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Sunday, 26 February 2012

STAR WARS AT 35: A CHAT WITH HOWARD CHAYKIN!

The first commercial poster art for the original STAR WARS from 1976. Image and art: Howard Chaykin (via the SPACE: 1970 website).

Today I attended London's first Super Comic Convention event at the EXCEL CENTRE in the heart of Docklands, where, amongst the masses of comic book aficionados and costumed characters waiting for the chance to witness Stan Lee for the first time, I got to meet and talk with the legendary artist Howard Chaykin, a true icon of the American comic book industry whose early work would include the sci-fi epic CODY STARBUCK (which was an early inspiration for George Lucas when devising STAR WARS in the early seventies), AMERICAN FLAGG! and lots of work for the MARVEL and DC comics universe. Of course, to STAR WARS fans he is remembered for his brilliant work in adapting the original first film as part of a six-issue comic series for MARVEL in late 1976 and 1977, and his legendary advance art poster for the film that was sold at the San Diego Comic Con in 1976 that promoted the film to an audience then not yet used to Darth Vader, Chewbacca or Princess Leia.

Artist Howard Chaykin.
STAR WARS comic writer/adaptor Roy Thomas and Chaykin at the San Diego COMIC CON promoting the then upcoming STAR WARS comic series.

Funny, frank, opinionated and self-deprecating- a kind of love-him or hate-him personality akin to Harlan Ellison of the SF book world, with a love of Ravioli (since his days as a starving artist), but not of the kind served in Italian restaurants!- Chaykin was great to meet, and the other fans clearly enjoyed his talking about his work and career, and doing art for them, as much as I did. Of STAR WARS, he recalled he never saw any footage from the film when doing the 1976 adaptation, though he had 400 stills from the film as reference but he didn't like the images, which he felt were too inert, nor the sets, which he felt looked like something from an IKEA Catalogue. He visited the ILM model shop and saw a huge room full of model kits and rows of tank models kits in particular, in an area with a constant smell of glue in the air. Amongst the film models built or being built, he saw work being done to the underside of Darth Vader's Star Destroyer from the beginning of the movie (which he said was the length of a canoe), saw the surface of the Death Star and four varying sized Millennium Falcon models. He was impressed with the model work and the detail involved but didn't think the original film was going to be a success. "If I had known, I'd have worked harder," he told me, humorously.

A fun interpretation of our characters by Chaykin for MARVEL from the late seventies.

It was great to meet Mister Chaykin and STAR WARS AFICIONADO continues to wish him the very best of success with all his future illustrative endeavours.

Howard Chaykin profile/interview: Graphic Novel and Comic Book Creators in New York City - Graphic NYC and How Star Wars Saved the Comic Book Industry

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