The Early Bantam Era: Drew Struzan

November 14, 2011 at 11:09 am | Posted in Art, Regular Feature, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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Continuing the Star Wars Cover Art series, we last left off with Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. The Thrawn Trilogy kicked off a long series of books for Bantam publishing. Setting aside the young reader series The Jedi Prince, we have the first few novels of the early Bantam period. The year 1994 ushered in six Star Wars books, three new authors, and two new cover artists: Drew Struzan and John Alvin. John knocked out all three covers for the Jedi Academy Trilogy, which I’ll tackle in my next installment. For now, let’s take a look at Struzan’s work.

The Truce at Bakura

Take note of the Obi-Wan Force ghost that appears on the back cover, as well as the placement of the Falcon on the dust jacket's spine.

The Truce at Bakura came out just seven months after The Last Command. The hardcover, as seen above, promised fans another taste of Star Wars. Zahn’s trilogy whetted their appetites, and now it was up to Kathy Tyers to satisfy their cravings.

The array of multi-tinted Truce covers around the world.

There was very little variation for the cover art. Most foreign versions stuck with the main design done by Drew Struzan. Centered prominently is a gloved hand that looked like it could be Darth Vader, and a more friendly looking hand representing the New Republic. Below that is the Big 3. And that’s it. A simple cover that gives potential readers a few indicators that this might be something they wanted to read. First off, it had Han, Luke, and Leia, so readers could be assured it would have characters they liked. Furthermore, there’s the hint that some sort of Vader or Imperial was making a truce with the good guys. It inspires thought provoking questions that helped entice a hungry fanbase to jump on board.

There is one exception though…

…the French version of The Truce at Bakura published by Pocket Books Publishing. Since Obi-Wan appeared in spirit form, his appearance on this cover variation is apt, even if the cover itself is subpar. In comparison, I think it’s safe to say the original cover art was superior. There was a noticeable blurring of details on Luke and Leia’s faces. The white background and purple text above and below the image clashed severely with the subdued tones of the picture. A rather odd choice by the publisher.

The Courtship of Princess Leia

Skipping Jedi Search, the next book to follow The Truce at Bakura was The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton. Once again it was a bestseller, continuing a streak started by Heir to the Empire. It made number 7 on the New York Times Bestsellers list.

From left to right: Dutch, Spainish, Russian, and German covers.

Like The Truce at Bakura, there wasn’t a lot of variation with the foreign covers. The big point of interest is the variation between the hardcover and the paperback designs.

US, Polish, and Russian covers.

Initially sales weren’t as high as expected and the feeling was the first cover made it look like a romance novel, so they opted for a cover that portrayed action. In order to rectify the situation, Leia’s wedding dress was traded in for her Endor gear, a big Rancor was dropped in the background, and Luke and Han are added for good measure. Identifiable heroes seem to be better selling points than unknown characters, so Isolder was removed. To be honest though, from a fan perspective, I like the first one better. There we get Leia in her wedding dress, something we haven’t seen before (and doesn’t that just scream Spaceballs?). Plus we get Isolder and Han in different outfits as well.

Take a close look at that Han. It’s the Blade Runner version of Harrison Ford. Note both versions were done by the same artist, Drew Struzan, who also did the poster for Blade Runner, although it’s worth noting that this particular version was taken from a Blade Runner concept poster done by Chris Achilleos.

The Crystal Star

The official US cover.

The Crystal Star gets a lot of flak for having out-of-character portrayals of Luke and Han, and for including the infamous Waru. It may be worth noting that the book was a New York Times bestseller when it came out. It also ended the year and gave fans of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, which wrapped up two months previously, something to chew on until Ambush at Corellia was released three months later. Content aside, the cover wasn’t too bad. It focused on Luke with a space-shot for the background. Han, Leia, and Chewie got spots in the corner, with some shadowy figure to the left. The illustrations look accurate to the actors. The placing was off though, especially Han who is uncomfortably close to Luke’s groin and his image even matches that discomfort. The fact that we don’t see Waru makes some sense because Waru’s shape was rather intangible in the book, and keeping the mystery certainly didn’t hurt any.

