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Kilian Plunkett is an artist who has worked on numerous Star Wars projects. He has worked for Dark Horse Comics on several high-profile Star Wars comic series and is now at Lucasfilm Animation. He was the lead character designer on Cartoon Network's Star Wars: The Clone Wars and art director on Disney XD's Star Wars Rebels.

Plunkett eventually became a fan-favorite Star Wars cover artist at Dark Horse throughout the 1990s, rising amongst the ranks of such noteworthy Star Wars comics cover painters as Dave Dorman, Hugh Fleming, and Duncan Fegredo. He produced a number of memorable covers and interior art for various Star Wars series and has, in one form or another, become a pivotal Star Wars artist of recent times.

In the comics world, Plunkett is known for unique covers that blend animation-style fluidity with painterly effects, dynamic action and, at times, humor.

Biography[]

Born and raised just outside of Dublin, Ireland, and was a fan of the British magazine 2000 AD where John Wagner and Cam Kennedy contributed. On his seventh birthday he watched Star Wars which had an impact on him, and would later exercise his talent drawing Darth Vader and spaceships. Around twelve years old he went through a "sad, dwarf-induced" phase of Tolkienian and sword-and-sorcery fantasy art.[1]

In 1992, twenty-one years old Plunkett submitted artwork to Dark Horse Comics, including a six-page story, both hand-colored and uncolored; it involved a couple in formal dress and suit in a mansion, and a running man, who turns out to be a droid, and his head explodes; he also sent samples of characters such as Lobo and The Predator. The artwork caught the attention of Ryder Windham, who was looking for an artist on Alien, another of the company's popular movie franchises that required technical equipment and regular humans. Windham considered them the best amateur art samples he had seen. As Plunkett had not left his call number, Windham had to call his uncle in Dublin.[1]

The 1990s[]

In the '90s Plunkett moved to Portland, Oregon, working from his home studio.[1] Plunkett's first foray into the Star Wars universe came when Windham, his former Alien editor, assigned him to do painted covers for the company's series Star Wars: Droids, from issues 2 to 6 in 1994. This was the first of the company's series to focus on Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio. Plunkett became the regular cover artist on almost all of Dark Horse's subsequent Droids comics, 16 in total. This included covers for all eight issues of the second new Star Wars: Droids series, and the Star Wars: Droids Special 1 (which reprinted a three-part Droids story from the pages of the Dark Horse Comics anthology series), both in 1995. The only Droids issues Plunkett did not paint covers for were issue 1 of the first miniseries, which was a special gatefold metallic foil cover drawn by Star Wars: Dark Empire artist Cam Kennedy, and a special one-shot Droids story, The Protocol Offensive which was entirely painted—covers and interiors—by artist Igor Kordey and co-written by See-Threepio himself, Anthony Daniels. Also in 1995, Plunkett worked as cover artist for the last two issues, issues 8 and 9, of Classic Star Wars: The Early Adventures, which had been reprinting the early Russ Manning Star Wars newspaper comic strips.

1996 saw Plunkett receive his first major Star Wars assignment when he provided the interior artwork for the Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire six-issue comic miniseries. Shadows of the Empire was a major Star Wars event as it was the first multi-faceted, multimedia Lucasfilm release, concurrently released alongside a video game and novel. Plunkett also provided character and vehicle concept art for the project's preliminary stage. Working for a major Star Wars project caused some over-excitement, and brainlock, to Plunkett, who initially attempted to fit all cool things he could think of in one page.[1]

While working for Shadows Plunkett said that the visuals of comic book characters work differently from the characters designed for a moving screen, whose dynamics must be captured on a two-dimensional static medium. A live-action character like Darth Vader — with clunky designs and details, a strangely shaped helmet and reflective surfaces that can show different each time — was more difficult to render than Superman or Batman, specifically designed for that medium.[1]

Ryder Windham noted Plunkett's uncanny talent for drawing complex details of mechanical objects, such as ships and droids, from memory. Plunkett found dangerous working with photo references from the original trilogy, because, as he noted, the models and props are different in each one; for example he notes that R2-D2's casing has Philips head screws in Episode IV, which are gone in Episode VI, looking more "otherworldy".[1]

In 1998, Plunkett provided cover art for his second major Star Wars miniseries, the six-part Star Wars: Mara Jade – By the Emperor's Hand. This was the first story to focus solely on its title character, the popular future wife of Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade. The series was written by Jade's creator, Star Wars novelist Timothy Zahn, and its covers mixed imagery of Jade in her time as the Emperor's Hand with existing Star Wars movie imagery, visually integrating her into the Star Wars mythos. That year, Plunkett also drew the cover and interiors for the comedic one-shot Star Wars: The Jabba Tape, which featured the return of the swoop thugs Big Gizz and Spiker from Shadows of the Empire. He also illustrated the cover of the trade-paperback collection of Dark Horse's comics adaptation of Zahn's Star Wars novel Dark Force Rising.

