Face To Face With The Masters
Any citizen of the galaxy may be summoned to answer to the Jedi Council. Here you may read the transcripts of such sessions.
Cellblock 1138 - 1997-1999 - 2000 - 2002 - 2003+
Interview with Christian Gossett
To Star Wars comics fans, the name Chris Gossett is synonymous with 'Tales of the
Jedi'. Chris' art first introduced us to Star Wars thousands of years before 'a long
time ago' in the original Tales of the Jedi series and in 'Dark Lords of the Sith'.
His most recent work can be seen in the surprisingly enjoyable 'TOTJ: Redemption'
and he can also be found on occation hanging out in TFN's Jedi Council literature
forum under the name, Ulic Qel Droma.
TFN's Paul Ens had the opportunity to ask Chris about his work in this unique
Hello Chris. Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions.
When did you become a Star Wars fan?
Like most everyone else in the developed world, I was a Star Wars fan as
soon as John Williams' score rocked me in my seat and that golden logo flew
back into the star field, followed by the roll up. My father was a working
actor back then, so we knew about Star Wars from the may '77 issue of the
Screen Actors Guild magazine. Threepio and Luke were on the cover
and my brother and I begged our dad to stay home from school on the day it
A nine year old
simply cannot wait for some things. Pop obliged, and we loved the movie so
much that we took my mother to see it that very night after she had gotten
home from work. I pity anyone who couldn't see it at Graumann's Chinese
Theater. (Being raised in Hollywood, that place is sacred to me.) I'll never
forget that as I lay in
bed afterward (way too excited to fall asleep) I could still
the scream of the blasters and the hum of the lightsabers.
Who are some of your artistic influences?
O.K., influences. A widely varied group and influential in many different
ways. I include them since each of the following have somehow 'influenced'
artistic decisions one way or another. No list could hold them all, but here
goes: From the Russian Constructivists of the 1920's (before Stalin's regime
killed or silenced most of them): Kazimir Malevich, Georgii & Vladimir
Stenberg, El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, Mayakovsky, Bulgakov. From the
miracle workers of Japan: Akira Kurosawa, Hiyao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo,
Nobuteru Yuuki, Yoshitaka Amano, Masamune Shirow and Mr. Yamasaki from North
Hollywood High. From the halls of the scholars: Joseph Campbell and James
Carse (If you haven't read Carse's
'Finite and Infinite Games' please do so.) Finally, some influential
entities from American cinema: Joe Johnston and John Dykstra (the
silent heroes of the Star Wars galaxy) Monsieur Lucas, Maestro Spielberg,
FRANK MILLER. Let me repeat, FRANK MILLER. Last but not least, heroes of
fiction: Roland of
Gilead, Corwin of Amber, and the one and only Buckaroo Banzai.
How did you get the job for the original TOTJ series?
One of my best and most talented friends, Frank Gomez, asked me if I
wanted to take a kind of 'art test'. I would have to draw a three-page
sample of the Star Wars core characters written by Tom Veitch. I figured why
not, and got the job.
How does one approach a "retro-Star Wars" look when designing ships,
clothing, weaponry, etc?
The original editors of TOTJ were Dan Thorsland and Bob Cooper. They
loved to get into the
marrow of a situation like I do. We would be on the phone for hours
talking about the design of the ancient galaxy. How do we retro-design and
make it effective? We were obsessed with the challenge, actually. For the
design of the
prequel films, the mighty ILM only has to go so far back as Anakin's youth.
While we humble and proud few at Dark Horse were going back several
millennia. We decided to make it as sweeping and romantic as possible. Huge,
coarse looking ships inspired by the seafaring galleons of our past. Ornate,
lightsaber handles, resembling those of ancient katana. Droids that could
have been hand-crafted. If
'Redemption' succeeds, and the powers that be decide that there should be
another TOTJ story, I would really push to take the retro-design back
further than ever. After four years of this stuff, I'm kinda getting comfy
What involvement does Lucasfilm, Dark Horse and the authors have in the art
The checks and balances system that exists between Lucasfilm, Dark Horse,
and the handful of freelancers that contribute to Star Wars is the main
influence. It is the method of production that really defines the work. Here
is a bit of simplified analogy to sum up: The freelancers are like Ronin. We
ride up to the castle when we smell a job, and Dark Horse is the Magistrate
that utilizes its industry savvy to pick and choose those lucky few whose
work will receive an audience before the court of the Shogun, which is
Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm then makes the ultimate decision as far as which
projects and teams they would like to see, and work begins. From there a
similar kind of protocol is followed. The artists crank out their pages,
Dark Horse's editors keep everything moving along (choosing a colorist,
checking the schedules, proofing scripts and artwork and if at any point the
work is not up to Lucasfilm's comprehensive standard or violates the vast
fabric of the galaxy's continuity, then those pages must be transformed to
fit and then proofed again. Finally, the 'shell' or 'package' of the title
is designed. Logo, which advertisements go where, etc. Editors are the
unsung heroes of the comics biz, don't let anybody tell you different.) and
finally, a series is born.
What artistic goals did you have for Redemption that were different than
previous TOTJ series?
