Contemptible Cover

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Spice & Wolf: A thrillingly erotic tale of...medieval economics.

There's a bimbo on the cover of my book
There's a bimbo on the cover of my book
She is blonde and she is sexy, she
Is nowhere in the text, she
Is the bimbo on the cover of my book

Maya Bohnhoff

We're all taught never to judge a book by its cover. Many still do; a book's cover is one of the most important marketing opportunities it has.

Unfortunately, some books are cursed with the Contemptible Cover. The kind of cover that contains an excess of sexual, violent or otherwise lurid imagery, often at odds with the book's actual content. Though Sexy Packaging isn't always bad, Contemptible Covers' trashy illustrations appear a simple and blatant effort to appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator. You may well be ashamed to be seen reading such a book at home, let alone on a bus—or at the very least, it will make you wince.

Unlike the Covers Always Lie or Never Trust a Trailer-type articles that this wiki already has, the Contemptible Cover cannot claim that most covers are designed before the book is done. Blame falls solely on the marketing department; even world-famous best-selling authors don't normally have a say in the matter.

This is not just for books, naturally, but you're not likely to be holding up a DVD or a theatrical poster on a bus.

Not to be confused with a contemptible cover song. Though this trope doesn't strictly describe a pretty female character frantically trying to cover herself after her clothes are ripped off, that might well be used as an example. Also not to be confused with selfishly using other people to hide behind while under fire, even though it's both contemptible and cover. That's Human Shield.

Compare Lady Not-Appearing-In-This-Game for a similar phenomenon in game ads. Can overlap with American Kirby Is Hardcore in the case of localized video game box arts. This is often a failed form of turd polish.

Examples of Contemptible Cover include:

Anime and Manga

  • Dance in the Vampire Bund, not that it's too surprising.
  • Even though the original first couple of covers of the Excel Saga manga by and large avoided Fan Service, later covers always have female characters in strange, revealing clothing, like Go-Go Enslavement gear or a Stripperiffic Santa Claus outfit.
    • The covers are still pretty bad. Volumes nineteen and twenty featured one girl in a revealing bodysuit and a little girl in a backless swimsuit on their covers.
    • The cover of the DVD collection isn't much better, featuring Excel and Hyatt in lingerie surrounded by Puchuus (and Menchi), with the caption "They'll do anything to please their man!" No, it's really not hentai, honest! Of course, Excel Saga being a Gag Series with a different genre for each episode, this was probably intentional.
      • The newer DVD collection has them in their regular outfits.
  • According to those who can read Japanese, the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Tie-in Novel of the first season makes for good reading. However, it doesn't make for good public reading since its cover features a Panty Shot from the criminally underage heroine for all the world to see.
  • Special mention to Code Geass for this and a few others as well.
  • Welcome to The NHK is a goldmine of (arguably intentional) bad, unrepresentative box art.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima averts this for the most part, as the covers are pretty tame (compared to the actual content anyway), but The special edition cover of volume 25 falls right into this. (Even though it is a fully accurate indicator of the content.) If you want to read it in public, there's always the regular edition.
    • The special edition cover of volume 24 is also a bit contemptible, although not as much. Same goes for volume 23, which gives you the choice between Godiva Hair (special) or fanservice outfit (regular).
  • Bleach volume covers 34, 42 and 46. And a male example might be this one, volume 23.
  • Though Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has its fair share of Fan Service among the awesome action, I don't really think I want to be seen carrying around volume 2 of the manga. [dead link]
  • Most of the covers for Princess Tutu are pretty tame, although there is one cover that features Rue in a bird cage wearing a corset and a tutu that covers basically nothing. It's based on a real ballet (as all of the covers are), and it's highly symbolic, so it's not too out of place...but then ADV decided to use that picture as the cover for the boxset. Considering Rue isn't even the title character, the fans were confused and embarrassed by the move. Luckily in later editions the eponymous Magical Girl is shown on the cover in a less provocative pose.
  • The covers Kozue Amano made for her Amanchu! mangas outdo the ones she drew for Aria by far in this regard. The first one, showing a bikini-clad Hikari scuba-diving, is somewhat feasible (although not seen anywhere in-series), but the second one really stretches things quite a bit — literally. It does showcase her skill at drawing pretty girls though.
  • The Slayers is a fun, funny parody of D&D tropes. But you probably wouldn't know that with this cover
  • The first volume of Peepo Choo.
  • Some people consider the first boxed set of Gunslinger Girl to be creepy. Also, if you just go by the DVD covers and advertisements on video streaming sites you might mistake Gunslinger Girl for a Fan Service action show.
  • This got poked at in anime adaption of Gintama three years straight in episodes which ended the year. First two times Gintoki holds fake DVD covers which both feature him and Hijikata shirtless in suggestive poses, then it's the Benizakura-hen movie tickets...Hijikata barely is in it anyway.
    • This might've been reference to the official DVD covers the anime has. Since the series is long, it's understandable that ideas must've run out at some point. Still some of them make no sense storywise- for example one has Takasugi and Hijikata together, yet they've never actually met. Then there's that one with Hijikata sitting on top of Yamazaki...
  • The covers for Confidential Confessions show teen girls with words like RAPE and DRUG ABUSE superimposed over them. One even has a terrified girl right on the cover. Granted, they're pretty indicative of what happens in the stories, but the sweet little old lady at the cash register doesn't need to know that . . .
  • Do you ever want to bring up Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt with anyone not already familiar with it? No? Yeah, even the show's title evokes this trope. A Crosses the Line Twice parody, naturally it's done intentionally.
  • Franken Fran, a manga whose content itself would be rather hard to explain, likes to go the extra misleading mile by having the covers be the main female characters in poses out of a medical fetish book.
    • As for the inside front cover, as if in a preview of the actual content, we have the same poses with rather more correct-to-series appearances.
  • For the most part, the designers of the Spice and Wolf anime DVD covers have behaved themselves, but the Season 1 Viridian DVD set cover has a naked curled up Holo.
  • The cover for the Death Note spinoff novel adaptation L: Change the World, because of the massive spoiler. The whole series might apply, for those who don't want to draw attention to themselves reading a book featuring cross shapes on the cover.
    • Also the cover for the seventh volume of the Japanese DVD series features Light triumphantly standing over a dead L.

Comic Books

  • Parodied by The Middleman. The first issue was available with a normal cover, or (as a Comic-Con exclusive), the "Special Completely Inaccurate Variant Cover Edition", which featured a muscular barbarian with a scantily clad woman lying at his feet.
  • World War Hulk. The Heroes For Hire tie featuring the infamous Naughty Tentacles cover seen here [dead link]. While the interior features not a single tentacle naughty or otherwise.
  • Liberty Meadows is a hilarious comic, but Frank Cho's love of busty women on the cover makes it almost a certainty that reading it in public will get you some funny looks. Jen's cover on the fourth collection is especially outrageous in this regard.
  • Wonder Woman: The Hikateia is an excellent graphic novel that launched Greg Rucka's popular four-year run on the main series. It's an engaging tale about debt, guilt and duty to the gods vs. duty to the government. The cover is...a closeup of Wonder Woman stepping on Batman's head. Yeah, you'll definitely get some funny looks reading it in public.


