One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers discuss which non-human species reigns supreme in terms of design and overall coolness.
The best alien species design in the entire Star Wars saga is Ithorian, says Dana.
When people ask me what it is about Star Wars that makes me excited to come to work every day, I almost always blurt out, “CREATURES!” without missing a beat. Character development, plot, theme. Sure, they’re all pretty great too. But I’ve always held a special place in my heart for all things creepy, crawly, and just a little bit weird, and that is why I give myself the authority to make such a sweeping statement: Ithorians are cooler than any other creature in the Star Wars universe.
Hammerhead. Leatherneck. Whatever possibly offensive in-universe term you choose to call them, Ithorians scream Star Wars. When Momaw Nadon showed his comically impractical face in Star Wars: A New Hope, we were quickly introduced to these eerie (but dare I say kinda cute?) beasts from Ithor…and they haven’t left Star Wars lore since. Seriously. They’ve been in half of the films, both animated series, the Star Wars Holiday Special and countless comics and books. “Hammerhead” was one of the first wildly popular Kenner action figures in 1978 even though he got no more than three seconds of screen time. I think it’s about time we give these hunchbacked heroes their due.
First, we should probably break down the basic creature design. A flat, curved head leading to two, linearly protruding eyeballs, all stacked on a humped frame with gloriously overblown calves and stumpy toes. Truly a vision. But the part that I love the most is the double-slotted mouth holes, conjuring up the thought of two zippered pockets on an old, worn out leather jacket.
Ron Cobb came up with the original concept art for A New Hope, and later went on to design for the Alien saga, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and other sci-fi classics. This guy knows creepy. One of the first sketches to be shown to George Lucas, happily approved and taken to the creature shop, was a slouchy Ithorian, sitting in a booth grasping a cup with a straw. I’m still scratching my head as to which mouth hole the straw goes into, but that only adds to their air of mystery! Cobb designed several other cantina aliens also used in the final scene, but the charm of the “Aquatic Air Breather” also came with a well-fleshed-out backstory determined by the artist, something most of the other creatures were lacking. In addition to a basic functional description of the Ithorian’s limbs and eating habits, it was predetermined that the beasts were a gentle species and had a religion based on “tying and untying knots.” All the more oddly fascinating.
Jon Berg finished building the creature on the day it needed to be shot, cutting it close but creating a model too perfect not to add to the misty Mos Eisley cantina. With just a head, a torso, and two arms, Berg puppeteered the creature while Phil Tippett sat separately in the shadows, controlling the mechanism used for prying the creature’s eyes open and closed. The trickiness of controlling the alien’s arms gave it the quality of a fumbling lush, unable to quite get a grip on his vice. The quirkiness was endearing, and the Ithorian had earned his keep.
As you can imagine, speaking Basic with such peculiar mouth holes comes as a challenge for Ithorians, but their overall awesomeness includes a proclivity for innovation, as well. As per legend, Ithorians created their own translators! A metal box placed on top of the hump on their back features transmitters placed over both mouths. Voila! You have Ithorese to Basic translation. Ithorians are a humble species that don’t expect the rest of the galaxy to have to interpret their gravelly, natural tongue. Respectful as they are handsome.
If you saw The Force Awakens and, like me, were worried about the lack of Hammerhead hurting their cred as coolest creature, take another look at this scene:
Though not technically an Ithorian but an off-shoot of the species, the character of Praster Ommlen is an Ottegan. As described in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, the character once lived a life of crime but abandoned it to join the Sacred Ramulus, an Ithorian sect of worship. So there you have it. If you’ve ever wondered how you could make Ithorians even cooler, give them a really sweet wizard beard and sign them up for a life of purity. In my eyes, these guys are flawless.
Not quite sure you can take my word for it? How about writer of Marvel’s Star Wars, Jason Aaron?
“I love the Hammerhead guy in the cantina, in the original film,” Aaron told StarWars.com. “I remember having that figure. I’ve still got it somewhere. So, I’ve always liked those guys, so we see several of them in issue #1. I don’t know why, but they’re probably my favorite.”
