Will Staehle & A Man of Shadows

Will Staehle is a designer and Illustrator based in Seattle. Among the amazing work in his portfolio is the jacket for Jeff Noon's A Man of Shadows. Here Staehle details for Spine what went into the creation of the cover.

I’ve designed a handful of covers for Angry Robot books over the years, from the heroic tales of Adam Christopher, to the victorian-inspired yarns of Rod Duncan. They really have fun, and interesting titles on their list.

This was no different. When Marc Gasciogne reached out to me about a new project from Jeff Noon, one of the UK pioneers of cyberpunk, my curiosity was piqued.

The initial cover memo from Marc stated: “It's set in a city that is held half in perpetual daylight, half in night, and our hero is a Sam Spade type who has to cross between the two in search of a missing girl... ending up in the strange interzone of Dusk between the two. I'm looking for a very film noir influence…”

I read through the materials that Marc sent over and got a better sense of the core elements of the novel, as well as a better grasp of some of the particular visuals, including the unique settings of the story. The novel jumps between Day Zone, a city where the lights in the sky never go out, to Nocturna, the always-night zone and last but not least, an unknown area called Dusk. Our detective, John Nyquist may have visit all three in order to find a missing girl who he believes is the key to stopping an invisible serial killer named Quicksilver.

With all of those cool visuals to pull from, I tried a few things on the initial round of designs. I began to channel some of that noir-like detective feeling, and pushed things in a bit of a retro direction.

One of the other core elements in the book is the concept of time (or lack thereof), so I also attempted some slightly more reserved designs, including a clock, and an optical illusion based on a table lamp.

Last but not least, I also wanted to try at least one design that showcased our detective in the midst of the Dusk setting.


I sent this initial batch off to Marc, and I never do this, but I mentioned in passing to him that I had one other design that was sort of half-developed… I told him it was an illustration of a city in a M.C. Escher-like style.

Marc wrote back and liked a few of the ideas that I had presented, but was most intrigued by the pitch of the M.C. Escher cover…. the one cover that I hadn’t designed for round one!

So I went back to the drawing board and attempted to finalize the black and white / dimensional cover. I dropped in small images of the main characters in the novel, and sent the updated design over to Marc, and it was approved.


You’d think that would be the end of the story, but not quite!

A few months after, I received an email from Nick Tyler, an editorial assistant at AR, who remade the cover entirely out of legos. Now, while I’ve had my covers made into immersive live experiences, carved wooden boxes, and even into an old-school arcade game case in the past - this was the first lego recreation!

Pretty fun!


Image: Nick Tyler


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Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.


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