  • In The Seven Year Itch the main character's job is to publish books with such covers—even classic literature, such as Little Women (retitled as The Secrets of a GIRLS DORMITORY).
  • Some promotional material for Titan A.E. showed the main female character in a breast-baring Stripperiffic outfit which appears nowhere in the film.
  • Clockstoppers. Look at this. See the girl on the right in the blue striped top and exposed midriff? She does not wear anything like that in any scene.
  • Not quite a "cover" as such, but the movie poster for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has an addition on its Japanese version which fits this trope down to the ground: a scantly clad alien catwoman was crudely placed onto the original artwork, where she hadn't been in the Western version of the poster. The scantly clad alien catwoman in question only appears in one (very brief) scene in the movie itself.
  • The cover of the American video release of the Korean action film Shiri features a nearly naked Asian woman with a gun. This does not reference anything within the film itself.
    • Also see the cover for the American release of Infernal Affairs. It features a sexy woman in a blue dress holding a large gun. The movie has maybe three females in it, but none of them are bombshells, even see any weapons over the course of the story, or have much more than five minutes of total screen time.
  • Parodied in This Is Spinal Tap where the cover to the band's latest album "Smell the Glove" is described as a naked woman with a collar and leash having a leather glove shoved in her face by a man dressed in BDSM gear, causing quite a bit of controversy. When the album comes out, they give it the least offensive cover imaginable; complete matte black (without even the name of the band or the album). It was done likely as a jab at the likes of Virgin Killer and other pornographic to borderline paedophilic album covers.
    • Well, you should have seen the cover they wanted to do! It wasn't a glove, believe me.
  • The cover for Clerks: The Snowball Edition. Because everyone remembers that scene.
  • Many animated features sport covers that go way too far in the opposite direction of your usual "let's add sex and violence" Contemptible Cover art. By far the best examples would be The Last Unicorn, The Secret of NIMH, and Watership Down—all of them sport cover art that crawled right out of the depths of the Animation Age Ghetto and are insanely inaccurate given the actual tone of the three films. Animated films can also suffer from having Off-Model stock art on their DVD covers, for example, the DVD covers of The Great Mouse Detective, Fern Gully and An American Tail. And this is all despite the fact that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the original VHS covers.
  • The overly sensationalistic title of the Italian Giallo Strip Nude for Your Killer. Okay, so it's a murder mystery set in a modeling agency in 1970s Italy. Obviously, there are going to be many Fan Service opportunities. But the film itself is little more sleazy or outrageous than anything else from its genre, certainly not to the pornographic level that the title implies. And no, the title is not due to Executive Meddling or Blind Idiot Translation, it's a direct translation of the Italian title.
  • Redemption Video specializes in Exploitation Film reissues ranging from the obscure and sometimes deservedly-so (Satanic Sluts 3, it's probably safe to assume is not a great film by any measure), to the outright classic (Jess Franco's Venus in Furs). They have a habit of placing softcore lesbian action in the DVD auto-play, so the viewer is confronted with this before even reaching the title menu. So you pop that in the player to watch it with your wife, and..."What is this you're trying to show me?" It better be one great movie, after a first impression like that.
  • The original 1977 poster for Star Wars screamed "space disco" very loudly.
  • The 2020 French film Mignonnes (Cuties) came under fire for its initial cover showing a group of tween dancers in a sexually provocative pose; following backlash, it was replaced with a different, more innocuous poster. The later poster did not however save the film from further controversy, as the film's plot and certain scenes felt too creepy if not borderline paedophilic to audiences, mostly as part of a growing paranoia towards child sexual predators in recent years.


