So, when I was sixteen years old, I lived in Anchorage, Alaska, and had a job at Burger King. I totally did the “walking through four feet of snow at 5am to get to work” thing (and I plan to tell my grandkids that it was uphill both ways, but it really was just uphill one way, and the other way was me slipping-sliding-falling-on-my-ass.) Theoretically, I was saving money for college — and that was partially true. But I can tell you exactly where most of that money went: the local comic book shop, Bosco’s.
And I didn’t have just my habit to support. Oh, no. My younger sister Echo — who was too young to work — also loved the comics madly, so much so that we began collecting all kinds of stuff related to them: the t-shirts, the action figures (heh, you’ve seen those already) … and the trading cards.
These trading cards where just like baseball trading cards. They had the character on one side, and her history/stats on the other. When we first began collecting them, we were primarily interested in the X-Men characters — and of those, the X-Men women. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that most of the time, we were disappointed. We had this image of the X-Men women in our heads, and the “portraits” in the trading cards never lived up to them — and sometimes, they were just plain ugly.
Until Julie Bell, illustrator. In one of the series, she did two different paintings that knocked our socks off — one was of Storm, pictured here, and another of Lilandra. I’m kind of surprised that we didn’t rub the ink off those cards looking at them (this was a little bit before we heard of acid-free paper) because Bell captured EXACTLY what we wanted these heroines to be: Sexy, yes — but strong, strong, strong mostly. And in the Storm painting, especially — there was an action hero in action. And my god, it’s hard to explain the effect that had on me, but it was all good.
And suddenly, it wasn’t just comic book cards that we were looking for — we wanted Julie Bell’s, too. (We got her set … we won’t talk about the price, because I lied to my mother when she asked us how much we spent on it. It was my BK money, dammit!) Those were lovely, but they weren’t the characters that we knew. But then, wonder of wonders, we heard that Julie and her husband, Boris Vallejo (you’ve seen a gazillion of his paintings on SF/F covers) were going to do the entire trading card set.
I’m not going to describe this part in detail, but I will make an outline for you: When you buy the packs of cards, you can’t see which ones are inside. So you buy them at $2, and hope that of the six cards, you get at least a couple of new ones. So let me just sum up by saying: Money was spent.
But it was also totally worth it. Because once again, we got these amazing, gorgeous images of strong women in action, women who weren’t just T&A (although the T&A they had was fabulous), all rendered in these incredibly realistic paintings. The Rogue! My god, the Rogue! *weeps*
Okay, okay, and you’re probably thinking: Um, Meljean, wasn’t this post supposed to be Part II of the covers you love series? And the answer is: Yes. Yes, it is. It’s actually about two covers that I’m madly in love with, that I saw for the first time this year, and totally hit me in the same way: This was what I’ve been waiting for. Because this spring, I got this in my inbox:
And I put it up on my blog, called my sister Echo, and said: Go look at my blog and then call me back. About two seconds later she did, all: OMG IT’S LIKE A JULIE BELL COVER!!!
And I think I cried all over the e-mail I sent to my editor about how much I loved it. Because I’ve loved all of my covers, don’t get me wrong — but I’ll be the first to admit that we were searching, searching for exactly the right look for this series. And maybe marketing will eventually come back and say, “Dude, this cover tanked this book for you, so you don’t get another one.” But right now, all that I can think is, “Yes. Yes. This is it. So perfect.” Not just gorgeous, but exactly what I want the cover to convey about the woman on the pages.
But it’s not just my cover. I said TWO, but this is not the unveiling of the next cover in the series. It’s Nalini’s, and since I’m filling in for her today, it’s completely right to post this:
I’m telling you, there’s no way these two couldn’t be my favorite covers ever.