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Black Sheep

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RealWorld

Black Sheep was the company that produced all of the BBC's novel covers throughout the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures and the BBC Past Doctor Adventures ranges. They also produced covers for a majority of the BBC's later BBC Video releases.

According to Mark Clapham, BBC Books had informed him that "under no circumstances was any author ever, ever allowed to contribute ideas to the cover."[1]
Synthespians mock cover

Synthespians™ mock cover

However, other authors such as Craig Hinton successfully submitted mock-covers to Black Sheep, such as his mock cover for Synthespians™, whose initial print run had to be pulped. This was down to Black Sheep's carelessness with images and copyright. Hinton had worked with a fan James Gent who had mocked up a cover for Black Sheep to reference. Based on Hinton's idea of "I asked for Spearhead from Space meets Dynasty" Gent used actual Dynasty images for the mockup. However Black Sheep interpreted this directly and created an cover using images from Dynasty again, breaching several different copyrights. After this another cover was approved, but after the first print run had to be pulped due to the mirrored female Autons.[2] [3]
Dying in the Sun

Dying in the Sun cover.

The BBC's position on authors submitting ideas appeared to have developed as the range did as in 2001 according to Jon de Burgh Miller for Dying in the Sun he was asked by Sarah Lavelle (who was copy editing the book) at the BBC what he wanted on the cover. He sent her a package containing a sketch of what the cover should be in pencils and crayons, along with a text description of what he was aiming for, plus a couple of photos from LA to illustrate the street scene. Lavelle passed them on to Black Sheep who followed the suggestion closely, but, as de Burgh Miller describes "with so little creativity that the original cover was legendarily awful (it had a Muppet on the front)" He recalled he "wrote back and said it wasn't good enough" and then he "did a detailed breakdown of what I wanted changed, and the next draft that came back was the final one - I loved it, it was perfect. They'd even scanned a palm tree from one of my holiday snaps."[4]

Designs Edit

For much of the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures novels the covers had a central circular motif beginning with the first novel in the series The Eight Doctors novel which had the circular Seal of Rassilon on the cover. With this design motif in mind for his first novel Dominion author Nick Walters "suggested to Black Sheep the image of “a wormhole in the midst of a Swedish forest”".[5]

Criticism Edit

Black Sheep have in the past been criticised for their lack of quality control and attention to detail, by authors and artists alike.

The Tenth Planet VHS Australian cover

The Tenth Planet video cover, with trees

Some observers such as freelance artist Daryl Joyce have observed that many of the covers showed "Bad choice of colours and photos (with inconsistant resolution)", whilst other covers displayed a lack of common sense of knowledge of the story such as the VHS release of The Tenth Planet which had trees on the cover, despite the story taking place in Antarctica. [6]

Authors' opinions Edit

Several authors have in the past expressed their opinions and criticisims of Black Sheep's work, many did so on the now defunct and inaccessible GallifreyOne forums.

Craig Hinton Edit

In the case of Craig Hinton works that had covers by Black Sheep; The Quantum Archangel and Synthespians™ he stated that the company forgot to do the covers and so both were done at the last minute. This lead to mixed results with The Quantum Archangel containing all the elements he requested (minus Mel on the cover) and that the Archangel should have looked like which "Phoenix from the X-Men".[2]

Mark Clapham Edit

Hope

Hope 'boyband' cover

According to author Mark Clapham "The final 'boyband' cover of Hope was actually arrived at through a process of knocking back the draft covers a couple of times. The fey young lads at the front were in the cover from the beginning, but I got two original variants of the landscape - one which looked like 'Emmerdale', with farm buildings and such, and another which bore an unfortunate resemblance to an Afghan village. The latter was especially unfortunate considering the events of the time, but neither bore any resemblance to the Anton Furst-esque city in the book. In the end the Towers of Disco on the finished cover are about as good as we were ever going to get. At least they looked vaguely urban."[7]

Jonathan Morris Edit

Jonathan Morris has said that he'd bee "been very happy with each of my covers. Maybe I'm lucky. For 'Festy' I dimly recall asking for something in black, with Tom and Lalla looking moody and with a skull-faced angel doing something exultationy. I also asked for an iguana wearing sunglasses but, alas, poor Hoopy did not make the grade. Nevertheless it was stunning and fabulous. For 'Anachy' I mocked-up a rough idea of what I wanted, by photoshopping a Magritte, and the finished article was similar but not quite as copyright-infringing. Originally the clock was a little too big and the tie was blue with white clouds (very Magritte, but not very sinister). Still have these about somewhere. For 'Windy' I just sent them the paragraphs from the book describing the Church of the Holy Prophet Moop. And it turned out rather more beautiful than I had imagined it.[8]

Martin Day Edit

Bunker Soldiers

Bunker Soldiers cover

According to Martin Day for The Devil Goblins from Neptune "we just provided the BBC - and thus Black Sheep - with Paul Griffin's artwork, and they, er, did what you see... I don't think the clash of styles (black ink illustration, photograph of Pertwee's face) really works. Hollow Men is much better: we sent chunks of prose description of the scarecrows through to the beeb, and thus to Colin Howard, and I really like what we ended up with, although again - because we were adamant that we wanted a scarecrow on the front - you do have a bit of a clash of styles. For Bunker Soldiers I asked a good friend of mine, John Williams, to come up with something. He produced a vista of the Mongol army advancing, which - on the back cover - had become an alien army, as viewed from the warped perspective of the eponymous 'bunker soldier'. This was probably a bit esoteric for the beeb/Black Sheep (and, to be fair, there's very little alien stuff in Bunker Soldiers), so they took the basic idea of John's forground image, and so we ended up with a picture of a Mongol soldier's skin breaking up to reveal something alien underneath (nothing like my description from the book, but hey ho), with the Mongol army marching towards the spine of the book in the background.]I think this is one of my favourite covers - it's quite striking - but I had a devil of a job getting them to put a Mongol on the front."[9]