  • This Bible edition features a cold, mascara-laden, tangentially-related eye as a preview to the images inside the book.
  • Countless works of science fiction, fantasy, comic books...
  • Publishers Baen and Ace (see example) from the 1980s and 1990s are so notorious for this syndrome, that "a Baen cover" is a stock punchline at science fiction conventions.
    • Lois McMaster Bujold mentioned once that she absolutely detests most of the covers of her Vorkosigan Saga books. She managed to veto one cover and replace it for something more tasteful...and that became her lowest selling book. She said she'd stick to writing and let the designers do their work from then on.
    • Harry Turtledove's The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump. With the best will in the world, it is impossible to find any connection between this mess of women in clingy dresses, Lovecraftian monstrosities, and big vases, and a story about an EPA officer investigating magical pollution. It looks like it was picked, entirely at random, from a big pile labelled "Fantasy Covers (Lurid)".
    • Jame, heroine of the Chronicles of the Kencyrath, is a skinny flat-chested girl who is often mistaken for a boy—so of course many covers give her not only large breasts, but her shirt partway open to show it off. Therefore it also crosses over with Covers Always Lie.
    • The omnibus edition of Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy stories (published by Baen) is a truly stunning example. The Contemptible Cover purports to show the heroine in a pseudo-Victorian confection of a dress, falling over the parapet of a bridge. What it actually shows is, very clearly, a carnivorous blue cabbage eating a three-legged woman.
    • The same publisher brought us a Tyrannosaurus Rex farting fire.
    • Ryk E. Spoor and Eric Flint attempted to game the trope when they wrote Diamonds Are Forever for Baen; figuring that the cover would depict something of the sort anyway, they included a scene in which—for entirely justifiable in-story reasons—the female lead fights a dragon while dressed in nothing but her underwear. The cover illustration ended up being based on a different scene entirely.
  • Flint has a bit of a history with this trope. His 1632 series usually attempts to justify the covers in universe. Most notably a series of short stories centers around one character getting painted in scantily clad poses by 17th century artists, including Rubens. She was rather embarrassed by the whole thing. Another novel describes the cover (a wildly inaccurate picture of a ship) as an in-universe painting done by an overenthusiastic and badly-informed artist.
  • Messed about with by the cover of Kushiel's Dart, which has a reasonably accurate depiction of the protagonist turned away from the viewer exposing a tattoo covering the length of her bare back. A Contemptible Cover, to be true, but one that has everything to do with the story (the protagonist is a very expensive prostitute in a society where the 'marque', a tattoo along the length of a prostitute's back, has significant symbolic importance).
    • If only the tattoo looked anything like the one actually described in the books (unless you think "nape of the neck" = "between the shoulder blades". If only the cover artist for Dart and Avatar believed that Terre D'Ange had discovered every form of beauty aid imaginable...except conditioner (Phedre's famous long and curly dark hair rendered as straw-straight, straw-dry over-processed dead hair?)
  • The Name of the Wind has various covers. One of them makes romance novelists sit up and say "Now why didn't I think of that!"
  • A cover of Robert A. Heinlein's Friday showed the protagonist half-naked and fondling her breasts.
  • The American cover of Charles Stross' Saturn's Children. Being one of the Nerd Authors, Stross has a blog, on which he wrote concerning the cover. It essentially says, "Gosh, I wish they hadn't put this cover on my book." In this case, the problem is purely related to the "Embarrassed to read on a bus" issue, as the novel is, in fact, about a ridiculously beautiful sexbot. It's an homage to the later Heinlein works described above, after all.
    • Stross says that every three or four books, one has saved up enough brownie points with the publisher to be able to veto a publisher decision, like the cover. And that he learned the hard way not to object to the merely bad covers—make sure you save your vetoes for the absolute worst covers.
  • Timestop has two women in skintight silver catsuits with erect nipples on the cover.
  • The Cluster books are pretty good. However, the cover for the second novel shows an entirely nude green girl chained to a rock. Granted, it's a reference to Andromeda, but still...
  • The Michael Sabanosh cover for the U.S. HarperPrism edition of Soul Music is actually more than tangentially related to the contents, but the voluptuous Cute Reaper Girl on the cover, who's naked-looking enough to be embarrassing as it is? Turns out she's sixteen.
    • Funnily enough, French publishing house L'Atalante uses Kirby's arguably contemptible cover art on what are otherwise particularly handsome, thick-papered books.
    • Pratchett himself was a fan, while acknowledging the weaknesses ("It's true that even if you hit him on the head with a hammer he wouldn't draw a non-cronelike Granny, so I've stopped doing it.")
      • He also drew Cuddy without a beard on the Men at Arms cover, despite repeated references in the text to a beard that could hide a chicken.
    • Joked about by Pratchett in The Light Fantastic, when introducing the character of Herrena. He says that at this point the author typically instructs the cover artist about how to make sure the costume is sexy, with skintight leather and knee-high boots, etc. Instead he explicitly points out that while Herrena is attractive, she is actually wearing perfectly sensible chainmail armor, and could do with a good bath and a manicure. Kirby then painted the cover, complete with Herrena in skintight leather and knee-high boots.
  • The "classic" romance novel cover-a woman with long, flowing hair (that may or may not match the hair color of the actual main female character) and a man with lots of muscles, both half-dressed, holding each other in what looks like a mighty uncomfortable sexual position. Though the highly stereotyped and often (justly) mocked "clinch" contemptible cover was for a long time a staple of romance novels, in the past decade its use has declined drastically. A lot of romance novels now feature stock photos of very muscled male chests and arms, or a neck-up photograph of a kissing couple, photoshopped to look vaguely artsy- not respectable, per se, but not contemptible either. Some try to have the best of both worlds by having a simple, solid cover with just the title and author's name on it, with what would have been the Contemptible Cover on the front flyleaf instead. See some Egregious examples of these (pre-snarked for your convenience) here.
  • This was done deliberately with lesbian pulp novels in the 1950's, such as Ann Bannon's The Beebo Brinker Chronicles. It was such an integral part of the way people remembered the books that later releases ramp up the Fan Service even further to make them equally shocking and explicit for modern audiences, to the point of being outright misleading in a fun, campy sort of way. The first of the series, Odd Girl Out, is a fairly tame Slice of Life and Girls Love college story with plenty of mild hetero romance to go along with it...this is the 2001 cover. Note that the one labeled as a "gay rebel" is the one who is struggling with her sexual identity, just to start with how misleading it is.
  • This cover of Tipping the Velvet. The only stripping a character does is never with another woman. Though it certainly got this troper's attention.
  • The Bloody Jack series is plagued with horrible covers on the reissues. To the point that the heroine comments on the misleading covers to the Show Within a Show of books chronicling her exploits.
  • The cover to The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee shows a naked woman in chains. Now, although it is a plot point of one of the cases that Judge Dee orders a woman tortured until she confesses and that this was an ordinary part of imperial China's legal system (No conviction without confession, and thus torture could be used after evidence was gathered), it still made it very hard to read this book for class. In church. In front of the pastor.
  • The Official Razzie Movie Guide proudly has a picture of a man in an ape suit giving the finger.
    • That picture comes from an infamous scene in A*P*E, a disastrous King Kong ripoff which is reviewed in the book.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley's Heartlight is an intellectual fantasy about the battle between Light and Dark over the course of American history in the latter half of the 20th century. Naturally, this is the paperback cover.
    • The cover of her novel The Shattered Chain (part of the Darkover series) features a swordfight between a woman and a naked man, whose two-handed sword is rather big.
    • Possibly justified. The first chapter of the book involves the Free Amazons raiding a lord's house in the desert to free women enslaved there; the raid takes place at night, when the household is sleeping, and there is a fight with the lord in the book.
  • Sharyn McCrumb's book Bimbos of the Death Sun parodies this trope: Jay Omega is an engineer who wrote a perfectly respectable hard science fiction book, which unfortunately ended up slapped with...well, that title and a Contemptible Cover featuring a scantily-clad bimbo. One of the convention's organizers tells Omega that the artist is here and that he should go say hello; Jay's unspoken response is "With a battleaxe, maybe". Much to McCrumb's chagrin, the first paperback edition of the book looked remarkably similar to how she described the fictional book's cover.
  • The first cover for Connie Willis's Doomsday Book had a cover reminiscent of a romance novel, despite having no romance whatsoever in it.
  • One particular edition of The Princess Bride has, as the cover [dead link], a nude woman whose legs dissolve into a variety of horrible things like giant snakes. Not only contemptible, but has absolutely nothing to do with the book in any discernible fashion. Some sources give Ted Coconis as the artist.
  • According to an anecdote told by noted Science Fiction author Theodore Sturgeon at Princeton University in the early 1980s, a particular paperback edition of his classic SF novel More Than Human was once banned solely because of the cover, which had a surprisingly tame picture of a woman on it.
  • The German cover of the first two Spellsinger books by Alan Dean Foster features a muscular barbarian hero standing before a scantily clad evil queen and her group of giant fishlike monster-things. None of these come even close to appearing in the book.
  • Fictional example: Kurt Vonnegut's recurring character Kilgore Trout suffers from an extreme case of this. His stories are published as filler in hardcore pornography magazines, and almost nobody actually reads them for the words.
    • Kilgore Trout was originally created as a fictionalized version of Theodore Sturgeon, who'd suffered more than his share of contemptible covers in his time, as mentioned above. Many real authors have suffered the same fate as Mr. Trout, and were published only in porn magazines for the longest time, such as Stephen King, or Philip Jose Farmer...the latter of whom once wrote a novel (Venus on the Half-Shell) under the pseudonym of "Kilgore Trout"!
  • One cover of the SERRAted Edge books by Mercedes Lackey that contained The Chrome Circle includes a minor antagonist being prominently displayed on the cover with her breasts threatening to pop out of her tacky suit.
    • One of Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar books, Magic's Pawn, suffers from this on the U.S. first edition paperback cover by Jody Lee (who does most of Lackey's covers). Despite the fact that she appears nowhere in the book, and in fact the main character is gay, there is a completely naked woman with Godiva Hair lounging in the corner of the border. Worse, this is the most common cover for the book.
      • This happens to Lackey far too often. The cover for By the Sword is another blatant example where the main character, a rather experienced mercenary who frequently brings up the need for practical clothes, is portrayed wearing purple leggings, an eighties ponytail and something that looks far too much like football pads to count as armor. Not babes in chain-mail bikinis, but still WTF?
    • This is made worse in that on several occasions the cover artist who fails to read/ignores her descriptions is her husband. Bad hacks like Larry Elmore could be forgiven somewhat. The guy sleeping in her bed should know better.
  • Parodied in The Areas of My Expertise, which at one point claims to have a cover with a dragon and a seminude sword maiden. It doesn't.
    • Unless you buy the paperback edition.
  • Many of the printings of the James Bond novels, including Devil May Care.
  • Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is a part of the English canon, which among other things, satirizes consumerism, sensationalism, and sexualization. [This was the cover the book was given at one time when published in America. My lecture group eventually decided these two apparently irrelevant characters must in fact be the protagonists of "30 Days in a Helicopter", the porno flick the main character is persuaded to endure a ways into the book.
