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Tag Archive: Drew Struzan


star_wars_galaxy_topps_final_cover

Ten years after Return of the Jedi, Topps trading cards editor and writer Gary Gerani was tasked once again to meet fan demand for more Star Wars trading cards.  Many years before he would create photo cards for a new trilogy of prequels, he would team up with Lucasfilm’s Steve Sansweet to showcase Star Wars as interpreted by some of the best artists that contributed to the films or would re-imagine the “Star Wars Galaxy” in their own styles.

The three resulting trading card series have been released in the 2016 addition to Abrams ComicArts successful hardbound series featured here previously at borg.comStar Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series includes the works of more than 170 artists in more than 200 card reproductions, plus commentary by Gerani and an afterword by notable poster artist Drew Struzan.  Unlike the prior volumes in the series, only the obverse image from the cards, which featured the artwork, is included.

chiarello-sw-galaxy-card     starwarsgalaxy_p062-0

You’ll find an incredible array of imagery by a surprising combination of artists, including rare images you will have seen only if you collected the original cards.  So you’ll find the work of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Ralph McQuarrie, Moebius, Drew Struzan, Dave Dorman, Al Williamson, Howard Chaykin, Mike Grell, John Eaves, Mike Zeck, George Perez, Jim Starlin, Dave Stevens, Walter Simonson, Gene Colan, Rich Buckler, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mark Schultz, P. Craig Russell, Dave Gibbons, Sergio Aragones, Boris Vallejo, Charles Vess, and Gil Kane.

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The volume includes the entire run of portraits created for Star Wars Galaxy specifically for the Topps cards by Joseph Smith–the original art was later bought by George Lucas for his personal collection.

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makin moving posters

If you’ve watched any number of the documentaries or read about the artists that created classic movie posters in the 20th century, you can’t help but notice a subtext about the small circle of artists that became well known for their work.  Ego and competition among artists is a recurring theme.  In 2014 here at borg.com we looked at Drew Struzan via a documentary exclusively about him and his work.  Three books discussed here are about Struzan’s contributions to movie poster art.  A new book in 2014 chronicled works by John Alvin, reviewed here, and another book reviewed here documented the movie posters created for the Star Wars franchise alone.   Originals of some lesser Bob Peak poster art are being offered at more than $6,000 here.  In 2014 the greatest collection of movie posters ever assembled was offered at auction, discussed here.  Movie posters are still popular and do not appear to be fading away anytime soon.

In most accounts and interviews, movie poster artists of the past 50 years lament the decline of the movie poster.  But has that ever really been true?  Isn’t every artist in every medium always faced with competition from new creators and new tools of the trade?  Every year countless artists design movie posters that entice moviegoers.  Should we really be discounting creators who aren’t using pencils or paints to create the final product?  And is it enough for fans of movie posters that options like Mondo and new, up-and-coming poster artists are looking back and providing updated views of films via their poster releases?

24x36

Director Kevin Burke’s latest look at movie posters, called 24X36 to reflect the size of the standard marquee print, focuses on two classic poster artists, John Alvin and Roger Castel, Alvin known for countless posters for blockbusters and Castel for his often reproduced Jaws poster art.  The documentary also steps forward with interviews and discussions with more recent artists in the craft, including William Stout, Jason Edmiston, Laurent Durieux, and Gary Pullin.  We’ve looked at the works of Laurent Durieux here at borg.com previously.

Here’s a preview of the documentary 24X36:

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Struzan returns for Force Awakens poster

Finally, with only four months to the premiere, Lucasfilm and Disney released their first official movie poster yesterday for Star Wars Episode VII.  Shown above, it was painted by Drew Struzan, well-known for many film posters of the past, including his series of posters from Episodes I-VI.  Having a poster by Struzan was on the checklist of required elements fans expected to see this year, along with a soundtrack by composer John Williams, the Force, and at least one character saying “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”  Check out our review of a recent book about Struzan here and documentary here at borg.com.

