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The rootin'-tootin' banjo-pickin' high-flyin' cosmic adventure! Except not.


Ted (upon seeing Hell): "This is not what I expected."
Bill: "Yeah, we were totally lied to by our album covers."


Don't judge a book by its cover—no, literally. Nor a video, a comic, or even a record. The cover is an essential part of the marketing plan. As is common in marketing, it can be an entirely inaccurate representation. It's not just the artwork that's misleading, either. The Blurb on the back may be even more disconnected from the story.

Popular characters who appear in little more than a cameo on the inside can be larger than the main character on the cover. A quiet, contemplative issue can be made to seem like an action-packed frag-fest, and vice-versa. The cover can push for an entirely different demographic than the rest of the work.

Film Posters and video packaging are particularly likely to mislead if it's an independent film, or a film in a genre that the marketing people assume most people are unlikely to appreciate. For example, an intelligently-written mystery for the whole family may have a cover that implies it's a comedy, or a family film that happens to have a dog in it may emphasize the dog on the cover. See also Never Trust a Trailer.

In non-graphic literature, it is not uncommon for a female character to be portrayed in a Stripperiffic outfit when they would wear nothing of the sort in the story. Also, virtually any Speculative Fiction book will have either a rocket or an alien of some sort on the cover, and dragons are commonly used on Fantasy, High Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery books, even if there is no dragon in the story at all. (Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo are particularly noteworthy as artists whose paintings make great book covers, but only occasionally actually relate to the contents of the books.)

This trope also applies to album covers, especially singles, which often get their own album art, for one or two songs. Video Games, especially if they were created in The Eighties or earlier, were the worst for this; before the VGA and SuperVGA display standards of 1987-88, a desktop PC couldn't display more than sixteen colours at once, so that fanciful hand-painted colour fantasy artwork depicted in the advert or on the cover simply couldn't be replicated in the actual game.[1]

A related subtrope is the practice of creating the cover first, and writing the story based on that. This was common practice for comic books, especially at DC, during The Silver Age of Comic Books under editor Julius Schwartz, and was responsible for some of the weirdest stories of the time. However, it would sometimes result in a story that went off in a totally different direction and disposed of the cover situation in a panel or two. The website features many strange, silly and inane covers of this kind.

This has occasionally gotten lampshade hung on it, as evidenced here and here.

Many of these overlap with Sexy Packaging and Contemptible Cover, and often feature Lady Not-Appearing-In-This-Game. Compare with Never Trust a Trailer, Wolverine Publicity, and Super Dickery.

For cover illustrations that whiten dark-skinned characters, see Race Lift. For in-book illustrations, see Unreliable Illustrator. For magazines that sometimes put a bit of skin on their cover even though the interior is about gaming, sports, or whatever, see Fanservice Cover.

Examples of Covers Always Lie include:

Straight Examples

Media in General

Anime and Manga

  • The far-out extreme would be the cover of Warriors of the Wind, the original dub of the classic Anime film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind done in the mid-'80s. The artist just made things up and added characters and elements that weren't in the movie at all.[2] The dub itself wasn't an accurate representation of Hayao Miyazaki's work either, but it wasn't that different.
  • On the very last English dub DVD of Sailor Moon R, "Love Conquers All", Sailor Chibi Moon is pictured alongside Neo-Queen Serenity. However, Chibiusa doesn't actually show up as a Sailor Senshi until halfway through the next season. Apart from being spoilerific, entirely different companies did those seasons. DiC did Classic and R, while S and SuperS were done by Cloverway (Sailor Stars wasn't dubbed at all at the time).
  • Delinquent in Drag, anyone? The ADV Films release's VHS cover made Go Nagai's high school comedy look like an action film.
  • The cover of one of the Black Lagoon DVDs depicts Hansel and Gretel as a pair of cheerful smiling gothic lolis. Anyone who's actually seen the episodes concerning them will know they are probably the most horrific examples of fearsomeness that exist in any anime that doesn't involve the supernatural. And probably some that do.
  • Possibly the example with the biggest chance of emotional scarring: Narutaru. The back cover of the first English volume describes it as "A rare mix of breathtaking fantasy and gripping action/adventure, filled with imagination, excitement, and delight." Paired with the way everything on the cover depicts the main character happily flying around against a pink background, and you've got a good cover to attract little girls looking for a magical girl series. Except for the fact that Narutaru is actually Seinen, and extremely disturbing Seinen at that. Whoops. (That aforementioned blurb also proves that Dark Horse really hadn't done their research when they first got hold of the manga...) The opening of the anime is even worse; not only does it have a super-cute art style and a very upbeat theme song, but it references some shocking events from later in the series and treats them like a joke. Also, one of the DVD covers features one of the side characters, Hiroko, smiling like a typical Cheerful Child. Let's just say she's not quite like that in canon.
  • Franken Fran. Dear God, Franken Fran. The author uses Hentai-like covers like this for a horror manga that has images like THIS.
    • Lampshaded, as the tankouban covers are usually followed immediately by a version of the picture that's actually accurate to the manga's contents.
  • Elfen Lied is chock full of gore, dismemberment, nudity and psychological horror, and yet the cover to the manga usually looks something like this.
    • The ADV releases had 'blood-stained' covers which were more straight-forward.
  • The cover of This Ugly Yet Beautiful World's manga has lots of fanservicey, yuri undertoned pictures... all of which never come close to happening in the book itself.
  • The covers of the Amanchu mangas show the girls in sexy swimwear—which never happens in-series. Well, at least the scuba gear still makes sense.
  • The box sets and covers of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni feature characters wearing skimpy clothing they don't wear in the series (and an odd emphasis on implied Twincest, which, while refuted by canon on both sides, is often used for Fan Service in promo pictures) for the first season. The second season's box art is still full of cuteness, often with Rika and Satoko. This, too, is only an accurate representation of about 40% of the series's content. The other 60% is murder.
    • The OVAs are even worse; they're full of the girls wearing very little clothing. Even Hanyuu and Rika, two girls who appear to be about nine years old.
    • The English DVD covers are in negative, giving them a creepy look, despite the fact that the art is happy and cute. It's a thematic reflection of what happens when you don't trust your True Companions. You can, however, turn it inside out to get the normal look, and the Japanese boxset covers are posters you find inside the box.
    • The manga, at least, averts the trope - the covers are the characters in their normal attire, surrounded by blood splatters.
  • The American manga Return to Labyrinth. The cover of the first volume, a lovely illustration by Kouyu Shurei, suggests "pretty boy romance"; the story is an adventure full of Toilet Humor in a completely different "amercanime" art style by one Chris Lie.
  • The first boxset of Princess Tutu in America drew a lot of fire for choosing to put Rue on the cover in a skimpy outfit instead of the main Magical Girl herself. ADV Films likely got a lot of complaints, because later editions switched to a cover with Tutu as the focus.
  • Neo Ranga's cover depicts the trio of sisters who compose the main characters wielding huge wicked looking swords and wearing nothing but body paint. In reality the series is more of a giant robot-style deal, and while the characters do don the body paint at one point during the series (albeit with clothes), the giant swords are completely absent.
  • The covers of the Fruits Basket manga, due to the system used to decide who's on the cover (more or less appearance order at least at the start), the character on the cover often doesn't appear much or even at all inside the book. The final two books feature Tohru's father and mother, both of whom are deceased.
    • This is lampshaded in several cases, when filler pictures of the characters complain about how little they are in the story.
  • The front cover of the North American DVD release for Simoun featured Neveril and Aeru sort of...hugging? Dancing? Playing patty-cake? Whatever they are doing they are close together and naked, but somehow their embrace has no sexual overtones at all, so the whole thing just looks weird. Also, there is not a single Simoun visible on the front cover, back cover, or spine. The series is named Simoun and the machines are nowhere to be found. Without already knowing the background to the series there is no way to determine even what genre the show is, first guess would probably go to Magical Girl or an Ecchi series.
  • The Animate cover for Vol. 1 of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force looked like this. One wonders how many unwitting readers bought it expecting a love-comedy, only to be treated with scenes like these from this Darker and Edgier installment of the Nanoha franchise?
  • This trope could be applied to the Dragon Ball GT season sets. The first set, containing the first 34 episodes, features Super Saiyan 4 Goku on the cover, Super Saiyan 4 being a form Goku first achieves in episode 35. And the second set features Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta, a One Episode Wonder from late in the series.
    • When the Saban-dubbed episodes of Dragonball Z were released on DVD by Pioneer, there were three covers for the Namek arc that shown concept art of the characters past the Saban run. The concept art in question? Vegeta in the outfit he wore during the Freeza fight, Goku preparing the Spirit Bomb to use against Freeza and Goku as a Super Saiyan with the last one being on two of the three covers. Kid Goku is on the last cover, but he's not shown in any flashbacks in the episodes on that set.
  • Would you think Bleach would be about fighting ghost with samurai swords with a cover like this?
    • An even better example is the cover of Volume 34, which has Adult Nel on the cover, if you were a newcomer to Bleach, you could be forgiven for thinking that adult Nel would play a significant role in this volume, in actuality, she has a total of 7 pages worth of screentime (that's counting a Double-Page spread as 2 Pages) and everything from her transformation into her adult form to her backstory was in Volume 33.
      • But then if it was the cover for volume 33 is would be a Spoiler Cover.
  • The intro songs to Tsuide ni Tonchinkan largely focus on the show's female character, and features slow-paced music and likewise animation. The show itself is a crazy comedy headlining a bizarrely freakish character with a stupid grin permanently fixed to his face.
  • In a combination of this and "What do you mean, it's not for kids?", the most sexually explicit yaoi manga are often mistaken for tamer series due to the heavy use of pastel-tones and flowers.
  • The manga prequel to Hellgate:London has a cover that looks like a nice Dragonball-esque adventure, with the main characters and their family arranged in a happy little formation. The actual content is far from what this implies-most of the family is brutally slaughtered near the end, and that's not even getting into what comes before that.
  • The US cover art for Initial D Third Stage shows a car that appears for all of 5 minutes of the movie, and the race against said car, despite being on Battle Stage, isn't much of one.
  • At last one version of the first book of Barefoot Gen suffers from it. The story is far less happy than its cover. What a happy looking series... about Hiroshima.
  • The Ace Attorney "Official Casebook" manga collections have back cover blurbs that make it sound like the stories involved in the books will all involve mystery solving and legal action in the vein of the games. Though there are a few mysteries involved most of the stories are just Slice of Life pieces about the characters outside of court.
  • Many volumes of Rave Master have highly nonsensical/comical cover art which has absolutely nothing to do with the volume's story. One of the weirdest ones involved Haru and friends snowboarding.
  • The cover of the first volume of the North American release of Sukisho has Sora and Sunao holding each other, surrounded by multitudes of bright pink flowers. Seems like a perfectly innocent, right? Or at least it does until you know, what it's about.
  • One Piece Volume 59 has Ace looking ready to kick some ass, even though he's mortally injured at the start of the volume and dead at the end of the first chapter.
    • It could simply be as a tribute to the character, since this is the last time he appears.
  • The poster and VHS cover for Pokémon the First Movie depicted Mewtwo as being colored blue instead of purple like in the film.
    • Also, some of the Pokémon in the background aren't even in the movie at all!
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Oh great, yet another series featuring cute magical girls fighting monster of th...WHATISTHISIDONTEVEN-... More specifically, the artwork implies that Madoka becomes a Puella Magi from the beginning when it doesn't actually happen until the end.
    • The Spin-Off manga Puella Magi Oriko Magica has a variation. Almost everyone assumed that the green haired girl on the cover of the first volume was the eponymous Oriko. Then the official preview images were released, revealing that she wasn't Oriko.
  • Some English Azumanga Daioh DVDs show the girls with their stomachs exposed, blushing, and their skirts looking like they're going to fly up; Yomi is not only blushing, but is covering her skirt, making the series look like a fanservice anime.
  • The cover of the anime Jyu-Oh-Sei shows the main character, Thor, in an outfit he never wears, complete with war paint, a headband and sword.
  • Wandering Son covers show the two Transsexualism characters 'cross-dressing', when in the series they rarely dress up like that (especially the protagonist). The coloring of the characters is often incorrect, retcons and Art Evolution aside. The back of the first volume shows Maho with blond hair while the inner artwork at the beginning of the manga shows her with as a brunette.
  • In the Warrior Cats manga Escape From The Forest, Tigerstar gets the cover all to himself, implying that he will be important in it, however he only appears once to ask the protagonist a question. After she answers it, he is not seen again.
  • Miracle Girls covers almost always have the characters with incorrect haircolors. The mangaka lampshades this in her omakes, saying that it's due to the printing process and her original images had the correct colors.
  • The cover of the Burst Angel OVA makes it look like a sequel to the TV series. It's actually a PREQUEL, set between a flashback episode and the rest of the series.
  • A handful of early DVD covers for the Hungarian release of Transformers Armada show off characters that either haven't been introduced yet in the episodes that are on the disc, or use colorations that the characetrs only take on way-way later.
  • The cover of Divergence Eve looks like a generic mecha series with lots of fanservice - when really the breasts of the lead characters are the last thing you end up thinking about whilst watching the show... and its incredibly complicated plot.
  • Early promotional material for Digimon Tamers portrayed Impmon in typical Big Bad fashion, as he was at the time planned as the series's main antagonist. This route was later abandoned.
  • Purposely done with the Japanese version of the Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei manga as the bookflap blurb describes nonsensical stories that had nothing to do with the actual contents.
  • The cover art of one American Haruhi Suzumiya DVD release shows Haruhi standing alone with her shadow being that of her Bunny Girl outfit, implying that a bunny girl plays a much larger role in the plot than it actually does.
  • One of two different DVD covers used by Central Park Media for the OVA Strange Love depicted two characters kissing, in front of an abstract red/pink background. One of them is the main character (Chizuru), but the black-haired girl is a very minor character with little screentime and is not Chizuru's love interest—the picture was taken from an Imagine Spot scene that explains that Chizuru isn't attracted to her or any other women, with one exception.
  • Slayers TRY actually lampshades it by having a flashing sign which reads "sorry, opening only" pointing at a dragon-riding character (Lina's sister) in the title animation.