    • You do have to feel a bit sorry for the illustrator, it's pretty obvious that the only clue he was given by the publishers about the book's contents is the cover blurb "The mighty novel of of a soulless, streamlined Eden--and two who escape it." And he probably thought the book was a allegory of Adam and Eve's exile from Eden and produced a cover to match.
  • The non-fiction art history book From Dawn to Decadence had a picture of a Roman orgy on the front. The book spent most of its time with its front cover down when I wasn't reading it.
    • The 19th century academic painting with the totally bummed out blond sprawled across the laps of half the celebrants.
  • Jon Stewart's Naked Pictures Of Famous People has a naked Abraham Lincoln on the cover, hiding his genitals with his hands. The book is a series of essays parodying various celebrities/public figures, so the cover has some relevance (as well as fitting the title), but it's still not something you want to be caught with on the bus.
  • The Del Rey collection The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft has a naked human torso (with the head and limbs gone) that has been stuck on a pike.
    • The only good Lovecraft covers were from Finnish collections long since out of print—they included things such as books filled with creepy scrawl and imagery, very fitting for the context.
      • Although to be fair, in a series that is based around imagery that would drive people to madness, how would you give an accurate visual representation and do it justice?
      • Good news! Some Lovecraft collections take the minimalist approach - black covers with white images of what can be assumed to be the faces of Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep, meaning they're artsy and fitting.
  • At least one older edition of Dragonflight has a random scantily-clad voluptuous blonde on the cover. Granted, the book is somewhat cheesy sf-romance, but at least the protagonist has enough sense in-text not to go dragonriding wearing only a tattered white dishcloth. (Besides, she's a petite brunette.)
  • All My Sins Remembered by Joe Haldeman has several things arranged in a surreal fashion on the cover, each apparently intended to portray one event of the story in a metaphorical fashion rather than a literal one. However, it is uncertain what might correspond to a naked man committing a sexual act with a giant snake.
  • The earlier Anita Blake books, which don't focus nearly so much on steamy action. The covers all depicted some barely covered part of a woman's body clad in silk or satin...for a book that was mostly about vampires and werewolves and gruesome murders. (The later books ended up about vampires and werewolves and necromancers getting it on in various combinations.)
    • Narcissus In Chains is particularly bad for this. Given the, er, content of the book, it's fairly accurate, but it's still not the kind of cover you want to be seen with in public.
    • The original UK covers were much better; compare this to this.
    • The Meredith Gentry series, by the same author, also uses the silk or satin (or leather) clad woman's body for covers. They're usually in shiny jewel tones. I really didn't want to show my older brother my purchase that day...
  • While there may not be anything wrong with their covers per se, there are certain books that you may not want to be caught reading in public. For example: if you ever plan on reading Mein Kampf (for research-based reasons, we hope) you may as well just remove the front cover to avoid scrutiny in public. (Some editions of Mein Kampf make it even worse by having huge swastikas on the front! Then there are the editions with huge pictures of Hitler on the front.)
    • Heck, even reading some copies of William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in public would get you dirty looks, as many editions also feature a large swastika on the cover. This also extends to most other academic books (many of which feature the words "Hitler", "Nazi", or "Third Reich" in their titles for obvious reasons) that are purely intended to research events, people, and aspects from that historical era in a scholarly manner. You can receive visible scorn merely for requesting some of these at a historical library.
    • Similarly, depending on which edition of The Iron Dream you've managed to track down, you'll either have a blond, hammer-wielding Hitler on the cover menacing some mutants, or a leather-clad, caped Hitler riding a motorcycle (rocket ship silhouetted by a giant swastika optional).
  • The works of the Marquis de Sade also tends to get similar treatment. Then again, de Sade is not someone you want to read on the bus even if people can't see the cover.
  • Lolita would also probably apply in this situation. Some editions are even worse than others though. Some have a photograph of a twelve-year-old girl on the front. Now given the themes of the book, was this really necessary? And what parent didn't mind a publisher using their daughter's image on a book involving an inappropriate sexual relationship with a young girl?
    • Here's a video of Nabokov himself checking out some different editions of Lolita.
  • To capitalize on the scandalous success of Lolita, there was a paperback edition of another of Nabokov's novels, Pnin, a totally non-smutty academic comedy about a hapless professor; the cover has three teen girls in innocently revealing poses with a professor-type looking at them from the background. Also note the use of the name so prominently, it could almost be mistaken for part of the title.
  • Reprints of classic novels sometimes, of course, feature photos from recent film adaptations. In the case of faithful adaptations, such as the 1995 miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice, this is perfectly reasonable, as the cover in question features a photo of protagonists Darcy and Elizabeth, as played by Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. In the case of 'freely' (or 'badly') adapted novels, this can be quite unfortunate, like The Scarlet Letter featuring a cover photo of Gary Oldman and Demi Moore drooling over each other.
  • The NSFW(!) cover of Tsipi Keller's Retelling. Not something I'd read in public.
  • An old edition of Yukio Mishima's Spring Snow was packaged as a steamy, exotic romance novel. Anyone who's read any Mishima knows how bizarre this is. The back cover quotes a few sentences that appeared to be the lead-in to a graphic sex scene—in the book, those sentences are immediately followed by the protagonist ejaculating prematurely, and are the only steamy sentences in the entire novel.
  • Raymond E. Feist's The Riftwar Cycle books are usually pretty good. But the American paperback editions of several of the Serpent War Saga books contained some truly awful artwork on the interior covers. Here is a sample and no, none of these characters are depicted anywhere in the book.
  • The American versions of Simon R. Green's Deathstalker series all feature a blond-haired man what I can only assume is the female lead in a leather corset and short shorts. The character descriptions weren't very detailed so they did have to take some artistic license but the male lead's description pretty much came down to "dark haired".
  • Women of the Otherworld books usually have a scantily clad woman on the cover, in a sexy pose, and have little blurbs that make them sound like romance novels. In reality, however, while there's romance in the stories, it's usually a minor part of the plot.
  • The Hollows series has the main character scantily clad on each cover. It's actually accurate in that she's known for having an unfortunate dress sense (in the very first scene of the first book she's mistaken for a prostitute) but her dress sense doesn't actually reflect much about her personality.
  • Poor, poor Mercy Thompson. Every one of the covers shows someone presumably intended to be Mercy posing way too voluptuously to be healthy, wearing Stripperiffic clothes that she probably wouldn't be caught dead in. They also apparently took the fact that she has a tattoo of a coyote's footprint on her stomach and ran with it, since they also give her all sorts of mutually-contradictory and extensive body art.
    • This is made very icky when you consider that one of the books deals surprisingly sensitively with the long-term psychological effects of rape.
  • Used deliberately with The Brand New Monty Python Book, which, underneath its plain dust jacket, had a pornographic cover titled Tits n' Bums: A Weekly Look at Church Architecture.
  • The current paperback of Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin features the naked back view of an androgynous person very prominently at the top of the cover. The story is about vampires and steamboats, and nudity plays little to no part in it.
  • The Garrett P.I. series suffers badly from this, though the later covers aren't quite as bad as the older ones.
  • The covers of the various editions of the Gor novels certainly give the prospective reader an idea of what to expect from the books (NSFW) but still, you wouldn't want to read that on the bus.
  • Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door is a retelling of Sylvia Likens' real-life murder. The original cover art is a skeleton wearing a cheerleader outfit.
  • This site is completely devoted to showcasing the most contemptible cover art on the planet.
  • By request of their retail partners, Yen Press created new covers (the first one is at the top of the page) for the Spice and Wolf light novel series, knowing that it might not go over well with the core fanbase. Though they tried to throw fans a bone by offering dust jackets of the original cover through online retailers, the backdraft was enormous, and many people canceled their orders in protest. From the second novel on, they flipped their first compromise and put the original cover art on the books themselves, with the new cover art for the general public (featuring a fully clothed Holo from the second volume on) printed on the disposable dust jackets.
  • Played with by modern Russian writer Andrey Ulanov, who references this trope on the back cover of his fantasy novel (named There Will Be Enough for Everyone). He mentions that while working at a book store, a man once asked him sarcastically about one such cover ("Is there really an, err, naked girl in this book?"); having never read the book in question, Ulanov could not answer, so when he wrote his own book, with this [dead link] cover, he made sure that there would be not one, but two naked women there. Y'know. Just in case.
  • All of the paperbacks published by Hard Case Crime have deliberately lurid covers, in a tongue-in-cheek retro sort of way. Some of them are actually reasonable depictions of what goes on in the story—and then there's this.
    • The same goes for the Planet Stories line. Sometimes they go a little too far.
  • Fantasy author Joe Abercrombie isn't safe, either—check the American cover for Best Served Cold and tell me—is that a piece for a political fantasy novel, or the album cover for a nu-metal band? Also, that is a woman, in case you couldn't tell.
    • According to the publisher, they ran into some trouble because apparently having a woman on the cover is too "urban fantasy".
  • This [dead link] local mutation of Elvenblood, second book of The Halfblood Chronicles. It's a YA novel. All main female characters are teenage girls. The most intimate moment of the book is a kiss.
  • Early The Guardians novels are plagued by covers such as this. It's an Urban Fantasy series about the battle between angels and demons going on behind the Masquerade. The guy with the wings? A literal Knight in Shining Armor who purposefully dresses like a monk. Later covers have gotten better, showing a fully clothed model striking a heroic pose.
  • A lot of Pulp Magazines, naturally. For instance, the issue of Planet Stories that introduced Eric John Stark has Queen Berild riding a steed that resembles a giant purple googly-eyed seahorse. On the other hand, Berild is wearing more clothing than she does in the text...
  • The covers for the various Animorphs books had rather goofy covers that typically featured gimmicky uses of some photoshop morph effect, something which was a big trend throughout The Nineties. This also counts as Covers Always Lie, as the cheesy covers didn't do justice to the genuinely frightening content of the series.
  • Although a few specific series have been mentioned here, it's safe to assume that every Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance book will have a hideously embarrassing cover. Because they all do.
  • The original British cover of Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World is fittingly dark and harsh, and doesn't complicate things by trying to depict any characters. The American cover, for reasons completely unknown, is also very simple...except it's bright pink with lime-green lettering. And even worse, though this isn't obvious when it's taken out of a library, the standard hardcover edition of the book was made of some sort of velvety or fuzzy material! A casual observer would never guess it was a Mind Screw-laden After the End novel.
    • Apparently, they were attempting something artsy:

