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Sometimes in a story the text and the illustrations don't line up. For example, a character may be described a certain, very specific way, and the illustration doesn't match the description. In other times, the illustration doesn't match the way the action is described. Sometimes a character will be seen wearing two different outfits in two subsequent illustrations, despite both illustrations taking place only ten minutes apart.

Often it's because the illustrator didn't read the text for the scene thoroughly or forgot exactly what it had said, and drew based on what they remembered the text as saying, and as a result, a little discrepancy shows up. When larger discrepancies show up, who knows.

Expect even more discrepancies for the cover.

No actual relation to Unreliable Voiceover, despite the title.

Examples of Unreliable Illustrator include:

Anime and Manga

  • The music video for the song "Pokerap" from the Pokemon anime for some reason showed Poliwag when the song mentioned Poliwrath, and Geodude when it mentioned Graveler.
    • The anime episode guide in the official Pokemon website for some reason had some of the screenshots shown in the wrong episodes!
    • Also, there is a illustration in which Piplup is labeled correctly, but Charmander is labeled as "Treecko", Mew as "Shinx", and Chikorita as "Croagun."
  • In Arina Tanemura's shoujo manga, Mistress Fortune, protagonist Kisaki Tachikawa is regularly described as being well endowed, specifically sporting G-cup boobs, yet her breast size is never depicted as more than a B or C-cup in the illustrations themselves.

Comic Books

  • Read the Avengers / Transformers crossover and see how many times the illustrations don't match the text. The worst is when they can't correctly label the characters. Second-worst is when Cap doesn't know what an F-15 looks like. By the time you're halfway through, its safe to say They Just Didn't Care.
  • In The Mighty Thor #499 Thor is in Asgard with three characters named Kim, Annie, and Sylvia. Then Sylvia goes missing... or at least they talk about her going missing but the artist kept drawing her into the panel! Kim's hair and outfit change from panel to panel as well. More here: [1] [2]
  • The Comics Curmudgeon occasionally points this out when comic panels are inappropriately colored or illustrated.


