How do you improve on books about TIE fighters, X-wings, R2-D2, and the Millennium Falcon? Easy: you include DIY 3D wood models, of course. Enter the Star Wars IncrediBuilds series. Featuring in-universe history and facts — did you know a Star Destroyer holds 7,200 TIEs? — along with behind-the-scenes photos and creator interviews from the Star Wars films, the IncrediBuilds books are a surprisingly rich trove of information. Plus, there’s that aforementioned pack-in model, which makes for a worthy addition to any Star Wars collection — and one that can really become uniquely your own, should you choose to customize it. (You want a Millennium Falcon in the colors of the New York Jets? Go for it.) Currently, there are four titles available — TIE Fighter, X-Wing, R2-D2, and Millennium Falcon — with Death Star and AT-ACT, both featuring Rogue One content, coming in May. StarWars.com recently spoke with Michael Kogge, author of several titles in the series, and came away five insights into why the IncrediBuilds books are, for lack of better term, incredible.
1. The books are heavily researched, and it shows. Kogge left no stone or ’80s Star Wars RPG guidebook unturned in investigating his subjects. “I took a lot of the resources I had, and I just went to work, kind of finding out everything I could about the TIE fighter, the X-wing, the Millennium Falcon, and R2-D2,” he says. “I went back, looked at the movies. I did have to go back to some of the old [EU] guidebooks to figure out what components were called and what the length of a ship [might be]. I actually checked in with Pablo [Hidalgo of the Lucasfilm Story Group] about the dimensions of the ships, and they went back to the Clone Wars and [Star Wars] Rebels models and confirmed with that. So it was actually a lot of research. Some of the West End Games books actually provided a lot of information, too.”
2. The interviews included are fantastic. Each entry in the series contains a discussion with original Star Wars creators, including some that we don’t hear from too often — such as a major A New Hope concept artist and designer, interviewed in the TIE Fighter book. “Colin Cantwell — that was pretty amazing,” Kogge says, “because I don’t think anybody’s interviewed him, and he was the first person George Lucas hired for his film. This was actually even before [Ralph] McQuarrie. McQuarrie was hired maybe a little bit after Cantwell, and Cantwell’s the one who did the prototype designs for the TIE fighter, X-wing, and the basic ships.” Of all that’s included the books, it’s the interviews that make the author most proud. “I really like the interviews. In the later books, I got to interview Lorne Petersen, and then I interviewed Richard Edlund for the X-wing. For R2-D2, [I interviewed] Don Bies — other than Kenny Baker, he’s the other guy who played Artoo. With remote control. [Laughs] That was really cool.”
3. Even Kogge, a veteran Star Wars author, learned tons. Through his research, both into the fiction of Star Wars and the actual production of the films, Kogge made discoveries that surprised even himself. “I learned a heck of a lot,” he says. “I’m mostly a fiction writer, so these books were a little bit of a challenge because they’re not fiction [stories] and they can be very technical.” And even more exciting is that in places where Kogge needed an answer and there was none, he was able to define new elements of Star Wars continuity. “I got to expand some things of my own in the gaps that were there. So there is new information about different technical components that I highlighted and gave a name, and fleshed out a little bit that hadn’t been invented in the past.”
Above: An exclusive preview of pages from the Star Wars IncrediBuilds AT-ACT (left) and Death Star (right) books.
4. The 3D wood models are awesome, but so are the customization ideas included. The pure wood look of the models is striking in its simplicity, but if you want to add a bit of color, the designers have some suggestions. (If you choose not to go with New York Jets colors.) “I submitted a couple of ideas for that, but the designers at Insight Editions really ran with it,” Kogge says. “They wrote the instructions, and I kind of said, ‘Well, maybe you could do this type of TIE fighter, or this type of R2-D2 — battle damage.’ I don’t know if they already had those ideas or not, but I really liked what they did with the paint schemes. I didn’t have anything to do with making the model or designing the model, but I was overjoyed, as you guys probably were, to see how complicated they were. These aren’t like the dinosaurs we grew up with that you buy at the museum, like the T-rex or the triceratops, where you can build it in 10 minutes. This is really something cool.”
5. Whether you became a Star Wars fan in 1977 or in 2017, there’s something for you here. With insights into the making of the films, behind-the-scenes photos and concept art, models, and deep dives into ships, vehicles, and droids, the books are fit for fans young and old. “That was definitely a goal of mine,” Kogge says. “I wanted kids to be able to read them, but I wanted the adult model makers not to feel like this is just a kids book. There’s a lot of information in those books. I think any fan can find something that they like in those books.”
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer and editor of the StarWars.com blog. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.