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King." (I think they mean the film, not the musical, but I could be wrong.)
Occasionally visitors to my apartment have been surprised by a particular shelf in my living room, the one that holds over twenty Hellblazer trade paperbacks. (I know, I know, I'm unhappy there aren't more, too, okay? I have student loans to pay off and groceries to buy.) John Constantine is one of the very few comic book protagonists I keep up with—and as one of the others is Steve Niles' Cal McDonald, you can see I have a niche I don't tread terribly far from.
While it would have been quite easy to hate on the 2005 adaptation of Constantine, I actually enjoyed it. No, Keanu Reeves would not have been my first choice, nor would the city of Los Angeles be where I set the action, but Hollywood is Hollywood, and 2005 was just at the beginning of the comic book renaissance we are living through today. (Ang Lee's Hulk was released to mixed reviews in 2003, the abysmal Spider-Man 3 destroyed that chapter of the franchise in 2007, Watchmen wouldn't come out until 2009, etc.) There really wasn't any reason for Hollywood not to mess with the nationality of the main character or his country of residence eight years ago, and, honestly, I was just surprised that a Vertigo series was optioned at all. The end result isn't a perfect portrayal of John Constantine or his world, but it really wasn't the worst thing that could have happened either, especially with so many things going against it. Keanu was a passable chain-smoking asshole with a conscience (and an encyclopedic knowledge of the dark arts), and Los Angeles wasn't the worst arena for a battle between good and evil.
That said, I am thrilled to pieces that NBC's upcoming series at the very least has cast a British actor in the starring role. (And after watching the trailer below, I was able to forgive Matt Ryan for being Welsh.)
And, finally, if you aren't excited for Edge of Tomorrow, you should probably watch this trailer.