Star Wars Posters Evolution

December 13, 2019 by Displate Artists Team in Gaming Art

To celebrate the premiere of The Last Jedi we’d like to take a brief look at one of the most iconic things that complete Star Wars franchise – the posters. Get ready for some trivia and bunch of great designs to prove their worth.

Let’s start with the truly first one – made to stick to comic books readers, as it has been generally thought they were the major demographics of the movie. Around 1975 Lucasfilm approached Stan Lee from Marvel Comics to develop tie-in comics that would hype the upcoming movie. Lee declined the proposition explaining that comic book adaptation rarely sold well at that time. Eventually, he changed his decision and negotiated that Lucasfilm would receive no royalties until sales exceed 100 000 copies – then they could talk further. No one expected the success that came. During its initial run, Marvel Star Wars comics lasted for 107 issues from 1977 to 1986.

Howard Chaykin star wars poster
First Star Wars poster by Howard Chaykin

First 10 issues, as well as the poster, was drawn by Howard Chaykin and was distributed in comic book stores and during comic cons. It is considered that only 1000 were printed.

In 1977 Lucas discussed marketing and promotional materials with advertising firm where incidentally Tom Jung was working as a freelance illustrator. He was given a task to prepare a thematic poster exploring the good vs evil theme. The final piece – called by fans as ‘Style A’ poster – became the most iconic of Star Wars posters to this day. It has a slight fantasy vibe, very similar to Frank Frazetta’s work on Conan. It’s worth noting some easter eggs that might come unnoticed firsthand as Luke is wearing boots pretty closely mimicking those of Darth Vader’s. As for Leia – whom also took inspiration from Frazetta – she’s holding Han Solo’s blaster. More facts you can find at the source. The ‘not so dark’ edition was prepared by Tim and Greg Hildebrandt who had to tone down a little previous poster in less than 36 hours.

Famous Style A poster by Tom Jung

Next came Tom Chantrell who finally give the characters some movie-personalities. Previous posters consisted of an imaginary depiction of main characters whereas Chantrell approach was a little more close to the original stars. That way people were reminded of the actual movie. Moreover, Tom actually got a chance to see the movie prior to the release and had access to many files that made his design closest to reality so far.

Tom Chantrell star wars poster
Movie personalities thanks to Tom Chantrell

Episode IV was running in theaters for more than a year from 25 May 1977 to 20 July 1978 and then even re-released through the months day due to general demand. The final major New Hope poster featured the contribution of Drew Struzan, a man who will be in later decades closely connected to the franchise.

Drew Struzan star wars poster
Drew Struzan – Episode IV re-release poster

Then came Empire Strikes Back and with this movie – two posters. One from renowned Tom Jung, and one from Roger Kastel – a man is better known for Jaw poster. But the real twist came with Return of the Jedi movie. Before the official release, the movie was known as ‘Revenge of the Jedi’ and already had a promotional poster made by Drew Struzan. It’s worth mentioning that by that time he was known for his takes on Blade Runner and Indiana Jones posters. He also prepared covers for few comic books. Nevertheless, the movie was renamed due to a simple fact, that Jedi are not allowed to get revenge or any form of any actions committed in anger. But for now, remember Revenge of the Jedi minimalistic color (red!) design for reference later on.

Red revenge of the jedi poster
The only Revenge of the Jedi poster by Drew Struzan

Let’s focus on Struzan’s art more. In 1997 premiered Special Edition of the first three films. To celebrate this fact Drew created the three-panel triptych poster, which took him 3 weeks starting December ’96 and Finishing right on time for A New Hope premiere on January 31st. It is said that George Lucas was so impressed by the work, he appointed Struzan to work on next three posters for the Episodes I, II and III. Those as well were meant to be hanged together creating one stunning image. His strong use of opposite colors depicts the balance of the force.

Star Wars Special Edition Triptych by Drew
Star Wars Special Edition Triptych by Drew

With another trilogy beginning with The Force Awakens movie, a new era of posters began. Drew once more was asked to prepare the promotional image for the premiere but he opted not to. Instead, he prepared a special edition poster given out to attendees of Disney’s D23 fan expo in 2015. The theatrical poster for Episode VII was created by Bryan Morton and kept the core elements of the first graphics created by his predecessor (opposite colors, photorealistic characters, etc.).

And we finally arrived at the first Last Jedi poster. It evokes the characteristic lightsaber effect from Tom Jung’s design and has a dominant red color very similar to – yes – unused Revenge of the Jedi poster created by Struzan. Does it spoil some potential plot twists? May Ren be the sole savior of the galaxy and the so-called ‘Last Jedi’? Will Luke Skywalker join the dark side as did his father? It might be pretty obvious seeing how his character is positioned as a larger (than life) figure – just as Darth Vader or other antagonists on almost all posters above. To get all the answers we’ll have to wait.

Star Wars The Last Jedi poster
The Last Jedi red poster – isn’t it similar to Revenge of the Jedi a bit?

We got you covered with those Officialy Licensed Star Wars Posters!

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