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So you've got a series planned out, and want people to instantly recognize that the thing sitting on the bookshelf there is part of it. What do you do? Give every installment of your series idiosyncratic cover art!

This is where cover art is basically the same motif repeated over and over with slight variations within a franchise. Collectors probably love this stuff. Until the scheme is switched midway through publishing a series, anyway.

One popular variation is to have the covers of all the installments of a work form a larger picture when they're placed side by side in the correct order.

Examples of Idiosyncratic Cover Art include:

Anime and Manga

  • When you put all of the boxes of the DVDs of .hack//Sign together, you'll notice the first letters of each DVD title spell out "LOGOUT" (mirroring the title of the first disc, "LOGIN", making it a not-quite Recursive Acronym).
  • When all volumes of Dragonball Z are put together, the images on their spines form a huge mural.
    • Similarly, the VHS tapes form different pictures when placed side by side in order, one for each saga. They even had alternative pictures for the uncut tapes.
  • The English volumes of Darker Than Black work in much the same way (albeit with a much smaller mural), forming a picture of Hei's iconic mask
  • The spines of the Finnish volumes of Ranma ½ form pictures, each taken from the cover art of some of the volumes. The last one cuts a bit short. When they accidentally misprinted one of the spines with wrong picture, they provided the correct picture on their website, so people could print it and glue it on top of the wrong one.
    • The original Japanese collected editions all had female Ranma's mugshot (in a variety of colors) at the top of the spine. Mainly comedic, romantic, or filler volumes would depict her with a whimsical or cute expression; volumes that were predominantly serious or action-oriented would instead give her a determined, or even fierce one. The final volume gave her a genuinely happy look.
  • The spine art of Fullmetal Alchemist is this; each volume features the basic metallic gray, red and white color scheme and a single character on the side of the tanokban. Thanks to the series' sizable lifespan it ended up showcasing practically every major character, and the Elric brothers more than once, due to significant visual changes).

Comic Books

  • The swedish Kalle Ankas Pocket (anthologies of Disney Comics, mainly Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse titles) in the 1990s had pieces of a portrait of a character on the spine, if you collected about 10 or so issues and put them together on a shelf, it formed the picture of a particular character. The earlier and the current ones seemed to have abandoned this motif, though. Maybe they ran out of characters.
    • They stopped doing the characters in the early 00s, and went on to using a large drawing with most Duckburg characters in it.
    • The German edition had it too.
    • And so did the Finnish.
    • Spain's "Literature Classics" collection, which is currently being followed in Brazil.
  • The spines of the Sin City books published when the movie came out form a picture of Nancy when assembled.
  • Some older Sonic the Hedgehog comics published by Archie featured 3-part mini-arc comics fairly often; each mini-arc's cover could be placed side-by-side, forming a large piece of artwork relevant to the story within.
  • The covers of The Walking Dead trade paperbacks all form one long mural of zombies when put next to each other.
  • The covers of the final Cerebus storyline from about #291 to 299 join together (with one duplicate) to form a 360 degree panorama (by background artist Gerhard) of the room in which Cerebus spends his final day.
  • The covers of the three Blackest Night tie-in issues of Tales of the Corps (issued during the first part of the saga), when put together, form one single image featuring the main member of each Corps in the emotional spectrum.
  • Variant covers for certain Brightest Day titles would form one image featuring the resurrected twelve as White Lanterns on thrones with the seven emotional entities, Nekron, and the Entity in the middle, as seen in the Brightest Day page.
  • The spines of the trade books making up the House of M and Decimation events for the X-Men create the logos for each arc when shelved correctly. Most book stores ignore this...


  • There are several box sets of the Star Trek movies out, that when placed end to end, form a picture of the Enterprise (Constitution Refit). Later editions that include the Star Trek: The Next Generation movies show both ships.
  • The spines of one set of the James Bond films on DVD forms the 007 logo when the films are put in order.
  • One DVD set of the Rocky series. When the DVDs are put in order, the spines form the famous image of Rocky wearing the American flag.


