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STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI - IMPERIAL GUARD

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Topps Trading Card Art, STAR WARS GALAXY Series 1, Emperor's Royal Guard.

Back in 1993, Topps released its first series of STAR WARS GALAXY trading card sets featuring art by numerous professionals and legends throughout the comics and movie poster illustration fields.  I was honored to have been included among them, but I was disappointed to learn that all the most popular Star Wars characters had already been reserved.  I knew that it was likely that George Lucas would sweep in to purchase all the art once everything was published, so I wanted to at least illustrate something of sufficient quality and value.  After racking my brain, I came up with the Emperor's Royal Guard.  They looked impressive enough, and since they were little more than peripheral characters in the 1983 film, I figured they would be overlooked by the other artists.  Added to this, they were brightly colored, making them extremely noticeable, and because their bodies were fully concealed beneath imposing helmets and long flowing robes, they were a cinch to draw!  The objective became how to make them visually interesting enough, however, since they only stood at rigid attention or slowly marched around.  I decided to take minor liberties, having two guards gliding across a polished hangar bay floor aboard the second Death Star, and whirling to a halt in front of the viewer's eye, their scarlet cloaks billowing with a controlled fury.  And this was the part where I cheated.  I used artistic license to include key associations into my scene.  Since we were aboard the Death Star, I could gleefully add a phalanx of stormtroopers!  After that, why not throw in the Imperial Shuttle, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine himself not once, but TWICE?  Yes, I especially enjoyed superimposing a close-up of the Emperor, looking down over the whole scene.  For a final flourish, I used the steam venting from the shuttle as a bit of ghostly mist to accentuate the dynamic movements of my two central Imperial guards.  This gave them a haunting, unearthly air, suggesting a supernatural power rivaling that of the Jedi and the Sith!  And that's how I managed to squeeze some fun out of some meager scraps!

Basically, these guys looked so statuesque and formidable, yet they were wasted on mere ceremony in STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI. Most fans really wanted to see them in action, doing battle to show off what abilities they must possess.  Based on a photo I found, there may be a cut scene from the film somewhere that does depict the Royal Guard exerting disciplinary authority over an Imperial officer (or they could have been assisting Darth Vader).  In any case, they seemed like an extremely brave group of sentries who wore red simply to hide their blood if injured during a scrape.

Of course, this image was already colored wonderfully by another artist way back then.  But as I located the original line art one day, I decided to use it as a Photoshop exercise to see if I could color it up on my own, possibly achieving what I had always envisioned.  It was a tough challenge, and I managed to teach myself more tricks through experimentation.  I began by cleaning up some of the lines digitally, and removing all the grease pencil shadowing.  The color scheme remains basically the same as what was printed (I chose not to get too stylistically abstract.), but with a few tweaks and enhanced special effects (Heh.  I reckon George Lucas would appreciate that.).  Where the printed version skewed warmer in its color palette, I felt it was more appropriate to veer back towards a cooler palette beyond the central figures, and even spilling a touch of cool fill and back lighting onto the guards themselves. 
Anyway, I hope you like it, and thanks so much for reading and viewing!  Cheers!  :)

*All material is the property of Topps, Lucasfilm Limited, and Walt Disney Studios.
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© 2018 - 2021 Jerome-K-Moore
Comments9
anonymous's avatar
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Gundam-Warrior's avatar
Ah.....when Star Wars still mattered to me.
Jerome-K-Moore's avatar
Same here.  With the sole exception (thus far) of ROGUE ONE, the Star Wars property has crashed and burned.  And this occurred long before Disney acquired the property.
Car-54's avatar
Awesome work. 
I agree we should have seen more of them. 
garrus368's avatar
So awesome
What program did you used?:)
Jerome-K-Moore's avatar
Adobe Photoshop CS6
NRGComics's avatar
Too bad we never got to see more of those guys in action. I thought they were really awesome.
ultimessiah's avatar
OH! I still have this card in my collection. One of my favorites no doubt.
Brisingr-Arget's avatar
Jerome-K-Moore's avatar
Thanks!  I actually surprised myself!
anonymous's avatar
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