[Show music begins]
Noah Fried: This is Episode 76 of Alohomora! for March 29, 2014.
[Show music continues]
Noah: Hello, everyone. I’m Noah Fried.
Michael Harle: I’m Michael Harle.
Kat Miller: And I’m Kat Miller. And guys, this is it. This is the official, official, official last episode of Goblet of Fire.
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Kat: But yeah, we’re really excited to be wrapping up the book today, doing our normal book wrap thing. We’ve got an awesome special guest coming on later. If you listened to the last episode, you know who he is. If you haven’t, then go listen to it and then come back to this one. Anyway, but we do want to remind everybody that actually, the day this releases – or maybe the next day if we get it out early – Saturday, March 29, at 10 a.m. ET is our global movie watch and we are going to have a very special guest from the Potter films. I can’t guarantee that it’s a cast member, but it is somebody ridiculously super cool so you should definitely join us. Just as a note, you do need a copy of Goblet of Fire in order to join us because we can’t legally stream the film. So come join us but in the meantime, I guess, enjoy this book wrap discussion.
Noah: So now, getting into comments from last week’s episode, which I was not on, our first commenter is Texaskid, who is actually remarking on something that the rest of the hosts said on the last episode in regards to the exams. Texaskid says,
“They [the exams] did take place, right before the Third Task. It mentions in Chapter 31 at the bottom of page 607 in the US edition that Ron and Hermione were supposed to be studying for their exams that would finish on the day of the third task but were putting it off to help him prepare. I would also like to point out that exams did take place in first and third year as well and were only cancelled in second year; Harry just never has to take them until fifth year.”
So who messed up on the last show and said that they didn’t take exams?
Michael: I think…
Kat: Uhh… all of us?
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Michael: There you go. We’ll all share the blame.
Michael: But yeah, that’s good to know.
Kat: I think the fact of the matter of that discussion was that Harry never takes exams.
Kat: It wasn’t that nobody else ever takes exams. It’s that Harry never has to take exams.
Michael: Well, I think, too, it came from Eric asking, “What happens to the rest of the school just because of the things Harry is up to?”
Kat: Oh right, that was it. That’s true.
Michael: So… and then we all kind of posited whether they’re taking exams or not. So now we know!
Noah: Yeah, and it makes sense. Exams had to occur, otherwise how would any students move up? How would they move on?
Michael: Well, and the big thing, too, is of course at the beginning of Order they’re going to get their test results…
Michael: … so… yeah. [laughs] There’s going to be some stuff with that.
Noah: Well, I mean, small oversight, but we can make oversights sometimes. Jo, however, she can’t make mistakes. And we’re going to get to that later. Our next comment is from sda15. Here it is:
“I just had a quick comment about the ministry and Amos Diggory. I am a little surprised that Amos didn’t do more after Cedric’s death. If we think about, the very place that he works at is calling his son’s death a ‘tragic accident’ and not doing anything to stop the murderer. If anything, they’re letting Voldemort do more terrible things! I’d be a bit more than mad if this happened to me in my workplace and I’d want to do something about it.”
Kat: Do you think he believes it was Voldemort?
Michael: I would imagine he does, since he got the word from Harry. Because the chapter explains that Harry told them everything that happened in the graveyard.
Michael: So yeah, I think he believes him. And I know Eric had brought this up last week as well: Why don’t we see the Diggorys again? Because you would think we would because of this reason.
Michael: I mean, personally I think it’s just because having Amos do too much and causing a hubbub in the Ministry would just be a whole subplot in itself that Order doesn’t really have time for because it’s already quite large on its own.
Kat: Oh, yeah.
Michael: And Order… as great as it is, there are points I feel Order meanders a little bit past its focus.
Kat: No, nope. [makes buzzer noise]
Noah: How dare you!
Michael: I feel that.
Noah: It is the best book.
Michael: It’s a little long in the tooth in some cases. And I know Rowling said that there were even more things that she spread out amongst the other books. I don’t think Order could afford to have something like that in it.
Kat: I like to imagine that he’s off doing underground work. I mean, I don’t know. He’s part of the Order, right? No?
Noah: Is he?
Kat: I don’t know. I doubt it. But I like to think that he is on Dumbledore’s side. Or maybe he’s just too damn sad. He crawls into a hole and we never see him again.
Noah: And unfortunately, the movie scene really sort of… my book version of Amos Diggory is sort of under the shadow of the movie version because that was so visceral. As a fourteen-, fifteen-year-old kid watching that I was like, “Wow. This is parent experiencing death.”
Kat: That still gives me chills.
Kat: But again, we’ll talk about that on Saturday.
Noah: So I guess the world will never know.
Noah: Next comment is from Ali Wood and it’s in regard to a very interesting conversation, I thought, on the last podcast about, “Did Ollivander…” or rather, “Did Dumbledore possibly suggest to Ollivander to give Harry the phoenix wand? To try and create this Priori Incantatum situation?” So Ali Wood says,
“What if Fawkes gave Voldemort’s feather first, and Dumbledore went looking for the phoenix that gave that feather after the prophecy was given so that he could make sure another wand was made with a brother feather to protect Harry. It may seem a little far-fetched, but I think it would work into the theory that Dumbledore was trying to plan (i.e., be the puppetmaster) of the whole situation. Dumbledore knew Voldemort would come back, and I’m sure he knew about Priori. He could have easily thought of this way to set up another layer of protection around Harry.”
Noah: So I’m seeing, based on that comment, that Ali is thinking that maybe Dumbledore met Fawkes in the first place because he had to find the phoenix with a feather for the wand… yada yada.
Kat: That’s an interesting theory and something that I definitely never considered…
Kat: … because it’s not specific. It just says that the phoenix only gave two feathers.
Noah: Right. Was that at the same time? Or was that over twenty years? We can’t really…
Michael: Yeah, and we don’t know at what point Dumbledore acquired Fawkes officially.
Michael: The only qualm I have with this – and I know a few people commented on this on the forum – was that Dumbledore couldn’t force that wand on Harry and neither could Ollivander because the wand does choose the wizard.
Michael: I guess that you could supposedly go with the idea that if Dumbledore knew that they were so tied together that he knew that a phoenix feather from the same phoenix in the wand would… that wand would pick Harry. But I don’t know.
Michael: I guess it’s dependent on how much credit you want to give Dumbledore.
Noah: I think this is really one of those magical universe things of stuff just sort of working out, and this being one of the many pieces that Dumbledore notices but had no control over but definitely goes into his plan and thinking later on. This is a freak accident.
Kat: Yeah, this is a good question to ask Jo, so… if you’re listening…
Noah: [laughs] We make that appeal on pretty much every show.
Kat: I mean… yeah. We just need to have her on when we finish and present her with fifty questions…
Kat: … and this can be one of them. So whoever is keeping a list out there, put this one on it, please.
Noah: And now we’re going to jump right into responses from the Question of the Week last week, and this was a huge question. This was actually a unique question because you guys discussed it in the chapter and then it also became the question, which we usually don’t do, but that speaks to how big the question was. So it’s all about Thestrals. “In this last chapter, Harry peripherally notices the horseless carriages coming toward the students. Keeping in mind Jo’s own words on the matter – and you can go to the links on the front page of our website – do you agree or disagree that Harry should have been ready to see the Thestrals at the end of this book? Hasn’t Harry been through enough and come to enough of a realization of what has happened for the Thestrals to be visible to him? Or if Cedric’s death needs more time to sink in, at what point precisely would this have occurred for Harry?” So just a quick recap, this is of course the question, “Why didn’t Harry see the Thestrals after he witnessed Cedric’s death?” And the main issue is between Kat and Eric; Eric is saying at what point does the death sink in? Shouldn’t it just be as soon as death happens? And Kat was basically echoing what Jo has said in the past, which is that there are stages of coming to terms with the death and it has to happen at some point. But again, when is this point? Is there a specific moment in time that the Thestrals emerge? It was just really fun to listen to. So the first comment comes from Pig-Desk.
“Yes. Harry should be able to see them by now; death is death. Magic is not going to wait for a person[‘s] feelings to come to fruition before turning on. I think it would affect Harry immediately; he should be able to see them at the end of the book. Oversight!”
Kat: Okay, I have to completely disagree with that comment…
Kat: … specifically about the fact that it says that magic is not going to wait for a person’s feelings to come to fruition. Magic is all about emotion and feeling. You have to have intention behind your spells and you have to have happy thoughts, and all that stuff. That’s all connected to magic.
Kat: So I think right there… I’m sorry, Pig-Desk, but you’re wrong.
Noah: Like with Unforgivable Curses. You have to mean them.
Noah: Yeah. But I do think, personally, that the “This was a mistake” argument kind of makes sense to me a little bit.
Kat: A mistake? No. Not possible…
Noah: And that she’s just sort of after the fact explaining.
Kat: No, see, because here’s the thing. There’s five stages of grief, and people go through this when they break up, when people die, all of that, and you don’t necessarily go in order. You can skip from phase one to three to four to two to five to three to four to two to four to five to one to two… and so who’s to say when you are going to accept it and for how long that is going to take to happen? It’s not like somebody is going to die and you’re automatically going to be like, “Oh, okay, I’m all the way at acceptance already. I’ve gone through the five stages of grief.” That’s not going to happen instantaneously. It’s going to take time.
Noah: Kat, mollywobbles agrees with you.
Kat: Oh! Thanks, Molly!
Noah: mollywobbles says,
“If you look at grief/loss from a traditional Kubler-Ross model (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and if according to J.K.’s quote Harry would need to fully process the loss of Cedric before ‘seeing’ then it would make sense that he cannot yet see the Thestrals at the end of the school year. Harry has had some time to start on the stages and has clearly made some progress when we encounter the horseless carriages but we can see in his upcoming ’emo summer’ his depression, and [he] may only come to true acceptance of this loss after moving to Grimmauld place and being again in an environment where he feels loved.”
Michael: Yeah. I think this read-through more than any has made… this was the first time I did feel that it wasn’t a mistake. I used to think it was.
Michael: I was more in agreement with Pig-Desk previously. I mean, there are still instances even when I read her new information on Pottermore where I’m just like, “This is too specific; she’s clearly covering an oopsies up.” But I do think that she has stated in an interview that she had the Thestrals in mind before Order of the Phoenix.
Michael: And then they did show up in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them before Order was published, so I do think she did have this in mind and I think the evidence comes from… the additional evidence you could perhaps cite is that a lot of people were wondering why Harry couldn’t see Thestrals from the get-go because he saw his mother die as a baby.
Michael: And I feel that Rowling addresses that in Deathly Hallows when Harry visits the graveyard because until that moment, his parents’ death is almost like this revered story that people talk about.
Noah: That’s an interesting perspective. Yeah, I see.
Michael: It slams him really hard in that moment how much impact that really had on his life.
Kat: And just because he was there and saw it with his eyeballs doesn’t mean that he remembers it.
Kat: He couldn’t go through the five stages as a one-year-old. He doesn’t know what that means.
Noah: I mean, yeah. That’s the popular argument.
Michael: I was confused by that because in Prisoner he can actually hear his parents’ last words.
Kat: Yeah, but that’s… I don’t know. I think audio memory is better than visual memory, especially when you’re young.