"When you read Harkaway's novel, a gigantic sense of weirdness and cool and doom surround the characters. To capture all that plus the absurd humor that pervades this amazing book, the jacket obviously had to be something special. So the otherworldliness that perhaps only neon fuzz can bring hopes to evoke these feelings and add to the strength of and interplay between the words in the title and author's name."

  • Sven Lindqvist's nonfiction book Utrota varenda jävel (Exterminate All the Brutes) manages this with the title alone. It is in fact a study of how 19th century colonialism created racist ideology. (And the title is a quote from Heart of Darkness.)
  • The covers for The Au Pairs by Melissa de la Cruz are like this, and it doesn't help that the books in the series include Sun-kissed, Skinny Dipping and Crazy Hot. It is actually about three girls who for various reasons become au pairs and fall in love over the summer. Though there are some sex scenes, the covers make it look like a bad erotica novel, or at best a racy Romance Novel.
  • This edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • Paperback cover for Sarah Monette’s fantasy novel Mélusine, in complete dissonance with the tone of the work.
  • Parodied in the NUMA Series book Iceberg, which opens with a story about a woman waking up naked chained to the wall in a dungeon where the floor is covered in yellow slime. Turns out it's a Blob Monster that starts climbing her body. Just when it reaches her mouth, a voice cries out. It turns out to be a book the co-pilot of a survey plane is reading, and the voice belonged to the pilot. The cover depicts a woman presumably held up in the slime by her enormous breasts. It's one of the funniest moments in the series.
  • This cover of The Hobbit was despised by Tolkien himself for its inaccurate depiction of Bilbo (that and the cover is just ugly with its orange print and goofy, pillowy letters). The edition also did not include a copy of Thorin's map, which was another reason why he hated it.
    • Then he would have really hated the Harvard Lampoon parody novel Bored of the Rings, which included a steamy pre-title page quote of a lurid sex scene involving an Elven damsel that breaks off just as it gets to the good part. The scene appears nowhere in the actual text of the book.
  • The various Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels have covers that run the gamut between stylish and classy to fairly gawdawful, with the occasional venture into "aided and abetted by recreational narcotics" territory.
    • To be fair, that last cover is exactly what the book is like.
  • Arguably, one key reason Vivia by Tanith Lee did badly was the painting of a topless woman adorning the front cover. Less offensive (it's the 19th century painting of Sappho by Charles Mengin) than a problem for bookshops to have visible nipples on book covers. Though respect must be granted for the fact that a very similar painting is actually in the book.
  • During the 1970s and '80s, most of the Modesty Blaise novels got stuck with covers featuring an array of headless photos of women in Stripperiffic black leather outfits decorated with metal studs. Over multiple editions, each more contemptible than the last, and none bearing any connection to the books' actual contents. You know it's bad when a male reader would rather be seen in public with the first novel's original cover, which is bright pink.
  • Joe Dever and John Grant's Legends of Lone Wolf novels generally had covers that were directly relevant to scenes from the story within. Except for The Birthplace.
  • The covers for The Wheel of Time are absolutely loathed within the fandom for this. Of note, having the covers show incredibly banal and non-plot-important scenes, having the Trollocs being depicted as black men, and doing absolutely no justice to Lanfear.
  • C. J. Cherryh was rather annoyed that the titular Morgaine of her Morgaine Cycle was portrayed on covers in skimpy clothing. This annoyance was part of her motivation for making the main characters of the Chanur Saga a species anthropomorphic lions who always go completely topless and who have completely flat mammary glands, hoping this would preempt her publisher from doing the same thing with her new series. Her plan worked.
  • No discussion of this trope could be complete without a mention of the infamous "Corwin the Barbarian cover" of Nine Princes in Amber (the first of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber novels.) The fan community for this series, whose genre is best defined as "metaphysical intrigue plus sword-fighting and a dash of science fiction", spans the globe; but it never quite caught on in Germany. Wonder why... (Oh, yes, and the named character? Is a 'Renaissance man' immortal who makes cryptic quotations from Shakespeare, has picked up a medical degree and served as a general in more than one Earthly army, in between wining, dining and the aforementioned sword-fighting.)
  • Subverted nicely by the content of Azure Bonds, a Forgotten Realms novel, the cover of which displays its protagonist in cleavage-displaying chainmail. In the book itself, this suit of armor actually appears in a scene where someone intends to use the protagonist as a sacrifice: a valid reason not to protect the vital organs!
  • An example appears in-story in H. Beam Piper's Uller Uprising — although Dire Dawn by Hildegarde Hernandez is a trashy "historical novel" which the characters of Uller Uprising describe as largely pornography, so the cover is actually appropriate to the contents. Still, another one you might be a bit embarrassed to be seen reading ... and Uller Uprising‍'‍s characters had a legitimate need to read it, because Hernandez had included some accurate historical information they really had to learn.