Also revealed yesterday was a cast photo of the main characters of the coming Star Wars spinoff movie, Rogue One.  Other than a guy with a Han Solo parka, there’s not much really screaming Star Wars about the photo.  In fact, it could be from a Firefly spinoff or something from any sci-fi franchise or even something from the Suicide Squad.

The stars of Star Wars: Rogue One are Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler), Diego Luna (Elysium, Milk), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen (Blade II).  Rogue One has begun principal photography.  Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) is directing the story of resistance fighters who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star.  The film is produced by Kathleen Kennedy.  Wait–Death Star?  Which Death Star?

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He-Man print in limited edition of The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Review by C.J. Bunce

Next month Dark Horse Comics releases a must-read for fans of He-Man, She-Ra “Princess of Power,” and the Masters of the Universe world of toys, animated series, magazines, chapter books, posters, comic strips, and comic books.  The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Limited Edition Hardcover includes more than 300 pages full-color art, a portfolio featuring an exclusive print by Gerald Parel, a foil-embossed cover, and a die-cut two-piece Castle Greyskull slipcase.  A standard edition of the book will also be available.  Many well-known creators worked with these characters since its inception in the early 1980s, including Ralph McQuarrie, Drew Struzan, Dick Giordano, J. Michael Straczynski, George Tuska, Klaus Janson, Boris Vallejo, Tony Moore, Darwyn Cooke, Geoff Johns, and Tommy Lee Edwards.

Designers from every stage of the creation of He-Man, She-Ra, Skeletor, and the large cast of sword and sorcery heroes and villains, offer insight into character development, decision-making, and the impact on 1980s kids.  The best feature is the inclusion of hundred of pieces of full-color art, concept artwork, page layouts, sketches, storyboards, packaging art, prototypes, never before seen and unused imagery, advertising art, original comic art, and final comic book pages, covers, and animation cels.  It features restored art from master illustrator Earl Norem, as well as interviews with Dolph Lundgren, who played He-Man in the 1987 movie, director Gary Goddard, well-known TV producer/comic book writer Paul Dini, and voice actress Erika Scheimer, among many others.  Captions for photos were written by comic book creators Tim Seeley and Steve Seeley.

The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Limited Edition Hardcover slipcase edition

Particularly of interest to toy collectors are the original notes from the development stage of the toy line at Mattel.  Mattel, which had passed on the ground-breaking Star Wars action figure line, developed He-Man as a direct competitor to that toy line.  Mattel drove the look of the characters–this was first and foremost a toy line, inspired in part by the fantasy art of Frank Frazetta.  But it grew beyond that.  Artists and writers and other creators remark with pride about the focus on the stories that went beyond the toy line.

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Star Wars Posters Abrams cover art

Review by C.J. Bunce

Whether a piece of art is appealing is in the eye of the beholder.  Everyone who gives a considered view to a piece of artwork is entitled to their own interpretation and commentary on it.  This month sees the release of a book that will allow the reader to take his or her own personal journey through the artwork that became the marketing posters for the Star Wars franchise.  Star Wars Art: Posters is the fifth and final hardcover installment in Abrams Books’ successful series pulling the best imagery from Lucasfilm.  It follows Star Wars Art: Visions, Star Wars Art: Concept, Star Wars Art: Illustration, and, to be reviewed soon here at borg.comStar Wars Art: Comics.  With Star Wars Art: Posters, the best was saved for last.

Star Wars Art: Posters is a purely visual experience.  It includes only the slightest amount of text or interpretational information.  A one-page commentary is included, written by each of noted Star Wars poster artists Drew Struzan and Roger Kastel.  They each recount their own experience with creating Star Wars poster art, but do not give an overview of the rest of the galaxy of poster art.  Instead each piece of art is laid out roughly chronologically, stripped of the words and printed matter that would be needed for the completion of the final poster for distribution, but with a notation showing the artists’ name, date, significance, and medium.