Michael: Well, yeah, and it doesn’t… that whole thing ends up just being… it’s only a little snippet of what happened and it just puts Harry in shock, more than anything.
Kat: Right. And, probably, if we’re honestly thinking about it, we might be seeing Voldemort’s memories or the whole Horcrux thing could have affected the fact that he could hear them.
Noah: Ah. Yeah.
Noah: That’s a great point. All right, so there’s all that and I really also appreciate this comment from mollywobbles because of the idea that Harry has to go through his emo summer and then almost recharge with the love at Grimmauld Place or reboot of his emotions and that bringing the Thestrals into reality. That’s a really cool idea that I hadn’t thought of.
Kat: Yeah, that is cool.
Kat: Props, Molly. Props.
Noah: And last comment is from Ellen Dawn, which doesn’t directly answer the question but I think we’ve covered the scope. She writes,
“On the topic of young people and the grief process, do Thestrals only work for human death? What if a young child [were] to lose a dog that they have had their entire life? Would they be able to see a Thestral once they had accepted that death? In reality, the child will go through a grieving process very similar to losing a human family member since the dog has always been a part of their life.”
So there was that comment and then there were some other comments about what if you had witnessed a house-elf dying or another creature… a Mandrake. No one said Mandrake. I said Mandrake.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Noah: But I’m guessing: Where is the Thestral line? It says you see death.
Kat: I’m guessing that it’s human.
Kat: I don’t know.
Michael: See, when I saw this being addressed I was hesitant to just restrict it to humans because… sad story, but when my favorite dog of all time… her name was Nioshin. We thought she was a malamute, but we found out later she was a husky, and when she passed… she had had a tumor in her brain – huskies often develop that in their later years – and we had to put her down one night and she had been having seizures and it was… that night I still remember so vividly and it brings up so many emotions and feelings for me that any death would because I have seen people die, people who were related to me; I’ve seen other people’s family members die… and I think if it’s something close to you, something or someone close to you that means a lot to you, I think that’s the same kind of thing. Death is death, in my eyes. It’s not really limited to who or what it is.
Noah: I wonder if it’s not only a consciousness of the closeness of the person or thing but of a realization of one’s own mortality that maybe can only happen with another human death.
Michael: Mhm. That’s possible.
Kat: Yeah, that is a possibility.
Noah: But perhaps…
Michael: But I think when you encounter death, though, in any respect, if it really touches you I do think that makes you look at your mortality no matter what or who has passed.
Noah: Yes. Now, can the Thestrals see each other?
Michael: I think they can, can’t they?
Kat: I would say so.
Michael: Yeah. I imagine the magic that causes them to be invisible to others is their… I always feel that the magical creature is always immune to its own brand of magic unless otherwise stated, right?
Michael: That’s the assumption.
Noah: And what about their food? Can you see the steaks that they eat?
Michael: You mean when they’re eating?
Michael: Yeah, you probably just see a piece of steak flopping around in the air. [laughs]
Kat: Well, I mean, doesn’t that happen in class? We’re jumping ahead, but…
Michael: Mhm. Yeah, I think it does.
Noah: In [Book] 5, yeah.
Michael: Because, yeah, some of them can’t see it, so…
Kat: Right. So all of us would be able to see the Thestrals?
Michael: I would.
Kat: Yeah, me too.
Noah: But I’m pretty sure you have to actually see somebody die. Have you both seen people in the process of dying?
Kat and Michael: Yes.
Noah: Oh. I’m sorry.
Michael: Oh, it’s all right.
Noah: I’m not… oh my.
Michael: I suppose that means you wouldn’t see them, then, right?
Michael: Huh. How about that. Yeah, no I would. Definitely.
Kat: Me too. I was in the room when my grandmother passed away.
Noah: Oh, wow.
Michael: Yeah. It’s a tough topic, but yeah. It’s… and I think that’s what so impactful about Order as a book especially depending on what age you are and what life experiences you’ve had when you read it, because… and we’ll get, of course, more into this later, but… and I mentioned this on the last episode, but Order was the, even when I first read it, Order was the book that I really did not like. And I was about fourteen, fifteen at the time when I read it and I just did not like it. But with age and with experience, I’ve come to really appreciate Order and I do think it’s for that reason… Order‘s really the one where you have to go through things in your own life before you can fully appreciate what it’s really about. So…
Kat: Hmm. That’s very deep, Michael. Remember that when we’re reading it, okay?
Michael: Oh, I will. [laughs] I still… I don’t dislike Order. It’s not at the top of my list, but it’s not… it was once at the bottom and it is no longer in that place. So…
Kat: Fair enough. Good.
Noah: 871 pages of beautiful.
Kat: Ah, yes.
Kat: Soon. Two more episodes and we’ll be there. Well, this one and one more and then we’ll be there.
Michael: All right so, now we’re moving on to the book wrap where we tie up all the facts and figures and loose ends of Goblet of Fire and spurt out a few factoids that we have about this book, to just be a little more informed on the release and what happened around the time this book came out. So we’re going to get our Time-Turners and we’re going to turn it for quite a long time to get back to 2000. Goblet of Fire was released on Saturday, July 8, 2000, at midnight. This was the first time that a Harry Potter book release occurred on the same date in the UK and the US and Goblet also marked the first time that the UK did mass midnight releases for a Harry Potter book.
Kat: Yeah, these are the first ones that were produced in mass quantities, right?
Michael: Yes. Actually, on publication day in the UK, Goblet of Fire sold 372,775 copies while in the US the initial print run was 3.8 million.
Kat: That’s why these books are worth nothing.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kat: No, seriously…
Michael: [laughs] They’re everywhere.
Kat: … they’re worth nothing.
Michael: [laughs] But despite the book release… despite most book releases being scheduled for Tuesdays, Goblet was scheduled on a Saturday, actually, in an attempt to ensure that kids would not skip school to read it, which was… which had been a problem for the previous books.
Kat: The power of a novel.
Kat: That is just incredible. That…
Noah: When were kids skipping school to read before?
Michael: For the other Harry Potter books because they would… because normally a new book release happens on a Tuesday in the industry…
Kat: In the industry.
Michael: So they would just… in the industry.
Noah: Right, but the school should celebrate.
Michael: You would think! But I think it was just I think this was such a confusing time because this… there really hadn’t been a book at this level in, really, our generation. This was a shocking thing, so I think teachers were just like, “Oh, they’re not coming to school, but it’s because they’re reading. It’s… we can’t get mad, but we can’t be happy.” [laughs]
Kat: Right, what book could you compare this to before Harry Potter? Nothing!
Michael: I don’t know… yeah. I mean as far as promotion and release, there was no book I don’t think that could compare. Popularity, I suppose there probably is some fantasy novels that… I mean, I know a lot of people say one generation had Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and that was the one that they rallied around, but, of course, they had to do it in a different way because it wasn’t… fantasy was perceived differently, books were promoted differently.
Kat: Right, that’s true.
Michael: So… but around this…. and in that respect, around this point Rowling occupied the top three spots of the New York Times Bestseller List and she was possibly the first author to do that.
Michael: Yet another amazing anomaly after opting out of a book tour for Prisoner of Azkaban in order to write Goblet, Rowling embarked on what is now known as the Hogwarts Express Tour taking her across Britain to promote the book’s release. This was an extremely unusual book tour. The train actually designed to look like the Hogwarts Express. It was repainted from green to red and it began at London’s King’s Cross station on July 8th and ended at Scotland’s Perth Station on July 11th with ten station stops in-between.
Michael: And a lot… some of those stops were overnight. This was likely what caused Rowling a lot of burnout.
Kat: Right. God, sounds like it.
Kat: That is a very unusual thing for… I mean, a lot of authors do go on multiple… visit multiple stores for book tours, but not in this fashion.
Kat: Well, that’s ten stops in four days.
Michael: In four days.
Kat: That’s crazy.
Michael: Yeah, it’s… that is extremely intense and a lot to put an author through. Because she wasn’t able to do an extensive press tour in the US, Rowling was video taped by Scholastic performing a reading of what she claimed was one of her favorite chapters in the book, which was distributed to bookstores for promotional purposes. She read aloud Chapter 4, “Back to the Burrow,” which she said was her favorite Dursley chapter up to that time. I actually have a copy of the video tape that I watched today. If you’ve…
Michael … ever wondered who does… if you’re like me and you are not completely satisfied with Jim Dale’s readings of Harry Potter, Rowling reads them excellently, which is very unusual for authors. Most authors don’t read their books aloud very well. Rowling is an excellent read aloud.
Kat: Are they online?
Michael: I don’t know. I’m not sure about that one. I also have one for Order of the Phoenix that is not. I’ve thought about sharing them, but I’m hesitant to because I don’t know if Scholastic will get mad at me. [laughs] So… but yeah, I assume they’re rarer bits because they were only distributed to bookstores. So…
Kat: Wow, lucky you, Michael.
Michael: I guess so.
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Michael: Rowling shared in various interviews that Goblet of Fire was a massive challenge for her because she incurred a major plot hole in the book, causing her to miss her deadline by two months.
Michael: What she had to say on that was, “This is why Book 4 nearly caused me a nervous breakdown because for the first time ever I lost my careful plot, which I’ve had since 1994, I think. I really should have gone through it with a fine tooth comb before I started writing and I didn’t. I had a false sense of security because of my plans… my other plans had held up so well. So I sailed straight into the writing of [Book] 4, having just finished Azkaban. I had written what I thought at the time was half the book. It turns out now to have been about a third of the book and I realize that there was this big hole in the middle of the plot and I had to go back and un-pick and redo. That’s part of the reason it’s longer than I thought it was going to be.” Rowling never, ever shared what the actual plot hole was.
Kat and Noah: Ugh!
Kat: Come on, Jo!
Michael: However, she has given us hints and the biggest one that she has talked about was what contributed to the plot hole was the character named Mafalda, not Mafalda Hopkirk, who we later meet, but a Weasley cousin who was removed from the text very late into the writing process. Mafalda was actually written about on Rowling’s old site before it transferred to the new design and what she had to say on Mafalda was very interesting. She said, “Mafalda was the daughter of the second cousin who’s a stockbroker mentioned in Philosopher’s Stone.
Michael: This stockbroker had been very rude to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley in the past but now he and his Muggle wife had inconveniently produced a witch. They came back to the Weasleys asking for their help in introducing her to wizarding society before she starts at Hogwarts. The Weasleys agreed to taking her for part of the summer including the Quidditch World Cup, but regretted this immediately. Mrs. Weasley’s suspected that Mafalda’s parents simply wanted to get rid of her for awhile because she turns out to be the most unpleasant child Mrs. Weasley has ever met. Mafalda was supposed to convey certain information about the Death Eaters to Harry, Ron, and Hermione because as a nosy, eavesdropping Slytherin who likes to impress, she does not keep her mouth shut when she overhears their sons and daughters talking. Unfortunately, however bright Rowling made her, there were obvious limitations to what an eleven-year-old closeted at school could discover, whereas Rita Skeeter who Rowling subsequently built up to fulfill Mafalda’s function was much more flexible. The best thing about Mafalda was that she was a match for Hermione. To the latter’s horror, Mafalda was highly gifted and a real showoff so that Hermione was torn between deploring the rule breaking and longing to join in and beat her.