  • As shown above, the latest edition of the first three Chronicles of Thomas Covenant novels are clearly meant to go each other. When place next to one another, they form a complete illustration of the title character's white-gold wedding ring.
  • The Discworld books have several different covers, but the newest North American editions all have a black background with a single inanimate object artistically shown.
  • One edition of The Chronicles of Narnia series, when the books are placed side by side, forms a picture of the castle.
  • The Inheritance Cycle has a portrait of a dragon on each cover with one dominant color: blue for Eragon, red for Eldest, gold for Brisingr, and green for Inheritance.
  • Twilight and its sequels all had the same recognizable cover theme. A dark background with some image symbolic to the book's plot coming out of the darkness. Breaking Dawn was slightly different, but still within the same theme.
    • Plus the distinctive color scheme: black, white and red.
  • The Symphony of Ages fantasy novels all have the same format of cover art: Raphsody's current True Companions are standing, viewed in profile, against a very pretty backdrop. One of them is holding a plot-relevant item in hand.
  • One edition of the four Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy books (back when the trilogy only had four books) had each book showing one quarter of four different pictures: a towel with the words "Don't Panic", the Heart of Gold, a face and a fish. You could put the books together in four different ways to reassemble the four pictures.
  • Some recent editions of the World Book Encyclopedia form the title WORLD BOOK across the spines when the volumes are arranged in order.
  • Old British editions of Robin Hobb's novels all had fantasy art within an ornate borderwork, with the style of the border changing with each trilogy. Newer editions all have a single animal on a plain background (although one had a ship), similiar to...
  • New editions of A Song of Ice and Fire, both the American and British editions, have an animal or object on a plain background. The American rendition of the object tends to be a little more abstract, and the link to the story can be a little tenuous - what does the chalice on the British edition of A Feast for Crows have to do with anything?
    • People tend to drink from chalices at feasts.
      • Feasting crows, on the other hand, tend to drink from the veins of corpses, though...
  • The UK covers Scott Westerfeld's Midnighters trilogy form a clock on the spine, hands at 12 o'clock.
  • Many of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels have the Star Wars logo written across--not down, like on most books, but across--the spine. Some have the titles written the same way; others don't. It's a bit inconsistent. Also, the Star Wars logo is always on the cover, usually at the top, sometimes in raised letters, with the book's Era emblem on a lower corner of the back.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel trilogy Millenium has a long shot of the station and wormholes (yes, plural) spanning across the three front covers.
  • Barbara Remington's wonderful painting that became the cover of Ballantine Book's paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings. What started as the cover for "The Hobbit" became a 38" x 73" long oil on masonite painting transitioning from the Shire to Mordor. The cover for each volume was 1/3 of the painting, and when you set the books next to each other you got the whole thing. The full poster was on this troper's bedroom wall for years ...
  • The first edition of Stephen King's novels Desperation and The Regulators had covers which formed a complete picture when laid next to each other. This tied in with the fact that the characters in each book were alternate-universe versions of each other.
  • The covers of the Magic Time novels all have a similar format: a portrait of one or more main characters, framed by a border colored black (on the hardcovers) or blue (on the paperbacks).
  • The Hunger Games trilogy features the iconic Mockingjay pin on the first book, a stationary, dark-colored version of the Mockingjay that is seemingly trapped in its circular frame on the second book, and a predominantly white Mockingjay in flight breaking out of its circular frame on the third. Bonus points for being a sequential representation of the plot.
  • Roger Elwood's 4-volume original science fiction anthology series Continuum, which featured several continuing story series, was published in Britain with four covers by the same artist, two of which consisted of a single painting split in two.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy was published in Britain in the 1970s with a 3-part joiner cover by Chris Foss.

Live Action TV

  • The Babylon 5 box sets (at least the UK versions) each have a big 5 logo on the spine with and end-on picture of the station in the crook of the 5, tinted a different colour on each volume. Unfortunately the overall effect is ruined by the Fourth Season version being too big and the Fifth Season misaligned.
  • The UK Red Dwarf DVD spines join up to form the show's logo.
    • The VHS tapes for the remastered version of the first three series join together to form a single image. Quite cleverly this is integrated into each volumes cover art, which wraps around from the front to back cover. (Images, number 7 is based on the spines).
  • The Contender DVD box sets of The Avengers join up to form portraits of Steed and Mrs. Gale, Steed and Mrs. Peel in black and white, Steed and Mrs. Peel in colour, Steed and Tara King, and Steed, Purdy and Gambit.
  • Contender uses similar designs on its Lexx box sets (which unfortunately don't include Season 4).
  • The UK Star Trek:: Deep Space Nine VHS tapes had a series of long thin images spread over their spines (each spine only had a square of the image), showing various space scenes relevant to each season. The last '90s release of the original Star Trek had quotes revealed when all the spines were put together as well.
  • The Sopranos VHS collection.
  • A series of Mystery Science Theater 3000 VHS tapes (Tom Servo's All Time Favorite Host Segments), when put together, show a photo of Mike and the Bots with text underneath lampshading this trope, reading "Isn't it neat that when you stack these tape boxes together you get this cool picture?"


