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The whole "don't judge a book by its cover" thing came about for good reason: The people who design book covers often don't even read the books. Who has the time? Now, you wouldn't think this would be a problem when designing the cover for a classic everyone is familiar with -- you don't have to know how to read to know what, say, The Wizard of Oz or 1984 is about.

So when those classic books fall into the hands of the rare cover artist who somehow has no idea what's going on, that's when hilarity ensues ...

8
Fantastic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe


A rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.

Poe's fiction contains such timelessly iconic images as mouthy ravens and swinging pendulums, and delves into such truly archetypal fears as being buried alive and being bludgeoned to death with a candelabrum by soft-core '70s porn. What, you don't remember that last one in any Poe story you've ever read? Yeah, neither do we.

Maybe it's just us, but "scantily clad female" comes in just behind "monster trucks" in the list of images that the collected work of Edgar Allan Poe brings to mind. But maybe we're missing the point -- perhaps if you look close enough at this image that appears to be torn straight from the cover of that VHS tape your dad used to hide in the bottom of his sock drawer, there's some untold horror lurking inside.

Lo! There it is:

Hiding right there in plain sight. Staring you right in the face, as it were. Endlessly watching. Endlessly knowing.

7
1984 by George Orwell

via Crisol Plural
"Freedom Is Slavery" repurposed as a BDSM tagline.

In the dystopian future-past of 1984, the Anti-Sex League is a radical organization pushing an agenda of outright celibacy. But what about propagation of the species, you ask? Only by way of artificial insemination, bucky -- if they have their way, your little swimmers will only get to play in the pool by way of a third party driving them there. So of course the obvious way for a member of the league to portray those ideals, at least according to this cover, is by wearing a standard uniform consisting of a boobtastically low-cut dress with an "ANTI-SEX LEAGUE" button drawing everyone's attention straight to her generous cleavage.

And if you, as a male member of this fictional society, choose not to look? Well, there's no danger of that happening -- not when Big Brother has deployed his army of be-gimp-suited goons to stand by with scowls cocked and ready to ensure that you damn well look at that cleavage.

We're not exactly sure what the word is for what's going on in this scene, but we're pretty sure "dystopia" ain't it.

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6
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum

via Hongkiat
Munchkins in Space, Episode 4 of the Oz saga.

The Oz books are practically bursting at the seams with instantly recognizable imagery, but why design a cover around yellow brick roads or emerald cities or witches or tin men when you could slap some fucking space jets on there instead? If this version of the story doesn't feature the Cowardly Lion discovering his courage by way of rechristening himself "Maverick" and doling out some sky-murder to a squadron of Venusian MiGs, we're going to be sorely disappointed.

This cover is just one example from the apparently lucrative industry of taking an out-of-copyright classic, slapping together a print-on-demand edition of said classic, and fooling middle schoolers into buying it. And we have to admit that maybe they're on to something, because the Vexin Classics series of classic novels -- from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Frankenstein -- featuring completely irrelevant naked ladies on their covers would certainly have caught our adolescent eyeballs.

Vexin Classics
Randomly chosen public domain art for the win!

5
The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

via Bookonaut
Hey, plastic comes from oil, and they say oil comes from dinosaurs.

And so, the bold Edwardian explorers have stumbled across the fabled Lost World, a land in which the flora and fauna have remained unchanged since time immemorial -- largely because they're made entirely out of plastic, and we all know that shit don't biodegrade.

Presumably this is what happens when the person in charge of cover designs hands the reins over to his 6-year-old son and his best friend, who is also a stuffed tiger. And actually, if you look at it that way -- as the Calvin-and-Hobbesian approach to publishing classic literature -- it's not so bad. Keep on rocking those plastic dinosaurs, you li'l Ray Harryhausen, you.

Be sure to hit up the Dispensary for our T-shirts that have been scientifically proven to make you a more awesome reader.

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4
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

via Berfrois.com
And do sheep dream of Egyptian bestiality?

This is a Danish edition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the novel that inspired the film Blade Runner), and if what we're seeing here is what androids really dream of, it's no wonder humans send out bounty hunters to "retire" those twisted bastards.

In this interpretation, an "electric sheep" is apparently a sheep-faced, human-breasted half-robot with purple wool hair, and judging by the permanently exposed breasts, we can only assume it's some kind of high-tech sex doll. But wait -- is that a dartboard on the back of its head? Are androids such multitaskers that they need the distraction of bar games while doing the ol' hydraulic shuffle? Or maybe ... maybe it's not darts they're "shooting" to "score" in this "game"?

3
Dracula by Bram Stoker

Ballantine Books
So what? He's reading the annotations.

It's tough to dream up an original concept when it comes to the quintessential bloodsucker -- with the film versions having created so many iconic depictions of the character over the years, how can a lowly cover artist possibly hope to compare? Well, in this case, they decided to do it by filling a coffin with the love child born from a vigorous threesome among Vincent Price, Jay Leno, and that creepy puppet from Saw. The result is confusing, to say the least -- we're not sure whether to laugh, scream, or maybe do one of those uncomfortable chuckles that slowly degenerates into a sob.

But wait, we haven't even gotten to the most disturbing part yet, because judging by the look on his face, we have our suspicions about what's going on just out of frame:

Yep, undead O-face. Good luck scrubbing that from your memory.

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2
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft

Ballantine Books
Mind-blowing.

Designing a cover image for a collection of tales from H.P. Lovecraft really isn't all that complicated: Take an oceanscape with lots of rough waves, paste a giant humanoid figure on there, slap on some bat wings and a squid face, and call it a day. But instead, this edition went with the more obscure reference: Zombie Popeye.

This is just one of a whole series of similarly themed Lovecraft editions, each depicting a person's reaction to discovering that their cranium has been sublet without their consent.

Ballantine Books
Mindfuck.

For example, on the second volume we find a man whose pet brain worms have infuriated him, to the point that he hasn't even noticed that the lower half of his face has transformed into the cover of a Pink Floyd album.

Ballantine Books
Mind ... bat. Batty mind.

And here's what you get if the world's biggest Batman fan plays with the puzzle box from Hellraiser. Don't play with the puzzle box from Hellraiser, kids.

1
Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

via CBC
Of the apes, by the apes, for the apes, baby.

For this comic adaptation of the classic novel, the publisher decided to focus on the iconic scene from Tarzan in which he and his little monkey pal duck into a cave to escape a sudden rainstorm and ... oh hell, there's really no tactful way to put this, so we're just going to come right out and say it: Tarzan so wants to fuck that monkey.

Every single bit of his body language says so. The bedroom eyes. The sheepish yet somehow slightly vulgar grin. The reclined position that just so happens to perfectly accentuate his otherworldly pecs. And if it weren't mostly blocked from view, we'd be willing to bet you could see his loincloth a-bulging. We're not sure why he's packing the bow and arrows -- wild game is clearly not what Tarzan's looking to pierce in this particular situation.

And the monkey? Well, it's down, obviously. Just look at the way it's returning Tarzan's shit-eating stare, even though bared teeth is a sign of aggression in monkey-speak. But that monkey's not going all apey. No sir, instead it's proudly displaying its pouty little monkey lips, gently massaging its meager monkey throat in preparation for what will surely be oh God we're so going to hell for this one.

Related Reading: Up for the video game version of this same article? Click here. Tom Reimann will show you the Bomberman you wish you'd grown up with. Rather see misleading movie covers? Watch how much cooler District 9 looks in Thailand? If you're still not satisfied, let Cracked cue you in on the most misleading title in TV history.


Be sure to hit up the Dispensary for our T-shirts that have been scientifically proven to make you a more awesome reader.

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