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Interviews -
Face To Face With The Masters

Any citizen of the galaxy may be summoned to answer to the Jedi Council. Here you may read the transcripts of such sessions.

Cellblock 1138 - 1997-1999 - 2000 - 2002 - 2003+

Interview with Christian Gossett

To Star Wars comics fans, the name Chris Gossett is synonymous with 'Tales of the Jedi'. Chris' art first introduced us to Star Wars thousands of years before 'a long time ago' in the original Tales of the Jedi series and in 'Dark Lords of the Sith'. His most recent work can be seen in the surprisingly enjoyable 'TOTJ: Redemption' and he can also be found on occation hanging out in TFN's Jedi Council literature forum under the name, Ulic Qel Droma.

TFN's Paul Ens had the opportunity to ask Chris about his work in this unique universe.

TF.N: Hello Chris. Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions. When did you become a Star Wars fan?

Gossett: Like most everyone else in the developed world, I was a Star Wars fan as soon as John Williams' score rocked me in my seat and that golden logo flew back into the star field, followed by the roll up. My father was a working actor back then, so we knew about Star Wars from the may '77 issue of the Screen Actors Guild magazine. Threepio and Luke were on the cover and my brother and I begged our dad to stay home from school on the day it opened. A nine year old simply cannot wait for some things. Pop obliged, and we loved the movie so much that we took my mother to see it that very night after she had gotten home from work. I pity anyone who couldn't see it at Graumann's Chinese Theater. (Being raised in Hollywood, that place is sacred to me.) I'll never forget that as I lay in bed afterward (way too excited to fall asleep) I could still hear vividly the scream of the blasters and the hum of the lightsabers.

TF.N: Who are some of your artistic influences?

Gossett: O.K., influences. A widely varied group and influential in many different ways. I include them since each of the following have somehow 'influenced' frequent artistic decisions one way or another. No list could hold them all, but here goes: From the Russian Constructivists of the 1920's (before Stalin's regime killed or silenced most of them): Kazimir Malevich, Georgii & Vladimir Stenberg, El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, Mayakovsky, Bulgakov. From the miracle workers of Japan: Akira Kurosawa, Hiyao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo, Nobuteru Yuuki, Yoshitaka Amano, Masamune Shirow and Mr. Yamasaki from North Hollywood High. From the halls of the scholars: Joseph Campbell and James Carse (If you haven't read Carse's 'Finite and Infinite Games' please do so.) Finally, some influential entities from American cinema: Joe Johnston and John Dykstra (the silent heroes of the Star Wars galaxy) Monsieur Lucas, Maestro Spielberg, Mr. Cameron. FRANK MILLER. Let me repeat, FRANK MILLER. Last but not least, heroes of fiction: Roland of Gilead, Corwin of Amber, and the one and only Buckaroo Banzai.

TF.N: How did you get the job for the original TOTJ series?

Gossett: One of my best and most talented friends, Frank Gomez, asked me if I wanted to take a kind of 'art test'. I would have to draw a three-page sample of the Star Wars core characters written by Tom Veitch. I figured why not, and got the job.

TF.N: How does one approach a "retro-Star Wars" look when designing ships, clothing, weaponry, etc?

Gossett: The original editors of TOTJ were Dan Thorsland and Bob Cooper. They loved to get into the marrow of a situation like I do. We would be on the phone for hours talking about the design of the ancient galaxy. How do we retro-design and make it effective? We were obsessed with the challenge, actually. For the design of the prequel films, the mighty ILM only has to go so far back as Anakin's youth. While we humble and proud few at Dark Horse were going back several millennia. We decided to make it as sweeping and romantic as possible. Huge, coarse looking ships inspired by the seafaring galleons of our past. Ornate, highly-detailed lightsaber handles, resembling those of ancient katana. Droids that could have been hand-crafted. If 'Redemption' succeeds, and the powers that be decide that there should be another TOTJ story, I would really push to take the retro-design back further than ever. After four years of this stuff, I'm kinda getting comfy with low-tech.

TF.N: What involvement does Lucasfilm, Dark Horse and the authors have in the art of TOTJ?

Gossett: The checks and balances system that exists between Lucasfilm, Dark Horse, and the handful of freelancers that contribute to Star Wars is the main influence. It is the method of production that really defines the work. Here is a bit of simplified analogy to sum up: The freelancers are like Ronin. We ride up to the castle when we smell a job, and Dark Horse is the Magistrate that utilizes its industry savvy to pick and choose those lucky few whose work will receive an audience before the court of the Shogun, which is Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm then makes the ultimate decision as far as which projects and teams they would like to see, and work begins. From there a similar kind of protocol is followed. The artists crank out their pages, Dark Horse's editors keep everything moving along (choosing a colorist, checking the schedules, proofing scripts and artwork and if at any point the work is not up to Lucasfilm's comprehensive standard or violates the vast fabric of the galaxy's continuity, then those pages must be transformed to fit and then proofed again. Finally, the 'shell' or 'package' of the title is designed. Logo, which advertisements go where, etc. Editors are the unsung heroes of the comics biz, don't let anybody tell you different.) and finally, a series is born.

