Nothing like killing two birds with one stone: Joe Johnston drew this concept sketch to go with early drafts of Revenge of the Jedi. But it also illustrates something from the very first draft of Star Wars, which George wrote back in 1974. In the “Revenge” scripts, Princess Leia has various run-ins with some vaguely described “Imperial trackers,” who are also causing problems with the Ewoks and Yussem. Given that Johnston has added forearm guards and a head mask, it’s possible that George Lucas had already envisioned these Imperials seated on rocket bikes (later, speeder bikes). They also had “T-bombs” and a garland of (Ewok? Yussem?) teeth.
In the original 1974 rough draft, which is now being serialized in comic book form as The Star Wars, the “trackers” are nasty aliens who live on an Ewok-free planet known as Yavin. I don’t want to say what havoc they cause, but it isn’t pretty.
So in short this is another example of Lucas having an idea, revisiting the idea, and, in this case, ultimately abandoning the idea. But who knows if the trackers won’t resurface one day in the future. Anything’s possible and I love this artwork. In fact it was great, the other day at a VES event, to finally meet Joe Johnston after writing about him in so many books. He drove up from LA for the event, and we were all — audience and panelists — very grateful and happy to hear what he had to say about Jedi, reminiscing with Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, and Lorne Peterson about the old days at ILM. A rare time.
At any rate, today sees the release/publication of The Making of Return of the Jedi, and, the next day, the publication of The Star Wars issue #2. And I need a long nap. But instead I’m going to London. Then NYC. I hope I can sleep on the planes, but I can never sleep on those dang things, with their amazing lack of legroom! (And I refuse to take pills; will instead read a book about the Mary Tyler Moore Show — what great writing — long live James L. Brooks and company!)
Yikes and away.
Lucasfilm executive editor J. W. Rinzler is the author of The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones. You can visit jwrinzler.com for more info.