Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Terror Dream

by Susan Faludi // Picador

Illustration by Andrea Dezsö

This New York Times Op-Ed piece, America's Guardian Myth written by the author Susan Faludi explains the book better than I can.

NY Public Library Picture Collection

This was a difficult subject to package. I wanted to focus on one aspect of the book and I chose the "Heroic Cowboy" myth. Where women needed men's protection and men were able to provide it. This was the turning point where America's persona was formed. I thought using a classic John Wayne pose as a silhouette would be an arresting image. But it was determined that it wasn't saying enough of what the book was about. It had to look epic and expansive. The only way to portray the story that my Publisher wanted was to depict the entire history with multiple images. From Pre-Revolutionary America where homesteads were attacked, the women kidnapped with nothing that the men could do to protect them. To the growing myth of the cowboy savior, hopeful stories of the cowboy defeating the Indians and protecting the women, to the resurgence of that ideal in Post-9/11 America and heroic rescue of Private Lynch. But this was beginning to sound like a recipe for image/story overload.

My first device to contain all of these ideas was to create a shadow box or diorama of these scenes. Looking through them as if we were peering through history. I had recently seen the Kara Walker exhibition at the Whitney Museum and I was blown away by her animated shadow puppet films. So graphic and full of energy. I had started seeing Illustrator Andrea Dezsö work around in magazines and went to her web site. The range of her visual expression was amazing. She had the technique, style and flow that I thought would be perfect in telling this complex story in a simpler form.
I called her up and it turned out that she was already familiar with the book because she had illustrated the author's New York Times Op-Ed piece. So from the start, I felt confident about the two of us tackling this project together.
After several brainstorming discussions, we soon scrapped the idea of a dimensional picture box because it was unnecessarily complicated and decided to try this on one level.

Below are Andrea's sketches and her email comments.

Andrea: I did a layered composition where the layers represent time periods from the past (top) to the present (bottom). The top shows different versions of the "fight with the indians" story. In some scenes the cowboy is the rescuer in others the cowboy is huddling behind the tree and the woman fights.
The bottom layer refers to the Jessica Lynch rescue fiction by US
Special troops.

Me: Beautiful! But too busy and too much story to figure out. Let's edit it down and concentrate on just 3 aspects.

Andrea: (Top): women fight indians (I took the guys out from here because I wanted to concentrate on the bravery of women and show them in an unusual way as fighters also to contrast that image more with the ones where men rescue women) (Middle): Cowboy myth--cowboy rescues woman (Bottom): GIs rescue Jessica Lynch reference or the contemporary myth.
I think the images can go as one continuous block or be cut into 3 scenes however it would fit your typography better. I LOVE the stark stripped-down to the essence black and white idea:

Me: The Jessica Lynch/hospital bed story isn't coming across. I don't want to include the burning twin towers. But in the end, this was the terrible moment that President Bush used to justify his actions. So let's try fitting that in:

Me: It works, but please remove the 2nd plane.

The sketches were then photographed to suggest the original diorama box idea and to feel like a nightmare seen through a television:

Alternate comps:

Too small on the page.

Nice but too ghostly and wintery.

The final cover was printed as a 4/C over Metallic Silver Ink, PMS 877 with Glossy Film Lamination.

Authors@Google presents Susan Faludi // September 11, 2008


Ian Shimkoviak said...

I think you or someone posted this before. Brilliant cover.

H3NR7 said...

Thanks Ian.
Joseph at:
wrote a post about it.
Writing doesn't come easy to me so it took me a while to figure out how to put this project's process into words.

Joseph said...

Great to see how this unfolded. As always, Henry, thanks for sharing the whole process.

craftivore said...

Thanks for giving a look into your communication with the illustrator. Andrea Deszo's illustrations are lovely and it seems like you had great rapport.

H3NR7 said...

Andrea was a joy to work with. I still have to meet up with her for coffee.