Empire Strikes Back Kastel

Die hard fans of Star Wars will recognize many, if not most, of the included posters.  And you’ll find yourself embarking on your own nostalgic trip back nearly four decades.  Back to the first poster for the film from 1976: Howard Chaykin’s screaming imagery of Luke, Han, Leia and Ben, with lightsaber pointing downward, Tom Jung’s famous one-sheet–what most remember as the classic Star Wars poster, Tom Chantrell’s photo-real poster featuring Mark Hamill as Luke along with the rest of the main cast, and that famous circus-design poster by Charles White III and Drew Struzan.  My own trip back in time recalls the Del Nichols posters that were Coca-Cola giveaways, three of which are included in the book (and which covered the walls of my bedroom many years ago).

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Blade Runner one-sheet John Alvin   Young Frankenstein one-sheet John Alvin

Back in early 2012 we reviewed one of several books released on movie poster artist Drew Struzan, a useful and interesting resource called The Art of Drew Struzan, reviewed here.  It chronicles the best of painted motion picture advertising one-sheets that Struzan created, and even more enlightening, includes commentary by Struzan about his process and the politics and business of his years of leading the craft.  The picture he painted wasn’t pretty, but despite his own roadblocks he is generally thought of as the best motion picture poster artist of the last 50 years.

Along with Struzan, another poster artist created posters that often could be confused for Struzan’s.  That was the late poster artist John Alvin.  Unfortunately Alvin did not document his own personal account of his creative and professional experiences, but his wife Andrea has put together a book that at least documents his most popular work, released this month by Titan Books as The Art of John Alvin What we don’t know from any of the books we’ve reviewed on poster artists is how they might have competed for work over the years.  Andrea Alvin makes no mention of Struzan, but seems to indicate Alvin was able to keep a nice niche of clients over the years, ranging from the decision-makers behind the movies of Mel Brooks, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, and the renaissance of animated Disney blockbusters.

ET one-sheet John Alvin   Empire of the Sun one-sheet John Alvin

Alvin’s work seems far more commercial compared to the paintings of Struzan, as can be seen in Alvin’s posters for Empire of the Sun (1987), Cape Fear (1991), Batman Returns (1992), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), and Batman Forever (1995).  But that doesn’t mean they were any less effective at drawing moviegoers to the theater, the entire point of the poster.  The one-sheet for Empire of the Sun is often seen as one of the most memorable images in the history of movie posters.

The power of much of Alvin’s posters is the simplicity.  In 1982 when the public first learned of a movie called E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, the only thing we knew was a newspaper ad showing a wrinkled alien hand touching the hand of a kid, inspired by Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.  His teaser poster was equally as effective—never did these pictures show E.T. himself.  Those same images were reproduced on movie posters, cardboard standees, and eventually all over picture books sold via school book orders.  Simple images, but lasting images, and what they didn’t show was part of the enticement to reel in an audience.

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Drew Man Behind the Poster poster

The best of the new documentary on the life and career of Drew Struzan is not what you might think.  You’d expect Drew—The Man Behind the Poster, now available on video and digital release, to include images of the best of Struzan’s stylized movie posters.  What you might not know is the variety of artwork he produced before and after his two decades of poster work.  He’s well known for unique designs and more than 150 memorable movie posters that defined the movies for audiences before they stepped into the theaters, creating his last movie poster before retiring in 2008 for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Probably his best work includes a six-poster series for the two Star Wars trilogies, which begs the question: Can Disney get Struzan to come back from retirement for the next three films?  Will Disney understand the nostalgia factor?  In recent weeks Struzan seems open to the idea, but seems to be waiting for Disney to call.  Unfortunately Episode VII plans came after the documentary so you won’t find answers to those questions in the film.

Drew-Struzan-Star-Wars-Posters

Will he or won’t he?

For the most part Drew—The Man Behind the Poster is a straightforward success story about a struggling and very amiable artist that found his audience.  You won’t see an abundance of critical awards coming for the filmmaking–it’s something like an episode from the old Biography channel with Peter Graves.  But it’s worth watching for the explanations behind his process for the most well-known posters, including the Muppet movies and the quickly designed yet successful poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing. 

