Star struck We ask artists how the orig­i­nal Star Wars in­flu­enced them, and whether The Force Awak­ens will live up to their ex­pec­ta­tions or prove to be a dis­ap­point­ment of ga­lac­tic pro­por­tions…

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“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...” marked the in­tro­duc­tion to an iconic fran­chise that’s cap­ti­vated the imag­i­na­tions of mil­lions, for gen­er­a­tions. From the harsh deserts of Ta­tooine to the sin­is­ter Death Star, a fleet of X-wings to a mot­ley col­lec­tion of droids, it’s fair to say that the im­agery of Star Wars has shaped the world of science fic­tion since the re­lease of Episode IV in 1977.

The strug­gle be­tween Im­pe­ri­als and Rebels sparked a vi­sion in thou­sands of artists, en­cour­ag­ing them to im­merse them­selves in cre­ativ­ity. Mike May­hew il­lus­trated the Star Wars minis­eries for Dark Horse, and says the orig­i­nal tril­ogy re­ally got his cre­ative juices flow­ing: “What in­spired me about the films was the amount of thought that went into designing ev­ery as­pect of it. Noth­ing felt half-hearted.” He point-blank de­clares his dis­ap­point­ment in the more re­cent se­ries of pre­quels: “I was not a fan,” he ad­mits.

Mike says that Episode VII: The Force Awak­ens has the op­por­tu­nity to push the boat out when it comes to its in-uni­verse tech­nol­ogy and de­signs. “I hope to see in Episode VII what I saw in the orig­i­nal Star Wars: some­thing com­pletely new. I want to feel like I did the first time I saw a TIE fighter. Its space­ship de­sign was un­like any­thing I’d ever come across.”

Mike also hopes the film will strengthen its le­gacy with homages to sci-fi film his­tory: “I want to see a movie that cel­e­brates cinema. That’s what Star Wars did so well. It dis­played an acute aware­ness of what had come be­fore, ref­er­enc­ing ev­ery­thing from the Er­rol Flynn clas­sic Ad­ven­tures of

I hope to see in Episode VII what I saw in the orig­i­nal film: some­thing com­pletely new

Robin Hood to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and in­cor­po­rat­ing them into a unique cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Free­lance illustrator Tony Foti agrees: “In a lot of ways the orig­i­nal movie was a pas­tiche of what had come be­fore. It raised the bar for the whole genre. The ded­i­ca­tion to de­tail, cre­ative use of shapes and that weath­ered, lived-in look are all things I’ve tried to in­cor­po­rate into my art.”


Mike would also like to see some more mixed and chal­leng­ing char­ac­ters: “I think dark, haunted char­ac­ters thrive in the Star Wars uni­verse,” he says. “I was al­ways turned off by char­ac­ters who seemed to pan­der to the lighter side or the younger au­di­ence.”

As well as the char­ac­ters, the re­al­ity of the films’ world ap­peals to oth­ers, too. “I was seven years old when I saw Star Wars for the first time. That day ev­ery­thing changed for me,” says Car­los Valen­zuela, a Star Wars mega-fan and cur­rent IDW cover artist for X-Files, “I loved all the de­signs, the ships, ro­bots, land­scapes. I re­mem­ber drawing the X-wing fighters hun­dred of times!”

In the im­mi­nent fea­ture, Car­los yearns for a strong story that deep­ens the Sky­walk­ers’ his­tory: “The path of Luke be­com­ing a se­nior Jedi Mas­ter would be in­ter­est­ing. I would love to see more Jedi train­ing, as in The Em­pire Strikes Back – ev­ery­one learned so much from the wis­dom of Yoda. I don’t want JJ Abrams to bring back ev­ery char­ac­ter from the orig­i­nal tril­ogy with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. Hope­fully the story will call for more Boba Fett!” Tony, on the other hand, yearns for Mark Hamill to ig­nite his lightsaber again!

Car­los isn’t a big fan of CG ef­fects, and hopes that the new flick won’t go over­board with them. “I’d love the new film to use more prac­ti­cal ef­fects in­stead of fill­ing ev­ery­thing with neat CG. With the pre­quels, the core el­e­ments were there but they missed the retro feel – I think mainly be­cause of the overuse of com­puter-gen­er­ated ef­fects.”

