Monday, December 26, 2016

Retro Dark Horse: Classic Star Wars: A Long Time Ago... #1 (12 Days of C-3PO and R2-D2 Covers)

Celebrating day two of the twelve days of C-3PO and R2-D2 covers!

The concept art for Star Wars is just as interesting as the end result that winds up on the big screen.  Lucasfilm has meticulously kept all the artwork and releases it for use on book covers, as the subject of books, and for other Star Wars merchandise.  It is even referenced from time to time for material in later movies.  For example, one early drawing of R2-D2 by Ralph McQuarrie shows an oval robot that moves along like a ball balancing itself using gyroscopes.  This concept was used for BB-8 in The Force Awakens.

It is always a treat to see the early Ralph McQuarrie concept paintings that were used by George Lucas to help convince 20th Century Fox Studios to fund the original movie.  One of these paintings depicting C-3PO and R2-D2 on Tatooine is used for the cover of Classic Star Wars: A Long Time Ago #1.  Dark Horse acquired the license to publish comics featuring Dylan Dog, Martin Mystery, and Nathan Never from Italian publisher Serio Bonelli Editore and published 6 incentive issues of Classic Star Wars: A Long Time Ago to help promote the line.  These black and white, digest-sized books contain reprints of Marvel Star Wars issues with #1 reprinting Star Wars #91 and Star Wars Annual #1 and 3.

Classic Star Wars: A Long Time Ago.... #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (March 1999)
There are actually 3 versions of this McQuarrie artwork, each with slight changes to C-3PO's torso and/or face.  In the earliest version, C-3PO has a human-like face and torso.  The expression on the face conveys sadness.  A second version, which was discovered by the authors doing research for the book Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, shows a C-3PO with a more streamlined face and torso, but the eyes are very similar to the first painting and still invoke sadness.  The third version of this painting, which is used for the comic cover, shows C-3PO with the same streamlined torso, but the face has been modified again to give a narrow, longer mouth and round eyes.  This face is noticeably more happy than the earlier drawings.

The cover is a cropped version of the original painting.  Missing are two moons on the horizon and the crashed escape pod the two droids emerged from.  I wonder if the idea of Tatooine's twin suns was inspired by this painting?

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