Tony DiTerlizzi, Star Wars cover

Bounded Enthusiasm #7: Tony DiTerlizzi, Ralph McQuarrie, & Star Wars

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Tony DiTerlizzi, Star Wars cover
Tony DiTerlizzi photo courtesy of Angela DiTerlizzi, used with permission.

Today’s episode of Bounded Enthusiasm is an interview with Tony DiTerlizzi. He’s an author and illustrator of many books for kids, including one of my family’s favorites, the WondLa series, and I’ve actually interviewed him a couple of times before. For once, though, he has written a book that he did not illustrate himself.

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Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight features the amazing paintings of Ralph McQuarrie, who worked closely with George Lucas to help create the look of Star Wars. Besides doing concept designs of characters, he made many paintings of scenes and sweeping vistas, literally setting the scene for the Star Wars universe. McQuarrie passed away in 2012 but his legacy lives on, both in the movies and in the many books that feature his artwork. (A Kickstarter project from this summer collected over 400 pages of his non-Star Wars artwork in a hardcover volume.)

Darth Vader by Ralph McQuarrie
This painting depicts a Darth Vader with a scalloped cape and skirt, and a white lightsaber. Image: Disney Book Group, used with permission.

DiTerlizzi was tasked by Lucasfilm Press (an imprint of Disney Book Group) to write and design a book that showcased McQuarrie’s concept artwork from the original Star Wars trilogy. He was given access to around 200 paintings, some of which have never been released, and had the enormous challenge of putting that into a picture book format. The end result is a 64-page, hardcover picture book that focuses on Luke Skywalker’s journey from moisture-farm boy to Jedi Knight.

McQuarrie X-Wing
The TIE Fighter is pretty close to the finished design, but the X-Wing has an interesting split engine on the wings. Image: Disney Book Group, used with permission.

The book itself is a beauty. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll love the large format: it looks like a coffee table book, though not as thick as most art books, and it’s a great showcase for McQuarrie’s images. DiTerlizzi’s text condenses the plot of the movies into one continuous story, written in language that captures many of the memorable lines and sound effects. Of course, there are a lot of details that get trimmed to make it fit 64 pages, but I think it does capture the essence of Luke’s story. Star Wars aficionados will find that their own minds will fill in the rest.

As you can see from this spread, R2D2 and C3PO looked quite different at an earlier stage of development. Image: Disney Book Group, used with permission.

One of the things I like most about this book, as with other “art of” books, is seeing images that didn’t make it to the screen. C3PO looks more like the robot from Metropolis; X-Wings have a different engine configuration; the Slave One is a lot rounder. Images from the later movies do tend to look more like the films, because by then Darth Vader’s costume had been defined and the actors had been cast, but it’s fun to see the way Lucas and McQuarrie were feeling out designs and concepts as they went. I’d love to see a more comprehensive Ralph McQuarrie “Art of Star Wars” book eventually; if there are that many paintings that have never been published, they would make a heck of a book on their own, too.

McQuarrie Death Star
DiTerlizzi used the text and inset image to hide a second Death Star in McQuarrie’s painting. Image: Disney Book Group, used with permission.

In the interview, DiTerlizzi talks about the process of writing the text for existing illustrations–in fact, for an existing story–as well as designing the book to let McQuarrie’s art shine. He’ll be traveling to a few events this fall, so visit his website for tour dates. He also mentioned yet another upcoming project: Realms, a book of his roleplaying game artwork which is due out next spring.

Realms–Tony DiTerlizzi’s next project, featuring his RPG artwork.

Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight will be released tomorrow (October 7), in time to pick up a copy for Star Wars Reads Day this Saturday. (Need some more suggestions? Check out Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader & Son or Jedi Academy series, or Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda series.)

Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of the book.

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