Its dust-jacket bore a slightly-more-than-bust-length picture of a young lady with crimson hair and green eyes and jade earrings and a plunging--not to say power-diving--neckline that left her affiliation with the class of Mammalia in no doubt whatever.

Live Action TV

  • Ernie Kovacs parodied this trope with a series of "more sex and violence" book covers, showing Little Women as ladies of ill repute, Peter Rabbit as a gangster, and a Webster's unabridged dictionary with a picture of a silhouette of a lady behind a window blind, with blurbs all over the cover such as "Unexpurgated!", "Four-Letter Words!", and "Nothing Left Out!".
  • The in-universe Nikki Heat novels in Castle has the eponymous detective on the covers with a gun and little else. Beckett, the "muse", is unsurprisingly not amused.
  • Parodied in Friends:

Mrs. Bing: I have sold a hundred million copies of my books, and y'know why?
Ross: The girl on the cover with her nipples showing?
Mrs. Bing: No. Because I know how to write men that women fall in love with. Believe me, I cannot sell a Paolo. He's not a hero. You know who our hero is.
Ross: The guy on the cover with his nipples showing?

  • Parodied on the British sitcom As Time Goes By: The protagonist, a (white, older) Englishman named Lionel, has written a memoir of the decades he spent growing coffee in Kenya. In one episode, he is made to pose for a cover photo, dressed like an adventure hero in khaki, including a shirt revealing a lot of bare chest. A scantily-clad blonde is sprawled at his feet.