I know why, Jason. Ithorians are the coolest creatures this side of Coruscant.
And if after all that, you’re still not convinced these guys are amazing, I leave you with one word: Pypey.
The best alien species design in the entire Star Wars saga is Vuvrian, says Matt.
I was tasked with naming the best alien design in the entire Star Wars universe, which for me was like asking a doting parent to pick their favorite child. I hadn’t sweated so much over something so trivial since trying to cross the airships in Super Mario Bros. 3.
It was a close race, but my heart wouldn’t let me settle on any other answer:
The Vuvrian species gets my vote.
Even on a site that caters to Star Wars diehards, I wouldn’t be surprised if a fair number of you have never even heard of this species…but I guarantee that you’ve seen one of its members in action!
Wioslea was her name. She was the cloaked freakazoid who bought Luke’s landspeeder in A New Hope.
Since I was born in 1979, I never got to see A New Hope during its original theatrical run. All through the ‘80s and well into the ‘90s, I had to make do with watching the videocassette on a series of modest televisions. Wioslea was already a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her sort of character, but under those confines, it wouldn’t be until the internet age that I finally got a good look at this bizarrely beautiful creature.
My word, she was worth so much more attention than I’d ever given her as a kid!
Taking Wioslea at face value, she looks kind of like the Brundle Fly version of a Snork. Just an impossible mass of protrusions and EYEBALLS, topping a unsettlingly humanoid frame.
Even in Star Wars terms, one might argue that her appearance was a little too much. This is pure conjecture, but I’ve long thought that Wioslea’s brief appearance was intentionally kept on the murky side. She was weird in a way that might’ve tested some folks’ suspensions of disbelief, looking like something out of a 1950s B movie.
And that’s exactly what I love about her.
I spoke with Pablo Hidalgo — creative executive for the Lucasfilm Story Group — about Wioslea. He said that she was a Stuart Freeborn creation, effectively disproving my theory that this was another of Rick Baker’s “leftover” masks that made it into A New Hope without actually having been custom-created for it.
Hidalgo also confirmed what some especially astute fans have noticed: In addition to the brief landspeeder scene, Wioslea appeared in the Mos Eisley cantina. (And good luck spotting her — she’s like the Star Wars version of Waldo.)
This may not have been mere happenstance, as Hidalgo noted that the novelization for A New Hope hinted that it was possibly Wioslea — NOT Ponda Baba — who was originally slated to lose an arm to Obi-Wan’s lightsaber. (The book references Luke’s assailant as a “large, multiple-eyed creature.”)
(Photo credit: Bridgegregman. And yes, there really was a mass-produced Wioslea action figure!)
Trivia bits aside, for me, this one is all about the look. There are so many utterly strange alien species in the Star Wars universe, and yet, by and large, most of them make some biological sense…from a certain point of view. Wioslea and her Vuvrian brethren stand apart — and in my view, stand taller — sheerly because they don’t.
Even without novels and supplements, I can look at Quarrens, Twi’leks and Weequays and at least kind of understand the mentality behind their appearances. With Vuvrians, there’s no way. They’re humanoids with horse feet for hands, and faces that look like spoiled casseroles. They’re covered in erratically positioned eyes and have cosmetic hoses instead of ears. Their mouths look like wounds, and they wear shirts that they couldn’t have possibly pulled over their heads.
Sometimes we fear what we don’t understand…and sometimes we love it.
Kudos, Vuvrians. You’re weird and you’re wonderful. No other alien species — from Star Wars or from anything — sparks my curiosity quite like you guys.
What’s your favorite Star Wars alien? Let us know in the comments below!
Dana Jennings is Lucasfilm’s senior content coordinator for StarWars.com. You may remember her from such polls and quizzes as, “Who Wore it Best?” and “Which Star Wars Character Should you Invite for the Holidays?” When not acting as chairman of the Nien Nunb Appreciation Society, she can be found working hard to make sure StarWars.com stays fully operational or dressing up as Crocker the cantina alien. Follow her on Instagram for all these things and more!