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I have the 2017 Del Rey Books mass market edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Here is the front cover:

The cover of the 2017 edition

It features a circular green alien with two arms sticking its tongue out. Looking at other covers, the first American edition also has this character:

The first American edition's cover

Who is this supposed to be? I have no clue.

  • 2
    I'm not sure that's actually supposed to be anyone/anything. The Vogons are (dark) green, but they have eyes and legs. The only other possibly relevant green reference I can find is that it's the colour of the Betelgeuse trading scouts, but presumably that would be a bit more serious. – DavidW Jul 17 at 18:04
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    Interesting. It can't be Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged, because he first appears in the third book of the trilogy. Perhaps it's a visual representation of the Guide itself, with its message "DON'T PANIC". – b_jonas Jul 17 at 18:05
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    @DavidW Are you in America? It’s only on American books. – Stormblessed Jul 17 at 18:13
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    I always assumed it was an artist's depiction of the Great Green Arkleseizure – agweber Jul 18 at 19:56
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    I always thought it was just a green planet making a face, not any particular entity discussed in the books. While I (American) do recognize it in the wild as a HHG mascot, that's only because the first copy I came across had it. Other books in the series I acquired later didn't use it, but I somehow managed to connect the dots anyways. – brichins Jul 18 at 22:28
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+50

Apparently it's called "The Cosmic Cutie".

This question was also asked on reddit, which links to this FAQ.

According to Douglas, the little green blobby planet thing (nickamed the "Cosmic Cutie") has been struck the final blow, and will not be featured on any of the new (American) HHG books. Here's what Adams had to say:

"I HATE the little green blob and have spent years locked in arguments with my publishers with me trying to get rid of the obscene little thing. I've finally secured its demise with the new Ballantine editons of the soft cover backlist."

Non-American readers are perhaps unaware of this book adornment, as it was only the American publishing houses that determined that without a consistent motif, all of us Yanks would become hopelessly confused by a series of books with different names.

It's also mentioned on a Wikipedia talk page. It's mentioned on Topless Robot, which does not provide a source, and The Geek Twins, which in turn links to this FAQ (thanks DavidW).

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    He clearly failed to get it removed from the covers. – Stormblessed Jul 17 at 18:17
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    I find it endlessly amusing that the publisher insisted on using this thing as some sort of icon or mascot for the HHG franchise (because Americans would be "hopelessly confused" without it) and yet nobody in the general public knows what it is or why it's there, and the only confusion about the book series seems to be why it's there in the first place. – Steve-O Jul 18 at 13:05
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    @Steve-O I assume their "thought" process was it doesn't matter what the thing is, so long as the general public goes "ahh... it's got a green blob sticking its tongue out, it must be a "Hitchhiker" book". – TripeHound Jul 18 at 14:25
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    I was fairly bummed I missed Big Hero through Big Hero 5. But Big Hero 6 worked reasonably well as a stand-alone film. – T.J. Crowder Jul 18 at 16:14
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    @wizzwizz4 Don't be. – chepner Jul 18 at 20:13
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Somebody asked Douglas Adams about that green blob thing at a 1997 or 1998 reading I attended. The question (asked by a preteen kid) got a round of applause before the author even had a chance to answer. Adams immediately got very animated and said, "I have no idea!" He explained that he "hate[d] the bloody thing," had no idea why anybody had put it on the covers to begin with, and had fought (successfully) to keep it off the cover of the omnibus edition of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.

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    Authors have little, if any, say about what goes on the covers. At least until their books turn out to be best sellers. – jamesqf Jul 19 at 16:49
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I was fortunate to have a chance one-on-one conversation with Douglas Adams, sometime around 1982. (In a bookstore called "A Change of Hobbit," in Santa Monica, California.)

When I asked him the same question, and his answer then was that he had no idea what it meant, and that he had never seen the cover art before it was published.

This was about a year after the film Heavy Metal was released, and it featured an evil glowing green orb as a character. I asked if perhaps that inspired the the green thing on the cover. He averred that it was possible, but he really didn't know.

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I always thought it was a Zero. If you watch the far superior BBC adaption of HHGttG when it gets to the bit about the population of the Galaxy, being Zero, and the chance encounters you would make to counter such arguments. Would be the sum product of a deranged imagination. A bunch of these raspberry blowing Zeros would just start popping in and out.

But, then it's probably some meaningless coincidence, brought on by some random event somewhere in the deeper universe.

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