Wookieepedia > Wookieepedia:Interviews > Interview/Christian Gossett

The interview

  1. Greyman: How did you first become involved with drawing for Tales of the Jedi? Prior to this, did you have any experience working with Star Wars, or was this first encounter with a galaxy far, far away?
    • Christian Gossett: Thanks to a great friend, Frank Gomez. I had helped Frank get a job on a comics magazine titled "Tales of the Ninja Warriors" and he returned the favor by giving my name to Tom Veitch, who was looking for artists for Tales of the Jedi.
  2. GM: Who, if any, are your artistic influences?
    • CG: Filmmakers, mostly. My father was a professional actor, so we were introduced to cinema as the principle storytelling tradition. From Frank Capra, Michael Curtiz and John Huston to Kurosawa, Lucas and Cameron, film is the main influence. I've loved Japanese Animation since it first started being distributed in the U.S. in the early 70's, which led, of course, to a love of Manga. Another major influence is the Russian Avant-Garde of the early 20th century.
  3. GM: Did you grow up as a Star Wars fan? What were your feelings when you were first asked to draw for Lucasfilm?
    • CG: Yes. The acceptance of my portfolio by Dark Horse and then Lucasfilm was a very exciting moment.
  4. GM: With regards to your work on Tales of the Jedi, can you please describe what the process was from developing the concepts, to matching them with what the series authors had created for the script, and to drawing the final product?
    • CG: In the beginning (I did TOTJ from 93 to 98, so things changed around some) The best times in my day were communicating with my then editor, Dan Thorsland. Dan remains one of my favorite mentors in the business, and I had no idea how spoiled I was. I was in my early twenties, and listen, in your early twenties you think and say all kinds of stupid things. You don't realize it, of course, because you think being between the age of 18-24 makes you the universe's gift to humankind. It's a fun time, of course; Far less fun, though, when you're the guy whose job it is to get constant work out of one of these young divinities. Still, Dan made the work so interesting I didn't want to do anything else. He challenged me everyday in all kinds of ways. He'd send my layouts back because he loved his job so much, and he believed in me so much, that he made it part of his job to get the best work done as possible. "See this? Unclear. See how this could be better?" "Nice page layout, but pull the camera back just a little so we know where we are." "That head is way too small for the body, man!"
    As one series gave way to another, I really appreciated working with Kevin Andersen. The death of Ulic Qel-Droma in TOTJ: Redemption is my favorite mini-series from that time, and it has to do with Kevin's incredibly collaborative nature. I had begged for less panels per page for years by then, and Kevin was open to the idea. He invited me to his home in Colorado and we laid out the whole dang series. Panel by panel, page by page, issue by issue. It was fantastic. Since Ulic Qel-Droma was the first character I'd ever designed professionally, his death meant a lot to me, and it meant even more that Kevin opened up the series to new levels of my input. He's a champ of a guy. I'd work with him again in a heartbeat, but its a pretty long line to get to him these days.
  5. GM: Likewise, was there anything different, or perhaps unique, with regards to the conception and development stages for working on artwork for West End Game products?
    • CG: That was a blast, too. I really miss those jobs. WEG was very respectful with editorial comments, deadlines, payment, creative freedom. All I can remember about them is how satisfying it was. Pete Schweighofer was my contact there. Really great guy to work for. My favorite story I illustrated was for Patricia A. Jackson, "The Final Exit".
  6. GM: Being the first artist to actually draw a number of Tales of the Jedi characters, such as Ulic and Cay Qel-Droma, Tott Doneeta, Master Arca etc. were there any that you remembering being able to directly influence the look for?
    • CG: Here's the cool part, this was years before the prequels, don't forget. I directly designed all of those characters you mentioned. There were very few characters in my stories that I didn't design. I didn't design Nomi or Vima Sunrider, but other than that I'm hard pressed to remember any of them that didn't start with me. I designed the Nebulon Ranger, Arca's ship, I designed Tott's curved-handled lightsaber, Mandalore, Exar Kun, Master Ood…that was one of the parts of the job that really made it such a blast. Dark Lords of the Sith, in my estimation, was overpopulated with characters, but it did mean that I got to design a boatload of ancient Jedi and Sith.
  7. GM: Were there any difficulties in drawing Star Wars stories thousands of years before the original movies took place? Or did you find it easy to envision a universe and time period that no one had so far worked on?
    • CG: The best part of the job was retro-designing the Star Wars galaxy. I had a very specific plan: go beyond the source inspiration, in this case George Lucas, and find out what influenced him. The idea being that a set of principles could be derived when comparing the work of Lucas' influence and the work he made himself. Han Solo was no longer merely Harrison Ford, but also the lovable rogue hero from Kurosawa's greatest films, Toshiro Mifune. The lightsaber was no longer merely a laser-sword, but the sacred blade of the ancient samurai. Joseph Campbell's influence on Lucas is well known now, but less so in the early 90's. Bill Moyers had only recently completed his interviews with the great scholar, and they were of great service in taking the galaxy of Luke Skywalker 4,000 years back in its own history. I decided certain key elements: Romance. Star Wars is Opera, not Aasimov. Excitement. Star Wars is Flash Gordon, not 2001. Mythology: Star Wars is a 'journey' story more than an action story. It reveals a vast galaxy through the transforming revelations of a handful of characters.
  8. GM: What kind of artistic goals did you have in mind when you first starting drawing for Tales of the Jedi: Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon? How did those goals change when your were asked to be the artist for the Dark Lords of the Sith story arc? Did much change with regards to your outlook for Tales of the Jedi with the creation and production of Redemption? Was there anything specific that you wanted to accomplish with Redemption that you may not have had the chance to do with the previous two story arcs that you drew?