Comic Books

  • The Emma Frost series was a cute teen drama about a younger version of the title character pitched at a mostly female demographic. This was undermined because the covers were pieces of absurd Fan Service featuring the adult Emma in the skimpier costume she wore in New X-Men - and if you're familiar with her time as White Queen, you know that's not an easy bar to reach. (Warning, NSFW.)
  • Check out for dozens of examples of dishonest Superman (and other) covers. For that matter, check out the entire site, as it rocks. (Though it will suck out hours of your life you'll never have back... just like All The Tropes).
  • Something of a running gag among comics fans is how many covers Wolverine Publicity has appeared on for comics in which he wasn't even mentioned secondhand.
    • In the three books that contain the X-Men's The End storyline, he's on the cover of all three, despite the fact his role in the series is minor at best.
  • The trope was acknowledged in the nostalgic comic-oriented novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, when a character finds the latest issue of The Escapist has a cover in which the eponymous hero is being executed by his own alter ego; the character is mildly intrigued but knows that the event will likely turn out to be a dream or an alternate reality or some other cheap trick, if it in fact appears in the issue at all.
    • That may have been directly inspired by the Silver Age Superman cover that had Superman stand around mocking Clark Kent as Kent got beaten up. As it turned out, this was just a metaphor for the fact that Kent had given up being Superman.
  • In the issue of the original Justice League of America where the first Mr. Terrific dies, Batman is pointing at Mr. Terrific's killer, with Red Tornado, Power Girl, Wonder Woman, and Jay Garrick (Flash I) behind him. The murderer is, of course, Jay Garrick, though he was possessed at the time and it wasn't really his fault.
  • The cover of New Avengers #35 got readers up in arms when such a cool cover ironically featuring Wolverine Publicity when the story inside (which dealt with the villain known as "The Hood") wasn't even remotely related to the cover.
    • They did it again in issue #50. Dammit, Bendis.
  • The cover of Amazing Spider-Man #75 is "Death Without Warning" and shows Spider-Man mourning over a dead body. Nothing like that happens in the comic. What's more nobody in the story dies at all.
    • Although to be fair, one villain does get de-aged seemingly into nothingness, so it did appear that he was dead.
  • From an issue of X-Men: First Class: Human Torch, Iceman, and Spider-Man appear on the cover. Fine, except Spider-Man appears for only 2 panels, pretty much to tell the Torch and Iceman to do whatever they want.
  • An old issue of Captain America (comics) promises that Cap's partner the Falcon, all of S.H.I.E.L.D., and some random newbie heroes turn on him, all at once. He does fight S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and later the random newbie heroes, but it is neither all at once nor does the Falcon join in.
    • The very first issue of Captain America Comics shows CA punching out Adolf Hitler. Hitler doesn't appear in the comic (although various other Nazis do, including the Red Skull).
  • Archie Comics usually just display a single gag panel which has nothing to do with any of the stories within.
    • A glaring example of this trope, however, is one for the Betty and Veronica Double Digest issue 128. On the cover, there is a picture of a phone being held by one of the girls, and you can see an image of Archie and Cheryl Blossom in the same image. There's a subtext on the side of this cover that says "Cheryl's back... look out 4 Trbl!" implying that this is the opening story. Not one single story in that book contains anything regarding Cheryl.
  • She Hulk covers look like this and the interior art is like this
  • In general this frequently is the case when the cover is drawn by a different artist than the one who does the interior art. In most cases, the cover artist is better or at least has a bigger fan base than the interior artists. One of the rare inversions is Avengers Annual #10 (featuring the first appearance of Rogue), which features brilliant interior art by Mike Golden beneath an uninspired, humdrum cover by Al Milgrom. Talk about hiding your light beneath a bushel!
  • The Marvel issue of "What If..." that dealt with the Fallen Son storyline had a cover of Captain America (comics) carrying an apparently dead Iron Man in a dramatically mourning way. The contents of the comic... weren't nearly so touching.
  • The cover of one old Star Trek: The Next Generation comic shows Captain Picard floating around in a space suit with half of his face covered in green slime and Counselor Troi looking-on in horror and disgust. Of course, nothing even remotely similar happens at any point in the issue; no space suits, no green slime, and Counselor Troi is barely even featured.
  • Most World War II era Marvel Comics have Captain America, Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner having epic battles against the Axis on the cover. The stories themselves though have none of those and are usually about evil Nazi's having their plans for world domination foiled by the heroes.
  • Malibu Comics used to have a major villain named Rafferty, whose gimmick was that he came with an editorial promise: every time he appeared, a superhero would die! This led to a slew of issues featuring him, many of which showed him threatening a major character on the cover. Too bad those were hardly ever the characters he actually killed. In fact, in most cases he just killed a random walk-on character who had been created just so Rafferty could off him.
  • Atomic Comics quickly grew guilty of this. While Madman comics had started out having actual, if bizarre superheroic adventures, his latest series, Atomic Comics was much more philosophical than anything else. However, from looking at most of the covers, you would not know this. For example, one cover had two girls, his girlfriend Joe and his friend Luna, who had been fused into the same body in-comic, fighting over him and trying to pull him away from the other, much to his dismay. In the actual comic, the two are complete at peace with each other, only Joe has feelings for Madman, and in fact, the issue isn't even centred around this.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table covers rarely, if ever, have anything to do with the storyline of the issue.
  • The Adventure Into Fear issues featuring Morbius usually tend to have covers showing him doing something stereotypically vampiric (such as creeping inside to a woman's bedroom, standing over a woman he has bitten or being highlighted against a wall by the police while carrying a fainted woman) but the actual stories have nothing similar happening (except for maybe having a woman in the story).
  • The cover of the last issue of the second volume of Runaways features a cute, cheerful picture of the kids all laughing and goofing around against a bright blue background. This is the issue in which one of those kids gets stabbed to death.
  • Done so blatantly that it almost looks like a parody in Marville miniseries. Since the 2nd issue every cover featured an all-but-naked girl who never appeared in story itself.
  • Silver Age comic "Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane" #92 features Lois Lane transformed into a centaur on the cover, with Superman lamenting that she's stuck that way. In actuality, she's only a centaur for about two strips in the comic and actually spends a good chunk of the story as a superpowered horse. The title of the story is also called "The Unbreakable Spell". Three guesses how accurate THAT is...
  • "The Miracle of Thirsty Thursday", a Silver Age story from Superman #293, was about the people of Metropolis suddenly gaining severe hydrophobia and Superman having to put them into deep sleep in order to cure them and have them drink water again. The cover touting the story, on the other hand, had almost the exact opposite premise—apparently Metropolis is suffering a drought of water, and Superman is denying them a drink from a fire hydrant.
  • The last issue of the old Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers comic book has a cover depicting Chip, Dale, and Monterey Jack fencing with a one-eyed mouse who has apparently taken Gadget hostage, and it is given the caption "His name is Ransom - and he means trouble!" Not only does this scene never happen in the issue itself, but Ransom isn't even a bad guy.
  • Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour. Scott never uses his Power of Love sword. Others do, but not Scott.
  • The Muppet Show: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson has two. The most egregious since it's used for the cover of the TPB is Peg-Leg Wilson in a ghost-like form laughing maniacally while the cast looks on in shock and horror, seeming to imply the story arc is some sort of ghost haunting. Peg-Leg Wilson appears on one page in that issue, and it's just a visual narration since Gonzo is reading about his history. Another cover has Kermit and Kismet the Toad in a face-to-face confrontation. Turns out Kermit hired Kismet for a closing act intended to feature Kermit lookalikes (most of which never showed up), and has absolutely no reason to be mad at him at any point in the series. The weirdest part of these examples is that the writer/artist of the series also does the cover art.
  • The cover for the JLA story Justice For All depicts Superman and Captain Marvel fighting while the Justice League of America and Justice Society of America look on in horror. In the story itself, the two heroes' "fight" consists of Marvel knocking out Superman with two punches to prevent him from following Marvel into the 5th dimension.
  • Issue 9 of the most recent Green Lantern series features Hal Jordan and Batman in the middle of a fight with each other. It's true that Batman does punch Hal in the a lighthearted revenge for something that happened in an earlier issue. Most of the issue is the exact opposite of the cover, featuring Hal and Batman becoming friends again.
  • The cover of one of the Blackest Night issues of Teen Titans features an army of zombified Titans rushing toards the reader. The hands of Blue Beetle and Static can also clearly be seen, preparing to fight said undead heroes. None of the characters on the cover appear, and the entire issue is instead about Deathstroke's relationship with his children.
  • Sal Buscema was fond of this when he was the artist for Spectacular Spider-Man. Once issue had the Rhino squeezing the life out of Spider-Man on the cover with a blurb indicating that Peter was gonna receive A Fate Worse Than Death. In the issue, Spider-Man is infuriated due to the machinations of Harry Osborn, the second Green Goblin and ends up giving Rhino a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that leaves the villain crying for mercy. Another issue a couple years later show the Green Goblin gloating over the bodies of Spider-Man and the X-Men. While the X-Men did appear in that issue (it was the final chapter of a three-part storyarc about something totally different), they never fight the Green Goblin. Instead, Harry Osborn simply returns toward the end of the issue, setting the stage for the next arc.
  • One Looney Tunes comic cover depicted Bugs Bunny being beaten up by a kangaroo in a boxing match. Nothing like that happens in the book itself.
  • One Sonic the Comic cover prominently featured Sonic's long-lost brother Tonic standing alongside Amy Rose. In the comic, Amy and Tonic barely interact, and "Tonic" is exposed as Metamorphia (again) within a few pages.
    • Another cover shows Knuckles and Shortfuse charging into battle with each other. The actual "fight" consists of two blows and the misunderstanding that led to it is quickly cleared up. (As this was a one-shot, there wasn't much time for anything else.)
      • Both the cover and teaser to Issue 178 proclaim "KNUCKLES VS. CHAOS!!!" With Knuckles and Chaos squaring off. In the actual issue Knuckles jumps to fight Chaos but is instantly crippled by Chaos's fear ability and is left like that for the rest of the issue.
  • Dave Dorman's cover for the comic adaptation of Tim Burton's Batman Returns shows Batman running toward the viewer as the Batmobile explodes in flames behind him; the Batmobile does not explode in either this adaptation or the movie itself. (Then again, Dorman is fond of painting fire and explosions and always tries to work them into all of his comic-book covers.) Also, the Batman on the cover looks about ten years younger than Michael Keaton.
  • A terrible habit Marvel is getting into these days is releasing variant covers for their comics to promote films. For example, around the time of the movie, many comics started getting variant covers with The Mighty Thor or his supporting cast doing something completely unrelated to the issue.
    • Made funnier (and more obvious) with any covers involving Loki, since he's about 10–13 years old physically (it's Depending on the Artist) right now. You see a grown-up Tom Hiddleson Loki? It has nothing to do with the story.
  • Lampshaded with the cover to Star Brand #12. The cover has the X-Men, but the bottom left-hand corner has a caption saying The X-Men in the New Universe? Not bloody likely!
  • The covers to Batman and Robin 23-25 all show Jason Todd in the Red Hood costume he wore during Grant Morrison's run. The problem however is that Jason never wears it, in fact he dons a new costume at the end of the second issue. Which makes the third cover seem like a Take That in hindsight.
  • Splash panels (at least one panel that serves as the introduction to the story) also somewhat fall into this trope. Let's treat the first Legion of Super-Heroes story like the On Her Majesty's Secret Service example below. The premise is Superboy going into a contest with the charter members of the club, losing to them as part of an initiation. Anyway, he does go up against Saturn Girl, and he surely competed with Cosmic Boy, and he absolutely faces off against Lightning Lad. However, they do not all happen at the same time.
  • The cover [dead link] of Invincible #50 is very dramatic: looks like Invincible has gone berserk and is about to kill his boss Cecil. While there is a scene inside the comic that somewhat resembles the cover picture, the context is something quite different than what the cover implies. (For starters, the blood on Invincible's body isn't Cecil's, it's his own.)
    • Seems to be done intentional throughout the run. Two covers in a row feature Atom Eve's arm, limp and bloody, followed by a cover showing a funeral with Atom Eve conspicuously absent. Guess who doesn't die. Also, the penultimate issue of the Viltrumite War features the Viltrumites approaching Earth, getting the reader ready for a big, final battle. There's no battle at all in the issue. Robert Kirkman even notes in the sketchbook section that he likes building reader expectations up only to defy them.
  • One of the tie-in comics to Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes has a cover with Iron Man, Captain America (comics), The Mighty Thor, Giant-Man, and The Wasp lying unconscious at the feet of the Masters of Evil. The actual plot of that comic involves the Avengers fighting a giant robot, resorting at one point to teaming up with the Masters of Evil.
  • Fans of comic book bondage refer to these as "'gotcha' covers" because they display a woman Bound and Gagged or in some other type of peril that doesn't appear in the comic itself.
  • Sometimes covers for "big" story lines tend to exaggerate just how many people are involved. Such as in the book "Batman: Battle for the Cowl", it showed characters such as Batwoman on the cover even though she was neither seen or mentioned at all in the storyline.
  • Marvel's Omnibus line usually has this going on through variant covers. Originally the cover is simply the cover to one of the issues inside (usually one of the more important ones), with the variant cover being a reinterpretation of that cover by a modern artist (often they were photorealistic renderings from Alex Ross). One could imagine an unwitting buyer getting a book that looks like this, only to open it up and be disappointed by art that, well... looks fifty years old. However this wasn't really common because these variants were sold through the direct market to fans who knew what they were getting. Recently though the policy has reversed itself, with the primary cover being a modern reworking and the rarer variant being the original art. A notable example is The Mighty Thor, which had the main cover drawn by Olivier Coipel. Coipel is a fine artist but the problem is it depicts Thor in his modern costume rather than his traditional one (and the one he wears in the stories). The fans do not appreciate this.
  • Cerebus did a parody of this phenomenon by introducing a character named Wolveroach, an obvious spoof of Wolverine. Wolveroach showed up on three consecutive covers of Cerebus, in various badass action poses...while inside the comic itself, he spent all three issues in a coma. After he woke up, he stopped appearing on the covers.
  • A common trick in superhero comics is for the cover to feature the villain(s) standing on top of the hero's dead or unconscious body. This rarely happens within the book itself, or if it does, the hero recovers and beats the villain down anyway.
    • This was parodied in a recent Justice League of America cover, which shows a group of weak villains standing atop the corpses of the entire League. One of them looks directly at the reader and says "We don't really beat them...but it's a heck of a cover, isn't it?"
  • The bookend issues of IDW's Infestation and Infestation 2 crossthroughs involve solely the cast of Covert Vampiric Operations making first contact with and finishing off the multiversal threats at hand. The covers for those (such as the one for Infestation #1, pictured on the page for Mega Crossover[3]) depict the licensed series involved in the events as primary and the CVO characters as secondary at best. The catch is, the former's presence in the bookend issues can be summed up to "foreshadowing/flashback cameos". They don't even interact.
    • Bonus lying point: Infestation #1 shows Snake-Eyes... who is completely absent from the G.I. Joe portions of Infestation. (it's a Cobra Villain Episode, if you're wondering. Oh, and he does appear in Infestation 2.)
  • Deadpool vol. 1, #26
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #9's cover shows Red Robin facing off against a Talon. He appears in one panel.
  • The cover of Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies depicts Holmes as a zombie smoking his pipe. He is never turned into a zombie at any point in the comic. Also he is shown in his stereotypical deerstalker hat, which he never wears in the story at any point.

Films -- Animated

  • The child-friendly cover of the animated Watership Down. (The original cover showed a silhouetted rabbit screaming in pain. it was fitingly used when the film got a release from The Criterion Collection)
  • The Secret of NIMH two-disc DVD set, aka the "Fox Family Fun Edition". Nobody, not even Don Bluth himself, has the slightest idea why MGM decided not to use either a variation of the many and very awesome posters [dead link] or at least the original VHS art in favor of something that will make your eyes bleed and practically screams What Do You Mean It's Not for Kids?. (Bonus They Just Didn't Care points for the hilariously inaccurate plot summary. Thankfully, the 2-disc DVD itself rocks, with an amazing commentary from Don Bluth and an excellent remastering of the film.) A few side notes on this cover:
    • The original single-disc DVD of the film, released back in 1998, used the VHS art for the cover. The rerelease of the single-disc DVD used the horribly drawn cover art linked above, which gives you the real problem a lot of people had with the two-disc set's packaging: it used that exact same cover art with just a couple of cosmetic changes to indicate it was a different release.
    • Given the art style of the sequel film's DVD and VHS cover, it's a safe bet that the redesigned NIMH cover's art was done in an attempt to match the art used for the NIMH II cover.
    • Don Bluth was reportedly not happy with the studio's decision to label the two-disc set the "Fox Family Fun Edition" instead of giving it a more appropriate, say, "25th Anniversary Edition".
  • Another Don Bluth example would be the cover of the DVD release for An American Tail, as it features the Fievel Goes West version of Tanya. This may also be a borderline Fanservice Cover because, well...Tanya gets a lot hotter in the sequel.
  • The video cover to Tom and Jerry: The Movie, depicts Tom chasing Jerry as he usually does (which they barely actually do in the movie) with Droopy in the background and none of the movie's Spotlight-Stealing Squad anywhere in sight, looks like it could be the cover to any Tom and Jerry video.
    • Although the poster showed the evil fat lady storming in the background.
  • The cover of the American DVD of Help! I'm a Fish not only calls it A Fish Tale, it also shows really bad 3D renderings of a few of the characters, (WARNING! The linked image may cause your eyes to bleed!) making it look like a crappy Finding Nemo or Shark Tale rip-off when it's actually a decent, Don Bluth-esque, mostly 2D film.
    • Even weirder, the American cover flatly says "Alan Rickman" above the title (the original cover said "Featuring the voices of Alan Rickman and Terry Jones"), making Rickman seem like the lead role. To make matters worse, Rickman's character isn't even shown on the U.S. cover!
  • This poster for Beauty and the Beast. Belle's blouse is colored pink for no reason, the castle in the background looks absolutely nothing like the one in the film, and the Beast's placement on the cover makes him look like the villain (he's actually the hero).
  • The cover for Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame makes what is widely considered one of the darkest films in the Disney Animated Canon seem like a light-hearted, family-freindly romp. It's not.
  • The second Beano video, Beano Videostars, included Roger the Dodger on the original VHS cover, even though he's not on the actual video. Possibly because his checkered jersey made him too hard to animate.
  • Turtles Forever: the original poster has Tokka and Rahzar, who turn out to be Advertised Extras.
  • The Brave Little Toaster was marketed as much less scary than it actually was. This goes so far that the screencaps on the back of the VHS/DVD are not even from the film. One of them even showed Toaster high-fiving the Master! (In the film, the fact that they were alive was always kept a secret). The artwork on the back depicts the oh-so-serious waterfall scene, except that the title character has a goofy smile on his face! Oddly enough, the original poster showed three screencaps from the film, two from the Nightmare Sequence and one from the dark forest scene.
  • Most of the promotional media for Toy Story 3 portray Lotso Bear as at worst a Jerkass, while in the actual film, he's actually one of Disney's most evil villains, and without a doubt the second worst Pixar villain ever.
    • This is legitimate though, as that is something of a late revelation. It's the same principle as not putting the twist on the front of the Fight Club DVD.
  • Another Pixar example would be the poster for Cars 2, which had Lightning McQueen in the center. In the actual film, the real hero is Mater.
  • While the cardboard diorama packaged with the DVD of The Thief and the Cobbler has the eponymous cobbler sharing a Magic Carpet ride with the princess, the two of them never do so in the movie.
  • On the DVD cover of A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Lucy clutches Charlie Brown's arm and stares up at him adoringly. Never mind that her horribly cruel tormenting of him is pretty much the whole point of the movie, and that she literally isn't nice to him for a second...
  • The 50th Anniversary poster for Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs had Snow White wearing a pink dress. In the actual movie, Snow White wore a dress with a dark blue bodice with a vertical yellow stripe down the middle, a white collar, lighter blue sleeves with red stripes on them, and a yellow skirt.
  • The 1-disc for Atlantis the Lost Empire for some reason showed a woman wearing a dress (her left arm is covered by a sleeve). In the actual movie, she wore an outfit that was very revealing throughout most of the film, and she only wore a dress at the end.
  • The poster for Beavis and Butthead Do America shows them riding motorcycles. Which they don't even come close to doing in the movie.

