Category Archives: My Artwork

A Rose By Any Other Name

This week I want to cover a few topics related to Star Wars, fandom and a bit of Aurebesh too.

Why I Love Rose

It’s not for nothing that we meet Paige Tico first. Paige is a bad ass. Under the worst possible conditions, she keeps her shit together and gets the job done. When it comes to the Tico sisters, she is the cool one. She’s a fighter jock; she gets to hang with Poe Dameron. We all know which table Paige sits at. When we meet Rose a little later, she’s been assigned the glorious task of guarding escape pods.

No one wants to think the annoying little sister can be the hero. We’re supposed to want our Star Wars heroes to be quick with a one liner like Han Solo, wear sweet armor like Boba Fett, and blast stormtroopers like Princess Leia. Rose is too earnest for a snappy comeback, wears a frumpy jumpsuit, and isn’t much of a shot (aside from poor Finn, I guess). Some have complained that Finn and Rose accomplished nothing on Canto Bight. I disagree; maybe their plan to disable the First Order’s hyperspace tracking was a bust, but that’s not all they did. In passing on her ring to the broom kid, Rose kept alive the spark that’ll light the fire of the Jedi again. Small victories matter. They may even matter more than big ones. And if nothing else, Rose and Finn tore that place up, and gave those shit-heels a bad day. Because fuck those guys. Fuck them.

I get it; we all want to be cool like Paige. But we’re not. We’re Rose. Most of us don’t get to be played by an actor as charming and enthusiastic as Kelly Marie Tran, but, like Rose, we can step up and be heroes too if we want to. We can save what we love. Paige knew it. In her last moments, she didn’t flip off the First Order or make a dumb joke. She thought of her sister.

I have debated all aspects of Star Wars endlessly with friends whom I greatly respect and whose opinions differ greatly from mine. I doubt there is a long time fan who has not been disappointed by Star Wars at some point in their fandom, but Star Wars is so big and means so many different things to so many different people, that no one should get to say what the litmus test for being a real fan is. Sadly, fans acting like hateful, spoiled shit-heels is nothing new, but it seems like social media is only capable of amplifying stupid rage these days. Anyone who feels better spewing bile at real people for daring to try to entertain them or goes looking for conspiracy theories in mass market, space adventure stories has clearly taken the wrong lessons from Star Wars.

It’s okay to stop liking Star Wars. Heck, I checked out during the the latter days of the Expanded Universe. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have revitalized my interest, but I’m fully prepared to move on once the Game of Thrones guys take over. If they make a movie I don’t like, I’ll get over it like a fucking adult.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

I kinda hoped waiting a week might give me some unique insight into Solo: A Star Wars Story, but I don’t have anything profound to say. I found it a perfectly fun summer movie with charismatic actors doing exciting things and having a grand ol’ time. It doesn’t have much depth, but I wasn’t expecting it to; I’m not sure I even wanted it to. In many ways it felt like a Fast and Furious or Mission: Impossible movie, except, y’know, in space. Whether you find that a ringing endorsement or a damning condemnation probably will indicate how you’ll feel about Solo. I had a good time. I think it’ll it hold up better than Rogue One and is a perfectly good way to waste a couple of hours on a hot afternoon.

I’ll leave the speculation about why it has not performed like gangbusters to the experts except to say that I think it’s probably for the best that we’re in for a year and a half wait until the next Star Wars movie.

Sometimes It’s All I Think About

Longtime readers will recognize this image from a previous post, but if I’ve learned anything from George Lucas it is that it’s never too late to make changes. After three attempts I think I’ve finally arrived at my “original vision.”

I was prompted to revisit this poster after it was added as a stronghold decoration available to players who complete their weekly Conquest goal. The advertisement’s tag line is in the center of the graphic, and there is additional text at the bottom and vertically oriented along one side. The Aurebesh itself is reversed so it must be read right to left (although my recreation reads normally). Curiously, the decoration version of this poster differs from the one seen around the galaxy. The poster’s frame is reversed, but the image itself remains “backwards.” The result of this is that much of the text along the vertical edge of the picture is hidden in the stronghold version.

Nevertheless, I was determined to put this one to rest and finally translate the faint, vertical text that had vexed me previously. It took a bit of digital jiggery-pokery before the letters finally came into focus. The image above is a peek at my work file; sometimes these translations really do take more a bit doing than you might think.

Next time, something new! And fewer f-bombs, probably.

 

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Jax’s Back

This month, in the comic book pages of IDW’s Star Wars Adventures 2018 Annual, saw the return of one of the most infamous characters in all Star Wars lore: Jaxxon, the green haired, rocket-rabbit from the very earliest days of what would become known as the Expanded Universe.