Of­fi­cial Star Wars comics cover artist Hugh Flem­ing com­pletely agrees with this sen­ti­ment. “They can ad­vance by go­ing back­wards to­ward a greater re­liance on prac­ti­cal ef­fects, build­ing en­vi­ron­ments for ac­tors to im­merse them­selves in and find the truth in their char­ac­ters. Thank­fully they’re go­ing in pre­cisely that di­rec­tion. I’m in two minds about the new Stormtrooper de­sign, but real per­form­ers in real suits go a long way to sell­ing me on them.”

With JJ Abrams at the helm, the se­quel is be­ing given the ben­e­fit of the doubt. In his ca­pa­ble hands, 2009’s Star Trek re­boot was brought back to the big screen to uni­ver­sal

In the pre­quels, the core el­e­ments were there but they missed the retro feel

ac­claim – and with fans per­haps even more zeal­ous than those of Star Wars, this was a great achieve­ment.

Car­los is very ex­cited to see JJ’s di­rec­tion: “I trust com­pletely in Abrams’ vi­sion. I love that spe­cial ‘retro feel’ that some of his movies have, par­tic­u­larly in Su­per 8. And it helps that he’s a big fan.”


Mike also has high hopes: “JJ Abrams is about as ca­pa­ble as any­one. I have a lot of con­fi­dence in him. I think the new Star Wars will ben­e­fit from the as­so­ci­a­tion with Dis­ney and Marvel as well. I think Marvel Stu­dios has shown the world a thing or two about how to make thrilling, se­ri­alised ac­tion/adventure movies. I get the im­pres­sion that this is set­ting the bar higher for Star Wars, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Hugh is a lit­tle more du­bi­ous: “I’ve up­held a tra­di­tion – since maybe 1982 – of hav­ing bad dreams about an­tic­i­pated se­quels to favourite movies. I had one a few months back where I was at the pre­miere screen­ing of Episode VII. The film was set in the mod­ern day, there was no ac­tion in it what­so­ever and no char­ac­ters I recog­nised. Ev­ery­one wore Star Trek cos­tumes and it was set in a Costco park­ing lot. So, yes, safe to say I do har­bour deep-seated, fan­boy anx­i­eties about how this one’s gonna go.” The ac­claimed Aus­tralian illustrator is look­ing for “just a straight­for­ward swash­buck­ler with hu­man, re­lat­able char­ac­ters, and hope­fully a few fresh plot ideas – please, no Death Star 3!”

Tony has an­other point of view. He thinks adding to the wider uni­verse is never a bad thing: “Even if the new films were the worst ever (and I’m pos­i­tive they won’t be), it’s not like it would some­how ruin the orig­i­nal three.

“Star Wars has be­come a living story that ev­ery gen­er­a­tion is adding on to,” Tony con­tin­ues. “By the re­lease of the first movie, Ge­orge Lu­cas was al­ready plan­ning for it to be a James Bond-type fran­chise, where dif­fer­ent film mak­ers would add their own facets to the mythol­ogy. Some parts will be great, oth­ers not so much, but I think the good bits will al­ways be worth the duds.”

We’ll find out more on 18 De­cem­ber…

Tony Foti cap­tured key char­ac­ters for Fan­tasy Flight’s Star Wars:

The Card Game.

Hugh Flem­ing vi­su­alises the clash be­tween Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Sky­walker, as played out at dif­fer­ent points in the Star Wars chronol­ogy.

Aus­tralian artist Hugh Flem­ing is known for his cin­e­matic, photo-re­al­is­tic poster art for the Star Wars comic se­ries. Car­los Valen­zuela’s por­trait of Ami­dala ref­er­ences some iconic sci-fi char­ac­ters. Although he’s pos­si­bly best known for his pin-up work, Car­los Valen­zuela loves all the Star Wars uni­verse, in­clud­ing the out­ra­geous crea­tures. And Boba Fett. Mike May­hew en­joys de­pict­ing Star Wars’ ex­tended uni­verse: “I try to treat ev­ery drawing I do as if it’s go­ing to be the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Car­los recre­ates the ex­cite­ment of the orig­i­nal film and its cast of un­for­get­table char­ac­ters. Han Solo pre­pares to make the jump to light speed, in Tony Foti’s art for Star Wars: The Card Game. Car­los Valen­zuela hopes to some­day be­come an of­fi­cial Star Wars artist and pro­duces nu­mer­ous pieces of ex­pertly crafted fan art.

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