Films -- Live-Action

  • The poster and tagline of Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale completely lies about the plot, making the movie seem like an outright war between De Niro's and Chazz Palminteri's characters (an ordinary father and a local crime boss, respectively) over the life of the former's son, who is apparently getting caught up in the latter's evil crime syndicate. Their rivalry is barely noticeable, and they spent a mere two scenes together. The crime boss isn't a bad guy either: the movie is actually a Coming of Age Story, and he functions as the son's mentor, repeatedly advising him not to follow him in his criminal lifestyle and making sure he doesn't get himself into trouble. Also, at no point in the movie does the son have to run away from a huge explosion.
  • Both Sleepaway Camp 2 & 3 feature hot, psycho chicks on the cover who are not Pamela Springsteen.
  • A lesser example: American Psycho's uncut edition has a blurb on the back cover that states that Patrick Bateman rapes his female victims too. Yet not once is it shown or implied in the film that he actually rapes anybody. His was probably done as a ploy to get fans who hadn't seen the uncut edition to buy the DVD.
  • The reprint of The Last House On The Left (1972) makes the cover look so modern that it is easily mistaken for the 2009 remake of the film; it also doesn't appear to use the original actress on the cover. Only in tiny-text does it say on the bottom of the box that it is the 1972 version of the film. Arguably it says that it is written and directed by Wes Craven on the front, which the remake was not.
  • The Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs is a subtle thriller with four male leads, but all the female leads are as window dressing. Unfortunately for the international poster, a random chick with a gun who never appears in the movie was added for titillation. The poster looks a campy Bond knockoff instead of a cop movie.
  • John Woo's masterpiece A Better Tomorrow suffers a bit of this. The original movie poster emphasized Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung, and Chow Yun Fat equally. (The first irony is Leslie Cheung, extremely popular idol at the time, was supposed to be the main character. Chow Yun Fat, who was "box-office poison", stole the show) The American covers ONLY have Chow Yun Fat's image and name. (The second irony is Ti Lung won Hong Kong's prestigious Golden Horse award for Best Actor, when Chow Yun Fat was expected to take it)
  • The cover of (at least some versions of) the final Marx Brothers film, Love Happy, features Groucho Marx and Marilyn Monroe. Groucho appears in the film mostly as a narrator, not joining the action properly until the ending, and Marilyn Monroe has about forty seconds of screen time.
    • This is quite common with any film that Marilyn Monroe has any amount of screentime in.
  • The video for The Third Man has Orson Welles alone on the cover, even though he doesn't appear until the last act. Joseph Cotten is the actual star.
    • In fact, this is rather a spoiler, since for the first hour of the film, Welles's character is supposedly dead, and his initial appearance is treated as a splendid revelation. In fact, the fact that it's even Welles isn't particularly trumpeted, so the cover really does the moment a disservice.
  • The DVD cover of Mousehunt is far more cutesy and colorful than the movie itself, which is more of a dark comedy for all ages.
  • The poster for Reign of Fire has dragon's fighting Apache Gunship's over a London set ablaze! The actual film sums up the war is a newspaper cutting montage. Oops.
  • Several DVD covers of the martial arts film 36 Crazy Fists show Jackie Chan, either as the main focus or on his own. Jackie Chan directed the movie, but only makes a cameo appearance it.
  • The drama Lawn Dogs has a misleading cover in the US release. The movie is about the pathos-laden friendship between a 10-year-old girl and a 21-year-old lower-class man. Not that the cover would tell you that, as it shows that same man, shirtless, with a woman looking at him and smiling. The woman plays a very minor role in the actual story, as a love interest for the man. The blurb on the back is misleading as well.
  • Some proposed film posters for the first Star Wars film and Donnie Darko would have done this. Studio Executives toyed with presenting Star Wars as a wacky comedy or for sombre Science Fiction in the same vein of 2001. For Donnie Darko, many of the posters presented the film as a bittersweet nostalgic comedy drama. In the end, the studios promoted the movie as more or less a horror film.
  • In a famous Star Wars poster, Mark Hamill/Luke shows muscles he hasn't got, and Carrie Fisher/Leia is clothed in a sexy dress she never wears in the film.
    • Anyone else getting major He-Man vibes from Luke?
    • Not to mention the positioning of the characters heavily implies that the two are lovers....
      • Not that the revelation of them beings twins was likely in the cards at that point. It's just one of the original trilogy's Retcon instances.
    • Also, it shows him triumphantly raising a lightsaber even though he never really uses one in A New Hope outside of a brief training scene.
  • The back cover of the VHS tape for The Shawshank Redemption features an embrace between Mrs. Dufresne and her lover... two characters who are out of the picture within the film's first five minutes.
  • The recent DVD re-release of the '60s Batman movie is notable for its dark and gritty style cover (looking like the logo for the Tim Burton film, which may have been the point), which given the film's content is completely misleading.
    • A number of companies that own the rights to old cartoon versions of popular properties do this. They'll release the older material (often almost completely unrelated to the currently popular work) on DVD with a cover styled very much like the popular work, hoping to snag unwary buyers. (Compare The Mockbuster.)
      • For example, a DVD collection of the 1940s Batman serial (which at least is not nearly as silly or campy as the 60s version) has a cover that makes it look much more like something from the modern day Nolan films.
  • Original promotional posters for Night of the Lepus featured disembodied eyes menacing the main characters and the tag-line "How may eyes does terror have? How many times will terror strike?". Neither of which would indicate that it's actually a movie about giant killer rabbits, which the studio was understandably reluctant to advertise. The DVD still uses the original poster and tag-line for the front cover, although the blurb on the back plays up the premise up for camp value.
  • The cover art for the film Man's Best Friend features a Terminator-like dog with glowing red eyes while the actual dog in the film is not robotic in any way. He is, however, spliced with the genes of several different animals—giving him their abilities.
  • The cover art for the 1980 made-for-TV special The Return of the King depicts that version of Frodo and Sam with dwarves surrounding them, an evil wizard in a tower, supposedly Saruman, and a dragon in the background. In actuality, none of those characters are in it.
  • The first Western live action Guyver movie, inexplicably renamed "Mutronics" in the UK, featured Mark Hamill in a small, but important, role at the beginning of the movie. Looking at the poster, you'd think he was the lead.
  • It seems that Warner Home Video is trying to pull this type of trick with the cover of the 25th anniversary deluxe edition DVD for the Sesame Street movie Follow That Bird by putting in Elmo among the other characters on the side of the cover, implying that he is a major character in the film, while Elmo's actual role in the movie is merely a silent cameo in the ending sequence (although he was intended to get a featurette for himself on the DVD, making this somewhat Justified Trope).
  • The DVD of The Island features Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson running from a mongumbo fireball, yet, much to the film's credit, not a single pyrotechnic is featured in the film, despite the many vehicle chases that end in collision.
  • The DVD cover for the UK release of the Jackie Chan movie The Accidental Spy features Jackie with three other people, none of whom are in the film. Of the three scenes depicted on the back, one doesn't appear in the film. Also, the credits on the DVD cover are different to the opening credits of the movie.
  • The cover for the DVD and the VHS for the 1993 vampire movie Cronos (directed by Guillermo del Toro) features the Cronos device - a kind of mechanical beetle - on the breast of an apparently nude blonde woman. The device appears in the movie. The woman does not. Interestingly, the VHS cover was made considerably before the DVD cover, but although they are two different covers they depict the precise same irrelevant subject - only the posture is slightly different. Given that the movie probably won't be enjoyable to people sucked in by the 'sexay' cover, it's an odd creative decision.
  • Sky High's main poster [dead link] makes it seem like Will's father is the main character, Gwen is Will's kickass girlfriend, Layla is that random chick in the background, and Warren is the bad guy. Every single part of that is wrong.
    • Granted, everything except Will's dad being the main character starts out being true.
  • The poster for The Final Sacrifice (spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000) features a mean looking kid holding a giant sword. Neither the kid nor the sword appears in the film.
  • The Plague Dogs. The poster says "Escape to a different world and share the adventure of a lifetime." They honestly make it look like a happy children's movie. Movie Magic indeed.
  • The poster of Forbidden Planet shows Robby carrying an unconscious Alta. This never happens in the film.
  • James Bond posters in general feature a plethora of stuff from the film assembled into one poster. But just for fun, let's look at the poster for On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bond wears a tux at some point. Bond and Tracy ski at some point. Piz Gloria explodes at the end when it's attacked by helicopters, and Blofeld does bobsleigh, and yes, his men do ski after Bond and Tracy. However, they do not all happen at the same time. [dead link] Rule of Cool does enter into it, though.
  • At least one North American DVD cover for Brassed Off presents it as a fluffy romantic comedy between Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald's characters, omitting both the rather bleak plot about the economic collapse of a mining community and the main character played by Pete Postlethwaite.
    • And the VHS cover's synopsis claims that the film is about ex-lovers who turn a town upside down when get back together, which is not at all what the film is about. Miramax just didn't care.
  • The DVD cover for Looney Tunes: Back in Action is odd for a number of reasons. First of all, Tweety appears on it, although (unless you count the scene where Tweety is actually Taz in disguise), Tweety only appears in one scene and has no relevance to the plot whatsoever. (This might be justified in that, originally, he was supposed to take part in the story.) Even worse, the Road Runner also appears on it, although he barely appears in the film for more than a cameo that consists of running past the screen (twice). Yosemite Sam appears on the cover wearing his traditional cowboy outfit, whereas in the film he wears a black tuxedo. On the theatrical poster, Taz is biting the Chairman's leg, while in the film, Taz is working for the Chairman and never comes close to turning on him. Also note that Elmer Fudd doesn't appear on the DVD cover or in any of the films promotional images, for that matter, even though his chase scene through the Louvre with Bugs and Daffy is probably the best scene in the movie.
  • 9 Dead Gay Guys features nine photos on its back cover. Judging by the title, you would assume that these nine people are the people who are going to die. In reality, several of the people listed on the back cover survive the entire film.
  • Pick a cover, any cover, of the DVD for Chocolat and you'll see Johnny Depp sharing the same amount of space with the lead character, despite the fact that his character is largely absent from the majority of the film. This can mislead any first time viewer really, as inevitably the question, "So when the hell is Depp showing up?" will be asked within the first half hour.
  • The Italian DVD cover of the first X-Men film says that Wolverine has "capacità taumaturgiche" ("thaumaturgic powers"): someone may think he can do miracles or, at least, heal other people - but he can only heal himself![4]
  • The movie District 9, in which aliens come to Earth and are soon living listlessly, harmlessly in slums, features an alien battle suit which the aliens sold to humans for cat food, and is worn by the human protagonist during the climax. Two separate Thai posters for the film feature the battle suit prominently - one showing an invading army wearing the suits, another showing what appears to be a building-sized version of the suit. Clearly the film is being marketed in Thailand as an alien invasion flick.
  • The DVD cover for the Mike Judge movie Office Space features Jennifer Aniston on all 3 pictures on the back and even the spine, despite the fact she's only on screen for barely 1/4 of the movie.
  • The back of the DVD cover for Tootsie features an image of Dustin Hoffman's character, Michael, kissing his coworker Julie while in full Dorothy Michaels regalia, despite the fact that the two never kiss at any time while he is dressed as a woman.
  • The Wishmaster DVD cover suggests the villain is a vampire; he's actually a genie.
  • Klay World: Off The Table. The DVD cover makes it look like one of those cheap, direct-to-video family movies. Although it IS cheap and direct-to-video, the language and violent (albeit cartoony) on-screen deaths proves that this ain't a kids flick. The writer/director lampshades this in one of the DVD commentaries.
  • The American Hogfather DVD case goes out of its way to obscure the central conceit of the movie (that Death is replacing the Discworld's Santa Claus for a night... for instance, his servant Albert appears on the cover, but not Death himself), and prominently features the young actors who play Bilious and Violet (who aren't really involved in the action). The whole effect is to make the whole thing seem much less dark.
    • A second edition DVD released in the States is only a marginal improvement; the new cover art focuses on Susan Sto Helit, who is more central to the plotline than Albert, with the two kids. But there's no images of Death on either the front or back of the cover.
  • The cover of a live-action adaptation of Animal Farm made the movie seem like any other nice, kid-friendly movie about talking animals. The plot summary on the back even used words like "delightful" and "charming" in its description...
  • Releases of The Lavender Hill Mob make much of the fact that Audrey Hepburn has a role in it - the blurb spends more time talking about that than it does about the plot of the film, in fact. In reality, the film was made long before Hepburn was famous, and she's in it for maybe ten seconds.
  • The poster and DVD cover of Apocalypto makes it look like Middle-Eye is the main character. He's actually The Dragon.
  • Look at this video cover for the original Little Shop of Horrors. What's wrong with this picture? Jack Nicholson's part is only about two minutes long, and the plant isn't even in that scene.
  • The posters and most promotional material for Air America depict it as a light-hearted buddy romp. The poster is basically Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr. smiling at the audience. However, this is a film set during The Vietnam War, about opium trading and corrupt generals, and it's also based on a non-fiction book.
  • The Hammer Horror version of The Mummy had a stunning poster showing a beam of light dramatically shining through a hole in the eponymous monster. No such scene is in the film (Hammer Studios probably couldn't've pulled off the effects work in 1959).
    • When Peter Cushing (who plays an Adventurer Archaeologist in the film) saw the poster he asked about that scene and was told no such scene occurred and that the light was just there to look cool. He had the director add in a scene where he stabs the mummy with a harpoon in the same spot where the light in the poster shone through, so that even though there was no scene with light shining through, the mummy at least had a hole in the same spot as in the poster.