TF.N: What artistic goals did you have for Redemption that were different than previous TOTJ series?

Gossett: My first goal for 'Redemption' was to make it as visually character-driven as possible. Dark Lords was a circus by the third issue. It just had too many characters and its plot suffered, therefore, from lack of focus. If the penciler can't put a name to a face, then how is the audience supposed to? To really marry the art and the writing with 'Redemption', I made a point of traveling to Kevin Anderson's home so that we could lay out each issue together. Panel by panel, page by page, issue by issue. For those of you out there that don't know, most comics teams are spread over continents and never meet each other, let alone work together. Kevin and I really threw ourselves into this as a team, and the results are some very meaningful moments for the characters in the story. I doubt whether most writers have the kind of security about their work that would allow them to collaborate as selflessly as Kevin does. He has a rare clarity and openness about himself. Each trip was really a pleasure. We had that all-too-rare feeling that the commercial and time restraints that so often dominate an artistic endeavor had been transcended by our efforts. I felt like I had won the Stanley Cup. (well, O.K., maybe not THAT great...) I was actually in tears as the last few pages of the last issue were planned out! It was hilarious. Kevin was like, "Wow, want some tissue?" and there I am, struggling to draw as I gush with emotion, "t'hanks...that'd...be... grea't...ahuh-ahuh-ahuh..."

TF.N: TOTJ is full of alien species familiar and unfamiliar. How is it decided to go with a new species rather than an established one, and what process do you use in designing a species?

Gossett: Kevin really likes to use alien Jedi. I'm 50/50. As I stated on the Jedi Council Forum, if an alien jedi is intricately conceived then I'm interested. But aliens for the sake of aliens? Then it's just 1950's sci-fi: "LOOK, IT'S THE PIRANHA-FACED WOMAN FROM PLANET RAA-RA-RA!!! I SHUDDER BEFORE HER ALIEN PRESENCE!!!" Star Wars is consistent in that most of its aliens are symbolic of some specific and concentrated feature of human behavior. Each alien is a metaphor. Yoda is Wisdom, Chewbacca is Loyalty, Jabba is Gluttony and Greed. The Jawas and Sandpeople are pure Survival. Even the Rancor is, well, Rancor. You can look up 'Rancor' in the dictionary and you've got your character description right there. As far as TOTJ, at every opportunity I've influenced Tott Doneeta (the Twilek Jedi) to embody Selfless Duty. Sylvar, the Lioness from the Cathar system, has her own metaphor in 'Redemption' but I'll let the readers discover it for themselves. I would stress that anyone who hopes to work professionally for the Star Wars pantheon should read Joseph Campbell's work. It's been said before, but Campbell's foundation of mythological study cannot be separated from George Lucas' work. This applies especially to the fantastic creatures that abound throughout the galaxy. Star Wars is heavily symbolic, and unless you have some kind of understanding about those mythic symbols, the audience will feel the difference.

TF.N: Does this ancient universe still intrigue you, or would you prefer to take a break in more "mainstream" Star Wars continuity?

Gossett: The ancient galaxy really feels like home at this point. I am enthusiastically loyal to the material. Everybody really wants to see the Solos, the Skywalkers-- but I guess that's the reason those characters bore me creatively. It's getting to a point where trying to fit even a small story within the fabric of continuity is like, "O.K., this story takes place on the weekend that Luke spent between this epic novel from three years ago and his battle with the forces of..." It's just way too developed for me. With Tales of the Jedi, the potential is as vast as the galaxy itself. We haven't scratched the surface of what TOTJ could be. It's so far back in the past, that there is no reason to fear that any story we tell could interfere with core continuity. Four Millennia is such a long, long, long time. It's total freedom. We could explore some in-depth Jedi philosophy from a backwater system that was lost over the span of the millennia. We could show conflicts between certain aspects of the Republic itself. We could tell more stories of Rogue Jedi. If Ulic Qel Droma is out there, wandering the perimeter systems, finding whatever adventure comes his way, then there are countless others out there as well. Jedi whose service to the Republic was a burdensome shadow from which they only want to escape. Or even truly brave rogues who feel that they can best serve the Republic by working in solitude, outside of its bureaucracy. I do feel that if the title is to survive, it should lose all aspects of continuity and take on a more Arthurian structure. Each story will introduce new Jedi, in a new system with new antagonists, and most importantly, a new revelation into these mysterious warriors and their blades of light.

TF.N: What's next? Are you scheduled for any Star Wars projects in the future?

Gossett: 'Redemption' might just be my final work in the Star Wars galaxy. We've followed Ulic's story since TOTJ #1; from his apprenticeship, through the dark journeys that cost him his brother, his love and his knighthood, and now we will see how someone can be reborn when their life has become a wasteland. the future of TOTJ is a bit uncertain right now, and the public will be the deciding factor in it's survival. At any rate, TOTJ has been an incredible experience. I've learned so much about the art of comics, the business of licensing, and the craft of telling stories one vision at a time. I'm truly grateful for the whole ride.
As for my next project, I have been putting together a bit of a saga of my very own in a world I've been creating over the last four years. Perhaps this is the time to let it out on it's own...

TF.N: Thanks again for your time (and your support of theforce.net)...

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