  • Bionicle books were full of these, though most of the time, it was due to the editors not being familiar with the story, and not knowing which already rendered promotional image goes where. The most common error was depicting the wrong mask, or using movie stills that didn't match the captions, but the most infamous and baffling mistake has to be the cover art of the book titled Dark Hunters, featuring characters who had nothin to do with the titular organization. These can be classified as printing errors, though, being the mistakes of unreliable editors. The BIONICLE: World book, on the other hand, was illustrated with brand-new images, some of which did suffer from unreliable illustrators. For example, the being Karzahni, described as a black and gold colored, dark and empty-eyed freak, turned into a blue and green monstrosity, with brightly glowing yellow eyes.
  • In the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya light novels, this happens on occasion. Two examples are:
    • In the first book when The SOS Brigade meets up to look for supernatural beings, Mikuru is described as wearing a blue dress. However, she is shown wearing her school uniform in the same chapter during the search.
    • In the final chapter of the first book, when Kyon kisses Haruhi, his hands are described as being on her shoulders the whole time. They are shown as being somewhere around her waist.
  • In The Elfstones of Shannara, the Dagda Mor is a demon that's described in the book as being a vaguely ape-like creature, but in the interior illustration depicting the final battle, he's shown as a typical Black Cloak-and-horns-and-pitchfork devil.
  • In the reissues of the Ramona Quimby books, which feature new illustrations, characters are shown not doing exactly what the text says, or dressed differently from the text.
    • For example, Ramona is said to angrily stomp her bare foot on the floor, but she's shown wearing socks. Another time, she's said to cry and have her tears land on her skirt, but she's shown wearing shorts (perhaps done to accommodate the "modernization" of the books and the changing times).
    • In an example of added detail unrelated to the text, when Ramona is scooping out pumpkin seeds, Beezus is seen looking grossed out. The text makes no mention of Beezus's reaction either way.
    • Also, Ramona's outfit changes from picture to picture in the span of only 10 minutes' worth of story time in Ramona the Pest at one point.
    • Roller skates are mentioned, but roller blades are actually shown (though that's likely modernization).
    • Finally, in one of the funnier blatant discrepancies, Ramona is said to "not bother putting on her slippers" late at night, and is shown in the illustration wearing... slippers!
  • The newer cover illustration of Me And My Little Brain is of Frankie smashing J.D.'s toys with a hammer. Not only does this not happen in the book, one of the toys is an airplane. The story takes place in 1897.
  • The illustrator of the Harry Potter books draws Snape with a goatee. While he's never explicitly stated not to have facial hair, you'd think it would warrant a mention if it was present.
    • They also tend to depict him as bald, despite constant references to his black greasy hair.
  • Just about any illustrated version of The Chronicles of Narnia will depict Lucy with dark hair, even though she's described as "always gay and golden-haired" in the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The fact that live-action adaptations also tend to give her dark hair may be related to this.
  • The Discworld covers by Josh Kirby tend to be somewhat contradictory to the stories involved, or reveal spoilers. For example, on the cover of Feet of Clay, Cheery is shown wearing heels.
    • According to Terry Pratchett, the reason Kirby always draws female warriors in Stripperiffic outfits whether they're described that way or not and usually chops down everyone's age is "because it's Traditional".
    • Averted by Paul Kidby's covers for the same series. According to The Art of Discworld, Kidby often remembers details Pratchett forgot!
  • Occasionally, it seems that the illustrator didn't even bother turning the page! One well known case is The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe where the page ended with a line similar to "On the window was a blue bottle" with an illustration showing that and the next page beginning with "fly." Another case from childhood literature involved a character opening a closet and out falls "a skeleton" with accurate illustration followed by the next page clarifying it with "key" although in the latter case, the story jumped around the book with "Go to page X" so the misleading illustration may have been intentional.
  • Harry Dresden is always shown on the covers of his books with his three trademark items: his leather duster, his rune carved staff, and his fedora. Problem is, Harry doesn't wear a hat.
    • This may be to obscure the model's face so readers won't associate a specific person with the character.
      • Word of God says that this has become something of an in-joke between the author and illustrator, with the hat on the cover becoming more prominent and detailed with each book, while inside the pages of said book Harry finds new and interesting ways to stress that he hates hats and would never wear one.
  • That's often present in the works of the Italian writer Chiara Rapaccini, who is also the illustrator of her own books. For example, in one of her books a character is described wearing a green apron and bunny-shaped slippers. The illustration shows that character without any apron and with black boots. Another character is said wearing a shirt with a snake drawn on it... cue the illustration showing instead a skull with crossbones.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, the Doctor Who Novelisations were published with illustrations -- which, although they didn't contradict the text, had clearly been made by somebody who'd never seen the television versions. (In some cases, not only were the details of the scene different, so were the faces of the characters.) This wasn't all bad, though; some of the monsters are much more convincing in illustrated form than they were on the TV.
  • In ETA Hoffmann's The Nutcracker, the Nutcracker is described as wearing a lavender suit. Nearly all illustrations show him wearing red.
  • A tie-in storybook based on Disney's The Lion King focusing on Mufasa's childhood for some reason described his father Ahadi as having brown fur, a black mane, and green eyes (just like Scar, the series' would-be Big Bad), but the illustrations show him with gold fur, a brown mane, and brown eyes, like Mufasa.
  • White Fang: In the illustrated version of the book, when the bulldog is giving White Fang a Curb Stomp Battle, the accompanying illustrations show the bulldog burying his jaws in White Fang's neck, then standing a foot away, then standing a few yards away, then back to gnawing on the protagonist's throat. All the while the accompanying text has White Fang constantly in the Bulldog's jaws with Scott and Matt barely struggling to get the dog's mouth open. Also, while a lot of blood and gore is described in-text, none of it is shown.
  • In Le Crime du Pauvre Cornichon by Joseph Périgot, a little girl called Morgane is described as running away barefoot and cutting herself on rocks, leaving some blood behind. The illustrations show her wearing socks.
  • Happens a lot of times with Le Petit Nicolas, illustrated by Sempé. For example, Alceste is described as looking at a "small painting" but the illustration shows the painting to be about ten times his size! And a particularly egregious example is when Nicolas is at a hotel with boys and they are being annoyed by three girls; one of them is described as being fat, but the illustrations show both of them being thin. Later, that "fat" girl is depicted twice with another girl's appearance (as seen by their different hairstyles). But then, Sempé realized she is supposed to have pigtails (as the text reveals) but draws two pigtailed girls in the same illustration.
  • Special cartographic edition: Christopher Tolkien's beautiful but hastily created maps of the Shire and of Middle Earth, made for the first publication of The Lord of the Rings, contradicted the original text in certain details. Because of the potency of illustrations in the imagination, J.R.R. Tolkien made a conscious decision in such cases to allow the maps to be canon wherever possible, and toward this end made a number of small changes to the text to bring it closer to the maps as part of his revisions for the trilogy's second edition.
  • The covers for the first Russian translation of A Song of Ice and Fire shows black-haired Jon Snow with a blond hair. The same cover artist A. Dubovik is also responsible for the blond Cordelia Naismith.
  • The covers of Animorphs usually pictured Tobias with brown hair, even though he was described as blond for the longest time and was only corrected within the last five or so books. His appearance in the short-lived live-action TV series was obviously based on these covers, too, rather than his descriptions in the text.
  • The book The Space Race apparantly described one alien racer's spaceship as being colored red, but the illustrations colored it green.
  • The Railway Series: the main original illustrator, Reginald Dalby, really didn't care about a kids' book that would be forgotten in ten years. He annoyed World Building author Reverend Awdry with inaccurate settings, oddly proportioned characters, and Henry being drawn interchangeably with Edward and Gordon. Dalby quit after a note from Awdry telling him not to make Percy look like a "green caterpillar with red stripes."
  • The largely-forgotten Runesword series had cover art painted by Larry Elmore, quite popular with the fantasy crowd. While depicting the main characters, he did the elf Endril as your standard long-blond-hair smooth-faced pretty-boy. Problem: the book text mentioned on more than one occasion that Endril had a beard. Him dyeing it was even a plot point once. Of course, it was a cheap series written quickly by an assortment of different authors who couldn't agree on basic characterisation between books, so...