  • When The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe hit the cinemas, the BBC rereleased their direct to TV version on DVD with ... artwork really resembling the Cinema version.
  • Look at the 2006 DVD cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, and you'll see Gordon Mcrae whisper sweet nothings into Shirley Jones's ear, as they stand near a carousel while green grass grows and colorful balloons float into the sky. Watch the actual movie, and you'll be treated to a musical about a Domestic Abuser who dies during his wife's pregnancy. Also, when they meet at that carousel, no grass is growing, no balloons float into the sky, and the sun doesn't even shine, since it's nighttime.
  • The blurb for the Farscape miniseries claims that the Peacekeepers resurrect and recruit John Crichton in order to have him use his wormhole knowledge to "get the entire Peacekeeper race to safety" from the encroaching war with the Scarrans. The first half of that sentence is disproved within the first ten minutes of the film. The second half of the sentence... well, one would be forgiven from spending the whole miniseries waiting for the war to go badly so they could get to the "real" plot, and then realizing that the climactic battle scene is just that. It sort of ruins things when you spend three-quarters of it thinking you're still in the prologue.
  • The movie about Norwegian War Hero Max Manus, a muted, tense story about the Norwegian Resistance during WW 2 and the eponymous character, had a fairly indicative poster and cover in the original release. The international cover has this picture instead, from a very brief backstory action scene. Not quite lying as much as stretching the truth a lot, though.
  • Judging by the poster for She Gods Of Shark Reef you'd think the movie was all kinds of awesome. In reality it's an hour long slog, badly shot and horribly dubbed, with nothing happening.
  • The cover for Mazes and Monsters makes it appear to be a dark fantasy story, with a picture of a labyrinth, a dark tower, and a night sky filled with bats. Turns out it's just an Anvilicious story based on the D&D scare of the early '80s. Also, the picture of Tom Hanks on the cover was taken years after the movie was made.
  • The cover of the film Slaughter in the Ring declares the star of the film to be a muscular fellow named Lee Van Dorn....except no one named Lee Van Dorn is in the movie. The cover also features a blonde woman holding a shotgun who doesn't appear in the movie, and the back cover has a picture of a funeral scene that is nowhere to be found in the film.
  • The cover of the godawful sex comedy The First Turn-On! boasts that co-star Vincent D'Onofrio (in his rather embarrassing film debut) is an Academy Award nominee. Vincent D'Onofrio has never been nominated for an Academy Award.
  • Just take a look at this hilariously misleading cover art for Troll 2. Three guesses as to whether the big beastie on the cover actually appears in the film or not and the first two don't count.
  • Feast your eyes on this DVD cover for Future War. No one resembling the African American man on the left appears at any time in the film.
  • The film poster and DVD cover for 2007's Atonement show Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, making it seem as if the film is about star-crossed lovers. The main character, however, is not featured on the cover.
  • The British DVD cover for Valhalla Rising, showing a charging viking horde, suggests a violent, Three Hundred-style action film. In reality, the film is a harrowing suspense thriller. The French version is guilty of the same thing; besides, the film was titled Le Guerrier silencieux ("The Silent Warrior") in the cinemas, on the DVD it's called Valhalla Rising: Le guerrier des ténèbres ("The Dark Warrior")--the title, of course, is written in big yellow/gold letters. Oh, and it's sold in 2-DVD boxset alongside Outlander. Some people are in for a nice, slow-paced, hypnotic, non action-packed surprise. The more loyal covers show the title character against a desolate wilderness, which is more fitting to the actual movie.
  • The Blu-Ray DVD cover for Near Dark is apparently meant to appeal to Twilight fans, who may be in for a bit of a shock.
  • DVD re-releases of Amicus's werewolf movie The Beast Must Die feature Peter Cushing holding a gun on its cover, cashing on The Hunter role in his Hammer Horror films. Cushing's character is actually one of the werewolf suspects and it's Calvin Lockhart's character who is The Hunter.
  • The cover to the movie Ancient Warriors gives the impression that it is a supernatural/horror film. The back cover furthers this by describing the movie as a group of soldiers trapped in an abandoned mine being chased by the ghosts of long dead warriors. In fact, the eponymous warriors get at most five minutes of screen time, and they're technically not even the bad guys.
  • It's really quite minor, but the wedding dress Rachel is wearing on the cover of Imagine Me and You looks nothing like the wedding dress she actually wears in the movie. The hairdo is the same, but the dress is wrong.
  • The cover for the teen comedy Saved! makes it look like that Mandy Moore is the star of the movie while Jena Malone is a lowly supporting character designed for background space. In actuality, Malone is the star of the movie while Moore is the film's antagonist.
    • YMMV - Moore's character's hypocrisy is central to the film, and the school sees her as the hero. This is hammered home by the drawn-in halo over Moore and horns over Malone
  • The DVD cover (and some posters) for Evita show Che and Eva singing together during their dance. However, Che and Eva's dance is only an imaginary sequence, and being the All-Knowing Singing Narrator, Che never really interacts with Eva outside of that scene.
  • The international poster for The Green Hornet makes it look as though Kato is Green Hornet. The actual hero of the film is a Floating Head Syndrome off to the side.
  • On the Air Buddies poster, B-Dawg is seen wearing sunglasses. However, he does not wear them at all in the live-action movies.
  • Disaster Movie's DVD case claims the protagonists are three half-dressed women, who in the film, are a one-off joke character, a flat character who dies quickly, and a character dressed as she only appears once in the movie. The actual protagonist isn't pictured, although his actor plays many of the characters on the cover.
  • One slightly infamous poster from an overseas release of Return of the Jedi depicts Darth Vader's head exploding in a shower of machinery. Apparently, all he knew about the film was that Darth Vader was going to die, and naturally he assumed that it would be "spectacular", and the best way to appropriately convey how spectacular it would be was, obviously, to make his head explode.
  • The Village, in keeping with its general marketing as a horror film, got slapped with a DVD cover that made it look like something R-rated, [dead link] even going so far as a blurb that calls it "the scariest movie of the year." In reality, though there are some slightly frightening moments, it's an introspective drama about the nature of evil and the problems inherent in an attempted utopia.
  • The Forbidden Kingdom features a poster and dvd cover with the names and images of the two biggest stars and no one else, not even the protagonist's.
  • The promotional poster for the Adam Sandler film, Mr. Deeds, shows an elderly butler in the background. He never appears in the film, as the butler is portrayed by John Turturro. (Later versions of the poster Photoshopped in Turturro's head.)
  • This poster for the 1994 film Camp Nowhere seems to make the movie out to be the second coming of Animal House. In fact, the movie was a kids' movie and NOTHING like Animal House, but you wouldn't know it by looking at that poster. (Try to imagine what a wacky tween version of Accepted would be like and you pretty much have Camp Nowhere.)
  • The cover of Pan's Labyrinth makes sure that whoever is buying it will think that the movie is an epic fantasy that's just like The Lord of the Rings. Nowhere is it mentioned that the movie is in Spanish and you'll be reading subtitles for the whole movie, nor the little fact that it's extremely gruesome, depressing, and not for kids. It's like the Animation Age Ghetto applied to Fantasy movies.
  • A lot of the posters and covers for Memento make it look as though Leonard and Natalie are a couple. Actually, he kills her boyfriend.
  • The cover of the Tremors "Attack Pack" (all four films plus extras) depicts a gigantic monster's mouth rising from under the ground, with facial tendrils and More Teeth Than the Osmond Family. Only the Graboids' tongue-pincers (which are about the size of human hands) have tendrils like that, and none of their life-cycle stages have teeth, just sharp-edged mandibular beaks.
  • The box cover of Dracula 3000, coupled with the Recycled in Space-premise, leads you to believe that the movie's vampires are some sort of ancient alien evil; it's a guy in what looks to be a very cheap halloween costume.
  • The cover of 12 Monkeys (You can see it on the movie page), gives one of the characters a glowing red eye, making him look like a cyborg at first glance. It's actually the symbol of the 12 monkeys; said symbol never glows nor is in an eye, and there are no cyborgs in the movie.
  • A fairly minor example, but still valid: several posters and DVD covers of Pitch Black have Vin Diesel About To Shoot You. Not only does he not wield a handgun at any point in the film, Riddick isn't even a gun enthusiast, but a Knife Nut.
  • Posters for Operation Dumbo Drop featured an African elephant painted in camouflage colors. The film is about the delivery of an Asian elephant to a Vietnamese village.
  • The poster and video cover for All I Want for Christmas depict the brother and sister leads with a tied up Santa and a really long Christmas list, giving the impression that the story is about them kidnapping Santa and demanding lots of stuff. Santa only has a few minutes of screentime, at no point do the kids kidnap him, and the kids' only Christmas wish is for their parents to get back together.
  • Video/DVD covers of the Italian James Bond ripoff Espionage In Tangiers claim that George Lazenby is in the film, sometimes even giving him top billing. This film was released four years before Lazenby made his acting debut in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and never actually appears. (One possible explanation for this goof is that one of the actors in the film does indeed look like a young Lazenby - but it's not him.)
  • The DVD cover of some editions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer feature Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry at the ready for battle in an ominously dark, foggy cemetery - coupled with a logo that's somewhat similar to that of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, it makes it appear much less campy and comedic than it really is, and also makes it look like some sort of offshoot of the show. At least the cover doesn't obscure the fact that it doesn't feature Sarah Michelle Gellar or any other actors from the later TV series.
  • All of the marketing for Scary Movie 3 makes it look like Denise Richards has a prominent role in the film as a love interest to Charlie Sheen (they were married at the time) or playing a role similar to Carmen Electra's. She has a grand total of one scene in the movie (in a flashback parodying a scene from Signs) and adds no importance to the film.
  • The cover to Red Riding Hood mentions Gary Oldman on top billing next to Amanda Seyfried (who's on the cover), and next to the two hearthrobs of the movie, with no figure of Oldman at all on the cover.
  • The video cover to the B-movie Street Asylum features G. Gordon Liddy as a cyborg, when he actually turns out to be an S&M obsessed, facist human politician.
  • The DVD covers issued for the Korean horror movies The Wig and Voice are given bad direct to video horror covers, with a disturbing picture of a bloody hand reaching out from a stiched-up shaved head, and a bloody hand coming out of some woman's mouth, respectably. Both are advertised as unrated, even though both movies could probably just as easily get an R-rating as most. The cover to Voice is perhaps the most unreliable one ever seen, as it's unrelated to the movie's plot; the movie is a weird ghost/killer movie with some blood and gore, but no hands coming out of people's mouths. Likewise, there is also no hand coming out of anybody's stitched-up head in Wig, just a killer hair piece.
  • The cover of the 1985 movie The Journey of Natty Gann might make the viewer think that John Cusack was one half of an established pairing, or at least in most of the movie. The viewer would be wrong on both counts. Not only does his presence not contribute all that much to the story, but said presence is all of twenty minutes.
  • The American release of the Australian film Cosi depicts it as being a Muriel's Wedding-type comedy with Toni Collette as the star. The film is actually a bit darker than that (it's set in a mental institution and Collette plays a recovering drug addict mistakenly placed in one) and Collette is the third-billed actor in the film (Ben Mendelsohn and Barry Otto are the stars, a writer and director who are staging a talent show that becomes "Cosi Fan Tutte").
  • After Casino Royale came out, Daniel Craig's earlier film Layer Cake was given a new DVD release. Instead of the original cover, which showed a group photo of some of the film's ensemble cast, the new cover shows Craig in a very James Bond-style pose holding a Luger pistol. He does carry that pistol in the film...for exactly one scene. And he does pose like a gag (and, again, only in that one scene). The cover also features an example of Billing Displacement: Sienna Miller is the only other cast member now deemed worthy to appear alongside Craig. In the film, she has a very minor role (which was reflected in the credits: she was listed third from the last in the opening titles). But she had become more famous since the film's original release due to her role in the remake of Alfie, so there she is.
  • The only actor depicted on the DVD cover of Camp Hell is Jesse Eisenberg, in gigantic floating head form. He's also the only one whose name appears on the cover. In reality, he has a cameo that lasts for only a few minutes, and the real leads are Andrew McCarthy and Dana Delany. Eisenberg is actually suing Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment for the misleading marketing.
  • The 90's indie film Spank The Monkey has a cover depicting the typical twenty-something slacker known to star in this sort of movie, making it seem to be a Sex Comedy in the vein of Clerks, possibly about having A Date with Rosie Palms. In reality, it is a Dark Comedy about Parental Incest.
  • The poster of Gremlins 2: The New Batch makes it look a lot darker than it is; in reality it's a much more slapsticky movie than the first one. The DVD cover is more straightforward about this.
  • The old, pre-Imperial Edition unrated DVD of Caligula claims it to be a straight-up Roman epic in the vein of Gladiator. Of course, the cover makes ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION that the film is hardcore pornography with, in places, unsimulated penetration. Not to mention actual urination and extreme violence, among other things.
  • The cover for The Help looks like some kind of awkward romantic comedy. It certainly does not suggest a serious period drama about a young woman secretly discovering what life is like for black maids in the 1960's and trying to expose the truth whilst avoiding persecution by her racist peers.
  • Posters for The Cave give the impression that the caving team is attacked at one point by a massive waterdwelling fish monster. While there are in fact monsters that do travel through water as well (they can, among others things, even fly), they're all human-sized.
  • The DVD cover to Stand and Deliver showed what many people thought that Lou Diamond Phillips was the main character, but in reality it was Edward James Olmos.
  • The posters for both Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us show the Gill-Man rampaging in a city, which doesn't happen in either film.
  • The cover of the American release of Cotton Mary shows a scantily-clad young woman kissing a man, suggesting an incipient sex scene. In reality, the film is about a much older woman who goes crazy in a horrible and very unsexy way, and who actually interrupts the one brief sex scene before it gets very far.