The 2000s[]

Starting in 2000, Plunkett made three contributions to the Star Wars Tales anthology series, starting with issue #4, in June 2000. Here Plunkett provided cover art and interior art for the story "Sand Blasted," which featured a return of Jabba the Hutt's nefarious swoop thugs, Big Gizz and Spiker (from Shadows and The Jabba Tape), who encounter a Dark Trooper (a la the Star Wars video game Dark Forces) in the ruins of Tatooine's Podracing arena (from Episode I).

Plunkett's next work for Star Wars Tales was in December 2000, when he provided an iconic Hamlet-inspired cover image for issue #6 depicting Darth Vader holding See-Threepio's disembodied head. Plunkett also provided interior illustration for the accompanying story, written by veteran Star Wars editor and comics scribe Ryder Windham. In the story, "Thank the Maker," set on Cloud City during The Empire Strikes Back, Vader comes across Threepio's head, which leads to some bittersweet reflections on his former life as Anakin in the prequels. Plunkett's last contribution to Star Wars Tales was with the cover to issue #11, which was devoted to stories about Han Solo, in 2002.

Also in 2002, Plunkett provided covers for the two-part story "The Devaronian Version" in Dark Horse's prequel-era Star Wars (later renamed Star Wars: Republic), issues 40–41. The story featured a dishonest retelling of recent story arcs from the perspective of the series' in-house comedic rogue, a Devaronian bounty hunter named Vilmarh Grahrk, recasting himself as the hero. The cover to issue 40 is an homage to the original poster for A New Hope, with Grahrk in place of Luke Skywalker and other elements and characters from the issue's story taking the place of other poster elements. Issue 41's cover image features Villie as a great hunter, with a wampa skin on his back and the heads of various Star Wars creatures (including the Wicket the Ewok, Jar Jar Binks, a Tusken Raider, and a Rancor) on his wall.

Starting in 2002, Plunkett worked on seven issues of Star Wars: Empire, specifically providing covers artwork for the story "Darklighter," which focused for the first time on the story of Luke Skywalker's best friend Biggs Darklighter. Plunkett provided cover art for issues #8–12, and #15 during that story arc. His last work for Empire was in 2004 with the cover for issue #26 featuring the obscure Mos Eisley cantina character BoShek.

PlunkettC4print

Plunkett's Celebration IV piece

In 2005, after having left Dark Horse, Plunkett got an interview for a design job for Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series on Cartoon Network. He got the interview through a friend of his from his days at Dark Horse, Henry Gilroy, who had already become a transplant to the show as head writer. Gilroy showed Plunkett's work to director Dave Filoni and producer Catherine Winder. Filoni soon met with Plunkett, where the two discussed similar ideas on the look of Star Wars, and Plunkett left copies of comics like The Jabba Tape. A few weeks later, Filoni called Plunkett asking him to work on some of the characters in the show. The first two characters he was assigned were Mace Windu and Palpatine.

While Plunkett has worked on a bit of everything on the show, from environments to weapons to creatures, his main focus has been on character design. Later, Plunkett became lead character designer on the show. Plunkett said that when looking for inspiration while designing the new look of the CG animated characters, he has referred to the work of the original 2-D Cartoon Network series by Genndy Tartakovsky and Paul Rudish, design work on the original trilogy by artists like Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston, and prequel movie design work by the team of Doug Chiang, Erik Tiemens and Ryan Church, all to try and absorb the look and feel of the movies and the existing Star Wars style. As a tribute to Plunkett, the PLNK-series power droid, which made a "plunk" sound, was named for him.

Plunkett illustrated the cover of issue #2 of Dark Horse's Star Wars: The Clone Wars spin-off comic series in 2008.

Plunkett's first name was used to name a new character in The Clone Wars, Admiral Kilian.[2]

Works[]

Sources[]

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