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.
Born and raised just outside of Dublin, Ireland, Plunkett grew up drawing and would often draw Star Wars characters as a child. He received a green card to America in the early 90's just before being hired by Dark Horse Comics to work as an artist on another of the company's popular movie franchises, Alien.
Plunkett's first foray into the Star Wars universe came when his former Alien editor, Ryder Windham, 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 3-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 6-issue miniseries adaptation of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. 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.
In 1998, Plunkett provided cover art for his second major Star Wars miniseries, the 6-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.
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 1).
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 2-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 through 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 trilogy poster for A New Hope, with Grarhk 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 Wickett 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.
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.
Star Wars works
- Shadows of the Empire comics (penciller)
- Star Wars: Empire (cover artist)
- Droids (cover artist)
- Star Wars: Mara Jade – By the Emperor's Hand (cover artist)
- "Sand Blasted"—Star Wars Tales 4 (writer and illustrator)
- "First Impressions"—Star Wars Tales 15 (penciller)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars film (concept artist)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series (concept artist)
- Star Wars Rebels (art director)
- "Straight from the Horse's Mouth"—Star Wars Insider 25
- The Secrets of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
- "Straight from the Horse's Mouth"—Star Wars Insider 37
- The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- "A Trip to the Light Side"—Star Wars Insider 152
- "Dave on the Dark Side"—Star Wars Insider 153
- "The Art of Rebels"—Star Wars Insider 153
- "Vanessa's View"—Star Wars Insider 154
- "Designing Star Wars Rebels"—Star Wars Insider 154