Footnotes Edit

  1. Mark Clapham. A Question for any Who authors. (Forum). GallifreyOne.com Forum. GallifreyOne.com. “I wasn't actually told that by Black Sheep, but by someone at BBC Books. It was made acutely clear to me that under no circumstances was any author ever, ever allowed to contribute ideas to the cover. About a month later, one of my fellow authors blithely forwarded around the draft cover he had prepared for his own book, which Black Sheep had followed to the letter. [...] The final 'boyband' cover of Hope was actually arrived at through a process of knocking back the draft covers a couple of times. The fey young lads at the front were in the cover from the beginning, but I got two original variants of the landscape - one which looked like 'Emmerdale', with farm buildings and such, and another which bore an unfortunate resemblance to an Afghan village. The latter was especially unfortunate considering the events of the time, but neither bore any resemblance to the Anton Furst-esque city in the book. In the end the Towers of Disco on the finished cover are about as good as we were ever going to get. At least they looked vaguely urban.”
  2. 2.0 2.1 Craig Hinton. A Question for any Who authors. (Forum). GallifreyOne.com Forum. GallifreyOne. “I've had two dreadful experiences with Black Sheep. On both occasions, the company actually *forgot* to do the covers till the very last minute, meaning that they were rushed. The Quantum Archangel's cover does have all the elements I asked for (apart from Bonnie Langford), but despite sending reference material and a detailed description, it's still a mess, especially the mutilated genital region of what passes for the Archangel herself (which should have looked like Phoenix from the X-Men, to be honest).”
  3. Synthespians. Millennium Effect. Retrieved on 3rd December 2012.
  4. Jon de Burgh Miller. A Question for any Who authors. (Forum). GallifreyOne.com Forum. “For 'Dying in the Sun' I think I was asked by Sarah Lavelle (who was copy editing the book) at the BBC what I wanted on the cover. I sent her a package containing a sketch of what the cover should be in pencils and crayons, a text description of what I was aiming for, plus a couple of photos from LA to illustrate the street scene. Sarah passed them on to Black Sheep who followed the suggestion closely, but with so little creativity that the original cover was legendarily awful (it had a Muppet on the front) - one of these days I must scan it and put it online, as only about ten people have ever seen it but it deserves a wider audience.”
  5. Nick Walters. A Question for any Who authors.. GallifreyOne.com Forum. GallifreyOne.com. “Dominion, my first Doctor Who novel, and my first experience with Black Sheep. Back in the early days of the EDAs there was a circular motif going on, instigated by the Seal of Rassilon on the cover of The Eight Doctors, and with this in mind I suggested to Black Sheep the image of “a wormhole in the midst of a Swedish forest”, which is more or less what I got.”
  6. Daryl Joyce. PDA alternate cover (Forum). GallifreyOne.com Forum. GallifreyOne. “Bad choice of colours and photos (with inconsistant resolution) cobbled together in a haphazard composition. It seems to me entirely accidental that some covers work because they rarely have any focus. The simpler ones like Drift are better but generally they are pretty careless affairs. And of course many of the same photos are used ad naseum.”
  7. Mark Clapham. A Question for any Who authors. (Forum). GallifreyOne.com Forum. GallifreyOne. “The final 'boyband' cover of Hope was actually arrived at through a process of knocking back the draft covers a couple of times. The fey young lads at the front were in the cover from the beginning, but I got two original variants of the landscape - one which looked like 'Emmerdale', with farm buildings and such, and another which bore an unfortunate resemblance to an Afghan village.”
  8. Jonathan Morris. A Question for any Who authors. (Forum). GallifreyOne.com Forum. GallifreyOne. “I've been very happy with each of my covers. Maybe I'm lucky. For 'Festy' I dimly recall asking for something in black, with Tom and Lalla looking moody and with a skull-faced angel doing something exultationy. I also asked for an iguana wearing sunglasses but, alas, poor Hoopy did not make the grade. Nevertheless it was stunning and fabulous. For 'Anachy' I mocked-up a rough idea of what I wanted, by photoshopping a Magritte, and the finished article was similar but not quite as copyright-infringing. Originally the clock was a little too big and the tie was blue with white clouds (very Magritte, but not very sinister). Still have these about somewhere. For 'Windy' I just sent them the paragraphs from the book describing the Church of the Holy Prophet Moop. And it turned out rather more beautiful than I had imagined it”
  9. Martin Day. A Question for any Who authors. (Forum). GallifreyOne.com Forum. GallifreyOne. “With Devil Goblins we just provided the BBC - and thus Black Sheep - with Paul Griffin's artwork, and they, er, did what you see... I don't think the clash of styles (black ink illustration, photograph of Pertwee's face) really works. Hollow Men is much better: we sent chunks of prose description of the scarecrows through to the beeb, and thus to Colin Howard, and I really like what we ended up with, although again - because we were adamant that we wanted a scarecrow on the front - you do have a bit of a clash of styles.”

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