Transworld cover.

There was also a slightly different version done by Transworld Publishers, a UK division of Random House. Their cover included more artwork to the right which presented a better centering for the cover overall. Between the two, it looked a bit better in my opinion (although I can’t tell if the details used in that image are blurry at print, or were just not captured very well in the photograph).

From left to right: French, German hardcover, and German paperback covers.

The foreign market surprisingly stayed away from any major changes with the cover. The biggest differences between them was a matter of cropping. The French, German, and Polish covers all tried different cuts that failed and succeeded to a different degree. For instance the German paperback tried removing the top part and angling for a wide shot framed on a back cover which didn’t look too bad.

From left to right: Japanese, Japanese with variant font colors, Spanish, and Russian covers.

In other examples, the two Japanese covers featured the full artwork simply with different colored titles. The Russians decided to add their characteristic Big 3 image to the top once again, which was rather redundant, but they still stuck with the original cover art instead of another odd landscape scene. I think the Dutch cover actually looked the best with the orange block behind the title and good centering of the image.

The Dutch cover.

Drew Struzan

Drew Struzan would go on to do a lot more Star Wars covers. His work stretched from The Glove of Darth Vader in 1992 to Reckoning in 2008, the final book in the Last of the Jedi series. Aside from novels, he’s done posters, comics, postage stamps, and album covers. He designed the cover for Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare which was voted one of the Top 100 Album Covers Of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine. His movie poster credits include such franchises as Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and Star Wars.

Born in Oregon City, OR, he went to college at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California in 1965. “The first thing the counselor asked me was ‘what do you want to major in,’ so I asked what the choices were.” Informed of two choices: fine art or illustration, the counselor described that as a fine artist he could paint what he wanted, but as an illustrator he could paint for money. He quickly made his choice, “I’ll be an illustrator. I need to eat.”

That same year he got married and became a father. He eventually graduated with honors. “I was poor and hungry, and illustration was the shortest path to a slice of bread, as compared to a gallery showing. I had nothing as a child. I drew on toilet paper with pencils – that was the only paper around. Probably why I love drawing so much today is because it was just all I had at the time.” He got a job with a design studio called Pacific Eye & Ear where he started off designing album covers for artists like Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Beach Boys, Bee Gees, Roy Orbison, Black Sabbath, Glenn Miller, Iron Butterfly, Bach, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Liberace.

Later he started a small company called Pencil Pushers and did movie poster art using airbrushing. At first he did B-movies but then he got the chance to help work on the re-release poster for Star Wars. Working with Charles White, Struzan did the human portions of the work while White did the ships, droids, and Vader. The odd styling of the poster came about from necessity. According to Drew Struzan “They found out there wasn’t enough room for the typography and the billing block they had left in the design. What can we do to make more space on a poster that’s already been printed? Let’s pretend it’s posted, then they can put the type below the actual poster. We painted Obi Wan down the side and stuff across the bottom to make it wider and deeper.”

“I love the texture of paint made of colored earth, of oil from the trees and of canvas and paper. I love the expression of paint from a brush or a hand smearing charcoal, the dripping of paint and moisture of water, the smell of the materials. I delight in the changeable nature of a painting with new morning light or in the afternoon when the sun turns a painting orange or by firelight at night. I love to see it, hold it, touch it, smell it, and create it. My gift is to share my life by allowing others to see into my heart and spirit through such tangible, comprehensible and familiar means. The paint is part of the expression.” -Drew Struzan

After a long career in the art business, Drew announced his retirement in 2008 after completing his work for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, although he has slipped in a piece or two here and there. Behind him he leaves a rich legacy that has helped shape the way people look at movie posters.

To find out more about Drew, you can visit his official website: http://www.drewstruzan.com/

You can also find a lot of pictures and info on Drew Struzan on this website: http://home.scarlet.be/~bliek/

Written By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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