I have seen a big debate over the appearance of Pennywise in upcoming It (2017 film) and IT (miniseries), as to which one is more scary. And I do find them drastically different but I wanted to know how it is when compared to the novel. I mean which adaptation is more similar to the original novel in regards to Pennywise's looks?
I happened to find this excerpt from the novel online (my paperback is packed away somewhere in the attic):
There was a clown in the stormdrain. The light was far from good, but it was good enough so that George Denbrough was sure of what he was seeing. It was a clown, like in the circus or on TV. In fact he looked like a cross between Bozo and Clarabell, who talked by honking his (or was it her?-George Denbrough was never really sure of the gender) horn on Howdy Doody Saturday mornings-Buffalo Bob was just about the only one who could understand Clarabell, and that always cracked Georgie up. The face of the clown in the stormdrain was white, there were funny tufts of red hair on either side of his bald head, there was a big clown-smile painted over his mouth. If George would have been inhabiting a later year, he would have surely thought of Ronald McDonald before Bozo or Clarabell. The clown held a bunch of balloons, all colors, like gorgeous ripe fruit in one hand. In the other he held George's newspaper boat...
Then the clown’s face changed. And what little George Denbrough saw next was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the things in the basement look like sweet, angelic dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke. And George knew no more...
As you can see, the imagery is mostly left to the imagination with a bit of generic "clown description" thrown in. Which reminds me of an old David Lee Roth quote (he, the former frontman of Rock pioneers Van Halen); "Nothing I say will ever be as sick and twisted as what your dirty little minds will think up!" Stephen King's novels tend to use this same philosophy, where he will generically lay out a base and usually fill it in with "The terror of which can never be comprehended" or whatever, so that you create the ugliness without him having to spell it out.
And so, neither the upcoming movie's version of Pennywise nor the upcoming miniseries will really match his looks, and until they're actually released we won't know whether or not his personality and mannerisms will match what we've read.
One thing I remember clearly from the novel was Pennywise having "silver dollar eyes". What exactly that means its up to interpretation. Perhaps they looked like shiny coins, or perhaps its a reference to coins laid over the eyes of the dead. Maybe the irises or entire eye was like liquid silver, or perhaps the glinted with a cold metallic light.