Monday, March 5, 2012

Remembering Ralph McQuarrie

On March 3rd, Star Wars conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie passed away at age 82. 

Born in Gary, Indiana on 13 June 1929, McQuarrie would move to California in the 1960s where he would find work as a technical artist for Boeing. Soon, after transitioning into Hollywood work, he met a young filmmaker named George Lucas who asked him to take the ideas of his nascent space opera and put them onto canvass. From there, this art became the costumes, props and stop motion models of the original Star Wars trilogy, one of the most captivating and successful film series of all time. 

McQuarrie conceptual art for The Empire Strikes Back
In many respects, I owe a great deal to the partnership of McQuarrie and Lucas. In the early 1990s, I had given up on the superhero genre. It may have been because of the gimmickry and market saturation of that era, but not wanting to give up on comics entirely (and prompted by Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire novel) I turned to Dark Horse's Dark Empire comic series. From there I couldn't get a enough of Star Wars and after re-watching the films and reading the comics and novels, my imagination was once again captured by the majesty and grandiosity of that far away galaxy.

Then, in 1995, I was diagnosed with cancer and my entire world was turned upside down. Because the chemotherapy was so potent I was unable to read books -- which meant television and comics were all I could do to entertain myself when not sleeping or getting chemo. Because of this, the Star Wars galaxy became the escapist fare I needed while undergoing treatments and this entertainment was in large part due to the creative genius of Ralph McQuarrie. Thank you, Ralph. 
Cover of the book Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster. This story was originally intended to be the low budget Star Wars sequel if the first movie was unsuccessful.  
If you'd like to see some of this man's fantastic art, I've linked to two websites below. I'm also sure there are plenty of comic book artists who owe a debt of gratitude to Ralph McQuarrie too, so if you'd like to share a story please leave a comment in the comments section. If not, enjoy the artwork from the Star Wars and McQuarrie personal websites and I hope to speak with you again soon.


  1. this guy's work really brings back some memories from my child hood. i remember first seeing his work on those Empire Strikes Back trading cards in the early eighties.

  2. Thanks for the comment, David. Hope things are well.

    1. i can't tell if your following what's going on out there since i never see you leave comments any where but in the last couple of days there's practically been an explosion of rare 80s published ROM art. plus i'll be posting in a couple of days some new found ROM/Galactus fan art that's absolutely bad ass.

    2. David: I haven't really been following - been busy with work, etc. But I'll have a look. Thanks for the notice!