Kat: Huh. I had never, ever, ever read that before. That’s brilliant.
Noah: Me too.
Michael: It’s one of those rare instances where we hear where there was, once again, some of Rowling’s clever foreshadowing, but mentioned by the stockbroker in Philosopher’s Stone that Ron talks about, but of course, this is one that we never, ever got a chance to see.
Kat: Right, God. I love that woman.
Michael: [laughs] And Mafalda…
Kat: Can I just make a T-shirt that says, “I love JKR?”
Noah: You can make whatever T-shirt you want, Kat.
Michael: You can make any T-shirt. [laughs] I’m kidding.
Kat: You know what? I bet there’s a lot of people that would wear that T-shirt.
Michael: I think so.
Michael: Well, and the thing that is so amazing about Mafalda and the issue that came up with her was she was in the drafts of Goblet for a very long time. She was taken out very late and that is partly what caused the trouble for Rowling. The other issue she incurred was with Chapter 9, specifically, “The Dark Mark.” As she said, it was… she said, “The worst ever was thirteen different versions of this chapter. I hated that chapter so much, at one point, I thought of missing it out all together and just putting in a page saying, ‘Chapter 9 was too difficult’ and going straight to Chapter 10.”
[Kat and Noah laugh]
Michael: Chapter 9, “The Dark Mark,” is of course, the one where the Death Eaters attack the Quidditch World Cup camp and there are a lot of clues that are laid out in that chapter. So if she was having issues with the plot, having a plot hole, I imagine that chapter probably was very difficult for her to fix.
Kat: Well, she obliviously got it right because that chapter is brilliant.
Michael: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. It ended up being one of the more memorable chapters, actually, from Goblet. So it’s… I’m glad she fixed it and that she didn’t just leave a note saying, “This was too hard, next page.”
Kat: Right. “Thank you very much, have a good day.”
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Michael: In the end, the UK edition of Goblet of Fire is 636 pages long while the US edition is 734 pages making it the largest of the Harry Potter books up to that time, leaping from Prisoner of Azkaban‘s page count of 317 in the UK and 435 in the US. Rowling had two different working titles for Goblet of Fire, one of which was leaked while she was still writing the book. As she said, “I changed my mind twice on what it was. The working title had got out, Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament. Then I changed Doomspell to Triwizard Tournament. Then I was teetering between Goblet of Fire and Triwizard Tournament. In the end I preferred Goblet of Fire because it’s got that kind of cup of destiny feel about it, which is the theme of the book.” I think she chose a pretty good title in the end.
Noah: What’s a cup of destiny theme?
Michael: I think it just… I always, when I read that, I just leave “cup of” out and just put destiny, but I think she’s talking – and we had discussed this a little in one of our episodes about Holy Grail type stuff?
Michael: So I think that’s what she is referring to. So the dedication for the book is written as, “To Peter Rowling, in memory of Mr. Ridley, and to Susan Sladden, who helped Harry out of his cupboard.” As we know from the evidence that we have gleamed, Peter Rowling, the easiest one to figure out, Peter Rowling is Rowling’s father, interestingly from whom she is now estranged. Mr. Ridley refers actually not to the Riddles, but to Ronald Ridley, an old family friend, whom Ron is named after. This was confirmed by a note from Rowling in her father’s personal copy of Goblet of Fire that was released to the public. And Susan Sladden’s identity is unconfirmed, although she is believed to have been an elderly member of Rowling’s church, who babysat Rowling’s daughter, Jessica, allowing Rowling to leave home to write Sorcerer’s Stone. Rowling never showed Susan her work while she was writing it. So these are three very interesting people to dedicate. The part about Peter Rowling is tough for me because we don’t know a lot about Jo’s relationship with her father.
Noah: Yeah, that’s strange.
Michael: She’s been very guarded about him. She’s… the most she said about him was actually in her interview with Oprah after finishing Deathly Hallows, where she just said that…
Kat: Money! We have so much money!
Noah: Oh, yeah.
Michael: Where she said that she had reasons for moving on with her life and without her father and she didn’t much care to discuss it, but she felt that she had a need to please and that she realized she didn’t need to recognize that anymore and move forward. So it’s interesting to think about how connected she was to her father at the time of the early books. So much so that she dedicated Goblet to him. And Mr. Ridley, we don’t know much about him other than that she named Ron after him, and again, Susan, unfortunately, that is unconfirmed if she is actually the woman who was babysitting Jessica.
Kat: Yeah. This is just a very odd dedication over all because the other ones all are very specific and make a lot of sense and this one just seems a little discombobulated.
Michael: But one…
Noah: Kind of like Goblet of Fire.
Michael: Yeah. Actually, it’s pretty fitting. It’s a mystery.
Kat: It’s a mystery.
Michael: This is probably the biggest mystery in the series.
Michael: Interestingly, though, one person who is named in the book, not in the dedication, a character named Natalie McDonald, who is briefly mentioned as a student during the sorting, is one of the few instances in the Harry Potter series where a real person’s name was used in the books. She’s named after a nine-year-old Canadian girl who had leukemia. She wrote to Rowling, asking to know what would happen in Goblet of Fire. Rowling wrote back, only to find that Natalie had passed away only days before she had written to her. Rowling later visited the McDonald family while on tour, and wrote Natalie into Goblet, sorting her into Gryffindor.
Kat: That’s one of my favorite stories about Jo. I love that story.
Kat: Ugh! She’s such a kind, beautiful woman. God.
Michael: Yeah. It’s…
Kat: That’s so amazing.
Michael: And it’s pretty amazing, considering that at this time, the attention from her fans and the press that she was getting, that she did manage to even receive the letter and personally write back. That’s… when Rowling does write personally back to somebody, it’s a very big deal.
Michael: Especially these days, but even then, yeah, it was a pretty massive thing for her to write a personal letter to somebody.
Michael: So… and I mean, to include her in her in the book, what a really neat tribute.
Kat: Yeah. Oh, that’s so sweet.
Michael: This is also the first and only book in the Harry Potter series to have a massive canonical error in its first print run that was corrected in later editions, that being the order in which James and Lily emerge from Harry’s wand in Chapter 34. Our discussion of that chapter you can find in a previous episode. Rowling had originally written the sequence using the correct order, but in the rush to prepare the book for publication, her American editor thought the order was incorrect, and so the supposed error was fixed, resulting in the mistake going to print.
Michael: Oopsy daisy. That was a big deal, too, and so of course you’ll find editions of… there are 3.8 million editions in America that are incorrect.
Kat: And those are worth slightly more than the other ones that came after it.
Kat: I think they’re worth like twenty dollars, as opposed to ten.
Michael: I’m assuming all three of us own an incorrect copy?
Kat: Yes. Mine is incorrect.
Michael: Mine is as well. This is the first book in the series to feature the death of a protagonist. This event and the subsequent addressing of it by Dumbledore marked the first time Rowling cried while writing the Harry Potter books. Her thoughts on this kind of… really interesting bit she had to say here about the darkness in her books, “I have said all along that if you are writing about evil, you should have a enough respect for children to show them what it means, not to dress up a pantomime villain and say, ‘Isn’t it frightening?’ when it isn’t. It’s the ending I planned and I was very happy when I reread it.”
Kat: That’s so true, that is so true. Kids today are really coddled and it’s just stuff like that… when I was growing up you didn’t think about that. Sure, obviously we weren’t allowed to watch horror movies and stuff, but somebody dying in a book by magical means, it just wouldn’t have been a big deal.
Kat: And I like the fact that she said, “Have respect for children,” because I think that’s what it comes down to, I really do.
Michael: Well, and around this time, the Harry Potter books had really all been facing intense… both as much love as they were criticism, especially by parents and some teachers. And I think this was her way of addressing that head-on and saying, “This is how I view the world and how I choose to write my stories and how I choose to respect children in my writing.”
Michael: A very bold statement from a pretty major author at the time. Rowling of course left us with a lot of questions at the time. This was back in the days when we only had four books. Major questions and theories: Rowling refused to reveal the importance of Dumbledore’s gleam of triumph, a mystery which would not be fully answered until the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows seven years later. Some theories cast a doubt towards Dumbledore’s motives. People wondered if Dumbledore…
Noah: Was evil?
Michael: Was evil. There was talk about that at the time.
Kat: But is it still clear? I mean, the gleam of triumph is definitely the fact that Voldemort has not only come back but has Harry’s blood.
Michael: That is the confirmation. One of the big… the other big question was, who is the “old crowd” that Dumbledore is referring to, who includes Arabella Figg and Mundungus Fletcher, names that we had heard in passing that a few people managed to remember? Many correctly speculated that Arabella Figg was in fact Mrs. Figg, Harry’s neighbor, although it was often incorrectly suspected that she was a witch and not a Squib. And the other major question of course was, what had Dumbledore sent Snape to do? So nobody really knew the answer because we didn’t definitively hear the phrase “Order of the Phoenix” – “old crowd” was the closest we got to that. And of course, we did not know Snape’s loyalties at the time. And once Order was published, the big question – and actually, I’ve seen a few of our listeners address it on our forums and main site – is a missing moment, which was when does Harry retrieve the Marauder’s Map?
Michael: Because he once again is in possession of it in Order, even though he never is shown taking it back. Rowling answers in her 2004 interview, “I knew I should have shown Harry nipping into Moody’s office and getting it back, but I assumed you’d all know that’s what he did. Sorry.”
Kat: So, he just did petty theft and went back and stole it. Awesome.
Michael: Exactly. And Rowling did again mention it actually on Pottermore under the Marauder’s Map section saying, “I never showed Harry taking the map back from the empty office of (the supposed) Mad-Eye Moody, and I sometimes regretted that I had not capitalized on this mistake to leave it there.”
Michael: “However, I like the moment when Harry watches Ginny’s dot moving around the school in Deathly Hallows, so on balance I am glad I let Harry reclaim his rightful property.”
Kat: Right. That’s cute.
Michael: Of course, the Marauder’s Map ended up being as much of a plot point difficulty as the Time-Turners did, but she did of course bring the map back in Order and destroyed the Time-Turners in the same book. So of course, in this period of time it was the three-year wait that began for Book 5, with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages in March of 2001, and the release of the first Harry Potter film on the horizon. It was a very exciting time for the Harry Potter community because there were a lot of questions to think about and a lot of new media that we had to look forward to in the coming years. Notable awards that were won by Goblet of Fire: It is the only Harry Potter book to receive the Hugo Award for Best Novel. It also won the Scottish Arts Council Book Award, the Whitaker’s Platinum Book Award, and the Children’s Book Award for the 9 through 11 category.
Kat: Is that it? No, there’s more, right?
Michael: Oh, there were more. There were quite a few more, but these were some of the more prominent ones that are talked up in its promotion.
Kat: Got it. Awesome.
Michael: Overall, Goblet was a massive book for the Potter series as far as what it did for the life of Rowling and what it did for the lives of its fans.
Noah: And its size.
Michael: And its size, yeah. I remember being really taken aback when that book got put in my hands.
Kat: I was psyched.
Michael: Did you guys go to midnight releases for Goblet>? Because Goblet> was my first midnight release.
Kat: Yes, 2000 was the year I graduated high school, so I was old enough to do that. So I did go to a midnight release; that was my first one.
Michael: That’s so cool.
