Publishers change ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ artwork… what an awful idea

J.M. Aucoin . Book Reviews, Misc. 3258 No Comments

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Gammell’s image on the left; Helquist’s new image on the right

Man. I remember having the series of Scary Stories books as a kid. They were great. Some were terrifying. Others were a little silly. But they were great books.

What really made Scary Stories special was the artwork done by Stephen Gammell. Seriously. The stories were great but the artwork were amazing. It set the mood. You were already to crap yourself before you even read any of the stories because of the artwork. The images were grotesque and hair raising. The long droplets of blood hanging from open wounds, loss limbs, and even the roots of blades of glass were mesmerizing, and made you think twice about reading further. The misshapen heads and limbs of people, creatures, and monsters had your mind racing with fear and excitement about what lurked in the next story.

Gammell’s artwork wasn’t just part of the book. It was an essential part to the overall mood and experience.

But to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the trilogy, publishers have decided to switch out his artwork for something a little more… family friendly? Not sure what the point of switch is, but io9 really nailed it on the head with this line:

 But if your child couldn’t handle Gammell’s paintings, they’re certainly not going to be able to stomach a short story about a scarecrow who skins a farmer alive and dries out his skin sack trophy on the roof.

This isn’t to knock Brett Helquist’s artwork. It’s well done, but it’s no Gammell. It’s too clean. Too pretty. Too fairytale like. Scary Stories need bizarre and nightmarish drawings.

Stephen Gammell scary artworkThis is a bit of a travesty for anyone who grew up loving these books. I’m not sure if my parents still own the ones we had; I really hope so now. I’m not even sure why the publishers decide to fix what wasn’t broken.

io9 has more artwork comparison.

But if you’re going to go get one of these books, I suggest trying to snag one with the original artwork. You’ll be doing yourself a great disservice if you get anything but that.

J.M. Aucoin

Author. Fencer. Sometimes actor. Full-time nerd. I write swashbucklers & historical adventure novels.

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