  • Genre fiction is and has always been prone to this. Not only do genre writers usually not have right of cover approval (and we're not talking about obscure writers, either - we're talking about people like Isaac Asimov), they often don't even get to see the cover until the design is finalized, and sometimes not until the book is published. Asimov couldn't even stop one publisher from repeatedly misspelling his name.
    • Agatha Christie managed to subvert this, at least during her lifetime. She was extremely displeased with the badly rendered and misleading cover for The Man in the Brown Suit, and so she made a deal with her publisher that gave her final approval on the cover art. Subsequent publishings and re-issues, however, may not be exempt from this trope.
  • The Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold is subject to this. Many feature a tall, handsome man. The main character is very short, with visible scarring on his face and noticeable bone deformities.
  • Several of the later books in the Goosebumps series.
  • The back-of-book blurb for Empire is so misleading it's tempting to call it false advertisement.
  • The first book of The Squire's Tales (hardback original editions) by Gerald Morris featured a knight, fully-armored, riding a horse backwards and carrying a lance with a banana impaled on it. Needless to say, this was not in the book. When the author complained about the artwork, the second book cover was based on a particular scene in the book, but it was terrible.
  • This sort of thing is utterly rampant in Speculative Fiction, covers often having almost nothing to do with the contents of the story. This is most mystifying when the author has experience as a comic-book illustrator.
    • One example that sticks out is the illustration for The Caravan from Troon in the August 2001 issue of Asimov's magazine, which depicts a scene from the middle of the high-fantasy story involving a wagon train being attacked by blowgun-wielding hang gliders in a mountain pass with perfect accuracy... except that the illustration shows it as a string of humvee-looking things being attacked by rocket powered hang gliders using mounted lasers in a lunar-looking lifeless landscape!
    • This became a sort of tradition for the Ender Wiggin series.
    • The movie-tie-in edition of I, Robot even includes the film's tagline, "One man saw it coming", even though it had nothing to do with any of the book's stories' plots, and Will Smith's character isn't in the book at all.
    • This phenomenon is touched on in "Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials", a book that very faithfully illustrates numerous aliens from science fiction novels. In one of the introductions, Robert Silverberg tells how sci-fi magazine illustrations very rarely synched with the contents of the stories they accompanied. He found out why after he became published: illustrators are often given extremely brief descriptions, like "Humanoid alien is being threatened by robot", with no indication of how the story describes the robot or the alien or even if there actually is an alien being menaced by a robot.
    • This was done in the past for realistic fiction as well - old Fifties Faulkner paperbacks make them seem like cheap porn novels.
  • Speaking of Robert Silverberg, his novel Dying Inside was a victim of this. It is an interesting, thoughtful story about a lifelong underachiever whose sole talent, telepathy, is fading away. The cover of one edition featured a monster that appears nowhere in the novel. This hurt its sales, as the novel had an intellectual bent, with a potential readership that was not interested in a monster story. On the other hand, someone looking for a monster story would probably be bored with it.
  • The traditional (and much beloved by fans) Discworld covers by Josh Kirby, a famous and well respected cover artist for SF and Fantasy works. Kirby would paint what he wanted to, based loosely on descriptions given in the books, such that the cover gives an accurate depiction of the events of the story, with even relatively minor details recognisable once the book is read, but the characters depicted are highly stylised based on their descriptions, for example, a character in the first book who wears glasses is described as having "four eyes", and Kirby's depiction of him literally has four eyes.
    • Kirby does stick to plot events for the cover: he just happens to depict all of them happening simultaneously with all of the main characters standing within feet of each other.
    • American covers for Discworld books are incredibly bad at this, such as with Night Watch. The British version has a parody of the painting, "The Night Watch" featuring Discworld characters, whereas the American version features someone stepping through a mirror. There are no mirrors anywhere in the book, never mind stepping through one.
    • The most Egregious example is the cover of The Light Fantastic. In said book, there's a character (Herenna the Henna-Haired Harridan) who has a long, involved description of how she'd be described in a normal fantasy book, but is actually dressed in sensible chainmail. On the cover, however...
    • Paul Kidby's illustrations are generally far more accurate to the text. Compare Kirby's Granny Weatherwax to Kidby's, for example; Kirby's version is a traditional hooked-nose-and-warts witch, while the description of Granny Weatherwax largely involves saying that she looks nothing like that.
    • Rincewind is also invariably drawn as the stereotypical elderly wizard. While his age is never given in the books, it's implied that he's rather young.
  • The covers of the second major print run for The Dresden Files novels portray Harry Dresden, wizard but in all appearances private detective, wearing what appears to be a cowboy hat. He looks like a young Clint Eastwood with a magic staff. He gets enough grief for the duster he wears; which at least is magical protection.
    • It should be noted that the staff on the cover has Japanese writing on it, no less. The "runes" on the staff as seen on the cover is the word "Matrix" in katakana. Why Matrix? Good question.
    • It's become a bit of an in-joke within the series itself. Dresden will occasionally comment in the books that he either should get a hat, or that he'd never wear a hat.
  • The Three Investigators series of children's mystery novels does this from time to time. One example is "The Case of the Invisible Dog", the cover of which shows the investigators cornered by a large transparent feral dog. The invisible dog in the story? A small glass statue, which they are hired to find.
    • Similar things can happen in the cover art of another kid-lit mystery series, the Cam Jason Mysteries. On the cover of The Mystery of the Dinosaur Bones, we see the skeleton of a menacing giant Tyrannosaurus-like dinosaur turning its head at Cam and her best friend/assistant, who are naturally terrified that this fierce dead animal is staring right at them. The actual mystery in the book has less to do with malevolent undead dinosaurs and more to do with some thieves stealing a few of the vertebrae from a near-complete fossil of a Ceolophysis (Cam gets involved when her class goes to view this fossil on a field trip), hoping to sell them back to the museum curators. Woop-dee-do.
  • Earlier editions of Harry Potter had a youngish wizard with a short brown beard and a purple robe on the back cover, possibly Professor Quirrel. Later editions replaced him with someone who was clearly Dumbledore.
    • As well as this, the cover art depicted Harry as someone who looked a lot older than the eleven year old he was during the events of Philosopher's Stone. The illustrator Thomas Taylor originally intended Harry to be fully facing the train, hiding his face from view so as to let the reader imagine what he looks like. The publishers insisted on a portrait, and so Taylor only had a limited amount of time to change his design. Since then he's somewhat wryly regretted the fact that one of the most famous covers in literature was the result of a single day's work.
    • We don't know what wack-ass version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the illustrator for the cover of the Italian edition read (it shows Harry playing chess with a human-sized mouse, while wearing a mouse-shaped hat), but we'd like to know what they were on and if they're willing to share.
    • The Chamber of Secrets one, from the same person, shows Harry flying on a giant book and wearing a crocodile-shaped hat.
  • The French edition of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens ("De bons presages") used to feature a small blond child looking nervously over his shoulder at a giant crocodile-dragon-thing. Which is in the book precisely nowhere. (The current cover is much more accurate.)
    • On the cover of the German edition, Crowley is depicted as some kind of ugly, green monster. Whatever happened to "Tall, Dark and Handsome" personified?
  • When the Ender books were first translated into Hebrew, the covers featured... U.S.S Enterprise.
  • The books in Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series all have a picture of a jhereg (presumably Loiosh) on the cover, and all of them have four legs and wings despite the fact that jhereg are more bat-like than dragon-like.
    • Not to mention the occasions when Vlad shows up with Loiosh, always totally clean-shaven instead of sporting his signature mustache.
  • Anne McCaffrey's PartnerShip features an astronaut walking next to a female humanoid hologram being projected from a device that floats next to him as he walks away from a spaceship, giving the impression that the Brain Ship of the novel gains the ability to project an image of herself. This never happens. The blurb on the back cover also misidentifies the main character and misses the plot entirely.
  • One copy of Casino Royale (the book) has a picture of a lady in a string dress. As in, a dress made like a String Vest.
    • Given that the current covers of Fleming's Bond books are homages to the pulp covers of old, this is hardly a surprise.
    • The current edition copy of Octopussy shows a sexy lady with 60s-style makeup and clothes, holding an AK, the obvious implication that she is Octopussy. Octopussy doesn't even have any women in it, and the eponymous character is a literal octopus the main character has befriended. (Insofar as is possible with an octopus.)
      • The full title of the book is Octopussy and The Living Daylights, which reflects that it contains both of those short stories. The character depicted on the cover is clearly the beautiful female assassin known as Trigger, whom Bond defeats in The Living Daylights.
  • One edition of Philip K. Dick's The Eye in the Sky has the best, most pulpy cover ever, featuring a man in futuristic space-clothes getting zapped by a laser. That any laser zapping happens in Now (the 50s) is neither here nor there. The blurb on the back suggests that the writer read only three pages of the book; the first, the last and a random page in the middle. It claims the Eye in the Sky will never let them go, as if the whole book is about escaping the Eye. In fact, the Eye is escaped relatively near the beginning and the whole book is an exploration of prejudice and the views people hold deep down.
  • Too Many Magicians by Randall Garrett is a clever whodunnit set an alternate Earth where low level magic exists and the technology is of approximately Victorian-era level. So why did one paperback edition [dead link] feel it necessary to have a naked woman unleashing a lightning bolt from her hand on the cover?
  • The covers of Trudi Canavan's Black Magician Trilogy are pretty awful as well. The UK versions feature the main character posing with a staff in a martial-arts esque stance, while the US versions are even worse; one of them has a flaming pegasus on the cover, for no reason whatsoever!
  • One edition of The Crying of Lot 49, despite having some really neat and appropriate cover art, completely craps the bed as far as the descriptive blurb goes. "The highly original satire about Oedipa Maas, a woman who finds herself enmeshed in a worldwide conspiracy, meets some extremely interesting characters, and attains a not inconsiderable amount of self-knowledge." The implication is of a heartwarming tale of finding oneself, and not the bizarre Post-Modern Mind Screw that the book actually is.
  • A copy of At the Mountains of Madness shows a skeletal man in a cloak. It's a very neat cover, but when you consider that it's on a story about ancient aliens...
    • Michael Whelan painted a large painting of Lovecraftian imagery, few, if any, of them literally depicting any imagery from the stories. These got used for all of Del Rey's Lovecraft's books, up until the present day. And the At the Mountains of Madness contains other stories, too. Lovecraft's work doesn't have an unvarying mood or subject matter. He wrote fairly straight fantasy and science fiction.
    • On a related note, a cropped version of Whelan's Lovecraft's Nightmare was used as the sleeve art for a Meat Loaf single, Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are, with which it had no thematic connection whatsoever. Whelan also provided much more appropriate sleeve art for the album which it appears on.
    • * At least two collections of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos short stories have covers featuring a scantily clad woman rising from a grave. Never mind that Lovecraft's stories are not only completely free of erotic content, but rarely have female characters at all, undead or otherwise. The artists could conceivably claim to be inspired by "The Thing on the Doorstep", which does feature an undead woman; but as for sexy...
  • Frank Frazetta made his fame by painting covers that were much better than the books that they.... well, covered. And often completely unrelated to the story.
  • John DeChancie's 1989 Castle Kidnapped featured on its paperback cover the primary characters, tied up and being borne away on the back of a huge blue turtle-like creature which nowhere appeared in the book. On Fidonet's old SF_LIT echo this spawned the acronym FBT, for "Friggin' Blue Turtloid".
  • The covers of Keith Laumer's Bolo series are legendary amongst its fans for never getting the image of the eponymous tanks right. In one particular book, it showed a tank being faced by what appears to be a typical Taliban or Al-Qaeda insurgent... despite the fact that the battles in the book were against beaked aliens with black and white fur.
  • Darryl Sweet's interpretations of The Wheel of Time series are known for two things: being completely inaccurate and/or completely inconsistent. The best covers never seem to portray the same people. In particular, Rand rarely ever looks the same, and you would only know it's Rand due to the fact that he's the main character. In particular the differences in size are never accounted for. Rand is quite tall being half Aiel, but is always portrayed the same height as everyone else. The worst are the covers that are completely inaccurate with the most infamous being The Great Hunt where the Trollocs are basically black people in armor. Lampshaded in The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time: the section titled Historical Portraits of Questionable Accuracy contained copies of all the book cover art.
    • The World of... manages to have its own (interior) artwork issues, hence the Fan Nickname "Big Book of Bad Art".
  • The Outlander series of novels got a lot of this, apparently. Probably the reason why the author has requested people are left off her covers—they are not your typical romance novels. Such as this early cover. Not as salacious as it might seem. (Hint—there's character development, actual research done which the author loves showing off and Rape As Trauma done well.) The graphic novel in production might stray into this a bit—from what we've seen of the artwork, wow, Claire's a stunner. Hell, everyone's really good looking. Everyone.
  • The American paperback version of Stephen King's Bag of Bones depicts a lake, which is the extent of its accuracy. The naked woman in the badly-done CG of the lake and the little shack in the distance bear no resemblance to anything in the story, and the denuded trees seem a bit unlikely considering that the part of the story set on the lakeside takes place in July.
  • This cover of Stephen King's Firestarter draws the focus to a large pair of eyes, presumably Charlie's. However, the eyes on the cover are green and it is mentioned many times throughout the book that her eyes are blue.
  • The cover of the French gamebook Le Carillon de la Mort (from the Les Messagers du Temps series) looks undeniably cool: a giant pointy-teethed dark monster coming out is pulling out a very long slimy tongue and is grasping on its end a muscular naked man wearing just a helmet and carrying a sword, while a shadowy cloaked figure watches the scene. No such creature appears in the book, not even this situation.
  • One edition of John Wyndham's The Chrysalids features what appears to be either an extremely enthusiastic interpretation of the effects of radiation on the developing foetus, or else a green arthropod/crustacean alien wearing a fur coat and cummerbund, wielding a spear menacingly. At least, that's what it looks like.
  • An at-least-they-tried example from a Penguin edition of Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes: it shows an ocean liner being sunk/attacked by an alien bio-tank. Ships do sink in the novel, and there are bio-tanks, but they never appear in the same scene.
  • The French Junior Folio editions of The Lord of the Rings feature hobbits with beards, and in one case, what looks like a wizard riding a featherless chocobo. This is either the worst Nazgul ever or else God only knows...
    • The first Ballantine paperback edition of The Hobbit infamously featured a hill, a tree bearing pink eggplants, and two emus. Yes. Emus.
      • The Lord of the Rings suffered similarly in its first US publication. The books were rushed into US print because of competition from the unauthorized Ace editions. The artist, Barbara Remington, wasn't given time to actually read the books and based her art on some vague descriptions she was able to dig up. Tolkien was not pleased, but the covers proved popular with fans. A poster of the cover art was eventually put out and can fetch hundreds of dollars on eBay. (To her credit, Remington was embarrassed by the experience. She was a conscientious artist and her usual practice was to read books first so that the covers would be right.)
  • One paperback version of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian has a blurb which completely misses the point of the entire book, implying that the book is about the oppression of harmless innocent Native Americans, when actually everyone in the book is a murdering bastard, regardless of colour or creed.
  • Many of the covers of Octavia Butler's science fiction novels make them look like inspirational romance stories.
  • From Notes on Northworld at David Drake's website: "While I was writing Northworld, Beth called to ask what the book was about because they needed to put a cover on it. I sent her a scene of people dueling in powered personal armor. Beth called back in a week. "We had a cover conference on your book," she said. "We're going to put a tank on the cover. Is there a tank in the book?" I told her that there would be, now that I'd been told about the cover. And there is."
  • The Polish cover of Regina's Song is only a minor example. The twins were blond in the book, but on the cover they're black-haired.
  • The Dale Brown novel Shadow Command has a boat on fire on its British front cover. No boats appear in the entire book.
  • This trope may have inadvertently launched Harry Turtledove's career: a colleague complained to him that her publisher had given her work a cover "as anachronistic as Robert E. Lee holding an UZI". This offhand complaint inspired what turned out to be his breakout success, The Guns of the South (whose cover, ironically, did not lie.)
    • The British editions of later Harry Turtledove are very prone to this trope: for example, the Worldwar books show the lizardlike Race aliens lacking their chameleon-type eye turrets mentioned every goddamn paragraph in the book, wearing clothes, and having a symbol that looks vaguely like a pterodactyl. It's emphasised in the books that the Race don't wear clothes and have no distinctive symbol or flag because their homeworld has been politically united for so long that there's nothing they need to distinguish themselves from.
  • The cover of Club Dead, the third book in The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries, shows Sookie dancing in the air above the eponymous club with someone who appears to be the vampire Bill, though he is never at the club and in fact does not appear in person for much of the novel's action.
  • The cover of Hazezon, the third book in the Magic Legends trilogy, features Hazezon holding the halves of a broken sword above his head and (on the back) Jedit fighting Johan in a desert with a burning city in the background. None of that happens in the book; Jedit fights Johan in an oasis, and where the business with the sword comes from, nobody knows.
  • The Kedrigern fantasy stories by John Morrissey state several times that the wizard Kedrigern dislikes wearing the conventional magician's robes and is brown-haired and clean-shaven. So what kind of wizard appears on the cover of every paperback collection of these tales? A white-bearded Merlin type clad in a star-and-moon-spangled robe.
  • A cover of Judy Blume's book Blubber features two smiling pre-teens on the cover. The book itself on the other hand deals with two girls who decide to start tormenting an overweight girl.
  • Several of the international Twilight covers feature a girl with long, blonde Rapunzel Hair, sometimes even swarming around the letters of the title in the shape of a heart. Not only is the protagonist a brunette, but the only blonde girl of any importance in the series, Rosalie, has an extremely minor part in the first book. One can only assume it's something to do with Phenotype Stereotype.
  • Penguin Publishing released Quantum Of Solace: The Complete James Bond Short Stories around the same time that the film Quantum of Solace the film was released. In the book's defense, it makes no indication that it is a movie tie in - however, it should be noted thatQuantum of Solace the Bond film and "Quantum of Solace" the Bond short story are only similar in their titles - the plots of each are completely different. As QOS is not a Bond story of any particular note, choosing it for the title of the book that collects all the Bond short stories in one place seems quite arbitrary, and was obviously done to tie into the movie.
    • To be fair, Bond movies based on the short stories rarely have anything to do with the story beyond sharing the same title--Octopussy, for example (in the original story, Bond wasn't even a character, although he was referenced once in passing), The Man with the Golden Gun, and others.
  • Apparently done the opposite direction to normal in regard to The Gatherer by Owen Brookes. Inside the dust jacket is a description that makes it sound like the highbrow sort of horror. On the back of said dust jacket is an excerpt of a scene in which the villain Gornographically mutilates some girl's breasts.
  • Phil Foglio always did a good job with the covers for the hardback editions of Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures novels, but when Walter Velez did the covers for the Ace reprints, he tended to get a lot wrong. The cover of the first, Another Fine Myth features Aahz the demon as a towering philosopher in a thong. Three strikes, you're out. At least they got his skin color right.
  • God only knows what this thing on the cover of the Finnish paperback edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is supposed to be. Maybe Marvin?
    • It says "don't panic" in it, so maybe it's supposed to be the guide?
    • Due to Douglas Adams's famous problem with deadlines, the original Pan covers were drawn with only a general idea what the books were about, and So Long And Thanks For All The Fish got a cover with a lenticular picture of a plesiosaur turning into a walrus on it before he'd even come up with the publicist's synopsis. He tried very hard to work a walrus into the story, but eventually gave up.
  • The blurb on the back of Vivia by Tanith Lee makes it sound like the protagonist Vivia is claimed by a vampire god named Zulgaris. In the actual novel, the vampire god who makes Vivia a vampire and his lover is a completely different character from Zulgaris, an invading warrior prince and alchemist who captures her.
  • Some editions of The Amber Spyglass has an ornate spyglass on the cover, which fits the title but not the story: in it, the eponymous artifact is a far more primitive device made of two sheets of resin fastened together so the user can look through them.
  • The covers of Lois Lowry's Anastasia series usually feature the eponymous heroine in the setting of each book, and would neatly avert this trope except for one minor detail: Anastasia is supposed to be blonde. Both the older hand-drawn covers and the newer photographic covers depict her as brunette. Maybe it's the matter of her personality?
  • At least one edition of Bruce Coville's Jennifer Murdley's Toad (part of the Magic Shop series) has a cover depicting Bufo, the toad in question, ranting to Jennifer, who on this cover is depicted as an attractive-looking blond girl. The problem is that, in the book itself, Jennifer is specifically described as being... well, not as hot as the girl on the cover, to put it mildly. The illustrations in the book, for the record, depict Jennifer as looking fairly unattractive and chubby. It's possible that the girl is meant to be Sharon, who is in fact described as blond and attractive; even so it still fits, as Sharon is a secondary character who only directly reacts to Bufo a handful of times.
  • The cover of Morton Rhue's The Wave features a group of students sitting eagerly glued to footage of Adolf Hitler. While this technically does happen, it's massively out of context: the Hitler footage was shown to them to demonstrate how wrong they were.
  • The Italian cover of Homegoing, a science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl, features an odd shark-shaped starship which does not appear in the book (compare it with the original cover). Furthermore, the tagline reads: "They're the Hakh'hli. They're aliens. They feed on human flesh". Purchasers fancying a sci-fi-horror story were utterly disappointed, as the aliens in the book do NOT feed on human flesh (they breed their own alien animals).
  • A recent edition of Chronicles of Thomas Covenant features covers that together form an illustration of the title character's oh-so-plot-centric white gold wedding ring. Except that the ring in the picture is kind of a dirty bronze color.
  • Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet books feature the main character, John Geary, holding a different gun, in different armor, in a different location on each cover. This is despite the fact that Geary: Has never carried a weapon, has never worn armor, and didn't even leave his ship until the sixth book. (The books also contain absolutely no physical description of him, so there is no reason to believe he looks like that—even the race may be wrong.)
    • This is actually lampshaded in the eighth book, Invincible, when his flagship captain jokes about writing her memoirs:

