The concept for the cover of The Heroes was a development of the one for Best Served Cold (no way!). So weapon, meet bloody map, bloody map, meet weapon. But having done a sword for Best Served Cold,we needed to move into fresh pastures, and since The Heroes is set in the North, where men are men, chests are hairy, wood is plentiful and steel expensive and battle is a way of life, what could have been more appropriate to adorn its cover than an axe, proud tool of war and tree cutting throughout the ages. But what manner of axe, was the question, for the variations are legion.
Well I’ll tell you what manner of axe. I wanted it to have an exaggerated “bearded” profile reminiscent of saxon and viking war axes, well-suited to fighting in shield walls, which is something close to the traditional style of battle in the North. Above all I wanted it to look like a real weapon. I didn’t want it to be ye olde decorative fantasee warre axe. I wanted it to look like something that really could smash your head in and ask for seconds. Having been given roughly that brief, and a few photos for guidance, Didier Graffet came back with this sketch:
Which was pretty much there already, really. It was perhaps a little more elaborate than I’d originally had in mind, which had been for something really simple, brutal and workmanlike, as much wood-axe as war-axe. But after thinking about it a bit I realised that if it was going to be writ large across front, spine and back of a book it needed a certain level of visual interest on blade and haft, not just a big expanse of blank wood and steel. And the overall effect was undeniably still of something businesslike . So we asked Didier to go ahead and colour that one, with just a longer chain on the haft for wrist looping and:
Wow. Click on it, go on. The closer you look, the more detail you get. This one was apparently done digitally, as opposed to the sword for Best Served Cold which was an honest-to-goodness actual painting on board (which I actually have under my desk waiting to be framed), but you can still see the “brushwork” when you get close enough. As with the sword for Best Served Cold, it has a kind of hyper-real quality – almost photo-realistic, and yet with an extra level of style. Could one ask to be maimed by a better axe? I don’t think so…