Noah: I wasn’t a super fan, even at that point, so…
Michael: Oh, really?
Noah: … I did not. Yeah.
Michael: Oh, wow.
Kat: You were the late bloomer of the group.
Michael: That’s crazy.
Noah: I was kind of into them. I thought they were cool to read them, but it wasn’t a big deal. [laughs]
Michael: That’s so funny because I had just finished the three [books] and Goblet> was the one I was looking forward to. And I was in… I think had just graduated from elementary school. [laughs]
Kat: [laughs] Elementary school.
Michael: So my mom took me to the midnight release at a local bookstore that actually is out of business now, and I dressed up as Harry. But I dressed up as him as a Muggle, so I just put glasses and a striped shirt on.
Kat: [laughs] Lazy.
Michael: That’s all I had, but hey, I didn’t know! I didn’t know what to do! Oh, the big thing was when we went in, we had to reach into a hat to get Sorted and you would pull out the color of your House. And my mom and I reached in and we got Slytherin, so we looked at each other and we put it back in until we got Gryffindor.
Kat: That’s cute.
Kat: That’s a good story.
Michael: So that is a wrap. We close the Dumbledore on Goblet of Fire.
[Sound of door closing]
Kat: So now, we are joined by the very special guest that we talked about before: Kazu Kibuishi, who is the illustrator of the brand-new anniversary editions – US editions – of the Harry Potter novels. So thank you so much for joining us. We’re really excited to have you.
Kazu Kibuishi: Oh, you’re welcome. Thanks for having me here.
Kat: Absolutely. So we have a lot of variety of covers to go through today as usual. And we are going to start off with the Danish children’s edition, which is really interesting. I think it’s one of the only ones that have an underwater scene. So we see the mermaids, right? I think that’s what those are.
Noah: Oh, yeah.
Kat: And Harry underneath, and it looks like his gills are maybe going away, because there’s a lot of bubbles and such. I’m not sure, but the mermaids are terrifying.
Michael: Yeah. That’s a really cool design on them.
Kazu: Yeah, I like how a lot of the European covers are really scary and gothic. [laughs]
Kat: Oh, they are… that’s true. That’s a good point. I guess that speaks to the culture of…
Kazu: Yeah, the kind of children’s stories that they’re used to are generally darker.
Kat: Those mermaids are just… I don’t know.
Michael: Kazu, I was actually going to ask you, did you take for your covers any inspiration from the international covers?
Kazu: No, I didn’t. Actually I really didn’t look at much of anything. I just kind of went off of my own personal experiences with the whole franchise, whether it’s the books or the movies.
Noah: That’s awesome.
Kazu: Yeah, and I just worked off my memory.
Michael: That’s so cool, because I just thought it was interesting when I looked at your covers in comparison. When I look at your covers – because I saw them a lot because I used to work in a bookstore and we made quite a hoopla when your new covers came in – the thing that I had noticed immediately was a lot of your covers actually seemed to coincide with the original British children’s editions, the moments that you picked. But I saw in your interviews that – like you just said – you went off of memory. So I thought that was really cool. I just wondered if you had intentionally done that or not.
Kazu: Yeah. No, it’s a combination of how I would have envisioned the books and the limitations of my own style.
[Kazu and Michael laugh]
Kat: Fair enough.
Kazu: Whenever I try to make something, it never comes out quite as good or quite as accurate as I want it to look toward my vision. It doesn’t really match my vision most of the time. But I find some middle ground somewhere because of the way I draw, and that’s really what ended up happening.
Kat: We’re actually really excited because this is the first book wrap episode we’ve had since your covers came out, so your covers are on the list. So we’re going to get to that.
Kat: But the next one we’re going to look at is the Danish adult version. This one almost looks like it should belong to Order of the Phoenix, which is weird because it has a Death Eater mask and a lot of flames on it. I guess that’s the Goblet, but… it feels out of place.
Michael: Well, I wonder if that doesn’t, too, come from… because when I look at it, I immediately think of Deathly Hallows because of the color, and I think of Order because of the fire. And maybe this is just me, but I feel having grown up with the American editions that the way Mary GrandPré did it, especially later in the series, she chose very specific color palettes for the later books.
Michael: And so there are certain colors I associate with certain books now when I read them. And orange is not the one that I associate with Goblet of Fire.
Kat: Right, because Goblet is green really in the original.
Michael: Yeah. Goblet is very green.
Kazu: Yeah, even I couldn’t get away from that.
Kat: Yeah, that’s true. All right, the next cover – we have a very small picture of it – it’s the Japanese cover.
Michael: Those are so hard to find pictures of.
Kat: They’re so hard to find pictures of.
Kat: I’m not quite sure what’s happening.
Kat: I think it looks like the Durmstrang ship in the background…
Michael: Yeah, it is.
Kat: … with a tree on the right and an owl or something.
Michael: Those are… I saw a slightly higher resolution somewhere else, and those, I believe, are house-elves on the front talking to each other.
Kat: Oh, is that what that is?
Michael: [laughs] Yeah.
Kat: That was going to be my next question. House-elves…
Kat: Okay, that…
Kazu: This person obviously didn’t read the books.
Kat: I was going to say, I think this one is slightly insignificant… I mean, the Japanese covers are always like that though.
Kazu: I’m also curious to know how many of these artists were able to read the books. Because in Mary’s case, I don’t think she was able to read a lot of the books before she actually had to do the illustrations.
Kazu: Because of the time frame in which we have to produce a book, being an author I know how difficult that would be to create a cover for something. I had to create the cover for Amulet 6 before I knew what was going to be in it. [laughs]
Kat and Michael: Wow.
Kazu: In order for them to put it in the proper marketing channels, that has to happen pretty early on. And the most difficult thing for me on Amulet was that I had a character in there that I hadn’t even drawn yet in the book and I knew I wanted her face on the cover, and so I had to design this character that was going to be in the book before I actually put her in the story. So she’s going to look different than what she looks like in the interior, but it makes me think that Mary GrandPr?had to sort of… I mean, she didn’t have much to work with to begin with.
Kazu: She just had to envision things based on notes or maybe a discussion she had with J.K. Rowling.
Kat: Wow… yeah, probably. That’s probably true for the later ones, right? Because the first ones came out before in the UK.
Kazu: Yeah, you can definitely tell with the Bloomsbury editions that the illustrator probably didn’t read the book before illustrating the books.
Kazu: Or the covers.
Kat: Yeah, the children’s editions, yeah.
Michael: Did you ever get chances to converse with Rowling?
Kazu: No, I only got notes from her.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Kat: Oh. Handwritten notes?
Kazu: No, no.
[Michael and Kazu laugh]
Kat: Oh. Darn.
Kazu: My publisher, Scholastic, they would tell me, “Oh, Jo likes this and she thought it was great…” And mostly that was really all I heard from her. She just basically had a very positive reaction to all of it.
Kat: That’s good. A handwritten note would be nice, though.
Noah: We were imagining you had this basket of small notes that she had written on sticky notes or something. You could sell those.
Kat: You could never… I would never sell them.
Kazu: I wouldn’t sell those.
Michael: Frame them.
Kat: Yes, frame them.
Kazu: You could actually have them dropped off here by an owl.
Kat: Exactly. Or you know what to do? Go to a bookstore and put it in one of your books like a golden ticket, Willy Wonka-type thing.
[Kazu and Michael laugh]
Kat: And if somebody finds it, they’re all like, “Oh my God!”
Kat: And then they buy all the other books because they’re hoping that there’s more.
Kazu: No, no, there’s… it’s funny, she posted… she actually posted the wrong first version of Sorcerer’s Stone on her website, on her Facebook. [laughs]
Kat and Michael: Oh.
Kazu: Her thinking was she had an early copy of the cover before I adjusted it and changed some stuff, so when she posted it on her Facebook I just imagine her on the computer like, “Oh, this is really nice; I’m going to post this…”
Kazu: “… on my Facebook.” Like my mom or something.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kazu: Imagine her doing that with the file. I don’t know if they changed it, but the one that’s on J.K. Rowling’s Facebook profile is actually an older version of the first cover…
Kat: What’s different?
Kazu: I think Harry is wearing his robes and he wouldn’t be because this is before he arrives in school.
Michael: Oh, so was it still the Diagon Alley scene, just looked different?
Kazu: Yeah, I just forgot about the chronology and I had to put it in.
Kat: I’m going to look right now because I’m really curious.
Kazu: Also to contrast what was different, I go in and adjust everything…
Kat: Oh, it looks like they’ve deleted it. Because the February version now is Harry just in a coat, so they must have deleted it. Oh, that must be floating around somewhere though. I bet it is.
Kazu: Yeah, if you can find it… it’s really not that different. Most people won’t be able to tell.
Kat: But still, it’s out there.
Kat: Anyway, okay. So back to international covers. The next one we’re going to look at is Italy, which is one that we usually really like. One of the early Italian covers have little mice on it, which we’re not sure what that means. They’re all wearing little pointy hats, but this one is pretty self-explanatory. There’s a bowl and it has flames and a little piece of paper that has Harry’s name coming out of it.
Noah: Look at that fire.
Kat: I know.
Noah: That’s a beautiful fire.
Kat: It is and then there’s his silhouette in the background. And you know it’s him because you can see one lens of his glasses.
Michael: There’s all these weird kind of eerie-looking shapes on the Goblet, too.
Kat: Oh, there is, you’re right.
Michael: There’s faces and things.
Kat: It looks like faces, you’re right.
Michael: [laughs] Yeah. It’s pretty weird.
Kat: That’s probably supposed to represent the Death Eaters or something.
Noah: Maybe they got it mixed up with the Pensieve. It kind of looks like a fusion of the Pensieve and the Goblet.
Michael: Do they mix the Pensieve and the Goblet and the Foe Glass and put them all into one thing?
Michael: Into one picture? Is the edge to the left of the Goblet kind of like the book being burnt off just like the piece of paper? It looks like everything kind of has a burnt quality to it.
Kat: That might be the other half of the piece of paper.
Michael: Oh yeah, maybe.
Kat: Like falling to the edge or something?
Michael: Oh yeah, maybe it’s the other champions’ names being spit out of the Goblet.
Kat: Oh yeah, maybe.
Michael: Yeah. See, I wish we could see… that’s the other thing that’s frustrating, too. It’s really hard to find the binding and the back pictures…
Kat: It is.
Michael: … of all the other covers.
Kat: It is. Well, we have like 45 weeks to work on that for Order, so…
Kat: … I’ll make that a point to…
Michael: We’ll have time.
Kat: Exactly. So the next one we’re going to look at is the cover from Finland.
Michael: Oh, God!
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kat: These are always really comical because they’re very character…
Kat: I can never say that word.
Kat: Yes, thank you. And this one has the four champions on the front and then it looks like… is that a house-elf? What is that thing that he’s holding? I can’t read it because it’s in Finnish.
Michael: That’s… I think that’s Moaning Myrtle and I think she’s holding Harry’s name. [laughs] For the Goblet.
Kat: Okay, interesting. And then there'[re] dragons in the background and…
Michael: And nobody looks like the people they’re supposed to look like. [laughs]
Kat: No. And there’s a graveyard. Is that a graveyard?
Kat: That is a graveyard.