"I can just imagine the kind of book cover they'll insist on. Some really heroic pose by you doing something you never did, probably. Maybe in battle armor. With a gun."

  • House of Leaves is an interesting example. The cover design is fine, but the choice of blurbs on the back paint a somewhat... um... misleading picture. "Funny, moving, sexy..." and "a love story..." are not the first descriptions that jump to most readers' minds when thinking of this book, and absolutely no mention is made of the novel's most memorable facet: it's really, really scary.
  • The official Guy Gavriel Kay fansite Bright Weavings lampshades this with a gallery of some of the interesting choices publishers made for cover art. The author praises some, politely declines to comment on most, and is openly baffled by others. Believe it or not, all of the following examples are from the same trilogy in different editions/languages (The Fionavar Tapestry): Evil Barney, Candy Land, Treant Guy, Yay Boobies (NSFW), and Tarzan the Wizard. Only Treant Guy has more than half an Ass Pull's worth of resemblance.
  • Behold! The new cover of Dante's Inferno! Yes, that's the book itself. Apparently, Dante's classic journey to the afterlife involved wielding a wicked scythe to slay the denizens of Hell with while wearing leather pants sans shirt to show off his muscular pecs. This is a special case of a lying cover, as it's perfectly accurate—for the video game that was Inspired By the poem.
  • The original paperback editions of the Riverworld novels typically depicted various historical figures (e.g. Sam Clemens)-complete with their facial hair, which did not grow on the eponymous planet.
    • They were clothed on the covers too, in their period dress.
  • At least in the American translation, the cover picture for The Battle Horse is stylized enough to not be a direct lie, but the back cover blurb relies rather heavily on From a Certain Point of View. The story itself is about rich kids who stage "jousting" tournaments and poor kids who're paid to be the horses. The blurb makes it sound like The Game Come to Life, with the female lead literally becoming a horse.
  • The second book in the Animorphs series shows Rachel morphing into a gray cat on the cover. In the book, the cat is actually described to be black and white. Also, the kids are usually shown morphing in their clothes, despite the fact that the books say they can only morph skin-tight outfits. (And on a minor note, a lot of the morphs are anatomically incorrect. E.g. instead of the human ears rising to become the animal ears, the human ear disappears and the person's hair rises and reshapes to form animal ears.)
    • The covers in general could not depict morphing more inaccurately if they tried. Rather than the weird, always different, sudden-crazy-stuff-happening-at-weird-times morphing in the actual books, the covers show a smooth, all-at-once kind of morph.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels often have wholly-meaningless covers, but in one notable case, they actually depicted two spinoff-only characters... in silhouette, and all wrong. Mr Heroic Build on the right there is actually supposed to be almost comically scrawny, and the girl in that strangely-detailed skirt is apparently wearing it in 18th-century England. Other than that, it's pretty accurate—hey, guess why there's a ring?
  • This cover confused that site in that it is neither fantasy or sci-fi, but political thriller. Oh, and they review Contemptible Covers.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe covers are notorious for showing Ben Skywalker as looking like his father Luke when he in fact looks like his mother Mara.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin herself complained about covers depicting the hero of A Wizard of Earthsea as white. The only white people in Earthsea are the Karg raiders, everyone else is black or brown. The hero, Ged, is brown.
  • The paperback of Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling features a sultry black-haired dame in a leather jacket opened to show the cleavage. While there are female characters in the book (including the protagonist), at no point are any of them sultry, black-haired, or wearing leather.
  • The cover of Steven Harper's Trickster features a rather badly-drawn Kendi and Sci-Fi cover babe Gretchen, who, though not quite a Lady Not Appearing in this Book, definitely doesn't play a prominent enough role to warrant cover status. Potentially misleading on two levels since, though most people would probably assume Kendi and Gretchen were a couple due to their sharing the cover (and Gretchen's rather revealing dress), Kendi is actually married TO A MAN and Gretchen is quite a bit older and plainer than her cover counterpart.
  • One cover for Anna Sewel's Black Beauty shows the eponymous horse with a pretty pre-teen girl in suspiciously modern clothing. The story takes place in Victorian England and the only pre-teen girls who get any story-time at all don't have anything to do with Beauty—they're the granddaughters of a gentleman who buys Merrylegs.
  • Starlight and Shadows series has two sets of covers in different releases. Not a single one has a picture of the protagonist anywhere close to her descriptions, or indeed, of a drow at all (what with angular face and specific eye colorations) beyond a Darkskinned Blonde with sharpened ears. The second set got a round-faced lady and rumours say cover's a portrait of the illustrator himself with his girlfriend. That's the "good" variant.
  • It was common in the Sixties and Seventies for the cover blurbs of mystery novels to completely misrepresent the story within. This happened due to the popularity of thrillers and spy novels, which made plain old mysteries seem fit only for pathetic spinsters.
    • The cover of the 1975 reprint of Rex Stout's Prisoners Base promises that the client "only has a fifty-fifty chance" unless Wolfe intervenes; in the novel, however, the client dies on page ten.
    • In another example from Nero Wolfe, a cover blurb promises "glittering international intrigue". The story features a Saskatchewan uranium miner. (It's a bookwith three stories, so perhaps the blurb refers to "Immune To Murder", which features an Ambassador, a foreign oil lease, and an Assistant Secretary of State.)
  • One of the early covers of Spellsinger shows a tall, thin, and clearly human wizard in a hooded cloak, posing dramatically. The only wizard in that book is a talking tortoise.
    • The blurbs on the back covers are equally prone to misidentifying characters' species, e.g. calling a sloth an anteater, or a tiny golden lion tamarin a gorilla.
  • A common note on the cover of an "Airport Novel" variety True Crime book is "10 pages of shocking photographs!". The actual photo section of the book is often anything but shocking though, showing things like the killer's high school yearbook picture ('70s hair! Shocking!), or a picture of the victims on an unrelated camping trip (they liked camping! Shocking!). If they actually do show you pictures from the crime scene they will be censored, and therefore not be particularly shocking, either.
  • Lonely Werewolf Girl's cover is odd, though excusable. One could, by taking bits and pieces of Kalix's appearance throughout the book, make her look close enough to the image on the cover to excuse the rest as stylistic choice. What lies is the summary on the back cover. It says people are fighting for her important vote when they're trying to kill her. Of course, they are trying to kill her so her seat can be filled, making the new member of the council give the tie-breaking vote.
  • The heroine of Ash: A Secret History is a White-Haired Pretty Girl, with her pale hair being repeatedly referred to and even turning out to be a plot point. This didn't stop one cover artist from drawing her with red hair, however.
  • The cover for The Backward Bird Dog by Bill Wallace has J.C. hiding his head under his body (itself a major spoiler) and frowning, as if confused as to how he should point. A similar illustration comes up in the final chapter of the book, only he's actually smiling. This is because by that time he's found a way to keep his nose out of harm's way when pointing during a hunt.
  • The first couple of books in the Dragonlance "Chronicles" series have pretty accurate covers. But Caramon and Raistlin are never in a forest together at any point during Dragons of Spring Dawning—as a matter of fact, they get separated early on and stay separated for most of the book. And when they are in the same place at the same time, Kitiara isn't there. In Dragons of Summer Flame, Tanis and Usha never meet one another, and never will, since Tanis dies in the middle of the book. Similarly, the three characters standing together on the cover of Second Generation—Palin Majere, Steel Brightblade, and Gilthas—never cross paths during any of the five stories in the book.
  • In his Artbook, John Howe explains that he's had to draw book covers armed with only very brief summaries given to him by the publishers. In one case, he also admits that he... hasn't read the book very closely either.
  • The Unwilling Warlord is an Ethshar novel about a medieval character being dragged off to fulfill his ancestral duty in a war in a distant land. The cover art depicts an angry man in a business suit on a throne. The reason for this? That image was supposed to go on a completely different book.
  • The cover of Jessica Amanda Salmonson's The Swordswoman depicts the title character dressed in nothing more than a very short kimono fighting humanoid bugs with the trademark three swords of the world. Yes, she earns all three swords, and she does fight humanoid bugs, but she fights the bugs before she gets the swords. And she does dress more sensibly than that.
  • P.C. Hodgell posts on her website covers of various editions of her books with commentary. The biggest problem she runs into seems to be people giving the flat-chested Jame of Chronicles of the Kencyrath a prodigious bosom, or depicting the ivory-armored berserker rathorns as unicorns.
  • Ben Shahn's covers for SJ Perelman's book The Rising Gorge and The Road to Miltown don't really evoke the feel of absurd comedy essays by a man who used to write for The Marx Brothers.
  • Steve Perry's The Albino Knife has a cover blurb that bears no relation to the book. It describes the eponymous character as 'the secret weapon of the Matadors'. She's a competent fighter, but not a weapon in any way, secret or not.
  • The cover blurb of The Regiment by John Dalmas announces, "The planet Kettle has only one resource: soldiers. But they are very good soldiers." The Private Military Contractors of the title regiment actually come from the planet Tyss; "Kettle" is a nickname for the very hot mining world Orlantha, which is where they're fighting in this book. Also, Tyss does have other resources; it's just that its soldiers are by far the most famous. The sentence about their quality is absolutely correct.
  • At least one edition of Eagle Strike prominently features an F-15E Strike Eagle on the cover. While cool, the fighter never shows up and plays no role in the novel. Other editions fix this.
  • The Japanese covers for The Tomorrow Series have a minor example: Ellie's (Asian, non-Japanese) boyfriend Lee is absent from most of the covers and way in the background when he does appear, while a white guy (presumably Kevin) is front-and-center on most of them, making it look as though he's the male lead/love interest. It's a little Unfortunate Implications (if not surprising considering how Japan tends to feel about the rest of Asia).
  • Alan Dean Foster's books seem to suffer from this often. For instance, the titular characters of his Pip and Flinx novels look very different in each cover; Pip almost always has horns, and occasionally feathers, while the only consistent thing about Flinx is that he is human, male, and has hair that is some vague shade of red.
    • The Spellsinger series was hit or miss on this. Some covers were alright, but others took misrepresentation to new levels. Most notable might be Roseroar, an almost ten foot tall Amazon tiger covered in armor and with huge weapons, etc. On the cover she's smaller than the hero and nude and seems to have escaped from Cats. On the other hand, there is a unicorn, and that did happen!
  • Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends has a cover drawing with two children peering over the edge of the earth - however, this is not "Where the Sidewalk Ends", this illustration is from a different poem in the book called "Edge of the World". The actual poem about "Where the Sidewalk Ends" is about the grassy spot between the sidewalk and the street, and has no illustration in the book.
  • On the cover of one of the books in J. D. Robb's In Death futuristic mystery series, there's a picture of a modern day semi-automatic pistol which has no relevance whatsoever to the plot. This is particularly jarring because the series is set forty-some years in a future with extremely tight gun control, so that any use of a firearm is a major plot point in a story.
    • Contrast that with the cover art for Sweet Silver Blues, in which a trench-coated private detective confronts some gnome-sized people packing Tommyguns. Not only is Garrett never described as wearing a trench coat, but the family which the "gnomes" are supposed to represent (the Tates), although short, are human enough that one of them accompanies him to infiltrate a human-supremacist group in a later book without any of the bigots batting an eye. Oh, and did I mention there are no guns in this fantasy-noir series?
  • The cover of Johnny Tremain shows a boy, presumably Johnny, holding a rifle. It's a plot point that Johnny's crippled hand prevents him from using guns. (The boy also lacks the widow's peak Johnny is described as having, but that's a smaller issue.)
  • With Rivers of London the cover art is actually a pretty good display, although it does give away the entire plot if you pay close enough attention to it, but the blurb tries to make it out to be a Harry Potter clone despite having nothing to do with those books either in subject matter or themes.
  • The Bantam editions of the Doc Savage novels are usually pretty good, depicting either an actual scene from the novel or a generic image of Doc. However, the cover for Brand of the Werewolf depicts Doc wrestling with what appears to Universal Studio's Wolf Man. No scene like this occurs in the novel (where the 'brand of the werewolf' is a distinctive mark left behind by the killers).
  • Most editions of The Picture of Dorian Gray seem like they go out of their way to avoid showing an accurate picture of Dorian or the painting on their cover. Although Dorian is often described as having blond hair, blue eyes, and a feminine appearance, aside from being only around 19 years old. Covers almost always show a picture of a man in his late-20s or early-30s with black hair and dark eyes. More than a few even show him with a beard.
  • The cover for Mercedes Lackey's Joust shows the main character, Vetch, standing with a dragon, presumably Avatre, while in full jouster armor. Not only is Avatre a hatchling at the end of the book, but Vetch is a serf, and never wears jouster armor in the book.
  • The Swedish cover of Sam J. Lundwall's novel No Time For Heroes features various creepy-looking fantasy monsters bursting through a portcullis [dead link]. Nothing on it tells you that it's actually a science fiction comedy set on a planet that's a Fantasy Kitchen Sink of Your Mind Makes It Real.
  • Apart from being a Contemptible Cover for making the book look like it's aimed at small children, it seems that the ONLY information given to the artist in Make Way For Dragons is that the story is set in California and has dragons in it. The cover we get is a blond "Valley Girl" with shorts and a denim jacket riding a skateboard past a bunch of palm trees as a tiny green dragon-dinosaur-thing clings to her leg - none of which has a THING to do with the book. Just for starters, the actual main character is a male cello player, most of the action takes place in the mountains, and the dragons are golden.
  • The Bionicle guidebook Dark Hunters has a promo shot of Keetongu on the front cover, with a group-shot of Vahki bringing up the rear. Keetongu is a higly sentient benevolent beast, while the Vahki are robotic law enforcers in the city of Metru Nui. Neither have any connection to the eponymous evil bounty hunters.
  • This is a very minor one and it's about as much Did Not Do the Research as it is this trope, but a cover of Pat Conroy's The Lords of Discipline shows a picture of a college class ring. This doesn't seem too bad, as the novel opens "I wear the ring" and every alumnus of the Carolina Military Institute (based on Conroy's alma mater, The Citadel) is proud of their rings. The problem? The ring had a stone. The Citadel's class rings are signet rings and thus do not have a stone.
  • One Garfield board book showed Nermal on the cover. Nermal actually didn't appear in that book at all!
  • The UK cover to Burning Tower by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle shows, logically enough if you haven't actually read the book, a medieval castle in flames. The book is set in Fantasy Mesoamerica, and Burning Tower is a character's name.
  • The covers of many J. T. Edson novels feature generic western scenes that bear no real connection to the contents of the book. And some are just flat out wrong. The Corgi edition of The Remittance Kid shows a gunfight on the deserted main street of a tiny frontier town. The novel takes place entirely in Chicago.
  • The cover for the 2000 reissue of Patrick Senecal's Aliss, a Bloodier and Gorier take on Alice in Wonderland, features the heroine facing off against Bone and Chair (The Mad Hatter and the March Hare). Bone and Chair are painted as distorted, monstrous grotesques, whereas in the novel itself, part of what makes them so creepy is that they're nothing of the sort: Aliss repeatedly notes how elegant they look, and even finds Bone moderately attractive.
  • Zigzagged by Michael Whelan's cover art for H. Beam Piper's Paratime. It shows hero Verkan Vall being attacked by a Venusian nighthound, and the creature's anatomy matches the description in the story where it appears. On the other hand, Verkan Vall is carrying a Steyr AUG assault rifle, whereas the story describes his weapon as a bolt-action rifle that looks unusual and pretty nifty but not outlandishly futuristic to law-enforcement officers in the USA circa 1948.
    • Whelan has been praised by several authors for getting lots of things right about their works — even if some details are wrong, he's said to capture the "feel" of the story. Anne McCaffrey, for instance, emphatically said, Yes, this is what the dragons should look like!
  • The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson is in "the west of Ireland," a castle-like place perched on a jutting cliff over a chasm and waterfall in a spooky forest. So one edition has a cover picture of a farmhouse, with barn and silo, surrounded by parched brown soil and a single tree. Oh, and a partially shucked ear of maize in the foreground implies that the story takes place in North America.

Live-Action Television

  • The British TV movie Blunt, The Fourth Man was made in 1985. The video was released much later, at least several years after The Silence of the Lambs (film) came out. Anthony Hopkins's head and upper torso were prominent on the cover, along with his name in large letters. However, the eponymous Blunt is played by Ian Richardson. Hopkins plays Guy Burgess—basically, the love interest. But then Ian Richardson never played Hannibal Lecter.
  • The cover for the Babylon 5 DVD set "The Movie Collection", containing the last three Made For TV Movies, prominently features Londo, who appears in none of them.
    • The US release does have all five movies, thus Londo does make sense. When they chopped the two previously released movies from the UK (or wherever you are?) release, they obviously didn't think to change the artwork.
  • One of the DVD covers for Robin Hood Season One has the outlaws lined up at the bottom of the cover, including Roy and Djaq. In actuality, Roy was dead before Djaq appeared on the show.
  • The UK VHS release of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Three had Spike and Drusilla on the cover. Spike appears in one out of twenty-two episodes, and Dru doesn't at all.
  • Happens in-universe in As Time Goes By to Lionel's book, My Life In Kenya. The cover shows Lionel in a pith helmet in front of a luxurious jungle, with a busty blonde woman showing considerable cleavage draping herself over him.
    • Lionel even complains during the photo shoot that there weren't even any such luxurious jungles in Kenya and that no one in Kenya wore pith helmets or even the khaki outfit Alistair had him wearing for the cover. Oh, and the story itself was about Lionel's life as a coffee plantation owner, and the woman he was married to was even described as being a thin, angular, severe-looking woman, not a "busty blonde woman", to add one more absurdity to the cover.
  • The Season 1 set of The Middle shows the aunts' dog Doris on the front cover with the main characters implying that she belongs to the Heck family.
  • One version of the Season 4 set of Farscape features Rygel, Scorpius, Stark and Crais on the front. Stark is only in about five episodes in the whole season, and Crais died a season earlier and doesn't appear at all. Particularly bizarre because of the large amount of characters they had to pick from, nearly all of whom would be better.
  • The Season 9 set of The X-Files prominently features David Duchovny's face, despite the fact that he was in only one episode that season. Or two if you count the brief, imaginary reflection of him in another character's eyeball. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish, who were the actual leads that year, are marginalized.
    • Speaking of The X-Files, various Rolling Stones and other magazines had amusing 'shipper' covers of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in bed or otherwise in suggestive poses, which their agent counterparts were never seen in.
  • Walking With Beasts was only ever released in Hungary on a pair of VHS tapes. These featured images and story descriptions for the first two episodes (one tape centered around the episode New Dawn, the second was all about Whale Killer[5]). In reality, the first VHS contained episodes one to three and the first bonus feature, while the second had episodes four to six, as well as the second bonus.
  • The DVD of the Miniseries To the Ends of the Earth features Sam Neill's face largest and in the forefront, and his name and profile on the case spine, even though he plays a very minor character. The real star, Benedict Cumberbatch, is barely noted.
  • A UK DVD release of VR Troopers had the first season team on the first volume's cover, the second season team on the volume 2 cover, and the Space Sheriffs on the volume 3 and box set covers. Only one of the Space Sheriffs is actually also a VR Trooper, meaning volume 3's and the box set's covers are telling a major fib, and all the episodes are from season 1, so the volume 2 cover was wrong as well.


  • The badass mechanical thing with the horned animal skull with glowing eyes and a fiery red background on the cover of Beck's Mellow Gold looks awesome, but is a bit misleading considering most of the music is more folksy than the cover would imply...
    • On the other hand, some moments of the album are trippy (if not heavy) enough to fit the cover. listen to Sweet Sunshine and see if you can't imagine that thing clanking around to the beat.
  • Gary Numan's backing band put out one largely forgotten The Band Minus the Face album entitled For Future Reference under the name Dramatis. While the initial release had a cover just featuring a photograph of the band, in 2000 it would be re-released with a cover with one ambiguously shadowy face on it that might or might not be Gary Numan, and billed as an album called The Dramatis Project by Tubeway Army Featuring Gary Numan. In fact Numan only contributed guest vocals for one song, and no members of Tubeway Army, the band that initially brought Numan fame, were involved.
  • Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold as Love has no traces of Indian music.
    • Graphic designer's fault. Hendrix requested something that would show his Indian heritage. The British graphic designer assumed he meant actually Indian, not Native American. A different story claims that Track Records' art department independently decided to cash in on a craze for Indian stuff. Either one is plausible, because hey, Hendrix never was really satisfied about his covers - he was point blank ignored by Reprise Records when he described what he wanted the cover of Electric Ladyland to be like, while UK distributor Track Records just went ahead and printed a cover with gobs o' nude chicks. The only ones he never really complained about were for Are You Experienced.
  • This cover for the album Share the Fantasy by Godheadsilo makes it seem like a Black Metal-esque cover, but the music is really psychedelic noise rock.
  • This cover for the album Visit Me by R&B group Changing Faces. Which would suggest a lot of sex driven songs. It's not... the album has nothing to do with sexual themes or topics. The album consists of Lighter and Softer R&B songs about relationships and the inherent drama.
  • The Kinks' album Face to Face features an iconic 60s cover that includes a white background, and some pretty psychedelic colors and art. The Kinks' frontman, Ray Davies, has stated that he was never happy with the cover, and that he thought a simple black cover much better suited the style of the album itself.
  • David Bowie's early albums Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold the World got the Trend Covers treatment after The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars hit it big—they were reissued with pictures of him as Ziggy on the covers. But while Ziggy Stardust was Glam Rock through and through, those albums were folk rock and Heavy Metal, respectively.
  • Nearly every single Super Eurobeat cover lives and breathes this trope, quite notably in Super Eurobeat 175, which features upbeat and fun tunes such as this.
  • Famously, the cover for Led Zeppelin IV (which doesn't even feature a title!) shows a significantly weathered image of an old man on a rural road, suggesting that the record was going to be nothing but hippie folk music. While there is some of that ("The Battle Of Evermore," for instance), the tracks that most people remember from this album are the heavy metal standards "Black Dog" and "Rock And Roll" - and, of course, "Stairway To Heaven," which actually starts out as a medieval ballad, but has morphed into a full-blown headbanger by the climax.
  • Some album covers, such as certain editions of Front Line Assembly's Civilization, list the tracks in the wrong order.
  • The Beatles frequently found themselves the target of this trope, particularly during the two years of Beatlemania in America...
    • Ousted drummer Pete Best named his first album Best Of The Beatles to deceive buyers into thinking it was a collection of Fab Four hits. (In fact, John, Paul and George all appear on the front cover.)
    • A number of American-made ripoff LP's, typically by one-off bands named after bugs, claimed to offer elements such as "the beetle sound," and had covers displaying four mop-topped men. One particularly irritating tradition was to include a bolsterous claim that the disc was "recorded in Liverpool," despite being recorded in America.
    • A failed girl group, originally called the Bouquets, re-released their single "Ain't That Love"/"Welcome To My Heart" under a shameless new band name... the Beetles.
    • Aptly-named doo-wop group The Five Shits once released a 45 under the false name of the Beatles. (Likewise, another doo-wop group from the same time period - and certainly not The Five Shits, oddly enough - called themselves the Rolling Stones.)
    • A mid-Sixties LP of instrumental covers, titled "Sing a Song with the Beatles," bore no musician credits, and pictured John, Paul and George on its cover, to imply that the Beatles themselves were performing these versions. In fact, fans questioned this possibility for years - but it ultimately proved untrue.
    • Beatles bootleg covers and liner notes are notorious liars - there are literally hundreds of examples of factually inaccurate liner notes describing TV appearances or live concerts that never actually occurred, and desperate attempts to push other artists' recordings (Maurice Gibb's undercover 45 "Have You Heard The Word?" being the biggest offender) as Beatle rarities. A number of mid-Seventies bootlegs claimed to present the Beatles at a Georgia venue, Whiskey Flats Stadium - with one cover even pointing out the stadium on a map. This stadium never existed. (Another album, alternatively called "Live In Germany" or "Live At Nassau Coliseum," was simply a mishmash of genuine poor-quality outtakes and songs that weren't the Beatles.)
    • Likewise, clever bootleggers have attempted to push their Beatles releases as rare official releases, complete with genuine record company logos and labels. Notable examples - "Collector's Items" and "Casualties" (both 'Capitol Records'), "1967" (on 'Parlophone Records'), supposed volumes four through six of "The Beatles' Anthology" (all fake 'Apple' releases), and an entire catalog of bootleg LP's from Australia claiming to be Apple Records products.
  • My Brightest Diamond's album A Thousand Sharks Teeth consists of a photo of Shara Worden playing an accordion. There's no accordion to be heard anywhere on the album.
  • The cover for Kiss "Creatures of the Night" originally featured Ace Frehley, even though he doesn't perform on the album.