Tabletop Games

  • The Monster Manual in Dungeons and Dragons 3E features some monsters whose illustrations don't exactly fit their descriptions:
    • The Allip (an undead man) is described as looking just like when it was alive, but with an insane grimace on its face, eyes burning with fear and the lower part of the body blurring into nothingness. The illustration, however, depicts something that look like a vaguely humanoid, tattered black rag without eyes or a face.
    • The undead Bodak is also described as just in life, but with fear on his face, hairless gray skin and empty white eyes. But the illustration goes a little further, turning its skull into something from an X-Files gray alien.
      • D20 Modern apparently took this communication error and ran with it, making the Bodak a form of undead unique to the Fraal.
    • The undead Mohrg. In the text, it's a skinny corpse with a barbed tongue as the only unusual part. The illustration depicts instead a clean skeleton filled with a fleshy worm-like thing vaguely resembling an autopsy picture from X-COM.
    • And a minor example: The Stone Giant is described as having black eyes, but in the illustration they are pearly white.
    • The orc is described as being a grey-skinned humanoid, but is depicted green. Similarly, in the 4e MM (as well as in later books and even miniatures!) goblins are green-skinned, despite the description indicating that is should have "skin of yellow, orange, red, often shading to brown"; while this is true for bugbears and hobgoblins, all species are also depicted with beady white eyes, which are described as similar in color to their skin.
    • The weapons depicted in the Player's Handbook look plain ridiculous. And not just the inherently absurd, made-up ones like the Dire Flail, either - it's pretty clear the illustrator has never even seen a perfectly ordinary sword or war axe. Apparently he was too busy to spend five minutes googling for references.
    • Brain rats are typically described as being completely identical to normal rats, only with powerful psionic abilities. Nearly every illustration of them depicts them with exposed brains.
  • In the Dresden Files roleplaying game, nobody told the artist that Harry's "Blue Beetle" is actually multicoloured (as it got repaired using off-colour parts), so he drew an actually blue Beetle. This is explained in scribbled comments in the margin, since the rulebook is presented as a draft written by one of the characters.