Jaxxon and his partner Amaiza (who also returns to the four color limelight), were one quarter of the “Eight for Aduba-3“, one of the first original Star Wars adventures in any media after the release of the movie. Before I wax too nostalgic, I should point out that the Aduba Saga has fairly earned its controversial reputation. Writer Roy Thomas saw in the first Star Wars movie a mix of Flash Gordon serials, samurai, western and World War II movies, and decided to do his own riff on The Magnificent Seven, adding elements from Godzilla movies, Warner Bros. cartoons, female professional wrestling, and even Cervantes. The end result, however, is an over-stuffed, under-cooked mess. In the years to come poor Jaxxon would be singled out by both official sources and fans as an excuse to dismiss the whole Marvel series. This is ironic because, until this month, there was literally a four decade gap in Jaxxon stories, and his last appearance in 1978, issue 16’s “The Hunter” is one of the strongest tales in the original run.

No doubt, these comics are very much of their time, and may not be to modern tastes. The earliest stories between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back tended to be illustrated in a broad Silver Age style: Luke and Leia had the physiques of super-heroes, almost no effort was given to make the characters look like their actors, and the action was very exaggerated and over the top. What was proper Star Wars was still being discovered back then, and sometimes those old comics wouldn’t fit in continuity, used concepts from the movies weirdly or were just too comic-booky. “Eight for Aduba-3” fits all those bills.

And yet…

The giant monster stomps things, Jaxxon cracks wise, Amaiza kicks butt, Don-Wan Kihotay is clumsily heroic, and Han Solo saves the day in spite of himself. What more could an eight year old ask of a Star Wars comic? Nowadays when some folks are genuinely asking if there is too much Star Wars, it’s hard to imagine what is was like back then to be a fan starved for new adventures after just one movie. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye smacked of the low budget sequel it was intended to be and the wholly bizarre Holiday Special left a generation of kids shaking their heads in confusion. But in the pages of Marvel’s Star Wars comics, that’s where the action was. If you wanted to see all the heroes from the movie exploring new worlds, encountering scores of new aliens and playing with all manner of new ships, droids and weapons, Marvel had you covered.

Even as a big fan, I cannot deny that those old Marvel stories have a host of issues, but I think their flaws were more of execution than ambition. Some stories were misses, sure, but they were big misses. And there were plenty of hits too: stories that made the wait between movies easier to take, and stories than even now stand tall in the legendary array of Star Wars canon.

So I’m thrilled to see Jaxxon and Amaiza have another day in the sun. Over the years, there has been the odd sighting in roleplaying game supplements, inside jokes and background references, but the cartoony style of Star Wars Adventures is a natural fit for Jaxxon. The story by writer Cavan Scott, illustrator Alain Mauricet and colorist Chris Fenoglio is a delightful romp with action, betrayal and a charming reinvention of these old characters. You don’t have to know who Jaxxon and Amaiza is to get a kick out of the story, but there are some literal and figurative easter eggs for old timers like myself to enjoy. I do hope they check in with these two star-hoppers again, at the very least they have some unfinished business. Jaxxon is silly and dumb like Star Wars can be sometimes, like Star Wars should be sometimes. If you’re cool with that, by all means, check it out!

Black Hole Redux

This week’s Aurebesh recreation continues my tribute to Jaxxon and Amaiza. Back in the day, Han Solo knew Amaiza as the “den-mother of the Black Hole Gang” so a return to my favorite daily quest hub seemed appropriate. The Jaxxon connection is obvious upon discovering the translation of this sign.

The sign is one of many advertisements for the HyperMatter Corporation and at first glance seems to tout the company’s commitment to the environment. However, anyone who has quested through the zone probably knows that the color in question probably refers to the radioactive glow that one might develop after spending too much time in the Black Hole.

I must admit I missed this sign during my first survey of the zone since it is posted somewhat out of view in the Imperial section of the Black Hole and does not seem to be used elsewhere. The sign itself hangs high on a building and is easy to miss if you don’t look up or don’t back track while completing your weekly quests. I only recently discovered it myself while exploring the area on an Republic character. It’s like Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

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Godspeed, Rebels

Star Wars: Rebels ended its four-season run Monday night, and I thought I’d share my thoughts about the show. While I generally enjoyed its predecessor, The Clone Wars, the quality of stories could swing wildly from one arc to the next, so I wasn’t sure what to expect of Rebels at its launch. However, Dave Filoni and the whole Lucasfilm animation team really took what they learned from The Clone Wars and refined it into something special.