  • How you're gonna explain to your parents having among your records one with an ejaculating horse on the cover? (NSFW)
  • Many death metal covers as well. Nothing as risky as walking around with an image of "corpse cunnilingus".
    • This one (of a Cannibal Corpse album) was so gross that an alternate cover was used when "Hammer Smashed Face" was released in Rock Band.
    • Grindcore, which already is death metal Up to Eleven, has brought us (probably the most NSFW link on the page!) Kutschurft. The name is Dutch for cuntscabies, and that's what you get to see, too.
  • Pig Destroyer's album Terrifyer. The songs are nasty enough, but the cover art of a scary looking girl with exposed breasts just makes it even worse. I was almost ashamed to have it in my Itunes Library.
  • Carcass' first album Reek Of Putrefaction is entirely a collage of autopsy photos. It is so bad that it is sold in a white plastic bag.
  • X Japan's album Vanishing Vision has cover art of a woman with a slashed-open chest being raped.
  • Dimmu Borgir has some strange cover art. Whether it be a faceless-goat-thingy, another goat thing with exposed breasts or a headless, limbless and naked angel wrapped in barbed wire... it's not pretty.
  • The original release of the Dutch prog rock album Atlantis by Earth and Fire featured an appalling cover design that depicted lots of blobby naked people floating around, apparently drawn in crayon. A later CD release wisely substituted a photo of the band.
  • The cover of Two Virgins by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. So bad, it was wrapped in brown paper on initial release. They weren't even attractive nudes...
  • Type O Negative's original cover for The Origin of the Feces. For those curious but not wishing to click, it's a photo of an anus.
    • Brazil has a variant (though to be fair, it does look like a marble in a mouth instead of...ya know).
  • The self-titled Blind Faith album and the Scorpions' Virgin Killer manage to take the "random naked people" style one horrible step further by using underage nude models. (Blind Faith took it even further by having the 11-year-old model hold a very phallic chrome spaceship model.)
    • Blind Faith is interesting in that the planned model was legal-age... but then she declined at the last minute. The model they used was her kid sister, who volunteered when her older sister ditched.
    • The Virgin Killer cover art in particular is so controversial that in late 2008, it caused the album's Wikipedia article to be temporarily blocked in the UK, then subsequently reversed thanks to political backlash and the Streisand Effect.
    • In addition to the aforementioned Virgin Killer, some other Scorpions album covers feature nudity and/or are sexually suggestive, in particular In Trance, Lovedrive, Animal Magnetism, Love at First Sting, and Pure Instinct. Then there are Fly to the Rainbow and Moment of Glory, which are embarrassing for entirely different reasons. (According to this interview, former lead guitarist Uli Jon Roth dislikes the covers of both Fly to the Rainbow and Virgin Killer.)
      • There's also an alternative Lovedrive cover which falls into the "embarrassing for entirely different reasons" category, a phallic scorpion.
  • Paul McCartney took the cover photo/self-portrait for his 2001 album Driving Rain himself. With a digital watch-cam. In grainy black and white. In a restroom. At the time, there were a lot of people questioning his taste level and thinking the cover was even worse than it looked...
    • Neil Young did the same thing, but his looks more oddly mosaic.
  • While still on the subject of The Beatles... good luck looking at The Beatles the same way ever again after seeing the original cover of Yesterday and Today. In its defense, that photo was originally taken for a conceptual art piece, though Paul McCartney did choose it for the album.
  • Enjoy these two Onion AV Club features about notably Nightmare Fuel-heavy or just totally insane album cover art.
  • Any album by The Dwarves. Some album covers include: a topless woman in a Mexican wrestling mask holding a skateboard, naked women covered in blood, naked women holding a midget on a crucifix...
  • The Mayhem bootleg album Dawn of the Black Hearts notoriously used an actual photo of the singer's corpse following his suicide as the cover art.
  • Chumbawamba's Anarchy (NSFW!) was also sold in brown paper packaging, and depicts a profile view of a baby mid-birth, with only the head out and covered in blood.
    • Their album What You See Is What You Get has a cover depicting a completely SFW photo of a dog...until you open it, and fold out the booklet, and it's revealed to be cropped from a photo of mating dogs.
  • Anal Cunt, to the point you could guess just off the name and logo alone.
  • Just about everything involving Passenger of Shit, a musician who can be best described as "Anal Cunt goes electronica". Don't even dare to do the Google Image Search (even with the family filter on!), just-- seriously, don't.
  • The cover of the Japanese electronic music duo capsule's Sugarless Girl album. Even as a girl, I get slightly embarrassed at the sight of the cover's picture of a voluptuous naked woman, despite the fact that she is covering herself.
  • The LP release of Keith Moon's solo album, Two Sides of the Moon, showed Moon riding in a car on the cover. The window through which Moon is seen is cut through on the sleeve, so that the art varies depending on how the inner sleeve is inserted. Either he's looking out through the window while clutching a cane, or he's, appropriately enough, mooning the camera.
  • Venetian Snares' album Horse and Goat had to be sold with a reversible cover, with a close-up of a girl's face on the front and the real cover on the back. The first two manufacturers they went to wouldn't even print it. Not surprising, considering that the cover was done by Trevor Brown.
  • The Gong album Acid Motherhood features a Mister Seahorse cover image.
  • Liars' It Fit When I Was A Kid single, which features the band members crudely photoshopped into gay porn. The censored version (probably deliberately) made it seem even worse than it actually was.
  • Lords of Acid albums, such as Voodoo-U (which features a she-devil lesbian orgy).
  • Taken to entirely new levels by Heavenly, who for their later release have substituted more traditional power metal album covers for lesbian fantasy softcore pornography.
  • Symphonic progressive rock band Ars Nova have several such album covers, but the Japanese cover for the album Biogenesis Project tops them all. Behold (warning: NSFW!)
  • 1970s rock band Mom's Apple Pie has one from their first album. It looks completely innocent at first glance, but just look closely at the apple pie. Outcries from outraged record store proprietors refusing to display the album forced their hand into censoring their own cover art. Later issues of the cover brick up the pie slice, stick a bunch of soldiers outside the window and place a tear in Mom’s eye. Guess which version is more collectible?
  • Christian Metal (stop snickering...) band Barnabas actually had a pretty hard-rocking sound for the early 1980s - kinda like Judas Priest meets AC/DC. So of course this was the cover of their first album (recommence snickering).
  • Smooth move, Mr. "God, Guts & Guns". Even for Terrible Ted, this is... tacky.
  • Some of the Manowar's album covers venture into this direction, with all the shirtless barbarians and the topless succubi in them.
  • NOFX's Heavy Petting Zoo album and Eating Lamb 12-inch EP.
  • The disc of Tool's Aenima album had a picture of a naked contortionist (taken from behind) that also appeared in the album artwork. The album's lyrics do not have any sexual meaning. Their Undertow album's liner notes also contained some offensive pictures that do not relate to the songs.
  • Bullet for My Valentine's album Fever. If you don't want to click the link, it's a profile photo of a pale, scantily clad woman.
  • The Bloodhound Gang's Hefty Fine. The album is already badly reviewed, and the cover doesn't help.
  • The original cover to Lady Gaga's The Remix. The alternative, by contrast, is much classier.
  • The original cover to Big Black’s Headache featured a stomach-turning close-up of the victim of a close-range gunshot wound to the head. It was replaced by a less offensive (but still sinfully ugly) cover.
  • The cover for the 2010 vinyl remaster of XTC's album Skylarking, which features a shot of female pubic hair with flowers. The cover was rejected by Virgin in 1986. Sometimes, meddling executives have a point once in a while.
  • The Handsome Beasts are repeat offenders; the Bestiality album cover in particular is not safe for work, eyes or sanity. Click at your own risk.
  • Supertramp's Indelibly Stamped consists of the arms and chest of a naked and heavily-tattooed woman.
  •'s list of The Fifteen Worst Album Covers of All-Time.
    • It should be noted that one of these is a spoof of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass' Whipped Cream and Other Delights, which along with much of that band's catalogue is itself a perfect example of this trope.
  • Since we're in lists, 25 Borderline Pornographic Album Covers (naturally NSFW) by UGO.
  • The original cover (NSFW) for Guns N' Roses debut album Appetite for Destruction.
  • The cover of this (NSFW) Nashville Pussy record was censored via huge, pink stickers. Not only did the stickers cover the lower half of the front cover image, but the title (replacing it with simply "Let Them Eat..." because no one would make that connection) and the entire track list on the back (one of those tracks was nominated for a Grammy.) Once the album was purchased, the stickers would come off along with the saran wrap, so it was at least a very tidy method.
    • Some versions of the aforementioned Scorpions' Lovedrive album used a similar technique, covering the album with opaque red shrink wrap.
  • The great funk band Ohio Players had an aversion to the depiction of clothing in their album covers.
  • Dutch singer Connie Stuart did a parody of this with "Hoezenpoes", describing the life of a classical music album "cover pussy".
  • The cover of Load by Metallica features a photograph titled "Blood And Semen III".

Tabletop Games

  • A certain French RPG sourcebook from the early 1990s (L'empire tenebreux for Hawkmoon) featured a vivisection chamber where doctors from some bipedal reptilioid species (more exactly, humans wearing a mask) dissected screaming naked human beings whom they had first flayed alive. The centerpiece involved a woman whose howling face had been stripped to the muscle, yet whose bare breasts remained somewhat intact. How such a cover made it out the door much less onto store shelves, even in Europe, remains a mystery.
  • Exalted one notorious example where the focus of the picture seemed to be the crotch of the scantily-clad and strangely disproportionate woman on it.
    • Just to add insult to injury, fans had been saying for months that the artist who drew that mess, Hyung-Tae Kim, would be perfect for Exalted. They apparently forgot to add "...with a sane editor guiding him".
  • The tabletop RPG Glistening Chests [dead link] was created as a parody and Deconstruction of contemptible covers.
  • While certainly not cheesecake, a certain image on the back cover of the Vampire: The Masquerade Tzimisce clanbook led to the book being sold in many stores in a solid black porn-bag. This was intentional; in-house artist Joshua Gabriel Timbrook had supposedly been chewed out for running late on the deadline. He dashed the image off, handed it in, and went home the evening the book left for press.
    • The BDSM-tinged cover for the VtM supplement Ghouls: Fatal Addiction, while not out of line with the content, was considered a bit much by many gamers. Granted, Ghouls inspire a lot of BDSM-related content (in the corebook, the picture accompanying the text about them is a out-and-out slave auction). This is just what happens when it comes full-flower.
  • The proposed covers for the Fourth edition of GURPS were so poorly received that Steve Jackson Games ran a design contest. An unfortunately-shaped rocket launcher dubbed the "dildo gun" became a meme.
  • Virtually all of the Avalanche Press supplements for Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition had a Heavy Metal-style cover (some by Heavy Metal artists) that had nothing to do with the book's contents. And the models for those covers? Actual porn stars. Really.
  • Green Ronin was no better. Its Book of Fiends with 3.5 Edition rules (NSFW, of course) had a nude female on the cover, her back to the reader, and this was, in fact, tame compared to illustrations and content within. (Still one of the most critically acclaimed third party D20 sourcebooks at the time, by the way.) When they updated for 5th edtion, the new cover was far less risque.
  • An actual canon sourcebook for Dungeons and Dragons was Eldritch Wizardry, one of Gary Gygax's earliest works and the book that introduced many iconic villains (like Orcus and Demogorgon) monsters (including mind flayers), and artifacts (including the Rod of Seven Parts and the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords). Unfortunately, most everyone knows it for the cover, with a nude woman on a sacrificial altar.

