Sunday, July 12, 2015

Top 10 "Livres dont vous êtes le Heros" (Gamebooks) cover art

Today, a nostalgia post; the Top 10 greatest "Livres dont vous êtes le Héros" (Gamebook) covers. Those were especially popular from about 1982 to the early 90s, and I'm pretty sure all geeks of my generation read at least one! I still have a massive collection.

In my younger days I was a huge reader of books (well still am today). Not very gifted in sports as a child, I would spend my evenings and week-ends reading comics and novels. When I was around 10 or so, I discovered "livres dont vous êtes le héro" (choose your own adventure books) and I fell in love. Almost every friday for more than a year, my mother would bring me and my brother to a used bookstore in downtown Montreal (it has of course disappeared since). This store had a massive section of used LDVELH ("livres dont vous êtes le héro") and I would buy one book with my meager weekly allowance, and, armed with a pen and an eraser,  spend the friday and saturday reading and playing it. These opened the door to everything else; RPGs, Warhammer, etc. 

One of the great things about those books were the covers and interior art, illustrated by some of the masters like Blanche, Miller, McCaig, etc. Of course the covert art were meant to entice young readers and they were very efficient in doing so! So here is my top 10 of the best covers. Please note that I picked the french edition, because I read these in french as a child. I also think Gallimard, the publisher of the Folio Junior collection, did a great job with the look of these books; every series had a small logo in the bottom and on the spine, which makes them look great, and especially on a shelf. 

The series logo
 In a future post I'll give my top 10 stories (alas a great cover did not always equate a great story, and vice-versa!).

The name of the artist is next to the name of the book.

10. Les Cryptes de la Terreur (The Crypts of Terror), Geoff Taylor

I used to love Dragons, and I still do! The four "Loup Argent' covers had a common blue palette and I always liked it. Not the most original cover, but it's just aesthetically pleasing. And did I mentioned dragons?

9. Le Combattant de l'autoroute (Freeway Fighter), Jim Burn

 It's the car man, it's all about the car. What boy did not wanted to be behind those wheels?! Not surprisingly, the iconic Défis Fantastique (Fighting Fantasy) makes an early appearance on the list.

8. La Cité des Voleurs (City of Thieves), Iain McCaig

As a child, undeads, skeletons and Zombies always made me uneasy in a good way, and this one was no exception.

7. Le Seigneur de l'Ombre (The Lord of Shadow Keep), Leo Hartas

Did I mention I used to love Undeads? There's even blood on the scythe and on the tree next to it. Now that's some creepy stuff right there! And a great book name, too. Today this would probably be the subject of a Twitter censorship initiative! #whywontsomeonethinkofourchildren

6. La Sorcière des Neiges (Caverns of the Snow Witch), Les Edwards

I always loved the forever look of despair on the frozen Ork. So evocative of the book's atmosphere.

5. Les Terres de Légendes (The Lands of Legends)

Ok, I'm cheating. This was actually a RPG world book, published by Folio Junior, and not an actual LDVELH. But come on, look at that bad ass centaur and tell me it doesn't deserve to be on this list?!

4. Le Temps de la Malédiction (Realm of Chaos), John Higgins

As a lad, one of the few good fantasy movie available was the 1981 cult movie Excalibur. Full plate armour? Oh yes please! And that is a mighty fine illustration of a knight in full plate (he seems to be in somewhat of a pickle but that's another story). I also love the somber, grey palette. Something about that book's name also...

3. La Forêt de la Malédiction (The Forest of Doom), Iain McCaig

The whole Forest of Doom is represented there, with that single creature. Well done Mr McCaig, well done...

2. La Cité des Pièges (Kharé, Cityport of Traps), John Blanche

John Blanche. Nothing else needs to be said.

And now...your number 1!

1. Le Labyrinthe de la Mort (DeathTrap Dungeon), Iain McCaig

This illustration is so iconic it's insane. It inspired countless Game Masters in the creation of countless dungeons quests, and the image probably still sleeps in a corner of every fantasy geek's brain. It was the first LDVELH book I ever read. I saw that cover, and I bought it. It was the only sensible decision to make at that moment. THAT's what fantasy is supposed to look like*.

Well this was a very difficult list to make, because there's a lot of great covers. I'm sure you disagree with some of my choices, and have your own favourites. That's what the comment box is there for, folks!

*Not so subtle dig at a certain well known company's recent offering.