TRASHY TUESDAY: DIGIT SCI-FI COVERS
Digit was one of the many so called ‘mushroom publishers’ which sprang up after World War II in England. Created in 1956 under the Brown Watson publishing house, it produced hundreds of paperback titles across most genres.
The quality of their science fiction output in the 1960s was mixed, but they produced some great covers for their books, often utilising the talents of artists such as Brian Lewis, Sam Peffer and James McConnell.
I recently added to my collection of Digit science fiction covers and thought that I would put some up. It is also interesting to see how well, or not, the artists accurately captured the future world that they were portraying.
This uncredited cover for Groff Conklin’s well regarded collection of science fiction short stories, Invaders of Earth (Digit, 1962), has a real old fashioned, pulpy, space opera, feel to it. The depicted spaceships bear no resemblance to modern day space craft, but the cover does contain that popular artistic trope of being able to emit some form of laser as a weapon.
The rocket ships are more realistic on Fredric Brown’s Project Jupiter, (Digit, 1958), which also sports a great
warp-around cover. The artist is not identified, but some sources suggest Richard Powers, although I am not sure. Regardless of the artist, they obviously liked the ‘olive on a toothpick’ spacecraft on the front cover and it can be seen on other Digit covers (see collage below).
Wrap-around covers were an occasional feature of Digit books, and they produced a really good effect when done well (see the cover for the crime book Steps In The Dark at the end of the article).
The story itself is set in 1997 when “The Moon, Mars and Venus have already been Conquered by Earth … Jupiter is the next goal.” It is a good example of the optimism of science fiction authors of the 1950s and 60s, about how quick and easily space travel would occur.
C. M. Kornbluth’s Christmas Eve (Digit, 1958) also has a nice wrap-around cover. Again the artist is not credited, but they have done a reasonable job of portraying a rocket launch.
The book was originally released in the United States under the title Not This August. The story is set in 1965, three years after the Russians and Chinese conquer America and a savage dictatorship is imposed. The hero becomes involved in a resistance plot to launch a satellite armed with nuclear weapons, hoping to threaten the enemy into surrendering. I had a quick look at it, and it is so badly written that it is almost impossible to read!
This Brian Lewis illustration on Kenneth Bulmer’s City Under The Sea (Digit, 1961) is a great example of Lewis’ ability to use strong colour and detail to produce an eye catching cover. Lewis produced some very good science fiction covers for Digit, but this is probably my favourite.
City Under The Sea is a Digit reprint of a popular Ace Double story.
The Secret Of ZI (1961) is another Digit reprint of a Kenneth Bulmer Ace Double and features another good cover by Lewis. The strong colours and the Nazi overtones make this an unforgettable cover. It just shows that even in the future black leather jackets still look cool.
The artist for the cover of Kenneth Bulmer’s Of Earth Foretold (Digit, 1963) is uncredited, but looks like it could be Brian Lewis again. The clean lines, good use of colour and the amount of detail suggest it is one of his, but I am not certain.
This 1961 reprint of Kenneth Bulmer’s The Changeling Worlds features the great Ed Valigursky illustration which appeared on the original Ace Double edition. Later Digit editions featured the ‘olive on a toothpick’ illustration from the above collage, it does not have the same impact as the Valigursky one.
I like the uncurling arms of the robot and the evil look that the red ‘eyes’ give it. I also like the fact that the human captor is holding what looks like a long barreled hand gun.
Not science fiction, but one of my favourite Digit wrap-around covers is this one for Steps In The Dark by Mansell Black (Elleston Trevor). More detail here: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/trashy-tuesday-steps-in-the-dark-by-mansell-black-digit-1957/
The cover for ‘The Changeling Worlds’ certainly is an attention grabber. I am glad I didn’t see that one when I was young and impressionable. 😉