From Skulls to Swords: Dissecting the Cover for Gideon the Ninth

Galactic dirtbag Gideon the Ninth is now on bookshelves, trashing up the place and attracting furtive glances from all walks of life (and unlife). With a character like this, any artist would struggle to capture their sweaty immediacy. But not only did artist Tommy Arnold visualize it perfectly, he also included clues and details that perfectly conveys the life of Gideon, which is a terrible one, and need not be duplicated or admired.

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[1] HAIR is half-pompadour, half-fauxhawk: the type of hair that is intended to say, ‘Ladies, start your engines,’ but in reality says ‘Ladies, there are no styling products on the Ninth that aren’t human run-off, so expect the worst.’

[2] WORRYINGLY FLY SUNGLASSES in the manner of Top Gun or maybe something that once adorned Starsky’s weird, gaunt face. Are something of a mysterious enigma even in the context of the book. Will they somehow prove central to our mystery?? (SPOILER: No.)

[3] SKULL PAINT is pretty much mandatory for a Ninth House tomb cultist. Thousands of variations of the skull exist, each subject to sumptuary regulation and carrying their own specific meaning. Unfortunately, anyone who cared was dead a hundred years ago or is now seriously geriatric. Gideon depicted here as wearing paint appropriate to her role as cavalier primary, which probably has its own specific Ninth name, like The Skull in Ice-Choked Chains or The Skull of the Sharpened Phalanx, or whatever.

As a child, Gideon traditionally wore what I will call The Skull of the Laziest Juggalo.

[4] BLACK is the colour associated with the Ninth House. They are styled Keepers of the Locked Tomb. Their sigil is the jawless skull (above). Their associated symbol is the Hot Goth GF.


[5] THE RAPIER is the weapon of the House cavalier. From the Second House to the Ninth, all swordsmen who serve the lead necromancers of their household wield the rapier, which we will define very broadly here as a slender, long-bladed thrusting sword with a guard hilt. The exact dimensions of the blade can differ from House to House, but no cavalier would be caught dead with a broadsword. Over the latter half of this myriad, a typical Ninth House rapier would be “whatever is not falling apart the most,” as a typical Ninth House cavalier is just somebody with a massive backpack of elbows.


[6] THE KNUCKLES are an unusual offhand for any cavalier, let alone the Ninth House cavalier primary (usual offhand: more bones). Common offhand weapons include short swords, daggers of all kinds, nets and smallshields. The cavalier’s weapons must complement their necromancer’s style of fighting, even if cavaliers and necromancers rarely fight as a duo in the modern era; a Ninth House cavalier must limit any spread damage in case they take out their necromancer’s constructs.


[7] CHECK OUT THIS SKULL because he’s having a good time. This dude would be laughing alone with some salad if he had a lingual muscle.

Hey, don’t you just absolutely adore endless, ceaseless references to skulls and frankly to all other bones in the body? If you don’t, do not read this book. Give it to an enemy.




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