Before the Star Wars: The High Republic initiative began its astronomical rise in 2021, its journey started with scribbled drawings on restaurant table coverings and concept art of nameless characters. It would eventually evolve through the work of a veritable Jedi Order of creative minds from around the globe until it took shape as the High Republic as Star Wars fans know it today.
Author and StarWars.com Associate Editor Kristin Baver recounts the fascinating process in the newly released The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic from Abrams Books. Secrets of Phase I of The High Republic are revealed in this golden tome, with insights from an incredible cadre of creators alongside captivating concepts by artists both new to Star Wars and from the halcyon days of the original trilogy. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about the High Republic, brand-new interviews and never-before-seen artwork guarantee that you’ll learn something new in this must-have for fans.
Baver recently sat down with StarWars.com to talk about the creation of The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic, what she learned from the unique development of Phase I of the High Republic, and which creator might be a secret member of a boy band.
A long time ago…
“It’s an indescribably great feeling to be asked to contribute to something like this, but especially this book in particular,” Baver tells StarWars.com. “I’ve been a fan of the ‘Art of’ series for a long time, before I even started working at Lucasfilm.”
An art book for books is unusual in general and a first for Star Wars in particular. “Publishing initiatives don’t normally get this quantity of art, concept art, and design put into it,” says Baver. “The sheer amount that went into this is quite different than most book series. I think that’s fascinating because they treated it more like something that was going to be on the screen, something that needed to be fully fleshed out and realized in that way.”
Past to present
There are so many designs for Star Wars film series projects that only a fraction of the concept art created is used, either in the storytelling or the subsequent art book. But, as Baver details in The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic, those pieces are never wasted. Instead, Lucasfilm archives all assets, and can sometimes repurpose those designs for inspiration on future projects like the High Republic. One of the most notable is an unused ship design drawn by Joe Johnston for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi that found new life among the Nihil.
“I love that that Joe Johnston ship comes back as the Gaze Electric,” Baver says, “because I think that also just really elegantly tells part of the story that is the High Republic, and how much the creators really looked back at the lineage in order to infuse what they were working on with authenticity.”
The High Republic also brought a visionary from the prequel trilogy back to Star Wars. Artist Iain McCaig, who created the iconic looks of Darth Maul and Queen Amidala for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, lent his talents in the early days of planning. Baver fondly recalls interviewing McCaig about his work on the High Republic; the two found a rapport that can be felt in the pages of The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic.
“Iain McCaig is a legend. He’s so brilliant in his art, but I’m also just fascinated by the way his mind works,” she says. “[He made] dozens and dozens of rough sketches, and some of those ended up in the book. That part of the creative process helped to inspire the storytellers, but not hem them in.
“One of my favorite spreads is Iain McCaig’s really beautiful sketch of Lina Soh and her targons… She wasn’t named yet, but it was so inspirational that [the authors] turned her into the chancellor. Then Grant Griffin came in and took the bones of that, refined it a little bit, added some color, and toned down the mouths of the beasts. It made them a little more cat-like and friendly. It’s a really interesting evolution to see that collaboration not only between author and artist, but artist and artist.”
A few favorites
Through their discussions, Baver discovered that McCaig is a horror fan. His scribble of an insectoid Jedi is just one of the many pieces in the book that make an instant impression on the reader, and it’s one of her favorites.
“It was something that I would’ve never put together,” she says. “How brilliant to merge a classic film like Vincent Price’s The Fly [and a Jedi]? I would never have thought to incorporate that into anything Star Wars. And then the way [McCaig] does it is just so fun and unexpected.”
Marvel artist Ario Anindito and Baver also found an easy camaraderie when she interviewed him about his High Republic work. “He made a comment about Terec and Ceret and how he designed them to look like mirror images of each other because of their storyline. And he was like, ‘There’s two, but they’re one.’ I said, ‘Oh my God, that sounds like a boy band song!’ And then he started singing.” The story is captured in the book, although you’ll have to imagine Anindito’s singing for yourself.
The author’s other favorite pieces in The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic include a spread featuring everyone’s favorite Vintian, Geode, a stunning portrait of Zeen Mrala by Tara Phillips, and Anindito’s Star Wars: The High Republic #8 variant cover, which spoke to Baver on multiple levels.
“The final cover was so gorgeous,” says Baver. “But then getting to see those sketches that show that design evolution and how Ario had to move Myarga the Benevolent because with the text it wouldn’t work. They had to push her all the way to the back. He [realized] it works better because now you can tell they’re on the same side, but they’re apart. To me, there’s a lot of magic involved in how artists come up with that final piece.”
We are all the Republic!
That magical design process from original idea to final concept is apparent in each chapter in The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic, which goes beyond the designs to tell the story of how the popular and compelling new era of Star Wars storytelling was made, through collaboration between the diverse and imaginative creators who teamed up for the initiative.
“An interesting part of the High Republic, and part of why it resonates so much with people, is that you invite all of these creators from different backgrounds to the table,” says Baver. “They come in with different stories from different perspectives and not only do you have that as your main thinktank, but then because it was being created during this very weird time [in 2020], that impacted some of the trajectories of the stories. We got to tell a lot of that in the book, which I’m really proud of.”
With a close look at the effects of the pandemic on the galaxy far, far away, incredibly detailed studies of character creation and evolution, an up-close exploration of the film-quality model of Starlight Beacon crafted by Jason Eaton, and so much more, The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic is a beautifully written deep dive into an unprecedented creative process.
The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic is available now wherever books are sold.
Visit Lucasfilm’s official hub for all things Star Wars: The High Republic at StarWars.com/TheHighRepublic.
Kelly Knox writes features and DIYs for StarWars.com. She’s the author of Be More Obi-Wan and co-author of Star Wars Everyday. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk Star Wars, pop culture, and bad dad jokes.
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