Professional Wrestling

  • Wrestling posters and DVD covers will often feature one of their Divas (and one of the Faux Action Girls at that) holding a prop that symbolically has something to do with the theme of the show, but is otherwise totally irrelevant; the Diva in question is often barely in the show, if at all. Even if a male wrestler's image is used, he might be shown wearing a silly themed costume (suggesting that the show will be laugh-a-minute) or depicted with totally inappropriate iconography. Famously, the poster for No Mercy in October 2007 showed Randy Orton holding a white dove on the cover, implying that he was about to turn face. (He didn't.)
    • If he had turned face, that would have been the creepiest foreshadowing ever. Yeah, he was holding a dove, but his face!

Tabletop Games

  • The box for Space Crusade (basically HeroQuest set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe) depicts an elderly squad commander in entirely white armor with a gold emblem on his left shoulder plate. Not only does this character not exist in the game, the color scheme and emblem are not used by any chapter of the Legions Astartes.
  • The old boxed sets for the Basic version of the Dungeons & Dragons game invariably showed a party of heroes engaged in glorious battle with a dragon of some description. The Basic D&D rules only provided information for advancement up to 3rd level, meaning that if your Basic-level adventurer met up with a dragon of any sort, the resulting Curb Stomp Battle would wipe you out within a round or two.

Video Games

  • Doki Doki Literature Club!'s cover looks colorful, happy, and such. Which actually matches the parts of the game. This trope is mitigated by the content warning.
  • Occasionally a game will get away with using beta screenshots on the back of the game box, sometimes these only faintly resemble the finished game. An example of this is the boxart for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos which shows buildings a lot taller than the units themselves, as well as units that weren't even in the final game (although most were added later in the expansion pack or through modding).
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess had the same thing happen as well. One of the screenshots on the back of the box is from a beta version of the game that had a magic meter when the final game is among the few non-handheld installments in the series since the second game (the first to have a magic meter) to lack one. This led people believe that at some point in the game Link would get access to spells, but they were all sadly mistaken.
  • Commandos 2 backcover features screenshots from missions which have been modified by the development team between their editing and the release of the game. The most obvious is the presence in a picture of a member of the team which isn't present in this particular mission in the finished game.
    • Commandos 3 art cover features a character armed with a Thompson submachine ; although emblematic of the era (World War Two), this gun never appears in the game.
  • The SNES shmup Phalanx, for some inexplicable reason, has an old guy with a banjo on the cover (pictured at the top). He also appeared in the ads.
    • A former employee of Kemco stated that the cover was intentionally done to garner consumer attention towards the game, since there were a glut of me-too space shooters on the market at the time. They also pitied the model, who apparently was recruited hobbling around the photography studio looking half-dead after a Santa-themed shoot.
    • They got the caption right though- there is a hyper-speed shoot-out in space during the seventh level.
  • This is the Japanese version cover of Mass Destruction, a game where you drive a tank, blow things up and leave smoking craters and debris behind. The original American version stays true, though.
  • Kendo Rage. The cover looks similar to Xena: Warrior Princess, but the game is cute, lighthearted, and anime-style.
    • It should also be noted that this game was actually the first of a trilogy of games known as "Makeruna! Makendou". The whole story and the characters' names had been rewritten for the American game market.
    • There are a lot of NES and SNES games with anime-style artwork which doesn't look anything like the American box art. This is understandable, given that most Americans didn't even know what anime was at the time, and certainly not the intended age group for those consoles. For the record, the girl with the big paddle is, in fact, in the game: she's the tennis player boss.
  • World Series Baseball 2K1 for the Sega Dreamcast came on the heels of the ultra-successful NBA and NFL 2K (the latter being a system mover in its own right), both developed by Visual Concepts, and WSB was presented as a sim-like entry along the other Sega Sports entries. However, the gameplay was actually a port of a Sega arcade game, and left the box in blatant lies. It boasted things like hot zones, scouting reports, and weather changes, neither of which were in the game. Also neither in the game were sim-like gameplay and user-controlled fielding, which among other flaws made the game universally panned, and the series was properly handed off to Visual Concepts the next year.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series does it over and over. On the cover of Grand Theft Auto III there is a hooker who has appeared only in the first mission, on the cover on Vice City there is a stripper who some think doesn't even appear in the game, and on the cover of San Andreas there is a woman who never appears in the game and a gang member who is named only "Scarface".
    • Done by Rockstar again, in the ad campaign for Red Dead Redemption. The cover is a fairly inoffensive Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You of Marston, but posters show prominent illustrations of a Mexican prostitute NPC with no role in the plot to speak of, and super-sexy depictions of Bonnie and Luisa with tons of cleavage, both of whom were pretty but normal-looking in the game.
  • The US cover for Konami's Suikoden I featured what were supposed to be scenes of various characters from the game; however, they had a completely talentless artist do it, and he rendered them so Off-Model that they're all hideous and only one or two are even recognizable as being certain characters from the game. Not exactly deceptive, but inaccurate nonetheless, and earns the US version of the game a position among the most awful game cover arts of all time. They get some points for the inexplicable Bruce Campbell lookalike, mind you...
  • The first Mega Man game. According to interviews with Capcom USA (the publishers) the cover artist had 6 hours to draw that... thing.
  • Mobile Light Force and Mobile Light Force 2 (better known as Macekred versions of Gunbird and Shikigami no Shiro, two unrelated series) have identical Angels Pose covers that have nothing to do with either of the games in question.
  • Video games based on college athletics cannot use the image of a current athlete on the cover; it would void their amateur status. So the cover is almost always a standout player who recently completed their eligibility, meaning that you can almost never play as the athlete on the cover of the game box.
    • One game in the NCAA Football series instead shows a mascot. Another edition of NCAA Football has Super Bowl XXXI MVP Desmond Howard on the cover, who was retired from the NFL at the time.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, Lesbian Vampire Jeanette Voerman is a minor character who only shows up for about a third of the game as part of a major subplot. Apparently, that was enough to land her a spot as the sole character on the box cover.
    • In their defense, the developers note their dislike of it, saying it was because the cover art was done by a marketing firm that hadn't played the game and had only various pieces of concept art to go with.
  • On the NES, Konami usually did good artwork of their game covers that left things just ambiguous enough that it didn't matter. But when they designed the cover of The Goonies II, everything just went to crap. Assumedly unable to afford the royalties for using the actor's likenesses, the artist just drew them all to look like Mark Hamill.
  • The box art for Advance Wars: Days of Ruin / Dark Conflict really makes the very heroic moral pillar Captain Brenner / Lt. O'Brian look like a villain, due to a combination of the lighting, his beard and hair and his head being in a position in the art befitting of an Evil Overlooker.
  • The Chrono Trigger cover has Crono, Frog, and Marle fighting a boss. The boss is in the wrong location (in fact, a location that doesn't exist in the game), he's being fought with the wrong party, and Marle is using a flame spell when she's an ice spell user. And they kept it for the DS release! This is made even more bizarre by the fact that that said artwork was drawn by Akira Toriyama himself, the guy who actually designed the characters and monsters for the game. However, it turns out that it was early promo art [dead link] before the game had been finalized.
    • This is somewhat turned into a Cover Drop in the DS version, as there is a fight with that creature, in an area similar to that on the box art in the bonus dungeon...but doing the shown move (Frost Arc) on said monster heals it.
  • The cover of Spore Creature Creator shows two creatures with embossed, segmented plates running down their torso. These creatures cannot be built, and after the release of the full game there is still no texture that even vaguely resembles an exoskeleton.
  • The cover art for the Super NES rail shooter Yoshi's Safari prominently features Yoshi, yet Mario is nowhere to be seen despite his own in-game prominence outside the actual gameplay. But then Yoshi is depicted looking back at the camera as if it's Mario.
  • The covers of the first three Monkey Island games are quite cool (too bad the fourth one's cover sucked), but have some inconsistencies with what happens in-game:
    • The cover of The Secret of Monkey Island shows Guybrush venturing into the jungles of Monkey Island with a sword and accompanied by pirates and Elaine. At this stage in the actual game, he doesn't have his sword, his crew isn't with him (and he doesn't encounter any living pirates on Monkey Island), and Elaine has been kidnapped.
    • The cover of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge: LeChuck's Revenge shows LeChuck torturing Guybrush with a voodoo doll; this does happen in the game, but the cover shows it happening on a traditional pirate ship with some monkeys on it, while in gameplay, it happens in a concrete tunnel with electric lights.
    • The cover of The Curse of Monkey Island shows Guybrush climbing to the top of a ship, holding a shiny ring while LeChuck threatens him with his sword with Elaine turned into a statue near him; this scene never happens in the game. Guybrush frees Elaine from her statue-curse while she is left in the middle of a forest. Her position is not the same, too: she is being very straight on the cover while she is in a "going-to-punch" position in the game.
  • The box for Half-Life 2 has absolutely no screenshots from the actual shipped game. Some are from early E3 builds of the game, and some are simply creatures in areas they don't exist in the game (a Antlion guard on the beach, for example.) The same goes for the first game. All of the screenshots on the box were from early builds of the game.
    • While we're on the subject of Valve, the packaging of the Orange Box has some of the most baffling promotional copy in video game history. Portal is mentioned as a revolutionary mind-bending puzzle game, and Team Fortress 2 is described as a pulse-pounding action game with amazing graphics. Both are true, but the fact that both games are also two of the most hilarious games ever made isn't even alluded to. Based on the box alone, you would think that the games are just as funny and wacky as Half-Life 2 Did they think that comedy doesn't sell with the hardcore crowd?
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun had several screenshots on the back of gameplay involving whole units and structures that do not appear in the finished game. Same for the GUI, which looked a lot more varied.
    • Generals and Zero Hour did it as well, using beta screen shots of units with different skins (camouflage!), different weapon effects and better water effects.
  • The box for Silent Hill 2 features Angela's face, and nothing else, on the cover. Angela is a character that you encounter a couple times throughout the game... but the much more important female character who you encounter far more often and who plays a major role in the story, is Maria, who is nowhere to be found.
    • The cover of the HD collection does feature a very stylish and creepy image of Maria - but unfortunately, it has nothing from Silent Hill 3 except for the original box art, downsized and included (next to the downsized original cover for 2).
  • The cover artwork of the Fist of the North Star NES game features a cel artwork from the anime series which depicts Kenshiro sparring with his brother Toki, despite the fact that this was actually based on the second series (Hokuto no Ken 2), which didn't even had Toki in it. Since the game was published years before the anime was even localized for the U.S. market, the people at Taxan just used a random artwork from the series without any regard to the game's content, knowing that most Americans at the time would've not noticed this..
    • The Japanese cover of Sega's Hokuto no Ken side-scroller for the Master System (the one that was released overseas as Black Belt) features Rei, who is not in the game at all.
  • Not only the cover in this case. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty prominently showed fan favorite Badass Solid Snake in the cover, the comic inside, and all the promotional material. Turns out you spend most of the game playing as blond-haired prettyboy Raiden.
    • Possibly lampshaded by the fact that when you first take command of him, even Raiden complains about not being Snake. (It was apparently his codename all through training, and he's mildly annoyed about having to ditch it.)
    • The cover art of Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions is nothing more than an image of the Cyborg Ninja, giving the impression that the player will control a good portion of the game as him. However, he's only playable in three of the 300 featured missions.
    • The cover artwork for the MSX2 version of the original Metal Gear shows the eponymous robot on the cover. The NES port, which uses the same cover artwork, replaced the Metal Gear itself with a Super Computer. Strangely enough, this doesn't apply to the Japanese Famicom version, which altered the artwork in order to obscure the Metal Gear mech.
  • The packaging for Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery for Nintendo DS has a blurb describing, and screenshots from, an entirely different game. Sure, the actual game at least involves dolphins, but everything else is wrong.
  • The original NES release of Super Mario Bros 3 had a screenshot on the back of the package of a level that never made it into the final game (see here, the second screenshot), leading many players to become quite confused when the level never actually showed up in game play. Later printings of the box art corrected this, moving the bottom screenshot to the second place and adding a screenshot from the bonus memory game in its place (which, ironically, featured a grammatical error that was corrected in the ROM at the same time).
    • That level is one of the Dummied Out levels in the game.
    • Another Mario example would be the cover art for Super Mario Galaxy 2, which for some reason featured a Goomba riding on Starship Mario (in the actual game, enemies aren't even allowed in the Hub Level area) as well as a Yoshi running around a planet found in the Puzzle Plank Galaxy level (in the actual game, there aren't even any Yoshis found there at all!).
  • Similarly, the screenshots on the back cover of the US release of the Genesis/Mega Drive version of Lemmings (our apologies for using the word "of" so many times) depicts several inaccuracies, including an unfinished version of "Konnichiwa Lemming san" with no ceiling and a level that doesn't appear to be in the actual game.
  • The Box art for Demon Sword features a Barbarian Hero wielding the game's eponymous weapon. The protagonist in-game is a Wuxia-type warrior who can leap the height of the screen In a Single Bound.
  • Not really cover art (there is no cover art in this case), but the horrific ads for the freemium Civ clone Evony feature busty women imploring you to "Save the Queen", when it is a strategy game, not an RPG (and hence you'll never see them ingame) and, according to those who've played it, there is no queen at all.
  • The cover of the PC version of Jurassic Park featured screenshots of a different port (either SNES or Amiga)
  • The cover for the North American version of SNES game Ranma ½: Hard Battle has an ugly, highly Off-Model illustration of Ranma, Ry?ga, and Genma.
  • Compare the cover of the original Amiga version of Another World (with artwork by the developer of the game, which does resemble the in-game graphics) to its SNES version.
  • The US release for the first TurboGrafx-16 Bomberman had this as its cover.
  • While it wasn't on the cover of the game itself, the artwork done for Nintendo Power's Final Fantasy I strategy guide probably qualifies. Feel free to show this to people who always associate the series with being full of Bishounen.
    • Related are the two "classic" logos for Final Fantasy IV, though it should be noted that the game's various releases have box art that does and does not use the trope. The Japanese GBA art features Kain Highwind. The American DS art features Golbez. Both of them are in the game, but neither of them are the hero.
  • If you want to get an idea for how messed up the Western box art for Phantasy Star is, take a look at the little... dog... thing in the bottom-right corner. That's supposed to be this character.
  • Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper has several examples of a cover lying in your face.
    • Holmes is shown wearing a deerstalker hat and coat. In-game, the only hat he wears is a top hat and a black suit. The hat issue is cleverly pointed out during a puzzle to determine what the killer looked like from several witness accounts. Holmes tells Watson to get a few articles of clothing, including "that deerstalker I never wear but people seem to think I have day and night".
    • Jack the Ripper is shown with the top hat and cape. We never actually see Jack the Ripper in action (first-person scenes notwithstanding), and Jack wouldn't even wear those clothes due to his class status.
    • The police officer on the left looks suspiciously like Lestrade, who doesn't even make an appearance in this game. Infact, nobody of that description is in the game. The closest person who fits is Inspector Abberline, who isn't shown wearing the normal Scotland Yard uniform.[6]
  • Kingdom Hearts 358 Days Over 2 features Mickey Mouse in the Organization cloak, which leads people to believe he's a prominent figure in the actual game. Instead, he's featured for one cutscene near the game's end, and doesn't even encounter Roxas.
    • That scene was also in the trailers, again, hinting it might be important, leading to the Sister Trope, Never Trust a Trailer. The trailer for this game featured a few other cutscenes like this as they were all from the (few) higher quality ones.
  • SimCity plays mind screws with their covers, usually showing buildings that could never exist in the game. Best example of this is Sim City 4's cover, which shows many of the Asian buildings from Sim City 3000 Unlimited that cannot be built in that game.
  • Ubisoft's 'Imagine Happy Cooking' proudly displays a very dull housewife to appeal to grandmothers and boring people alike, coming across as a tired lump of shovelware. Surprisingly, the game itself is a very cutesy Japanese-style visual novel complete with friendship meters and gift-giving, and the cooking games are far more well-made compared to Cooking Mama, as you actually cook three-course meals complete with sides, desserts and dressings.
  • In the box art for World of Warcraft, you see a group of adventurers in level 15-30ish gear taking on a dragon in an outside worldzone, which only happened at level 60 with a full group (40 people). Not to mention that one of the characters is wielding a sword 'Teebu's Blazing Longsword' that is incredibly rare to acquire in game. The original box art for the Burning Crusade also included a picture of a character riding a Nether Drake, something that was not possible until late in the expansion cycle.
    • World of Warcraft's second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, also has an example of deceiving cover art. On the interior panel of the cover, there is a picture of two flying machines in Wintergrasp, with a caption describing the implementation of new arial dogfights. While the presence of flying war machines was originally intended for Wintergrasp, they were taken out of the game before its release.
  • An urban legend had it that Atari 2600's Video Chess was the end result of a false-advertising lawsuit: Original Atari 2600 box art had a picture of a chess piece, and someone sued Atari because there was no chess game available for the 2600. However, according to Bob Whitehead, the programmer of the game, there was no lawsuit.
  • The back of the box for the original PlayStation 2 version of Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex features screenshots of a side-scrolling level involving Coco on her scooter (the only section in the game where she rides a scooter has the camera in front of her) and Crash driving a jeep away from what appears to be his hut (the jeep is in the game but only appears in a jungle).
  • The covers of all four games in the Wizards and Warriors series featured designs depicting main character Kuros as a barbarian warrior in the style of Conan the Barbarian, complete with flowing locks and obvious huge muscles. In all four games, Kuros always wears platemail and almost always has a helmet. Even when he's not wearing a helmet, just about all you can see are his eyes.
    • The second game, Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II even oddly featured featured male model Fabio Lanzoni (known for appearing on romance novel covers) as he brandishes the title Ironsword, overlapping with Contemptible Cover.
  • The cover to Deadly Premonition has a definite "ultra gory action/survival horror" theme. It's actually a standard survival horror games that, while it does have a good amount of gore, focuses more on the detective work than the action.
  • The cover for the original X-COM game, UFO - Enemy Unknown, features a huge bug-eyed monstrosity which does not appear in the game in any way, shape, or form. To be fair, showing something that did would be a subversion of the title.
  • In the Double Dragon series, it is established that Marian is Billy's girlfriend, who is the Lee brother that wears blue in the games. Yet on the cover artwork used in pretty much every version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge, she is shown embracing the one who wears red. Either, Billy doesn't mind sharing his girlfriend with his brother Jimmy, or the artist switched their colors by mistake. Of course, there's also the fact that Marian is supposed to be dead in II ( although, she does get better in some versions of the game).
  • Space Station Silicon Valley has a picture of the fire fox on the game cart and instruction manual (he's the only animal in the picture). Although he's one of the most fun animals to control, you only encounter him twice and NEVER play as him, unless you use a cheat code.
  • The PAL cover artwork for Atelier Iris 3, bizarrely, shows every character but the title one.
  • Rampant in the cover art of Atari and other early-era video games. The artwork on the box and in the manuals was always way better than the blocky shapes on the screen. Take the cover of Warlords, versus the ingame screenshot for instance.
  • Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure's Playstation box art had Cherie, the protagonist's mother, but not the protagonist herself. Oddly enough, Cherie only appears in her angel form in the second-to-last chapter. Granted, she does 'does' have a big effect on the overall plot, but the fact that Cornet isn't featured on the cover threw lots of people off. Corrected in the Nintendo DS release with new art.
  • Fossil Fighters features the T-Rex, not only on the cover of the box, but also prominently in promotional material, being the game's mascot. In reality, you don't get a T-Rex until after you beat the game. And even then it's rather rare to find. In fact, most of the art are of Stock Dinosaurs that you don't get until later in the game.
  • Minor one in the cover of Mass Effect 2: Look at Miranda's hair. In the cover, it's clearly auburn with a parting far in the right side, but in the game it's dark brown, almost black, noticeably much more shorter and the parting is more to the middle.
  • The cover art for the SNES version of Final Fight shows a character resembling Guy twice in the images shown between Haggar and Abigail, even though he's not in the SNES port.
    • The American cover for Final Fight 2 features Damnd (twice), Cody, Guy, and other characters from the first game that don't even appear in the sequel.
    • The cabinet art for the arcade version shows enemies wielding lead pipes (a weapon only used by the player characters) and the main heroes fighting multiple enemies in a wrestling ring (when in reality, only Sodom shows up for such a fight).
    • The home computer ports by U.S. Gold depicts an uncharacteristically black-haired Cody confronting a group of punks inside a moving subway train with bystanders witnessing the scene. In the actual game, the only people in the subway train area besides the player are enemies.
  • The promotional art for the arcade version of The Combatribes shows Blitz (the ponytailed guy) in yellow and Bullova (the black guy) in red, when in the actual game it's actually the other way around.
  • The cover of Big Rigs Over the Road Racing makes a variety of claims, such as showing a flaming truck smashing through a police barricade, proclaiming it "18 Wheels Of Thunder", and that it is a computer game. These are all lies.
  • The European cover art for Dragon Ball Z Budokai (The first one) has Spopovich on the cover. Not only he isn't in the game, but in fact the arc he's in isn't covered by the game's plot (The Great Saiyaman is in the cover too and he's from that arc as well, but he's actually IN the game as a Secret Character, making it a bit of a subversion). It actually took several years for Spopovich to be playable in a Dragon Ball game, even.
  • The Sega Saturn version of Doom mentions multiplayer on the box. An utter lack of multiplayer is one of the many reasons it's usually counted among the worst versions of Doom ever.
  • None of the official screenshots of Jedi Academy can be recreated in-game without cheating or mods, as they all feature the player character wielding either dual lightsabers or a double-bladed lightsaber in missions that take place before you have that option.
  • Similarly, Star Wars Battlefront II has an example of this for its space maps. Usually, the Loading Screen shows an image of a battle on the map being loaded along with hints in the upper right. Space maps, unlike most ground-based maps, only allow the player to battle in one era (Clone Wars from the prequels or Galactic Civil War from the originals) depending on the map. In the console versions of the game, Clone War-era space maps show Galactic Civil War-era ships in battle, and vice versa.
  • Final Fantasy VII had the back of the box showing screenshots of nothing but FMV scenes with nary a screenshot of the game itself in sight. This led many people to believe that the game would be played in the advertised graphics. Final Fantasy and other games that pulled this stunt had gotten in trouble for deceptive marketing and all game boxes are required to show at least one screenshot of the game itself instead of a cut scene.
  • The cover of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is only a picture of Lightning, similar to the previous game's cover. Unlike the previous game, however, she is not the main protagonist (who is her sister Serah this time), nor does she play a huge role in the story.
  • Tomb Raider Chronicles shows Lara Croft in a cat spy suit jumping out of a building shooting at someone with her signature dual pistols. Lara does infiltrate a building in the advertised outfit and the cut scene for the first level even shows her shooting a vent grate off with a pistol, but in the actual game, she doesn't have her pistols, but a limited ammo based machine gun.
  • The box art of Might and Magic VI shows four heroes (presumably the Player Characters) fighting a red dragon, one of which is charging it with a lance on a horse. There is no mechanic in the game that lets the PCs ride horses.
  • The back of the box of the PS2 PAL version of Rayman M (the game is called Arena in the US and has a different box cover and back) features artwork graphics of Ly the Fairy and Globox in an army soldier skin. Globox doesn't have a skin like this in the game and Ly is not even a playable character or even has a physical appearance only appearing as a cameo in the form of a ice statue in one of the battle mode arenas.
    • The US exclusive Gamecube version's back box features gameplay screenshots from an earlier beta version the game and not screenshots of the actual final product. The screenshots shows a different HUD system for battle such as a heart counter depicting the players health when the actual game uses a bar of hearts to depict health. There's also a screen shot showing the winners podium that depicts the top 3 on numbered pedestals. Only the person in 1st gets to stand on a pedestal (which isn't numbered) while the ones in 2nd and 3rd just stand on the floor all upset or angry in the actual game.