Video Games

  • The 1987 Amiga game Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior was unique in that the cover art used live models rather than a drawing, one of which was a scantily-clad female. This caused quite a bit of controversy, seeing as video games were, at the time, marketed mostly for kids. Not helped by the fact that a poster of the cover was included with purchase.
  • The cover of The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Forget about the engaging Wide Open Sandbox: in this cover, there's a barbarian girl in skanky Stripperiffic Breast Plates, the likes of whom appears nowhere in the rather Fanservice-less game. Justified in that 'Arena was originally intended to be a fantasy gladiatorial RPG, and the cover was designed early on for marketing. It was only midway through the project's development that it began to evolve into the open-world Lord of the Rings-inspired romp we all know and love; the "arena" aspect of the game was removed altogether and would not return until Oblivion.
    • The French cover of Arena also qualifies, featuring a Mr. Fanservice-y looking dude, along with a wizard companion nowhere to be found in the game, preparing to slay some goblins.
    • Daggerfall was luckier in this respect, featuring a poorly-drawn rendition of the Underking clawing at the cover, while Morrowind finally settled for the minimalistic path and used Dunmer tapestry.
    • The cover of Battlespire goes all three ways at once: it's significant (weapon and enemy show-off), minimalistic, and features the Sexy Silhouette of a Daedra Seducer.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines' cover prominently features the blonde-haired, big-boobed, pigtailed, miniskirt-wearing, Lesbian Vampire Jeanette Voerman looking alluringly at the viewer while showing off her backside. Obviously, this was done for Fan Service purposes, since she's only a minor character and only shows up for about a third of the plot. To add insult to injury Jeanette doesn't even exist outside of her sister's broken mind.
    • They already had a live person (Erin Layne) modeling Jeanette for some fanservicey promotional material, which at least helps explain the choice of character.
  • In addition to not looking like the in-game graphics, the Western box art for Phantasy Star may also count as a Contemptible Cover.
  • Scrolling Space Shooter Phalanx gave the world a very infamous example. The fact that the cover is predominated by an old man playing a banjo and the spaceship he's startled by is little more than a subtle afterthought is funny enough, but what makes it even better (worse?) is that it still features that tagline, "The Hyper-Speed Shoot-Out in Space!" ...which does actually occur in the the seventh level.
    • This was apparently changed for the American release in light of what the original Japanese art was [dead link]. We have no idea why!
    • Their official reason was to make Phalanx stand out among a market glutted with similar shooters, but the Japanese cover makes it obvious that they had to do something with it.
  • Ailish features prominently on the box art and disc of Sudeki, but the main character is arguably Tal. Ailish does get a decent role in the game, but with progressively more covering outfits.
  • Every single installment of the Spellforce series has a scantily-clad woman in the cover art, who at least is often a plot-relevant NPC.
  • The Mystery Of The Druids, a rather average adventure game, gets a screaming druid-like man for a cover.
  • Acclaim did this twice with their localization of the Puzzle Bobble series, dumping the cute characters for men with sticks prying open their eyelids and a close-up of an uncute baby with sunglasses, blowing a bubble at separate points. Weird.
  • Kid Fenris' Gallery of Hideous Box Art has a good number of these.
  • The infamous box art of the first Suikoden game resembles the cover of a bad fantasy novel, with a Fu Manchu-wearing guy, a three-headed monster, and a girl on the right who appears suitably embarrassed to even be there. Funnily enough, the monster is the only character that appears in the game, and then only as a random mook.
    • The Japanese version averts this with a completely serviceable cover that would've worked equally well for the US version—a white plane with the game's name and a circle containing on-model depictions of as many of the game's Loads and Loads of Characters they could conceivably fit in it.
  • The box art of Karnaaj Rally was so notoriously ridiculous that it made Seanbaby infamously review this game solely based on the cover. After he eventually played it and found it a not very bad game, he congratulated the graphic artists for tricking him into avoiding it.
  • The hilariously over-the-top North American Mega Man 1 NES boxart makes him look like a painted lobster, as did the second game.
    • "Bad Box Art Mega Man" would receive more than his share of Call Backs, including the intentionally-Retraux covers for Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 (displayed here and here), which were designed to hearken back more to the series roots.
  • Feel the Magic is hit doubly here. If either the title was changed, or the bikini-wearing girl on the cover was replaced, it wouldn't do much more than raise eyebrows. Together, they unfairly make the game look like a sex simulator.
  • For the European box art for BlazBlue, the distributors organized a contest on Neo GAF and let fans vote in on whose artwork would be shown off on the box. This was the winning submission, but when the distributors got in contact with the artist, they decided to use a drawing of Noel instead. This was the result. Complete with a tacked-on placeholder logo to boot.
  • The North American release of Deadly Premonition is reviled by fans for it's "Silent Hill knock off" cover, which ignore the fact that the game is an open sandbox mystery, and has a more Lynchian brand of horror.
  • The cover for Amnesia: The Dark Descent has a monster stalking you on the front cover. It looks more like a duck quacking at you than a horribly deformed monster stalking you in one of the most creepy games to have come out since 2000. It also completely defies the winning formula the game has of making the creature scarier by not allowing you, the player, to get a good look at it.
  • Divine Divinity features a goddess on its cover that is seen for like twenty seconds in the intro and nowhere else.
  • The Guardian Legend was distributed in North America by Broderbund Software, who gave it this rather disturbing cover. It has nothing to do with the game, but greatly resembles the poster for the 1985 SF/horror movie Creature.
  • Dead or Alive Dimensions pulls no punches as to what you'll be getting in the game, with the box art featuring Kasumi performing a high kick front and center. Mercifully, the icon that shows up on your home menu when the game is selected went for the cute approach rather than its less innocent counterpart, featuring a chibi-styled Kasumi floating among cherry blossom petals.

Web Comics

Web Original