This evening in Portland, Ore., the cover design for the 15th anniversary edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book in the J.K. Rowling series, was unveiled at Leaky Con. Slate presents an exclusive first look at the new design, by cartoonist and author Kazu Kibuishi.
Kibuishi is best known for his best-selling graphic novel series Amulet, and he suspects that it was his work as a writer that put him in contention for the design job. “At first I was really surprised that I was even asked to try out,” he said. “But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense for someone like me, an author for middle-grade readers, to introduce my readers to Harry Potter. That would be the next step in the progression for their reading comprehension.”
Kibuishi has designed new covers for the trade paperback editions of all seven books in the Harry Potter series—they’ll be released in September—but Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the one that came easiest: “I knew exactly the moment that I had to depict. I felt it was the most important moment in the entire series.”
For anyone who has read the book, the scene—a figure summons his patronus—could be considered a bit of a spoiler, but given the passage of time, and the appearance of the movie version in 2004, Kibuishi wasn’t too worried about giving anything away. “When you look at the cover, you don’t know who’s in the foreground and who’s in the background,” he says. “A lot of people already know, but I think a new reader will look at this and not feel that it was a spoiler. They would wonder what was going on.”
One thing he didn’t touch was the Harry Potter logo. It was created by David Saylor, the designer of the original Scholastic editions of the books. Saylor also hired Mary GrandPré to illustrate the covers (her illustrations will still appear on the hardcover and digest paperback editions of the series), so in many ways he defined the Harry Potter aesthetic in the United States. Saylor has since started Graphix, a Scholastic imprint for comics, which publishes Kibuishi’s Amulet series.
This time last June, Kibuishi was stricken with bacterial meningitis, which caused severe—but temporary—memory loss. He’s well on the road to recovery now, but the illness affected the way he works: “I’ve had to be a lot more disciplined. I have to take copious notes on things. I make lists. It’s like the movie Memento.” At the same time, the illness helped him to relax. “I’m less tied to ideas. I work in a looser manner. My work is both loose and yet more disciplined.”