Rebels had a tighter focus on the crew the Ghost, and the art team did a great job playing to their strengths. Drawing inspiration from Ralph McQuarrie’s original designs, we got to see early iterations of many  iconic Star Wars creations, from the Imperial speeders and walkers, to a more angular Darth Vader and a proto-Chewbacca who came to life as Zeb. The world the show created was immediately recognizable as Star Wars, but unique enough to always feel like its own thing.

With the show set in the era of Rebellion, it’s clear that everyone involved was eager to play with all the classic Star Wars toys, and they dove in with gusto. Fan service or not, I’ll never get tired of seeing the alphabet soup of Wing fighters in action. Everyone loves Boba Fett, but Sabine’s Mandalorian armor is a wonder of design, stripped down to its essentials, but with a distinctive Pop Art flair. As for the show’s central ship, the Ghost, I’d argue that it’s cooler than any vehicle or ship we’ve seen in any of the three most recent Star Wars movies.

The core of the show, of course, was the crew. On the one hand, we’ve seen these character types before: the boy hero, the spunky girl, the gruff but loveable tough guy, the patient maternal figure, the haunted veteran, and the scene-stealing droid but the show forged them into a family unit, and the affection these characters had for each other felt genuine. They cared about each other, so I cared about them.

My favorite character was Hera. It’s rare in Star Wars to see a mother figure play a central role in the story, and Hera was the heart and soul of the show. She was the bad-ass mom the Ghost crew needed to help find their place in the galaxy. Coming in second, obviously, is Chopper. He is an unrepentant and unreformed forking son of a bench, and I love him for it. I doubt we’ll ever see his like again.

Rebels did a good job keeping its focus on the main characters and their journeys, even when it touched on other aspects of the larger Star Wars mythos. Filoni got to tie up some dangling plot threads from The Clone Wars with the return of Ahsoka and Rex, but those characters felt like additions to the cast, not distractions from it. Rebels also came to be something of a prequel to Rogue One, but in a way that I think mostly felt natural to the story Rebels was already telling.

Some of Star Wars’ heaviest hitters also stopped by, and it’s a credit to the show’s creators that visits from Darth Vader, Yoda and Ben Kenobi were handled with fantastic drama but still a light enough touch to not overwhelm the course of the show. And I’m impressed with the job they did bringing Thrawn to life as an intelligent and formidable antagonist for our heroes.

I was sometimes frustrated that Rebels would bump up against the limits of what a kid’s show would allow, acting a little too coy about Kanaan and Hera’s relationship and lacking real narrative stakes when most every adventure had to have a happy ending. As a viewer, I could also see the creators straining against the schedule and budget limits of a TV production, but I also appreciate that over the course of 74 episodes, we really got to explore the characters and their settings in a way that movies just don’t have time for.

In the end, however, I’d say Rebels hit the marks it was aiming for, and is a most worthy addition to Star Wars lore. I don’t doubt for a moment that Filoni and company have more stories to tell, and I’m eager to see where they take us next.

 

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Nadia Come Home

I don’t get to do as much old fashioned drawing as I’d like these days, but I’d been wanting to show some love for one of my favorite, long lost SWTOR companions. Between a mild bout of Olympic fever and a light work schedule, I was finally able to finish this off. No Aurebesh this week, but it’s my blog and I’ll draw if I wanna, draw if I wanna.

In other news, Keith Kanneg shared the SWTOR road map for the next couple of months. I am glad to see that Gods from the Machine will reach its conclusion next month. Between the setting and the boss fights, I have very much enjoyed this operation, and I hope the Izax fight will be suitably climatic. It’s cool that Conquest will get some love. I like to bang out conquest objectives while I play and it’ll be nice to have some new stuff to work towards. April will see the next and perhaps concluding (it’s not clear from the road map) chapter in the Traitor story arc. This arc has been to me much more interesting for its settings than actual story, but return visit to Nathema should be pretty neat. In the blog post, Keith mentions augments, but I hope they won’t render moot the ones I’ve been crafting since the last game update. Augmenting gear has always struck me as busy work, and I kinda hope I’m done with it this expansion.

We’ll also see the return of five more companions and some action for lonely ol’ Arcann in the weeks ahead. The Mako and Akaavi partnership is not something I’d have predicted, but it is one I’m curious to play out. It’s also nice to know that Bioware remembers that the Consulars had companions too. Still no Nadia, but Felix is a mensch, and it’ll be nice to have him back on the team.

The road map also includes news that Gods from the Machine won’t include a full Master/Nightmare mode. I don’t have much to say about this since even my Hard Mode raiding days are behind me, and this doesn’t really affect me. I’m sure we’ve all seen the reports about Anthem monopolizing all of Bioware’s attention, but even so we filthy casuals have long since won the war for SWTOR, and I’m not going to lose sleep over the designers focusing what resources they do have on stuff that more players can experience.

 

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