Web Original

  • Lampshaded during this review pr Master of Magic one of the reviews states "I knew it was a total flop, one could tell that just by looking at the box". Before the end of the video that same reviewer falls in love with the game.

Western Animation

  • The back cover of a five episode Powerpuff Girls VHS tape "Dream Scheme" shows Buttercup beating up Him who does not appear in any of the episodes on the tape, and the episode list says "PLUS a 'Courage the Cowardly Dog' bonus toon!" while the bonus non Powerpuff toon is actually the pilot to Sheep in The Big City.
  • Most of the title cards in Adventure Time have little to nothing to do with the episode's premise.
    • Well... At first glance anyways...
    • Except "Mortal Recoil", which shows something that was related to the episode (Princess Bubblegum being buried) but didn't actually happen (despite falling into the Lich's well of power, she wasn't killed, even if she did turn out to have become possessed).
  • Likewise Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy title cards barely have anything to do with the episodes or characters, though occasionally you might get an in-sight onto the characters designs.
  • Re-releases of Scooby Doo television films and collections that contain Scrappy-Doo no longer depict him on the box cover nor mention his presence anywhere in the blurbs, despite Scrappy being a major character in those productions. This is likely due to the massive anti-Scrappy backlash of the post 80s era.
  • The Complete First Season to My Little Pony has the incorrect box-art. The artwork is of the 90s My Little Pony toys, G2 as called by fans, which didn't even have a cartoon.
  • The box art and title screens for Dingo Pictures's productions often depict characters that don't appear in the cartoon... or characters with a different role than they actually have.
    • And the artwork is usually much better.
  • The DVD cover of Yogi's First Chrisrmas is actually a promotional image for Yogi Bear's All Star Comedy Christmas Caper.
  • Various Transformers-related DVD covers. The Hungarian boxart for the 1986 animated movie and the disk itself showcases screencaps and promo art for G.I. Joe. Meanwhile, a German cover has Optimus Prime from the Transformers Armada cartoon on it, with the background being a promo shot from the Michael Bay films, and the back cover showing stills from the Armada video game (!). Another German release just uses stills from the Transformers Generation 1 animated series and a sticker album cover.
  • The DVD cover for Arthur's Big Hit depicts a boxing match between Arthur and D.W. with Francine as the official. This only happens in the Cold Open at the beginning of the episode.
  • The front covers of the DVDs comprising season one of The Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes never feature all eight members. Most of them only focus on Avengers who became the title characters of movies forming the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


Comic Books

  • Pinky and The Brain, mirroring the earlier Animaniacs, was spun off in its own comic book series. While the covers of both titles rarely showed scenes or concepts from the stories inside, the first Pinky and the Brain cover was notable for following the guidelines at the top of this page explicitly, with the Brain pronouncing 'This is the way to make it big in the comic business!'. The cover featured Pinky, the Brain, superheroine costumes, and a box of Kleenex. And it followed the one-inch-from-centre rule[context?].
  • Parodied in an issue of Excalibur where Spider-Man guest-starred. The cover prominently displays our web-headed hero, who brags about how he's taking over this comic book, even though he already has four series of his own. None of the members of Excalibur themselves are depicted except for Captain Britain, who is shoved into the background.
    • Another Excalibur issue had an incredibly boring cover that certainly didn't happen inside the comic, with a morose-looking little man sweeping the floor and telling us that the usual comic-book cover stuff - muscular heroes fighting dastardly villains, and girls with big tits - is actually inside the comic book, and we should stop bothering him.
  • Played with in an early issue of Thunderbolts, which guest starred Archangel of the X-Men and featured him prominently on the cover with the headline: "Will Archangel join the Thunderbolts?" And then, at the bottom and in only slightly smaller text: "Nah, he's only a guest star... but doesn't he look cool on this cover?"
  • In a Superman comic where the cover says Lobo will make a one page cameo, Lobo responds by swearing at the fact he only gets one page.
  • As seen on the page image for Wolverine Publicity, there existed an alternate cover for an Anita Blake comic Marvel was putting out at the time featuring Wolverine and Anita, with a small caption reading "Wolverine does not actually appear in this issue".
  • Discussed and parodied in the Golden Age Mad feature "Movie... Ads!" A gritty War Is Hell picture devoid of female characters except for a scene where "for two seconds, a girl jumps out and kisses a soldier" is advertised as a torrid love story, with the woman's face and ballooning bust plastered all over the advertisement. An ad for an adventure movie depicts scenes taking place in different parts of the world edited together, with quotes from critics' negative reviews just as misleadingly spliced.
  • This was fairly common in the late-nineties-early-2000s, making fun of earlier covers that played it straight. For example issue of Impulse with a villain beating up Max Mercury while Bart ate popcorn declared "In This Issue ... absolutely nothing like this happens!"
    • On a cover of Robin:

Flash: "We can't possibly escape this!"
Robin: "Yeah. Good thing nothing like this happens in the comic."

  • One of the most common fake-out covers is the image of all the heroes lying dead in a pile while the issue's villains stand triumphant. A recent Justice League of America issue spoofs this by having one of the villains say to the reader, "We don't really beat them...but it's a heck of a cover, isn't it?"
  • She Hulk had some fun with this. One particular issue had Punisher, Wolverine, and Spider-Man featured prominently on the cover, while She-Hulk tells the readers that they only appear on the book, not in it.



  • While the covers on her books don't lie, Shreve Stockton of the Daily Coyote blog mentions that authors rarely have control over the cover of their books.
  • Terry Pratchett's Only You Can Save Mankind parodies this wonderfully with the advertising material for the eponymous game: "Actual games shots taken from a version you haven't bought".
  • Whenever you see a cover of one of Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) novels, you are not seeing an accurate depiction of events - Cain has a Bolter and is massively (I'm talking Astartes level) ripped in those covers. If you've read the books, you know that this is nothing of the sort (for one thing, he always uses a laspistol). The rationalization is that these covers are supposed to be motivational recruitment posters from within the Imperium.
    • Another big offense is the apparent lack of Jurgen, who is stated as always being at Cain's side. This is lampshaded in the novels when Amberly points out that Cain hated the fact that every "official" history of his accomplishments completely omits Jurgen's existence.
      • There IS Jurgen on the cover of the Caves of Ice.
    • Except that Cain is as huge and ripped as shown—he just prefers not to show it off. Although the only visual depiction of Cain that readers see is the covers of the books (the aforementioned motivational posters, which for obvious reasons cannot be trusted), mention is made in-story that Cain is 'almost two meters tall and usually the tallest in any given group'. Also, considering that he wields a Chainsword singlehandedly against such opponents as Chaos Marines in Power Armour, Daemons, Necrons and Tryanid Hive Tyrants and he is still able to generate enough power to hack into his opponents or parry their attacks, it would stand to reason that he would be pretty ripped.
  • Parodied in The Areas of My Expertise, a book of fake trivia:.

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that it was reported as "UNSOLD AND DESTROYED" to the Publisher and is stolen property. Also, you should be aware that the cover was awesome. It featured a painting of a metallic silver dragon flying up either to rescue or eat a beautiful, nearly nude sword maiden as she falls off a cliff. All of this is overseen by the bitter glare of the ever-uncaring Triple Suns. Plus, a very flattering portrait of the Author appeared within the Main Sun.

    • For the record, the book's real cover looks nothing like this. Although the dragon cover is printed on the inside of the cover of the paperback edition.
  • There's a Filk Song that parodies the phenomenon: "There's a bimbo on my cover".
  • Parodied in Bimbos of the Death Sun. Engineering professor Jay Omega once wrote a novel about sunspots wrecking electronics and reducing the intelligence of women worldwide; the novel is well-writen Hard Sci-Fi and not the least bit misogynistic. Unfortunately, the third-rate publishing house saddles it with a Frank Frazetta-style Contemptible Cover, featuring a Fur Bikini-clad barbarian woman clinging to the leg of a muscle-bound scientist with a clipboard and computer, as well as the title Bimbos of the Death Sun. As a result, people assume both book and author are much more lurid than they really are, and Jay does his best to make sure as few people as possible know he wrote it.
    • For extra recursion points, the actual Bimbos of the Death Sun was given a comparable cover; the novel itself is a fairly tame (if funny) murder-mystery set at a sci-fi convention.
  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid Greg's mom puts the kibosh on his book club selection because she doesn't like the scantily clad warrior woman on the cover. Greg notes that there are no women in the book's entire series and wonders if the cover artist even read the book.
  • The first edition of Bored of the Rings included a rather erotic "excerpt" from the book as part of the front material. Naturally, nothing even remotely resembling the excerpt can be found in the actual text.
  • Alan Coren packaged a collection of humorous short stories and essays into a book titled Golfing for Cats, with a huge Nazi swastika on the cover. The reasoning, as stated in the foreword, is that people are interested in golf, cats, and the Third Reich, so putting them all together would be superb marketing.

Live Action TV

  • Ernie Kovaks parodied this trope with a series of "more sex and violence" book covers, showing Little Women as ladies of ill repute, Peter Rabbit as a gangster, and a Webster's unabridged dictionary with a picture of a silhouette of a lady behind a window blind, with blurbs all over the cover such as "Unexpurgated!", "Four Letter Words!", and "Nothing Left Out!".


Video Games

  • Capcom designed the box art for the Retraux Mega Man 9 in the style of the original covers.
    • The box art was mocked even before that in Mega Man ZX Advent, where it was a part of side quest where a boy wanted cool pictures of heroes: upon seeing it, he immediately dismisses it as lame and lets you keep it. Upon looking it in your menu, the game states that "this "legendary hero" looks more like some sort of a colorful coal miner".
    • The trend continued with the Mega Man 10 boxart.
  • The title screen for the Doom mod "Psychic" is a deliberately-bad drawing of a man in a red coat and hat lifting up a cooked chicken with psychic powers, with said psychic powers shown as the word "BRITAIN" pasted all over. The actual mod is very well-done, playing like a cross between Devil May Cry and System Shock.


Western Animation

  • Regular Show parodies this when Mordecai and Rigby plug in an 8-bit game and compare it (favorably) to the cover illustration.

Real Life

  1. IBM's 1987 Video Graphics Array (VGA) supported 640×480 in 16 colours or 320×200 in 256 colours, which was largely inadequate for displaying even a true-colour still photo on-screen. Go back further and video graphics only gets worse. Even screens intended for live over-the-air TV reception would appear in the catalogue with, invariably, "simulated picture" as the merchant replaced the actual displayed image with a stock photo in every ad. By the mid-nineties a display might've been able to show an actual photograph, as this was needed to run a web browser... but before then? Sixteen posterised colours was typical, at best.
  2. There were no flying horses, guns, robots, swords made of light, or shadow-men, the monsters in the movie the one on the cover vaguely resembled were not ever ridden, and of those five characters only the one on the right looks anything like a character in the actual movie (Nausicaa, who even then wasn't blonde).
  3. despite Infestation being an officially licensed product, which goes counter to Mega Crossover's definition as unofficial crossovers
  4. Well he can heal Rogue, but she has to absorb his abilities first.
  5. although the episode titles printed onto the cases and the cassettes were inconsistent with each other
  6. The regular police officers don't really count...