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I love good documentaries, and ever since I heard a high quality documentary about the work of Drew Struzan was in production I have been waiting to learn more.  If you don’t know about Drew Struzan, check out this review of a book about him from an earlier article here at borg.com.  So far, there is no apparent release date yet established.  But the filmmakers have just released this trailer:

We reviewed Being Elmo documentary here several weeks ago, a great insight into the creator that worked and voiced the muppet Elmo for Sesame Street.  Kevin Clash’s story really came through and made this an award-winning documentary.  As non-fiction genre-related documentary films go, there is not a lot out there that is of the quality that you’d recommend it to others, especially those that aren’t fans of documentaries.  The History Channel’s History’s Mysteries documentary of a lost aircraft called the Lady Be Good was just as intriguing as any murder mystery and should serve as a guide for compelling storytelling in non-fiction filmmaking.  The public television documentary called The Proof, documenting the discovery of the solution to Fermat’s Theorem by Andrew Wiles was enormously compelling, despite its seemingly bland subject matter.  Wouldn’t it be great if we had a documentary about genre-related interests that were as well made as these films?

I can’t make myself watch Comic-Con Episode IV:  A Fan’s Hope.  I’ve seen enough excerpts that make it clear that, despite the filmmaker’s claims, these were made by outsiders looking in more than insiders themselves who live and breathe, and more importantly, understand, their passion.  Who wants to watch an outsider highlighting the fringe of the fan bases?  I also was disappointed in Rod Roddenberry’s recently released Trek Nation documentary.  First, there is nothing Trek Nation about Trek Nation.  It should be called Son of Trek because the film is entirely about Rod and his attempt to understand his late father Gene, and little about why the nation or world is so passionate about Star Trek.  It’s not a very fun show to watch, and actually ends up rather depressing.  No one wants to view someone else’s daddy issues, no matter who the daddy or the son is.  Folks who know Rod Roddenberry have good things to say about him, which makes it more unfortunate that his film makes him look a bit like an angry trust fund kid.  And choice of material wasn’t thought out well.  The documentary includes an interview with George Lucas that is painful to watch, and it comes off like it is an attempt at starting a Star Wars vs. Star Trek battle with Lucas himself.  So there are good and bad documentaries, and finding and creating gems takes some work.

So looking at the trailer for Drew: The Man Behind the Poster, you can tell the filmmakers realized the importance of their subject, and they went to appropriate sources for their interviews.  I have always wanted to hear what Harrison Ford thought of all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones and Blade Runner marketing that included his image.  I love that we will get to hear Michael J. Fox talk about Struzan’s impact on his movies.  Who wouldn’t want to get a look at the creative process behind such a legendary modern artist?  And just look at the filmmakers who are interviewed for this film, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Guillermo Del Toro.

The only missing piece is a release date, but as soon as it is released I will update this with that information.  It’s definitely a film we should all look forward to, and hopefully it will live up to this well-made preview.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

If someone were to ask you whether you prefer covers to books or movie posters or compact discs that were either (1) painted or (2) created via computer using compilations of photographs, which would you choose?  Do you know anyone who would prefer a photo cover to a cover painted by an artist?  Would you believe it that the powers that be, those folks who make all the decisions from On High, claim that focus groups and marketing studies show that consumers prefer photos to paintings?  Who and where are these test subjects, and what planet do these people hail from?

The comic book medium has realized what audiences have preferred for years, which is why they enlist the likes of Alex Ross, Mauro Cascioli and Adam Hughes to paint covers, it’s why the main covers of comic books used to entice an audience almost always have renderings drawn or painted and only rarely do you see a “photo incentive cover” as a limited edition item.  Were it true that we, the audience, preferred photo enticements to illustrations by artists, don’t you think comic book publishing would have figured that out by now when they create movie and TV adaptations?  I think the reality is that decision makers in marketing departments in the entertainment industry (outside of the comic world) are often out of touch with real audiences.  That distancing explains why so many movie trailers are made so poorly, too.  It explains why movie posters these days cease to grab our attention like they once did.

What was the last movie poster that caused you to stop in your tracks and want to go see a movie?  That, after all, is the point of a poster, isn’t it?