Noah: And Harry has got a Pinocchio nose.
Michael: He always does.
Kat: He always does in these covers.
Michael: I like that because when I first looked at it, it took… I mean, it seems so obvious just because you know the main characters of the book, but it took me forever to realize that that’s Cedric, Krum, and Fleur.
Kat: I know.
Michael: [laughs] They don’t look anything like themselves, and Krum looks like Snape with pigtails.
Noah: Yeah, I was going to say…
Kat: He does look like Snape with pigtails. [laughs]
Michael: [laughs] I just don’t understand what’s happening.
Kat: What is this moment, though? I’m more curious about… is this… this isn’t a moment, so this is just a collection of…
Michael: No, to me it looks more like… oddly enough, it’s pretty similar to Mary GrandPré’s version…
Michael: … where it’s a collage-style where she doesn’t draw one… and she rarely ever did, but it’s more just a collage of important things of the book rather than a moment. So it’s just that nobody looks the way that they’re supposed to. [laughs]
Noah: They’re also… in the US edition they’re looking straight forward, and in this one they’re looking to the left, so…
Michael: They are looking at Harry, and they’re all really PO’d at him.
Kat: I guess it’s that…
Kazu: It’s likely the illustrator didn’t know anything about any of the other Harry Potter things, whether it’s the movies or the American edition books or anything. [laughs] When I look at this, I mean, it reminds me of having done book cover illustrations with very little content to go on. They… a lot of times, like I mentioned before, the author’s not done with the book when the cover’s got to be done…
Kazu: … so you get just these notes and things. [laughs] And it looks like this is one of those things where somebody interpreted it through a very small window.
Kazu: And just did their own thing. So this is totally an alternate universe Harry Potter here.
Kat: If that is Moaning Myrtle on that cover, though, that’s terrifying.
Michael: I can’t… I just couldn’t figure out who else it would be, and in higher resolution, that was the only character I could think of because she does have some prominence in the book. Not enough, in my opinion, to warrant being on the cover, but if we’re going from what Kazu is stipulating, possibly that these illustrators really didn’t know a lot of details, and then you’re sending it to people who perhaps don’t even speak English, and it’s from a rough translation of the book…
Kazu: Yeah, the direction might be, “Oh yeah, there’s a ghost next to this goblet thing, and there’s a…”
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kazu: “… these are glasses. Just get all that stuff in there. We got to go; we got to go.”
Noah: I like this cover.
Kat: Yeah. The Dutch cover that we’re going to look at next here… I guess I was wrong, there is another underwater scene. This is Harry diving underwater, and it looks like a grindylow, maybe, in the bottom right corner with a couple [of] mermaids in the background.
Noah: That looks like a chameleon or gecko.
Kat: It does, but I think it’s…
Kat: … supposed to be a grindylow.
Noah: That’s an iguana.
Kat: An iguana? I don’t think they go underwater.
Kazu: I think their portrait of J.K. Rowling is funny.
Kat: [laughs] Yes.
Kat: They always have the… there’s always some sort of animal there, on the Dutch covers.
Kazu: Oh, okay.
Kat: It’s weird. We don’t get it either. Maybe that’s supposed to be Sirius because it’s a black dog?
Michael: Yeah, it is.
Kazu: That’s Sirius, yeah.
Kat: Yeah, must be. But this one looks reallly real to me, instead of cartoony like the other ones.
Michael: Yeah, it almost… other than the grindylow in the corner, it looks like it could have been a photograph.
Kazu: Yeah, it looks like it’s one of the photoshop covers. More… they’re probably going more YA? YA audience? This is probably made for that audience, so…
Michael: The Dutch covers always… you can’t ever see anybody’s face in the… the human figures are always really obscured. They always show them drifting offscreen.
Kat: They do.
Michael: They’re never in focus.
Kat: That’s true. They’re never very prominent, are they?
Michael: No. No.
Kat: That’s true.
Noah: Harry Potter en de Vuurbeker.
Kazu: Yeah, as a designer, it’s hard for me to look at, just because there'[re] so many odd tangents. [laughs]
Kat: Yeah, it’s not very pretty. It’s not very balanced or anything.
Kazu: Yeah. The little toad.
Kat: Toad, yeah.
Noah: [laughs] Weird toad thing.
Noah: Best grindylow I’ve ever seen.
Kat: And it looks like it has cat ears.
Kat: Which is what’s…
Noah: Rat ears.
Kat: … throwing me off.
Michael: It’s magic.
Kat: I mean, I guess.
Kat: Okay, so the next cover we’re going to go to is the French children’s cover. These are always really interesting covers, too. This one looks like Death Eaters, which I’m assuming are the Death Eaters from the World Cup, when they’re floating the Muggles. However, they have balloons of dragons, which…
Kat: … I’m under the assumption those are balloons?
Michael: I thought that was…
Noah: Those are chains.
Michael: I thought that…
Michael: Yeah, I thought that was the dragon wranglers.
Kat: Oh. That could be the dragon wranglers. You…
Noah: Where are the dragon balloons that…
Michael: I like dragon balloons better, though.
Kat: I think you’re probably right.
Michael: When it comes to the international covers, I like things that make less sense.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kat: And then just Harry in the front looking “complacent,” I suppose, is the word for that.
Noah: Yeah, what is that expression?
Michael: He looks happy. He looks chipper.
Noah: Vacant. [laughs]
Kat: Yeah, blank.
Kat: Yeah. But this one’s interesting because it doesn’t give anything away at all.
Kat: Right, that’s it.
Michael: [laughs] Dragon balloons.
Noah: [in a French accent] Harry Potter et la coupe de feu.
Michael: [in a French accent] Ouai.
Noah: Ouai, ouai.
Kat: Oui, oui. Good job.
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Kat: Okay. On to the French adult cover. This is another one that looks like it could be a photograph. It just has a fiery goblet with, I guess, a house or something?
Noah: I’m seeing a trend with the adult covers. They tend to just go with objects. But there aren’t a lot of individual images and no cartoons. It’s always a very simple design, but elegant.
Kat: You know what’s weird about this one is that it looks like movie imagery in the back.
Michael: Yeah, it looks like the Great Hall, kind of.
Kat: Yeah, it does.
Michael: Kazu, what’s your opinion on the adult covers? Because I know that we don’t have those here in the US, and I know a lot of other countries did that. Do you think those are effective? Do you think they’re needed?
Kazu: I don’t think adults really care…
Kazu: … about the covers. They just want to know what they’re reading, and usually, they only pick up a book because somebody else told them to do it.
Kazu: So as long as they can read the title, and it’s clear, and you can read the “This is Harry Potter. This is the J.K. Rowling book. This is what everyone tells me I’ve got to read,” that’s all they need to know. So at that point, they just want something that doesn’t look embarrassing…
Kat: Right, that’s true.
Kazu: … because if they’re in the metro or something, they don’t want to feel like they’re reading a children’s book or pornography. [laughs]
Kat: [laughs] Right?
Kazu: So the Fifty Shades of Grey are very tame, as far as what the… reflective of the content. It’s just…
Michael: That’s true.
Kazu: They’re just text, basically, and it’s…
Noah: And now they’re so notorious, those covers.
Kazu: Yeah, so now everyone does know what they’re reading, so they’re going to read it anyway. They’ll just get their Kindle out.
Kat: Right, exactly. That’s true.
Noah: I like this one, though. There’s a sense of, obviously, heat but also mystery.
Kazu: This was a nice cover. This was really well-designed.
Kat: I like the branches coming in from the side. I’m not sure what they signify, but…
Noah: Branches. [laughs]
Kat: I mean, branches, yes.
Michael: [laughs] Mystery.
Kat: But I don’t know. I feel like it brings your eye into the middle of the… also with the arches and everything, it’s nice.
Noah: And I like the way “Harry Potter” is written, the font.
Michael: Yeah, that’s pretty. I actually… because we had copies of the French adult and French children’s editions at the bookstore, and I actually preferred the French adult. I think they just… it’s almost like simplicity is more welcome in this case. [laughs]
Kat: Yeah, I mean, especially compared to the…
Kat and Noah: Dragon balloons.
Kat: Dragon balloons. Okay, so the next cover here is the Swedish cover, and this one is so sad. I looked at this one, and I immediately felt sad. So it’s Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the front down on the middle, and they’re all crouching in the grass.
Noah: What’s sad about this? This is epic.
Kat: No, it’s… it makes me sad. I don’t know. And it looks like… is that Voldemort and Harry and/or Cedric or somebody in the background running away? It looks like the Priori Incantatem is happening. You see the Dark Mark. There'[re] dragons all over the place. There’s fire; there’s a phoenix. It’s just… I don’t know. I’m sad. Look at their faces.
Michael: I think the sadness, for me, comes from… and this possibly, too, comes from having watched Swedish films… the color palette tends to be really gray and muted.
Kat and Michael: Yeah.
Michael: It’s not really bursting with pleasant bright stuff. So despite that there’s not a lot of action going on in this cover, it’s still melancholy, in a weird way.
Kat: And maybe it’s the scan, but it’s really hard to read the title.
Kazu: Yeah, it’s probably… the title is probably a reflective material.
Kat: Yeah, probably.
Michael: They… don’t you guys… I don’t know if this is just me, but I feel like the trio looks a little too young.
Kat: Yeah, they look like they’re nine years old.
Michael: Yeah. [laughs]
Noah: Or 11.
Michael: [laughs] That’s quite the hair Hermione’s got, though.
[Kat and Noah laugh]
Noah: That’s the bushy.
Kat: And Ron’s, with the odd side part.
Kat: It kind of looks like he’s going bald.
Michael: I do like the design of the dragon, though. That’s a really nice dragon design.
Kat: Yeah, the dragon’s… yeah.
Kazu: Yeah, that’s a nice drawing.
Kat: I don’t know. The Dark Mark’s a little scary, though.
Noah: No, that looks like a child’s Dark Mark.
Kat: The eyes are a little too clownish. The eyes are too clownish.
Michael: I kind of wish the Dark Mark part wasn’t there.
Michael: It’s just too much. [laughs]
Kat: It feels slightly out of place, but…
Kazu: It’s a little crowded.
Kat: It is a little crowded. All right. So the next one here is the Spanish version of the books, and as usual, these are… the characters are looking directly at us, as usual, and…
Noah: It’s kind of creeping me out.
Kat: Yeah, and they’re always very… pastel-y. That’s the word I was looking for.
Noah: Is that a word?
Kat: I don’t know. A pastel palette.
Michael: [laughs] You can tack on a “y” to anything. [laughs]
Kat: Right, exactly.
Kat: And we see Harry holding the golden egg looking directly right at us and the Beauxbatons carriage. You can see it with a couple of the winged horses and a then little silhouette of Hogwarts in the background. It doesn’t offend me.
Noah: One of those carriages doesn’t seem to have a horse attached. Maybe it’s a Thestral.
Kat: [laughs] I think you just don’t see the…
Kat: You just don’t see the chains or whatever.
Noah: That’s more likely.
Kat: Yeah, it is more likely.
Kazu: The placement of the carriage is funny.
Michael: [laughs] Yes. [laughs]
Kat: It looks like it’s completely floating.
Michel: It looks just like a logo for something, that’s…
Kat: That’s true. It does
Michael: I’m kind of with you, Kat. I feel bad saying it, but the Spanish covers have always just kind of been unremarkable to me.