Video Games

  • Several of the character illustrations for Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and A2 show members of a class with equipment they can't equip without a special ability obtained as another class, if at all. They're probably concept art pieces made before the game mechanics were finalized, so there are a lot of inconsistencies with the final builds of each game.
    • The Paladin is shown Dual Wielding, which is only possible if you spend a very long time learning Dual Wield as a Ninja.
    • The Gladiator has a shield, which is only possible if one learns Shieldbearer as a Warrior.
    • The Seer has a staff when they can only equip books.
    • The Fighter is shown wearing a metal helm, even though they cannot equip heavy armor.
    • The Blue Mage has a straight sword, when they can only equip sabers.
    • The Beastmaster and Animist are both drawn with whips, which are not items at all, as they use instruments.
    • The Hume Illusionist has a staff, when they use rods (which are much shorter if the Black Mage illustration is to go by).
    • The Alchemist has some sort of spade/spear/staff, even though they use maces.
    • The Master Monk has bladed knuckles, despite them using use poles.
    • The Elementalist and Red Made both have staffs, when they both use rapiers.
    • The Viking has a saber, but they use axes and hammers.
    • The Defender has a spear/glaive, when they use broadswords and knightswords.
  • The instructions manual for Super Mario Bros 2, as well as the game's end credits showed Birdo's description with Ostro's picture (and vice versa).
    • Every single time you open a door in Super Mario 64 the game will insist that "The door slowly opens" when in fact Mario will push it open himself. Quite quickly.
    • And on the official website for Super Mario 3D Land, Bowser's illustration shows him with a tanuki tail. In the actual game, it's the fake Bowsers that have the tanuki tail, the real Bowser's tail is normal.
    • A strategy guide for Super Mario Galaxy 2, when describing how to defeat Bugaboom in Puzzle Plank Galaxy, actually showed Giga Lakitu's screenshot instead!
  • Lampshaded in Stinkoman 20 X 6, where Harvax XVII, a boss for some reason is actually described in the Stinkomanual as a "small but speedy octopus", but the boss actually resembles a large gangster robot. He even points out the error by saying, "This description is ALL WRONG!" The description DOES fit an actual enemy (an octopus robot that was not covered in the Stinkomanual) encountered in the game though.

Western Animation

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1980's version), had an unreliable colourer. Since the turtles looked pretty much identical, save their identifying colours, it wasn't uncommon to see one turtle or another being swapped out for his brother with a mask colour change. This would get particularly jarring when said turtle had to speak and inevitably did so with the wrong voice.
    • Or like in one episode, Michelangelo had been captured but it didn't stop two of the turtles from wearing orange in two different shots. Even when it mattered to the plot, They Just Didn't Care.
  • The toy version of DJ from Cars for some reason has blue stripes on his body unlike the green ones he had in the movie. Adding to this was the fact that his official artwork (which was extremely film-accurate) is actually shown on the toy's blister package. Later versions of the toy show him in his correct colors, but unfortunately, those were actually variants (Impounded DJ, lenticular eyes DJ, and metallic DJ). It wasn't until the release of a Toys "R" Us-exclusive toy set, as well as a Wal Mart-exclusive 4-pack in which "classic eyes" DJ was actually shown in his correct colors.
    • Happened in a different way with the "Drift Party Mater" (based on Mater's final form at the end of Tokyo Mater) toy from the Cars Toons toyline, where the toy version of said character was correct, but the artwork showed Mater before the drift race began. Another infamous example would be the toy of a DJ-lookalike, which for some reason, showed Mater's picture instead.
    • The tie-in storybook based on the sequel for some reason had Holly Shiftwell actually smashing apart an entire clock face while attempting to fly out of Big Bentley during the climax (in the actual movie, she only smashed apart the "5" during her escape), while Professor Z was still wearing his monocle after being captured and arrested by Finn Mc Missile (in the actual movie, Z actually lost his monocle while attempting to escape from Mc Missile, and said monocle was presumably destroyed when Mc Missile blew up Z's battleship, Tony Trihull).
  • The official website for Dinosaur Train apparantly described Deinonychus as having feathers on his body, but the show's artwork didn't show any feathers on his body at all!
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