My first goal for 'Redemption' was to make it as visually character-driven
as possible. Dark Lords was a circus by the third issue. It just had too many
characters and its plot suffered, therefore, from lack of focus. If the penciler
can't put a name to a face, then how is the audience supposed to?
To really marry the art and the writing with 'Redemption', I made a point of traveling
to Kevin Anderson's home so that we could lay out each issue
together. Panel by panel, page by page, issue by issue. For those of you out
there that don't know, most comics teams are spread over continents and
never meet each other, let alone work together. Kevin and I really threw
ourselves into this as a team, and the results are some very meaningful
moments for the characters in the story. I doubt whether most writers have
the kind of security about their work that would allow them to collaborate
as selflessly as Kevin does. He has a rare clarity and openness about
himself. Each trip was really a pleasure. We had that all-too-rare feeling
that the commercial and time restraints that so often
dominate an artistic endeavor had been transcended by our efforts. I felt
like I had won the Stanley Cup. (well, O.K., maybe not THAT great...) I was
actually in tears as the last few pages of the last issue were planned out!
It was hilarious. Kevin was like, "Wow, want some tissue?" and there I am,
struggling to draw as I gush with emotion, "t'hanks...that'd...be...
TOTJ is full of alien species familiar and unfamiliar. How is it decided to
go with a new species rather than an established one, and what process do you
use in designing a species?
Kevin really likes to use alien Jedi. I'm 50/50. As I stated on the Jedi
Council Forum, if an alien jedi is intricately conceived then I'm
interested. But aliens for the sake of aliens? Then it's just 1950's
sci-fi: "LOOK, IT'S THE PIRANHA-FACED WOMAN FROM PLANET RAA-RA-RA!!! I
SHUDDER BEFORE HER ALIEN PRESENCE!!!" Star Wars is consistent in that most
of its aliens are symbolic of some specific and concentrated feature of
human behavior. Each alien is a metaphor. Yoda is Wisdom, Chewbacca is
Loyalty, Jabba is Gluttony and Greed. The Jawas and Sandpeople are pure
Survival. Even the Rancor is, well, Rancor. You can look up 'Rancor' in the
dictionary and you've got your character description right there. As far as
TOTJ, at every opportunity I've influenced Tott Doneeta (the Twilek Jedi) to
embody Selfless Duty. Sylvar, the Lioness from the Cathar system, has her
own metaphor in 'Redemption' but I'll let the readers discover it for
themselves. I would stress that anyone who hopes to work professionally for
the Star Wars pantheon should read Joseph Campbell's work. It's been said
before, but Campbell's foundation of mythological study cannot be separated
from George Lucas' work. This applies especially to the fantastic creatures
that abound throughout the galaxy. Star Wars is heavily symbolic, and unless
you have some kind of understanding about those mythic symbols, the audience
will feel the difference.
Does this ancient universe still intrigue you, or would you prefer to take
a break in more "mainstream" Star Wars continuity?
The ancient galaxy really feels like home at this point. I am
enthusiastically loyal to the material. Everybody really wants to see the
Solos, the Skywalkers-- but I guess that's the reason those
characters bore me creatively. It's getting to a point where trying to fit
even a small story within the fabric of continuity is like, "O.K., this
story takes place on the weekend that Luke spent between this epic novel
from three years ago and his battle with the forces of..." It's just way too
developed for me. With Tales of the Jedi, the potential is as vast as the
galaxy itself. We haven't scratched the surface of what TOTJ could be. It's
so far back in the past, that there is no reason to fear that any story we
tell could interfere with core continuity. Four Millennia is such a long,
long, long time. It's total freedom. We could explore some in-depth Jedi
philosophy from a backwater system that was lost over the span of the
millennia. We could show conflicts between certain aspects of the Republic
itself. We could tell more stories of Rogue Jedi. If Ulic Qel Droma is out
there, wandering the perimeter systems, finding whatever adventure comes his
way, then there are countless others out there as well. Jedi whose service
to the Republic was a burdensome shadow from which they only want to escape.
Or even truly brave rogues who feel that they can best serve the Republic by
working in solitude, outside of its bureaucracy. I do feel that if the
title is to survive, it should lose all aspects of continuity and take on a
more Arthurian structure. Each story will introduce new Jedi, in a new
system with new antagonists, and most importantly, a new revelation into
these mysterious warriors and their blades of light.
What's next? Are you scheduled for any Star Wars projects in the future?
'Redemption' might just be my final work in the Star Wars galaxy. We've
followed Ulic's story since TOTJ #1; from his apprenticeship, through the
dark journeys that cost him his brother, his love and his knighthood, and
now we will see how someone can be reborn when their life has become a
wasteland. the future of TOTJ is a bit uncertain right now, and the public
will be the deciding factor in it's survival. At any rate, TOTJ has been an
incredible experience. I've learned so much about the art of comics, the
business of licensing, and the craft of telling stories one vision at a
time. I'm truly grateful for the whole ride.
As for my next project, I have been putting together a bit of a saga of
my very own in a world I've been creating over the last four years. Perhaps
this is the time to let it out on it's own...
Thanks again for your time (and your support of theforce.net)...