A Comparison of Jason Cockcroft’s Illustrations in “Harry Potter” and “We Were Wolves”

Do you miss seeing the stunning artwork in the Harry Potter book series? Jason Cockcroft, the illustrator of three original UK Harry Potter books, recently released We Were Wolves, a remarkable work of art written and illustrated by the immensely talented creator. As a new YA novel that tells the dark tale of a teen boy, his estranged father, and a dark secret, there are ample opportunities to create phenomenal visual scenes. I recently reviewed We Were Wolves and am excited to share some comparisons of Jason Cockcroft’s watercolor illustrations for Harry Potter and We Were Wolves. Let’s see if you are able to detect the similarities and differences between the two works, no magic needed.


Original UK Harry Potter Covers

For Americans who are unfamiliar, let’s start out with a quick overview of Jason Cockcroft’s Harry Potter covers.



The original UK cover for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix features Cockcroft’s rendition of a fiery phoenix rising up from golden orange flames. The beautiful watercolor image symbolized the increasing intensity of the story as well as the hope to rise up against adversity that persists throughout the book. I can imagine the Order getting behind this image as they battle the Death Eaters.



The original UK cover for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince also features large flames as the backdrop of the image as well as encircling the two characters. Dumbledore and Harry stand close together and maintain a fighting stance. The image cleverly sums up the life-threatening events that take place in the book and Harry’s unique relationship with Dumbledore.



The UK cover for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows shows Harry, Ron, and Hermione thrown into chaos. Ron and Hermione look shocked and confused. Harry has a determined facial expression. The illustration shows each character in an action pose that fits the book since the trio goes on the run, narrowly avoids danger, and pursues the Horcruxes all the way until the ending statement of “All was well.”


Inspiration for We Were Wolves Original UK Cover

Author and illustrator Jason Cockcroft shared the details and inspiration for his work on the Harry Potter series and We Were Wolves with MuggleNet. He discussed how his appreciation for styles traditionally utilized by comic book artists influenced his methods to create the images. Although We Were Wolves is a different genre than Harry Potter, there is similar symbolism in each:

Harry’s stag Patronus – which appears on the inside flap of the cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – has close associations with his family, of course. The enormous prehistoric stag present in We Were Wolves appears to the boy in his dreams and, like the other creatures in the story, is symbolic. The extinct stag, based on deer that existed in Europe hundreds of thousands of years ago as part of the Megaloceros genus, which included Irish elk, represents the tragedy of the boy’s father, John.

We Were Wolves tells a story that merges myths and truths. The boy lives in a camper van with his father, John. The surroundings are wild, and the boy’s dreams depict mythical and ancient beasts.


We Were Wolves Cover


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The cover image depicts a mysterious and foreboding wolf that is larger than life, like the Grim in Divination. The exterior of We Were Wolves features much less color variety than the covers of Harry Potter, reflecting the somber mood of the story. The wolf’s stance is neutral, hiding whether or not it is a threat. Near the bottom of the illustration is a camper van with a light on, and the door is open, which reveals that it is a place of welcome safety. The white silhouette of the boy is placed directly under the wolf. The color choice for the boy seems to represent innocence and hope. The boy stands unmoving, centered, facing the camper van yet at a distance away from it. The cover image is simple yet reveals the struggles and choices the boy must face and the overlap of reality and myth.


We Were Wolves Illustrations

The UK Harry Potter book covers and the cover of We Were Wolves all feature full-color illustrations, while the interior pictures in We Were Wolves are in grayscale. Harry Potter has dark undertones, but the story is upbeat and cheerful overall. In We Were Wolves, there isn’t any magical spell that will instantly provide relief for the boy. The illustrations reflect that.



In the wake of his father’s absence, the boy is frequently alone and learns to adapt to life on his own. Can you think of another time when a boy (who may or may not have lived…) grew up pretty much on his own?



Nature is also ingrained into the story of We Were Wolves. Detailed watercolor depictions of deer, birds, bison, rabbits, and wolves are found throughout the book.



In this emotionally charged piece, the boy is longing for his father. The boy is not overly sensitive, yet there is a strong emotional element in this tale. Ultimately, We Were Wolves is a story of how reality and fantasy can merge during times of turmoil. Just like Harry Potter, this story cuts straight through to human experiences, and the myths and fantasy only increase its emotional resonance.


What similarities and differences do you notice between the illustration styles of the books?


A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Andersen Press. All opinions belong to the reviewer.


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