    • CG: The goal, again, was very specific. I told Dan: "This has to look like a Star Wars story, not a sci-fi comic that just happens to have 'Star Wars' on the cover because of a licensing deal." Dan agreed wholeheartedly. The goal was intensified when fan reaction was positive and I was asked to do Dark Lords of the Sith.
  9. GM: According to author Kevin J. Anderson, the work on Redemption was an intense experience that saw, at times, both of you reach emotional levels not previously seen in both of your works on the previous story arcs. In your own opinion, why was Redemption such a different experience?
    • CG: Dark Lords of the Sith had a galaxy of characters and a rat's nest of subplots. Redemption was a personal story of greater focus. It was also really great that Bob Cooper and Kevin gave me the chance to tell that story. We knew Ulic was going to die, and that TOTJ, therefore, was going to evolve into something beyond what we had begun. As far as the Knights of the Old Republic story lines, it was the end of the beginning. This gave it a great emotional foundation to work from.
  10. GM: With the creation of Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon there was introduced a whole new range of alien species, planets, characters, weapons, etc. Did you have any sort of influence on any of these creative decisions?
    • CG: I just recently went through my books and books and books of design sketches from that time. What drives me crazy is how many of my design drawings are better than the ones I was able to get done for publication! I should scan them and get them on my blog. All of it is in there. From curved handled and double-bladed lightsabers to the 'ancient galleon' look of the old ships. Visually, Tom and Kevin gave me almost complete freedom. Not just visually, but conceptually.
  11. GM: Being the first comic series to explore the ancient Jedi, can you describe the artistic process, if any, that existed between yourself and Lucasfilm Ltd. For example: Were there creations that you remember having to rework after the initial submission? Were there specific requests from LFL, or even George Lucas himself, that you were asked to incorporate into your work?
    • CG: My favorite story is about the lightsabers. Having by that time (1993) seen most of Kurosawa's sword pictures, the connection between a katana and a jedi weapon seemed obvious. The concept of the 'honor weapon' itself, which is not just lethal, but also a mark of class and badge of station, is something that was played unforgettably in Star Wars. Further, that the weapon was a symbol of 'a more civilized age' - in Seven Samurai, the four heroes who die are all killed by rifle fire. There is a distinction made between Samurai and Brigands just as there is between Jedi and the 'scum and villainy' of the galaxy. So what does all this lead to? A belief on my part that the lightsabres of the old republic should have an elegant, handcrafted look to them. They should be objects of lethal beauty. Further, since we were in the Old Republic, I saw the Jedi as being a bit less polite and a bit more well-rounded in their martial capabilities. This meant that their weaponry would be less standardized and more personal. Why not a lightsaber blade on the end of a polearm? This became the lightstaff from 'Sith' - why not a curved-handle? This became Tott-Doneeta's lightsaber in the original TOTJ series. Finally, why not a lightsabre with two blades? These all seemed like fine ideas to me, so it was with great shock that Dan Thorsland told me that Lucasfilm's licensing department rejected the idea of changing the lightsabers. The fact that someone from a marketing department could make that kind of decision about the Star Wars galaxy was a reality that we had, at that point, been blissfully unaware. Enough so that Dan went to bat for my ideas. I did sketches specifically for George, the first he would see of these new variants of Jedi weaponry. If he rejected them, fine. Happily for us, he accepted them. I still have the Lucasfilm internal memo with his signature on my studio wall. Framed next to it is the first issue of 'Sci-Fi Universe magazine' in which one of my sketches from this collection, the first concept drawing of a double edged lightsaber, was published. A few years later the same sketch would be published in WIRED magazine after Darth Maul had made the weapon famous. Turns out that double-bladed thing was good for licensing.
  12. GM: This may be a pretty generic, or silly, question, but who was your favorite character, or topic, to work on during your time on the Tales of the Jedi team? Why? Likewise, outside of Tales of the Jedi, did you have any favorite subjects of characters that you enjoyed working on for West End Games? These two questions are more for my own curiosity, than anything else :)
    • CG: I really like Ryloth. I wrote up a pitch for a story on the Twi'lek homeworld that ended up really helping the visuals in 'Redemption' when we visit Tott Doneeta's homeworld.
  13. GM: What is your most memorable moment from working on Tales of the Jedi? West End Games? Star Wars in general?
    • CG: Far beyond anything else is this moment: My dad was giving me a ride to the bank to cash my first royalty check from the first issue of 'Tales'. I didn't have a car at the time, but the check was for more money than he'd ever gotten for a single acting job. We were so excited. Dad was so proud he couldn't help himself, he all but told everyone in the bank how great an artist I was, as evidenced by the kingly royalty check in my hand. I'm very grateful to have had that moment with him.
  14. GM: Having worked both in the "ancient" universe of Star Wars, with your work on Tales of the Jedi, and also the contemporary or mainstream eras, such as with your work on Star Wars Adventure Journals and Platt's Starport Guide, did you prefer one over the other? What, if anything, was different about the way you approached these separate time periods?
    • CG: Yeah, it's funny, as much as I love the original three films, I do prefer the Old Republic. If I were ever fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work on Star Wars again, my preference would be to tell new stories in those old days.

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