Do you guys remember when I showed you the new cover for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? All 7 books are coming out with new covers for the 15th anniversary of Harry Potter in September 2013, but I now have a sneak peek at book #2!
Do you love it??? I think it’s pretty amazing. I also got to interview the illustrator, Kazu Kibuishi, last week when he was in New York and asked him all my burning questions. Read on for the interview. . .
Sonja: Most people can remember everything about the first time they read Harry Potter. Can you describe your first Harry Potter encounter?
KAZU: After college, I had to help my parents pay for their house. They couldn’t afford their mortgage, so what I did was go and get a job, make money. I sent them everything I made and I just kept as much as I needed to survive. Very stressful time. I remember it was a Friday and I had to go back to work. Even though I was young, I felt really old at that point so I really didn’t have time for any entertainment. I was just working; that’s all I did. So the way I actually read the book was I listened to the Jim Dale audiobook on my commute to work. That’s how I experienced the books. But it was like I was in a closet too. I was like Harry in the broom closet, very much trapped in the Muggle world. I thought I was supposed to draw and write for a living, and I just I couldn’t get there, and I was kind of trapped.
Sonja: Why are you a Harry Potter fan? What do you love most about the books?
KAZU: Just they’re good. (laughs) What’s not to love? The list would be so long, but probably more than anything, it’s that sense of place. It feels like a place and I try to do that in my own books too. It was like a landscape painting, and I felt like I was there. I could sense the people, and I can feel what it’s like to be there every time I would read a Harry Potter book. That’s the thing I like the most about it is that imaginary space just feels so real.
Sonja: Were you nervous about redoing the original covers?
KAZU: I felt that the Harry Potter fans were so enthusiastic and giving, and they’re just sweet (laughs), so I didn’t really think there was going to be that much of a backlash. So that didn’t really worry me, but I wanted J.K. Rowling to be happy with the covers. That was my main concern. So once I heard from her and she said they were good, and she approved of them, I felt like I was home free.
Sonja: In the original cover to book 1, Harry is front and center catching the snitch. In yours, Harry looks tiny and lost in the busy world of Diagon Alley. Why did you choose to make Harry look so vulnerable, rather than focus on his heroic qualities?
KAZU: I wanted it to reflect how the reader is probably going to feel when he or she picks up the book for very first time. I felt like the scene in Diagon Alley embodied that experience better than anything else. It was the entry into, like, all of the potential of what can be. And you’re just seeing the first window and then it’s going to get bigger and bigger. So when I drew it, I didn’t necessarily think of him as being tiny and overwhelmed. I think he looks at it and he thinks, “WOW!” I think he’s really drinking it in, and that’s what I was trying to go for. I feel also in the first book that he isn’t the assertive Harry we know, so to see him in an action scene would, I think, be counter to how he is in the book. He’s still like a child discovering things. It’s more like the legend of Harry Potter is actually taking him along for a ride, and then he becomes the legend as the books go on.
Sonja: Did seeing the movies influence you at all when creating the covers?
KAZU: Well of course because the movies exist, and we know them and I love them. Actually Prisoner of Azkaban is probably one of my favorite movies. I actually think Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban might very well be the very best fantasy movie ever made. The end sequence in Prisoner of Azkaban in the movie is so amazing. (laughs) That moment is so incredible for me. I just cry thinking about it.
Sonja: Can you give us a hint of what will be on the Prisoner of Azkaban cover?
KAZU: You guys will like the cover because it’s very emotional. (laughter) There was NO question about #3. I’ll just say that. No question. It was that cover that everybody responded to the most when I did a really quick sketch. I did that one in 5 minutes. There was, like, no question. And I sent that [to Scholastic] and they’re like, “Can all the other ones be like that one?” They really bought into what I was trying to do emotionally more than as an illustration. It means so much; it HAS to be this, so . . . Yeah, I love that cover.
Sonja: Were you concerned about spoilers on the covers?
KAZU: Yes, yes, and I was really careful not to spoil too much. A lot of the suggestions for the front covers were too “spoiler-y” so actually I decided to do covers that were less of a spoiler. You guys will see the Chamber of Secrets cover does not spoil actually anything at all. But it is exactly the feeling I got from reading the second book, which was I felt it was a cup of tea. I thought it was the break before the crazy battles. We’re putting this kid through the ringer; let him have a break. I think the break was number 2. And that’s how I wanted to approach that cover.
Sonja: Thanks for answering our questions.
KAZU: Hope you guys like the covers.
UPDATE: See the new covers for Books #3-5, Book #6, and Book #7!