  • Putting together a full year of Maxim shows yet another scantily-clad model on the spines.
  • In The Angry Video Game Nerd's Nintendo Power episode, he noticed that a certain ten or twelve issues of the magazine put together revealed a picture of Mario on the spines. It matched up sorta, but was a little off, though.
    • Nintendo Power used to do that with every year until they switched to the new cover style a few years ago. For instance, as this troper recalls, the combined spine image for 2003 was Link sailing on the King of Red Lions.
  • Putting together a single year's worth of PC Gamer Magazine together in order will form an image (ranging from a larger version of their logo to an image from a hotly-anticipated game.


  • Be-Bop Deluxe: Six CDs where the spines spell out BE-BOP at the top and DELUXE at the bottom.
  • There's a Pink Floyd box set with repackaged CDs, whose spines when put together form the Dark Side of the Moon prism logo.
  • The remastered Marillion CDs from Script for a Jester's Tear to Afraid of Sunlight have letters on the spines which spell M-A-R-I-LL-I-O-N (eight albums, nine letters, so the two L's go on one spine)
  • The cover art for Nelly's Sweat / Suit albums can be placed side by side to form a picture.
  • Starflyer 59's Ghosts of the Future box set consists of 10 vinyl singles. When their sleeves are laid out in a 2x5 row, they form an abstract isometric picture.
  • Judas Priest and Iron Maiden have both released CD remasters which, when placed side by side, form a picture. In addition, the Priest set spells out the band's name.
    • As have Megadeth and Japan.
    • It should be pointed out this is a rather crafty marketing trick to sell live albums. Live After Death, A Real Live Dead One and Live At Donington are required to complete Iron Maiden's spine image, regardless of whether you want to listen to them or not.
  • Type O Negative album covers generally have a theme. On the front, the band's logo is in one corner, the album title in the diagonally opposite corner, usually no tracklist on back and the band's name and album title in large bold lettering in on the spine. Because the lettering on each spine is a different color, they look quite nice when lined up next to each other, Bloody Kisses, October Rust and World Coming Down being the best examples. Their only albums not to follow this pattern are the original release of The Origin Of The Feces, (the cover was redesigned to fit the tradition on its reissue) and The Best Of, which was released without their permission. Part of the reason the band were so annoyed with The Best Of is that they had no input with the cover.
  • Everything by Demon Hunter has a Textless Album Cover with some variation on the band's logo (a silhouette of a demon's head with bullet hole) rendered in a different "medium": a seal on the cover of a leather-bound book, an appropriately-shaped dead tree stump, rust on a metal gate, a cow's skull on a bed of roses, etc.
  • Almost all of Chicago's album covers feature the band's iconic logo in a different setting. The only exception is Hot Streets, which features a portrait of the band.
  • Thus far, all Days Of The New albums have been self-titled, and all of their covers feature depictions of the same dead tree in different settings. The exception is the Greatest Hits Album Definitive Collection, which opts for a photo of Travis Meeks sitting down with an acoustic guitar instead. The next album has been announced as Days of the New Presents Tree Colors, which breaks the self-titled pattern - given the title, that signature tree is probably not going anywhere though...

Video Games

  • Starting with Morrowind, every installment of The Elder Scrolls series has featured Minimalistic Cover Art showing an emblem of some sort from the Elder Scrolls universe. Oblivion goes a bit further: the normal edition is printed in white, the collector's edition in brown, and the Game of the Year Edition in black.
  • Each video game in the main Halo trilogy features Master Chief staring at something with a gun in hand.
  • When Starcraft was first released, it came packaged in one of three different boxes, each depicting a unit from one of the three races in front and colored, and the other two units toward the side and grayed out. If you put the boxes side-by-side you could create a sort of infinite loop.
  • The first three releases in the Warcraft series (two games and an expansion) keep the theme of a close-up on a human and an orc staring each other down. Warcraft 3 broke from this trend by having four different editions, each featuring the face of a hero from each different faction. The expansion continued this trend, featuring a more recent picture of one such hero after his Evil Makeover.
  • Each game in the Star Wars Battlefront series (except the mobile phone versions, because they don't count) has had some kind of soldier facing to the viewer's right and shooting. They also had combatants from opposing sides until Elite Squadron bucked the trend. Additionally, Lucas Arts games in general since 2006 have had bright yellow spine art.
  • Continuing the .hack example above, placing the cases for the first 4 games side by side reveals a picture of the main character riding a grunty along the bottom of the spines.

Tabletop Games

  • The spines of the core BattleTech rulebooks form a picture of a Timber Wolf and Rifleman IIC dishing out a lot of ordinance.
  • Identical cover layouts, complete with a franchise-wide "picture frame" have become more or less standard for roleplaying games and miniature wargames. Notable examples include every gameline put out by White Wolf.
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