Michael: They exist. [laughs]
Noah: They exist.
Michael: [laughs] They don’t really ever do anything that catches my eye or really pops out to me.
Kat: Yeah. Nothing super special. It’s not offensive; it’s not great. It’s just…
Michael: It is. [laughs]
Noah: It is.
Kat: It just is.
Kazu: I actually like it, so…
Kazu: I’m looking at it, and it’s nice. There is a na?et?about it that I think… it’s nice if somebody comes to the books, and it doesn’t look serious and scary or anything. [laughs] Or challenging.
Kat: That’s true.
Kazu: And so it reminds me of… there’s an element of it that reminds of me of like a softer version of Chris Van Allsburg’s work or something. Like what he did for Chronicles of Narnia.
Michael: Oh, that’s interesting.
Kazu: Without the mystery, it’s just… it’s more… this is safe for your kids.
[Kazu and Michael laugh]
Kazu: That’s how it feels. And I don’t know. I think there’s… depending on where they’re selling these, I think that… if it looks friendly, I think that’s a good sign for parents to pick up the books for their kids.
Noah: It certainly looks friendly. And soft.
Michael: I guess I just don’t like friendly books, you guys. [laughs]
Noah: We live in a sensational culture.
Michael: I like to pick up the books that look like jerk faces. [laughs]
Kat: Okay, so the next cover that we are going to look at today is the Ukrain[ian] cover. [laughs] And these ones are always so much fun to look at because they’re crazy, and they’re amazing. This one has Harry on his broom holding the golden egg, flying away from the Hungarian Horntail with, actually, the maze underneath. Which I thought was really cool. And I’m just noticing you can see the nest with all the golden eggs in it.
Kat: So… tame as far as Ukrain[ian] covers go. But very beautiful.I like this one.
Michael: These are my favorite covers internationally.
Kat: Yeah, Caleb’s, too.
Michael: They always blow my mind because they’re just so… and I think, possibly, I like them, too, because they do kind of remind me of Mary GrandPré’s, and they really do have bright splashes of color, although they turn the notch up on the brightness.
Kat: They do.
Michael: But I like how it’s a perfect balance of cartoon fantasy and reality. It just really just meshes those two together. And I love, too, when you… kind of like Kazu’s version, if you put them all next to each other, they make an image on the binding.
Kat: They do?
Michael: Yeah, it’s not quite as concrete. It’s like Dumbledore’s cape becomes a wing. And Harry and [he] are both standing in front of the pillar with the locket [on] it on the binding. It’s the weirdest thing, and it kind of looks like it was developed late in the process.
Kat: Have you seen these before in real life? How do you know this?
Michael: No. No, I’ve gone shopping on eBay because I want to own them. [laughs]
Kat: Oh, okay.
Michael: But they are very, very expensive to import, of course. But yeah, if you line them all up they have also a work on the binding.
Kat: Oh, that’s cool.
Kazu: I like that Harry is wearing Converse.
Kat: I was just going to say that.
Kat: And skinny jeans, it looks like.
Michael: Yeah, yeah.
Noah: I don’t like that he’s getting roasted.
Kat: Yeah, he is on fire, isn’t he?
Noah: It’s on there.
Kat: What is that symbol? Is that maybe the artist’s autograph or signature in the bottom…
Michael: In the maze?
Kat: … left-hand corner? Yeah.
Michael: That’s the Harry Potter symbol. It’s on the bottom-left corner of all the Ukraine editions. So it’s just the “HP” with the Snitch flying around it.
Kat: Oh, okay. This version is just too small to see that.
Michael: Yeah, yeah.
Noah: That’s wild.
Kat: It makes sense. It is wild.
Michael: But you’re right. This is the tamest of the covers from Ukraine, isn’t it?
Kat: It is.
Michael: It’s more straightforward compared to the rest of them.
Kat: Yeah, I think it was the Chamber of Secrets one that had 55 characters on it. And it was totally ridiculous. But yeah, these are always fun.
Kat: All right, so now we’re going to move into slightly more recognizable ones. We’re going to talk about the UK Signature Edition. So this is the one has the skull on the front – the Dark Mark, essentially – with the snake coming out of the mouth and the… I don’t know. What do you call those? Bursts or whatever coming out of it.
Michael: I would say it’s the Dark Mark, and then somebody got some glitter glue and went crazy.
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Kat: Okay, that sounds about right.
Michael: Sparkly sparkles everywhere.
Kat: Sounds about right.
Michael: I like the… the one thing I do like about the Signature Editions is that for Harry’s name they put the zig-zag underneath, but it’s the scar, just sideways.
Kat: That’s Harry’s signature.
Michael: Is that? Does he put a scar under his signature? That’s a little full of himself.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Noah: It’s kind of morbid. [in a British accent] I’m Harry Potter, look at my scar.
Kat: I don’t know if he does or not.
Kazu: Yeah, these are really classy.
Kat: They are.
Kazu: When I actually got to see a lot of the other submissions for the new American editions – the anniversary editions – they actually looked pretty similar to this approach.
Kazu: They were a lot more elegant and simple. Yeah, I guess in America, Scholastic decided they didn’t want to go with that archival look.
Kat and Michael: Mmm.
Kazu: What this looks like to me is it feels like Harry Potter as literature…
Kazu: … and I think that’s really cool. I think that they… I’m just glad that there are versions like this out there.
Kat: I find that interesting that they showed you the – I don’t want to say rejects – but the ones that they didn’t pick.
[Kazu and Michael laugh]
Kazu: Afterwards. This was long after we were done.
Kat: Oh, okay.
Kazu: Everything was printed, I wasn’t shown anything before.
Kazu: But I did see what came in early, and it was very interesting because a lot of them… they all looked really great, actually. I think everyone did a really nice job. But I can understand why they chose this final approach, and it was that it didn’t feel like we were putting Harry in a box.
Kazu: I wanted to take an approach where it wasn’t archiving the books so much as making it look like you can jump into it.
Kat: Right, a celebration, more.
Kazu: Yeah, there’s not a sense that it happened before, but it’s happening now.
Kat: Right, I know what you mean.
Noah: I feel that.
Kat: So the next one here is the UK Adult, the ones that are photographic covers, and this one is quite simply a goblet with blue flames shooting out of it, sitting on a table with a black background. Simple. Classy.
Michael: It’s not kidding around.
Kat: It is not kidding around.
Michael: [laughs] It is Harry Potter.
Kat: There’s really not much to talk about on this cover. [laughs] At all.
Michael: No. It’s the Goblet of Fire.
Kat: I think I’ve said this before, that the Deathly Hallows UK Adult cover is my favorite one, because I love the locket that they have on the front.
Noah: It seems like, with all of those, though, that they’re just trying too hard to make them like, “These are not children’s books. This is serious so we’re going to do this large font and simple photos.”
Kat: Well, I think that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Noah: Oh, yeah.
Kazu: Yeah, again, this is for people who are commuting and they don’t want to look like they’re reading a children’s book. [laughs]
Kat: Right, exactly.
Noah: You’re reading Harry Potter? No, I’m reading [in a British accent] Harry Potter.
Kazu: I’m reading Twilight.
Kat: Oh, boy.
Noah: Inside the book: another book. It’s Twilight.
Kazu: The designs were… that was a big deal, the way that the Twilight books were designed, because I think for young teenage girls it did feel like they were reading a book for grown-ups, because they were packaged like…
Michael and Noah: Mhm.
Kazu: … these types of books that were made for adults.
Noah: Hey, I can say from experience it was the same for young teenage boys as well.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kat: And it’s funny that – since we had brought up Fifty Shades as well – those covers are very similar, in the way that they’re designed on the covers. And I guess it makes sense, since they’re kind of related. And speaking of children’s covers, we’re going to look at the final UK cover which is the UK Children’s Edition. And this one is, again, Harry flying through the air on his broomstick. It kind of looks like he’s going after the Snitch – which I find odd – but maybe it’s the golden egg falling out of his hand or something.
Noah: It’s a golden egg underneath the other eggs, I think.
Kat: Oh, that’s right, it’s a pile of eggs. That looked like clouds to me, that’s why I was confused. And then the dragon – the Hungarian Horntail – over him, breathing fire. A very emaciated dragon, by the way.
Michael and Noah: Yeah.
Kat: That’s a skinny dragon.
Kazu: [laughs] Yeah, well, the UK ones started it all, right?
Kat: They did. That’s true. I think… isn’t Goblet the first book that came out at the same time in both countries?
Kat: Yeah, I thought so. That’s cool. Okay, so, the one that we all know. The Goblet of Fire US cover. And unlike all the other ones we can actually see the entire thing, from the front to the spine to the back. And as we all know on the front it has Harry holding his golden egg, with Fleur, Krum, and Cedric in the background. There’s the spider in the background, and something else which… I don’t know what that is.
Kat: Oh, is that Sirius?
Michael: Yeah, that’s Sirius.
Kat: That’s Sirius, okay.
Kat: And then we have the spine, the dragon tail across the bottom. And then on the back we have…
Noah: A Blast-Ended Skrewt, maybe?
Kat: Blast-Ended Skrewt? I don’t think…
Michael: Oh, yeah.
Noah: That would be the tail.
Michael: Yeah, that big fleshy thing that looks like a giant ant.
Kat: [laughs] Maybe?
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Michael: Yeah, I think that’s the Skrewt.
Noah: Oh wow, I never, I just picked that up. I think that’s a Blast-Ended Skrewt.
Kat: They don’t have antennas, though. Or eyes.
Michael: What else would it… What would it be?
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Noah: What else could it be?
Michael: Because there’s nothing else that Harry encounters in the maze other than the Sphinx and a spider, so…
Kat: Is it… it’s not a Grindylow, because we’re above water.
Noah: I think it’s a Skrewt.
Kat: I don’t think it can be a Skrewt, but I’ll just run with it.
Noah: Skrewt it.
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Kat: And then… [laughs] Skrewt it, that’s good.
Kat: And then, of course, we see the Beauxbatons carriage in the background. What’s in the bushes there?
Michael: In the very back?
Michael: That’s Voldemort’s eyes.
Michael: Those are Voldemort’s eyes. They’re red.
Noah: Oh, I see them. Oh, I didn’t even notice those!
Michael: Yeah. [laughs] I always…
Noah: Why is he in a bush?
Kat: Oh, that’s not where I was talking about.
Michael: Oh, where were you talking about?
Kat: On the very left side, the swirls.
Michael: Oh, the swirls in the bushes.
Kat: Mhm. Are they just swirls?
Noah: I think those might just be swirls.
Kat: Oh, okay.
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Michael: I love this cover, you guys.
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Kat: It’s a good cover. What’s on the bottom right corner? Is that dragon eyes?
Kat: The bottom right… the very, very bottom right corner.
Michael: Oh, yeah, I don’t know what that is. I couldn’t tell because the cover on mine doesn’t extend that far on the actual book.
Michael: It cuts off around there. So that’s a little different from what I have on my actual book.
Noah: So is that Dumbledore’s beard on the top right?
Kat: I think that’s the fire.
Noah: That’s not… so Dumbledore is not overlooking the entire scene?
