Cover Reveal: The Gorgon Incident and Other Stories (Mage Errant Anthology) by John Bierce

Cover Reveal: The Gorgon Incident and Other Stories (Mage Errant Anthology) by John Bierce

Hi everyone! Petrik from Novel Notions here.

We have an incredibly exciting post today. And there is something a bit different about today’s cover reveal. Not only I am honored to reveal the cover art of The Gorgon Incident and Other Stories, a collection of short stories in the Mage Errant series by John Bierce, but John Bierce himself is also here to give the detailed process of his cover art creation. I’ve seen and read some of John Bierce’s collaborations with Aaron McConnel and Lee Moyer, and I am always amazed by the process and result. I won’t take much of your time, I will let John Bierce himself reveal the cover art of The Gorgon Incident and Other Stories!

Cover art illustrated by Aaron McConnel and Lee Moyer

Commissioning cover art is one of my favorite aspects of being an indie author- and the cover process for my upcoming Mage Errant short story anthology, The Gorgon Incident and Other Stories, was even more fun than usual.

This is the seventh cover I’ve worked with this art team-Aaron McConnell on pencils and Lee Moyer on color and design-so we’ve got a pretty good process going at this point. Since this is a side work, and not a main entry in the Mage Errant series, however, we decided to have a bit of fun, and try something new with this cover stylistically.

First off, the final version of the cover:

The Mage Errant series, for those that haven’t read it, is a progression fantasy series following the adventures of Hugh of Emblin, a young mage who struggles with both his magic and anxiety, in a world filled with sentient living cities, kaiju dictators, magical weapons of mass destruction, and teenage drama. (Hugh much prefers the giant monsters and magical superweapons to the drama.)

For past covers, I picked the cover scene, but for this volume, I listed out a bunch of cool scenes from the short stories to pick from, that included various kaiju (a rampaging gold-armored phoenix, a snail with castles on its back), magical cities (a canyon city, a city of eclectic towers, etc), and scenes of daily life in a high-magic world. Aaron and Lee both gravitated towards a battle between two kaiju in the columnar basalt city of Lothal, however- Aaron because it reminded him of a classic Godzilla poster we’d discovered in a vintage shop once.

All three of us quickly agreed that the Godzilla poster in question, part of a series of Godzilla posters by Japanese artist Noriyoshi Ohrai (, made for a perfect inspiration for the cover of the anthology.

Pretty quickly after I whipped up the final cover description featuring the two warring kaiju, Ampioc and Fort Marrow, Aaron came back with the first cover mockup sketch:

(Fort Marrow is a human bone mage who transmuted themselves into a giant mobile bone fortress, while Ampioc is a giant octopus basalt mage.)

Lee and I absolutely adored the sketch, but suggested the addition of humans in a boat and a few other features to give more of a sense of scale, leading to more sketches from Aaron, including a color version for visualization purposes:

Unfortunately, as amazing as they are, it didn’t quite work- and made the combat feel farther away and less immediate. (This is the part where Lee’s experience really shone- he’s brilliant at figuring out what does and doesn’t work in a composition, I just sat back and enjoyed experts at work here.) One tool Lee and Aaron frequently use working together is quick photo-edits to show off different versions- here’s one Lee did, combining features of both Aaron’s initial and later sketches:

Things moved pretty quickly after that- here’s a few of the iterative sketches Aaron worked – and, yes, he’s old school and uses actual paper for much of his process! (The trippy sci-fi art in the top left is for another, unrelated project, as are the character sketches on the right- Aaron works on a LOT of cool projects, and he’s fantastic at everything he does!)

And then the truly majestic final pencil-work by Aaron:

I’m not gonna lie, I was as excited as a kid in a toy store when I first laid eyes on this, and immediately ran to find my wife so I could show it to her.

This is also a great example of canon compromises made for cover art- the city of Lothal canonically doesn’t have buildings inside massive basalt columns like in the image, but is built of smaller basalt columns. That would be WAY trickier and more time consuming to draw on an image at this scale, however- and the complexity would probably detract from the foreground action. (Aaron deserves the credit for that idea, I certainly don’t have the artistic know-how to think of that. I’m never going to run out of praise for Aaron and Lee’s work, I can tell you that.)

With the final pencils done, Lee eagerly set to work on the colors. Not a lot of iterations to show off on this one– by the time Lee got his hands on it, he’d already planned out much of what he wanted to do with the image, so it was a pretty short wait for his final version! Here’s a close-to-complete version of the color art:

And, of course, you’ve already seen the final version, which I’m absurdly happy with. It really captures the monumental spirit of the Ohrai Godzilla posters, and Lee’s colors make the image absolutely pop off the page. (I especially love his work on the waves- Lee is absurdly good at bringing water to life with color.)

(And, yes, when I got the final version from Lee, I also went running in excitement to find my wife and show her.)

Working with Lee and Aaron is such a blast. I get to see the wild, crazy settings I love to dream up drawn into reality- and then the two of them take my visions even farther, and make them look more epic than I ever imagined!

(They’re also just super cool guys.)

Aaron McConnell has illustrated numerous graphic novels and tabletop rpg supplements, ranging from The Comic Book History of Beer to Adventure Time Comics to 13th Age. You can find more of his fantastic work at

Lee Moyer is the Hugo-award winning artist of Small Gods in collaboration with author Seanan McGuire. He’s a painter, writer, comic artist, cover illustrator, movie poster designer, and more other art roles than you can shake a stick at. You can find more of his brilliant work at

John Bierce is the author of the progression fantasy series Mage Errant, the standalone epidemiological fantasy novel The Wrack, and the upcoming New Weird sword and sorcery trilogy More Gods than Stars. He’s okay. You can find his work at

I want to give my special thanks to John Bierce for allowing Novel Notions the honor and pleasure of hosting the cover reveal and process for The Gorgon Incident and Other Stories. As fantasy enthusiasts and self-proclaimed connoisseurs of book cover art, it means a lot for me and all of us here at Novel Notions to be given this opportunity. It goes without saying that I’m looking forward to reading Mage Errant!

Lastly, thank you to everyone for taking the time to read this post!

You can pre-order this book from: Amazon

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Aliysa, Ambrosius, Andrew, Andrew W, Annabeth, Arliss, Barbara, Biskit, Brad, Cade, Chris, Christopher, Ciprian, Cullen, Dan, David, Donuts, Dylan, Edward, Elaine, Elias, Francesca, Frank, Garrick, Gary, Gregory, Hamad, Helen, Jenn, Jesse, Joie, Jonathan, Jordan, Katrina, Kristina, Lara, Lourdes, Luis, Melinda, Michael, Michael, Mike, Miracle, Mordie, Nicholas, Norbert, Radiah, RCT, Redmischief, Samuel, Sarah, Sarah, Scott, Shawn, Steph, Stephanie, Tiffany, Tracy, Trish, TS, Wendy, Wick, Woodman, Xero, Yosi, Yuri, Zoe

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