The original classic art by Struzan for the 1978 re-release of Star Wars

The Art of Drew Struzan at first blush is a coffee table book chronicling the work of the artist Time Magazine called “the Last Movie Poster Artist.”  Along with the books Drew Struzan: Oeuvre (2004) and The Movie Posters Of Drew Struzan (2004) you can see the entirety of more than 150 movie posters Struzan has produced during decades of painting for studios big and small.  And if you were going to pick one of the three books for a reference book on Struzan at a book shop, you might skip over The Art of Drew Struzan for one of the other books that has more movie posters featured.  But skipping this one would be a big mistake.

Original comp art by Struzan for John Carpenter's The Thing

From the introduction by Frank Darabont, director of such big films as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, (two films borg.com writer Jason McClain and I can’t stop talking about over the years), you know that you are beginning to read a very unique kind of book.  A bit from Darabont’s introduction:

“I have seen the future, and it sucks…. There’s no sugar-coating this.  Movie posters suck these days.  They’re going to suck even more tomorrow.  And as we shuck and jive (and text and Facebook) ever onward into the digital future, movie posters will just keep doggedly and willfully sucking all the more.  It’s a headlong progression of suckage, a symptom of the mass-produced everything-by-committee mindset of our culture….”

Amen, brother!

Struzan's comp for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, which did not make it to a final poster

What Darabont is speaking of is the advent of the digital creation of “art” via Mac utilities and the likes of Adobe Photoshop, where productions can design a cover or poster work far cheaper by having anyone on staff easily combine photos of actors and scenes into an image, without including any input from a trained artist.  It’s pseudo-art, images made to think we’re looking at a creative work, without considering the artistic thought that used to go behind such works.

Changes in marketing leadership ended Struzan's role in the Potter films mid-way through creating Chamber of Secrets

The text of The Art of Drew Struzan that accompanies the images found in its pages is all Drew Struzan as he explains not just the work of the artist, but the decline of the profession of making movie posters itself.  Struzan uses highlights of his projects from the beginning of public recognition of Struzan for his work on the international poster for Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 to a poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008.  Better yet, he uses in-progress artwork never before made public to illustrate his creative process for each movie featured in the book, artwork that he calls “comps.”

If you were just flipping through the book at a bookstore you may pass this one because it is missing a lot of key subjects in Struzan’s past–images like his work on movies featuring the Muppets, for example, or Jurassic Park and E.T., the Extra-terrestrial, that are among his most notable works.  As you read through the book you understand how a lot of his early comps were never retained–the cost was too high for a struggling artist to pay for copies, or studios kept the comps.  So the existence of this compilation alone is a lucky thing to witness.

The comp for Hellboy by Struzan, which never made it to final poster

What Struzan reveals in this book is a story not just of someone who is the universally acknowledged king of movie poster painting.  That of course is true.  But he apparently is like a lot of classic artists of centuries past, who never received the full monetary benefits that his “benefactors” (here, the  filmmakers) were able to make from his work, and the “millions” audiences assume he made from this work.  This is a story of a struggling artist, barely a blue-collar life, in his view, at points in his career, although he was selected and admired for projects by George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Guillermo del Toro.  This is also a how-to book of sorts for aspiring artists wishing they could be mentored by such a superb painter.

Struzan reveals a dwindling of artistic control for the artists as it happened over just a few decades for him, where “the suits” from Hollywood showed less and less respect for his artistry to the point that Struzan got fed-up and retired.

Not even this great poster would likely have made Waterworld succeed at the box office

Look for key featured Struzan works for movie posters that never made it to final form in movie marquees, such as Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Waterworld, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Hellboy, and Pan’s Labyrinth.  And the amazing variety of different styled comps are evident as seen in the pages for Blade Runner, the Back to the Future films, the Indiana Jones films, and the Star Wars prequels.  The quality of the images included stands strong for those wanting the traditional coffee table book, too.

The Art of Drew Struzan retails for $34.95 but can be found less expensive at online bookstores.  And if you’d like to own the original art, many images are still for sale at Struzan’s website.

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