Kat: I mean, he is, but…
Michael: I like the… I’ve always liked the… even though she…
Kazu: Standing too close.
Kat: Exactly yeah. [laughs] I mean, it does kind of look like his beard, let’s be honest.
Noah: I think it is.
Kat: We’ll pretend.
Michael: Well, if that thing on the far left can be a skrewt, that can be Dumbledore’s beard. [laughs]
Kat: [laughs] That’s true.
Kazu: It just needed to be white so they could put the text on there.
Kat: It did. That’s very true. [laughs]
Noah: Just like Jo had to say that the Thestrals were there the whole time.
Kat: All right, let’s not go back to that discussion, Noah.
Michael: [laughs] I’ve always liked with Mary GrandPré’s covers, that even though she does – she chooses moments – she does kind of a collage thing. And she does… there are some more abstract things, like the hand holding the goblet in the hedge.
Kat: Mmm, yeah.
Michael: Things like that, that aren’t necessarily strict imagery from the book, and then she kind of just blends it all together. That’s what I’ve always loved about… And I remember with Goblet too, when I first picked it up, I was really confused because I had no idea, of course, who the three people behind Harry were. Because I was assuming that they were people we already knew.
Michael: So I was trying to figure out who they were when I first got the book, and then of course found out later that they were brand new characters.
Kazu: Yeah, I remember it was the combination of the size of the book and the fact there was so much information on the cover that made me feel like, when you jump into this book, you’re in for quite a lot of stuff. I mean, I just felt like there’s a lot here. [laughs]
Kazu: It’s like a statement…
Noah: Similar feelings.
Kazu: … in a lot of ways, and I think the cover did a really good job of making you feel really excited about this idea, that you don’t know what to expect.
Michael: Kazu, what are your overall feelings on Mary GrandPré’s covers?
Kazu: Aww, man, I’m a huge fan. Huge fan.
Kazu: And that was one of the reasons why I initially was going to just say, “No, I don’t want to do this.” [laughs]
Kat: Oh, really?
Kazu: I didn’t want to have to redefine this because I was a fan of her work. But yeah, it dawned on me that it was time for a new generation to pick up the books, and those readers are my readers for my books, so I just thought, “Well, who knows them better than me?” So I just… Well, I guess I can see why they’re asking me to do this. But I was going to say no because I was a fan of the work, and it was so iconic in my brain, I had to do a lot to just put it out of my head when I went to draw these.
Kat: Did you read them as the books went along, or did you read them after?
Kazu: Yeah, I think I started reading the books when… I think Chamber of Secrets just came out, and that’s when I found out about them.
Kat: Early adopter, good for you.
Kazu: Yeah. [laughs] I actually listened to the audio books, the Jim Dale audio books…
Kat: Ah, he’s the best.
Kazu: … while I was commuting to my job. My job was… I was a graphic designer, a corporate graphic design and architecture, and on my one and a half hour commutes to downtown LA I would listen to…
Kazu: Well, I looked forward to it because I listened to Harry Potter…
Kat: Fair enough.
Kazu: … and various books on the trip. And that’s how I got to read it.
Kat: That’s really cool. That’s a good story.
Kazu: Yeah, it was neat. I was so far away from being an artist and professional storyteller, I just thought, “Oh, Harry’s world is a world away from me.” [laughs]
Kazu: And I felt a lot like Harry.
Kat: Speaking of that, we have now arrived at your covers, the beautiful anniversary editions. I personally love them, and I’m not saying that just because you’re here.
Kat: I actually truly do like them, I truly do like them. I think they’re really beautiful, and I love that the spines line up and you get a whole other… I just love that.
Michael: Was the spine thing… because I know we were talking about with the Ukraine edition. Was the spine design for Hogwarts, was that an early decision to do that, or did that come later?
Kazu: It was an early decision, but it wasn’t mine.
Kazu: It was actually my assistant – Jason Caffoe – that was his idea. He actually submitted … I actually asked him to submit samples along with mine.
Kazu: I said, hey, he grew up at the same age as Harry through the years and he was so connected to the books in a way that I wasn’t because I’m a little older – I’m one generation up – and so I got to see it at a distance.
Kazu: I was out of school by that point and so I thought, well, Jason should give this a try too and in the end they actually did ask me to do the final set but I did incorporate a lot of the things that Jason had in mind to do and one of those was the spine. That was his idea but I painted it differently. I just painted a very representational scene. He had one that was a lot more like a Mary GrandPré collage.
Kat and Michael: Hmm.
Kazu: Like the cover of Goblet of Fire, there was a lot of different elements that you see. It was like a map of a theme park. That’s what it looked like. And so …
Michael: Oh, that’s cool.
Kazu:… but I ended up just deciding to do a shot of what you would probably see if you were approaching Hogwarts in the books.
Michael: Well, and I was going to say, that was such a… I remember… because I walked by that box set all the time, so I got to see it all the time at the store and the thing that really impressed me about that element of your redesign was that your version of Hogwarts is so unique because… I think especially for the fandom, the version that was designed for the movies is kind of stuck in everybody’s heads. It’s pretty iconic by this point and you managed to make your own version that was set apart from that and I was really surprised that you managed to do that. Because…
Kazu: [laughs] With the movies, I always felt like those… when it came to Hogwarts, it was one of those things about the movies where I felt they were a bit limited because they had to use a lot of existing locations.
Kat and Michael: Mhm.
Kazu: They couldn’t build everything out, so you ended up with a place that was basically a ruin…
Kazu: … that’s been kind of refurbished [laughs] so to speak…
Kazu: … for the sake of the adventure. Whereas if you were actually living in those castles and things back in the day that they were created, it wouldn’t feel like that.
Kazu: They weren’t ruins back then, that’s just what buildings look like and so that’s kind of the way I wanted to approach it. Also with Hogsmeade as well. I kind of felt the movies made it look a little bit like it was a concentration camp.
[Kazu and Michael laugh]
Kazu: I always felt that Hogsmeade was the place you go to for fun, so it shouldn’t feel like just a concentration camp, it shouldn’t feel like a bunch of cafeteria tables. [laughs]
Michael: No, yeah, your design for Hogsmeade – because I was looking again at the box that holds all the books – it is a really pleasant, welcoming design. I think, even though you’ve got snow on it, that somehow you made it a lot warmer …
Michael: … than I think the movies did.
Kazu: Yeah, it should feel like a place you want to go hang out.
Kazu: In the books I felt that way. In the movies I didn’t. I didn’t feel like I wanted to hang out there. It didn’t feel too different than a lot of… just when the movies got a little bit dark, I think that the sense of place started being overshadowed by the plot.
Kazu: And in the books, you never felt that Hogsmeade and Hogwarts… that the warm places was going away, so that’s one thing I wanted to retain in the illustrations.
Michael: Kazu, I want you to come on for the movie discussion. [laughs]
Kat: I know.
Michael: You have such good points about the movies.
Kat: Very eloquent. Yes.
Kazu: I love… well, actually I was a film studies major as well, so…
Michael: Oh, you were? Oh my gosh, fellow film studies major! [laughs]
Kazu: [laughs] I have a degree in film studies.
Michael: Oh, that’s so cool.
Kazu: All I did was watch old prints and just pour through microfiche. I love studying film. That’s actually what I do most of the time actually, aside from drawing.
Kat: There you go, Michael. Someone new to tweet with.
Michael: Yeah. Oh my God.
Kazu: I have a top ten on Criterion Collection. If you go onto the Criterion site, they actually asked me to do a top ten.
Michael: Oh, that’s so cool!
Kazu: Check that out too.
Kat: I wanted to know, and I’m sure you’ve answered this a million times, but how did you settle on the moments that you chose? Were they favorite moments? Were they suggested to you? How did that go?
Kazu: No, they were all just the ones that I remembered most.
Kazu: And it’s strange because I actually… just before working on the covers, I had a bit of a health scare. I had bacterial meningitis and…
Michael: Oh, wow.
Kazu: … I was in the hospital and nearly died and I forgot everything. Right out the hospital… it was just… it’s like your brain gets really bruised and you don’t… you’ll recover your memory but it just took maybe two or three months until I could remember where I lived. [laughs]
Kazu: All my friends and family. And it was during the recovery process that I got a phone call from David – or an email from David Saylor – art director at Scholastic, and they said that they wanted me to do the covers and I had no idea what he was talking about. I forgot that I had even sent him samples. [laughs]
Kazu: I had to ask my assistant, I was like, “What is David talking about? He says Harry Potter covers, what is he talking about?” He’s like, “Oh, you don’t remember?” I was like, “No.” He’s like, “You submitted sketches.” I was like, “Oh.” [laughs]
Michael: What a time to be chosen to do this particular project.
Kazu: It was the perfect timing, in fact. It was crazy because it was a great… I was not in a place where I could actually write my own book, and that’s why I had to take some time away. And so this was a fantastic exercise for long-term memory.
Michael and Noah: Mhm.
Kazu: In terms of reaching back and seeing what I could extract. It was like I was at the Pensieve. [laughs] And I was trying to extract these old memories, and a lot of the scenes that you see on the covers are the ones that I could still see and the ones that still stayed with me. The cover that defined all the other covers is Prisoner of Azkaban.
Kazu: I did that sketch and it was really simple. I just… it was a two, three minute sketch. I sent that. I didn’t even touch it after that, and I just sent that. [laughs]
Kazu: And in the meetings that they had over at Scholastic, they said that was the one that they felt just nailed it for them. They said they want every cover to look like that, and so I adjusted everything else to suit that.
Michael: That’s really cool.
Kat: So when you reread the books… I assume you’ve read them since your health scare.
Kazu: Yeah. You know what was crazy? I actually would read… because of my temporary handicap, I would read a passage and I would forget it in twenty minutes.
Kazu: I couldn’t even remember my drink order at Starbucks. [laughs]
Michael: Oh, goodness.
Kazu: That was how bad it was.
Kazu: It wasn’t until after I was done with the project that I could finally remember my gym locker combination, and then I knew I was back. That was actually the moment, when I could finally remember it without having to write it on my hand with a Sharpie. That I could remember just the numbers, I knew that something had clicked and I was back. But the entire time that I was working on Harry Potter covers, and I didn’t want to make an excuse or anything like that, but I actually couldn’t remember things. I couldn’t remember short-term things. I could only rely on my long-term. And so I had to lean heavily on both my assistant Jason, who knew the books inside and out, and Cheryl Klein, who is the assistant to Arthur Levine at Scholastic. Both of them would make sure that all my story details were correct. Because even if I had read it, I would forget.
Kat: Wow. That’s incredible. Wow.
Kazu: It was crazy. It was a very interesting experience, I’ll say that. [laughs] Someday I’ll write about it. I’m still… I’m a little forgetful with things like my keys.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kat: I think we all are, so that’s okay.
Michael: That’s interesting to me that the whole style that you did for the books leapt off from Prisoner because what I remember when they unveiled the cover for Prisoner… when I first saw it, I was really surprised and impressed at the moment you chose to illustrate because almost no other covers chose the moment of the Patronus.
Kazu: Which is surprising, isn’t it?
Michael: Yeah. Yeah.
Kazu: Yeah. I feel like it is the moment of the series.
Kazu: That is the defining moment of his character, of the journey.
