Jul 9 2010 5:46pm

Revisiting the Tramp Stamp Phenomenon

I don’t know if John Jude Palencar or I can really take credit (or is it blame?) for the tramp stamp phenomenon, but this video cracks me up every time I see it.

This video is a summary of paranormal romance and urban fantasy covers up to 2008, but would it be the same today? Has anything changed? I think it might be exactly the same today, except with angels, but let us know if you've been seeing differently.

Irene Gallo is the Art Director of Tor Books

This article is part of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Month: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Tristan Elwell
1. Elwell
Of course, the difference between the covers you and John did and 99% of the others is that YOURS AREN'T AWFUL!
Irene Gallo
2. Irene
Aw, now Tristan, there are tons of these covers i wish Tor had done.

I truly believe great covers come in two flavors: they can be great because they are aesthetically awesome and they can be great because they _work_.

It's particularly gratifying when they overlap but I'll take "works" anyday.
Paul Arzooman
3. parzooman
They may be cool but still don't measure up to a wolf t-shirt.
Michael Grosberg
4. Michael_GR
Regardless of tattoos, the other common factor in most of these covers is that the head is always obscured.

I wonder if it helps readers empathize with the heroine - they can literally place themselves as the heroine in their imagination.
Irene Gallo
5. Irene
Michael, I think that is exactly it. I also think it's similar to all those movie opening images of "stranger in the alley/door/hall/whatever" Once you actually see them, you start making associations --" wow, they are hot/scary/pretty/not-pretty/tough" -- but until then you're a tad more engaged wondering who you are about to be faced with.
6. bronxbee
now let's see a series of male as object covers!
Ursula L
7. Ursula
The cut-off heads seem dehumanizing. Particularly combined with the overt sexuality, it makes the covers seem more that of sexual objects, rather than actual people.

I don't see how it helps the reader "identify with" the protagonist. I don't recall seeing covers with male protagonists where they chop the head off th protagonist to make him easier to identify with.

It's also weirdly disempowering. Many of the images show the women carrying weapons. Yet they're still left helpless, their back to the viewer, ready to be ambushed rather than ready to confront the world. More so with the missing heads, their sight removed.

The extreme vulnerability of the covers can be the point, illustrating the story, as it was with the original Kushiel's Dart. But even there, she had a face.
8. Nicholas Waller
As it happens, the book ad (for Lesley Hauge's Nomansland) accompanying these comments as I read them features the back of a young woman who is carrying a weapon (a drawn bow) and has her face mostly turned away from us. No visible tattoo or claw marks, though she is sitting on a horse and her bum is sticking out.

In this case I imagine she has her back to us not because she is about to be ambushed but because the intended reader is supposed to be on the same team and literally 'watching her back'. (The blurb says it's an all-woman island society defending its shores "from the enemy... MEN").
Irene Gallo
9. Irene
I imagine the recent prevalence of hooded figures is the male version of the same idea. The mysterious stranger.
Risha Jorgensen
10. RishaBree
I just have to say, the "an actual moon" bit always makes me laugh!
11. Noelchristian
Great choice of music. I suspect Lee Ann has a stamp.If you want another laugh here is a brief history of the tramp stamp.

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