Kazu: There is nothing more clearly depicting the drama and the triumph of Harry Potter than that moment, and so it was very clear to me that that had to be in there somewhere. [laughs]
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Most…
Kazu: I could see that Alfonso Cuarón had felt that same way, too, because when I watched the movie and then that moment comes, it is just so impactful. It’s one of the most – I think the most – powerful moments in cinema history, I think.
Kat: Is that your favorite book?
Kazu: It isn’t my favorite book. It’s my favorite movie.
Michael: [makes a triumphant noise; laughs] Huzzah.
Noah: Absolutely agree.
Kazu: My favorite book is an odd choice. I actually like Half-Blood Prince. It’s not… I don’t think it’s the most academically well-written book compared to the rest of the books. I actually think – technically speaking – I would say Goblet of Fire is right up there as probably the best book in the series.
Kazu: But I just have an attachment to the sixth book because it’s a father-son story. I’m a sucker for those and a sucker for stories about memories. And it shows in my own writing, too. You can see it in my books. I really like the idea of dreams and memories, and that book was just… that’s all it was, really. It was all about exploring a person’s past.
Kat: I think you’re not alone in that. I think that there’s a lot of fans out there who really love that book, so…
Michael: Oh, yeah.
Kazu: Yeah. I even read that one again recently. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s weird. I just like it. [laughs] So that’s one of those ones where painting that cover was pretty easy for me to do because I knew at least what dynamic I wanted to depict on the cover, and that was the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore.
Kat: Speaking of Dumbledore, I have a question about the quote on the back cover.
Kat: Did you choose that? Did Scholastic?
Kazu: Yeah, I actually chose all the quotes.
Michael: Oh, that’s cool. I was wondering that because I’ve heard from – and I suppose, too, this is the wonderful thing about being both a writer and an artist – is a lot of the authors that would come through at the bookstore would… almost every time they would do their presentation, one of the first questions would be “Did you design the cover of the book?” And the authors would say, “Nope, I had nothing to do with it.” And half of them would be like, “I hate this cover.” [laughs] So I think that’s really cool that… because even the authors don’t really get to say what… the text that goes on, the look of the text, what is written on the cover with the summaries and all that.
Kazu: Yeah, they pretty much have no say. [laughs]
Michael: Yeah. So that’s really… I think that’s really cool that you as the artist got full control over the quotes as well. That’s really…
Kazu: Yeah! No, that was… they put the ball in my court. They do that with my books too. Scholastic has just been so wonderful to work with. In fact, the only notes I really ever got from David were just “Do it better,” or it was just like…
Kazu: … “I trust you, I believe in you, I know you can do this.”
Kat: That’s great.
Kazu: And that’s all, that’s what he kept doing, and he is my Dumbledore in real life. [laughs]
Kazu: So, no, we have a relationship like that. I feel like in a lot of ways I see he teaches me about the business and how to be an author. And editor! I’m also an editor, too, so…
Kazu: Yeah, exactly.
Michael: Really cool, because I’ve been wondering… because there is this really kind of beautiful muted uniformity to all the backs of the books where you see Harry from the back in every single one. And the characters from the back… it’s a great kind of moment of… you picked all these great moments of Harry kind of going to adventure, really entering something really exciting in the book.
Kazu: Right. We are Harry, right? So…
Kazu: Yeah, the back cover sort of… it’s like an ad campaign. [laughs]
Kat: Yeah! It is, it definitely is.
Kazu: We being Harry. Yeah, that was great. It actually kind of came together on accident when I did that back cover for Goblet of Fire. I did that as an alternate version of the front cover because I didn’t feel the front cover was working. And then Cheryl Klein, Arthur Levine’s assistant, was saying, “I like that cover better!” Everyone else was pushing for the more adventurous… I wanted to make sure that all the front covers introduced the stories well. And it wasn’t just for people who know the stories. And I felt like the back cover image was for somebody who knows the stories, so it was nice to know I would be able to dust that one off and bring it back and build a whole back cover campaign around it.
Kat: Last question before I let you go: Is there anything that you would change, any covers that you look at and say, “Oh, I kind of wish I had done this moment instead?”
Michael: No regrets, yeah.
Kazu: I mean, if you knew how many drafts, if you saw how many drafts I did… they’d better be the right moment. So yeah, none. There was… it was Chamber of Secrets that was really difficult, actually. That was the most difficult one. For the longest time it was the scene with the basilisk, and that was just a really difficult scene to paint because Harry can’t look at the basilisk.
Kat: Right, right.
Kazu: And if he… when he can his eyes are all gouged out, so there’s all these things like I can’t make it too gory, or I can’t make it too dramatic because they can’t even face each other, so there’s just too many plot elements that kept it from being a good cover. I’m glad I was finally… landed on that one, the Burrow.
Michael: Can I ask one really quick adventurous question?
Kazu: Yeah, sure!
Michael: Do you think that the Harry Potter novels could ever someday be graphic novels?
Kazu: Yeah, I think they in some ways are already. When I read the books, they’re so clear to me. Especially if you have Mary GrandPré’s illustrations in there. I don’t think… they already are not that far off from being graphic novels. My thing is… I’m not beholden to any media or medium. I think as long as this story gets out and you can see it clearly, and understand it, then the book is exactly how it needs to be. So something for me like Harry Potter doesn’t need a graphic novel to make it any better or anything. That would be an interesting side thing. But I think that… it’s one of those books that did such a good job of bringing people into reading, just, straight up literature, that you don’t need that bridge. You don’t need the extra bridge of it becoming a graphic novel.
Noah: That was an excellent answer.
Kat: It was an excellent answer. And just before we let you go, will you tell everyone listening about the Amulet that you talked about a few times I want to…
Kazu: Yeah, that’s my series. That’s the series I’ve been on that for quite a long time now. Today I’m going to finish the sixth book. It’s got to be in the fall. So yeah, if you like Steven Spielberg and Mijazaki films, you’ll probably dig the Amulet series. It just shows that all sorts of people that I’m really into, I just kind of weave it into this fun mythology for middle-graders, readers… it’s also written for adults, too. [laughs] So…
Kazu: It’s definitely an all-ages book series.
Kat: And it’s available anywhere, right? Pretty much?
Kazu: And is available in most bookstores. Yeah, pretty much where any Harry Potter is found.
Michael: Yeah. It’s a really… having recently just read the first one, I can say that I was really pleasantly surprised at… I wasn’t expecting it to be as mature as it was. It starts off pretty intense and dark and I loved it.
Michael: And when is the next volume coming up, Kazu?
Kazu: The next volume is coming out in the end of August. August 26, I believe.
Michael: Okay. And that’s volume six?
Kazu: Yeah, and it gets pretty dark. The book is pretty dark. I think kids liked to be challenged, you know? I mean, I don’t put anything in there that’s inappropriate.
Michael: No, no, no.
Kazu: But the series is actually… the very core of it, the very beginning of that book, the first scene you read in Amulet 1, it’s based on something that happened in my real life and was when my mom was in a horrible car accident. She did survive, but I remember that year was just not having her around for a while and not knowing – and she was a single mom at the time – if I had parents anymore. [laughs]
Kazu: It was a miserable thing to go through when you’re, what, about five or six years old, you know. And so when people tell me, “Oh, this is all too much for eight- to twelve-year-olds to handle,” and I’m thinking, “But I had to deal with it when I was five,” you know?
Kazu: And that’s not a choice that I had, really. [laughs] You know?
Kazu: And this is actually written for that five-year-old, and this is so, if you guys want to talk about what’s appropriate, you know. I did think about me as that little kid.
Kazu: And so that’s actually what the emotions in that scene are based on things I really felt. So…
Michael: Well, I think that’s why you were, perhaps, and why I’m glad you didn’t say no to redesigning the covers because, really, just that description of your story is, to me, so in-line with how Rowling views Potter and what she was doing with it. It’s like that you kind of were the perfect pair.
Kazu: Yeah, it’s true. It’s weird. I mean, our lives have kind of run parallel, you know? [laughs]
Kazu: Not in J.K. Rowling, but, you know, Harry’s… [laughs]
Michael: Yeah, yeah.
Kazu: Harry’s have kind of grown up. A lot of us have. But in my case, my story has been pretty similar.
Kat: Well, that’s great. I hope everybody listening goes out and gives it a try and I’m sure they’ll love it.
Michael: And where can people find out more about just you, Kazu, and your works online?
Kazu: They can go to my website at boltcity.com or my Twitter feed, @BoltCity, and yeah, you can just look up interviews and things. I’m in various places all the time.
Kat: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Kazu: Yeah, this is a lot of fun. Thanks for having me on here.
Noah: And if you want to be on Alohomora!, you should go to the website. Just click on our “Be on the Show” page and read the instructions, where you’ll be sending us an email. All you need are a pair of headphones and a microphone. You don’t need any fancy equipment. So send in your submissions because we want you to be on the show with us.
Kat: In the meantime, if you just want to stay in touch with us, if you have a question, a comment, you want to get in on the Order of the Phoenix action, whoop-whoop, you can find us on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN, facebook.com/openthedumbledore, Tumblr at mnalohomorapodcast. Of course, at our phone number, 206-GO-ALBUS – that’s 206-462-5287. And again, that is the phone number we will be using for the live show that is immediately following the movie watch. So if you’re going to join us for that, write that phone number down. You can give us a call, and in the meantime, subscribe or leave us a review on iTunes – we absolutely love reading those – or send us a photo on Snapchat at @mn_alohomora. And of course, you can always leave us an Audioboo. That’s directly on the page at alohomora.mugglenet.com. All you need in an Internet connection and a microphone and you can leave us a message. And we love listening to them. We listen to every single one, so thank you to everyone who sends them in. We highly appreciate it.
Michael: And there’s no better way to celebrate the finale of a book on Alohomora! then to visit our store and check out some of our merchandise. We have T-shirts, short and now long-sleeve, tote bags, sweatshirts, flip-flops, water bottles, travel mugs, and more coming soon. All great gear for the warm weather that is starting to come around. We have over eighty products to choose from in our store. We also have ring-tones that are free and available on the website.
Noah: Yes, and don’t forget about the wonderful Mandrake garb that fans can buy at the store, too, Michael, that I will just mention in my own spot here.
Noah: They’ve got their Mandrake shirts, their Desk!Pig shirts, lots of cool stuff.
Kat: And we have lots of new shirts coming. I mean, incredibly soon, like within the next week or so.
Noah: Yes. And besides the store, we also have the app, where each week, with each new episode of the podcast, there is a host, either recording a video or there are also bloopers from the shows. There are transcripts, alternate endings of the episodes that you’ve never heard before, and much, much more. It’s a great way to keep in contact with us and see all of our little exciting tidbits between listening to episodes of the show.
Kat: Because there’s so much that you guys don’t hear. Seriously, there’s so much.
[Show music begins]
Noah: So that’s a wrap. I’m Noah Fried.
Michael: I’m Michael Harle.
Kat: And I’m Kat Miller. Thank you for listening to Episode 76 of Alohomora!
Michael: [as Ron, Hermione, and Harry] Open the Dumbledore!
[Show music continues]
Noah: Goblet of Fire… man. Trash, right? Am I right?
[Michael and Noah laugh]
Kat: No, no, you’re not right. I mean, I’m looking forward to moving on.