There was no way of knowing that when the lights went down and the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare began to play that the future of a then five-year-old boy would be set in motion. The events that played over the large silver screen in a small Philadelphia movie theater were powerful enough to inspire the child to pick up a pencil and bring to life on paper all the things that children think. The film, as you have likely guessed, was Star Wars, and the child was Thomas Hodges. Even though he was one of myriad children to be inspired to do the same, Tom has been able to do what most haven't. He's followed his dream and has turned his drawings into Star Wars cannon.
Like most children, Tom enjoyed comic books and drawing, but didn't really consider either anything more than fun activities. While he did take art classes in school, he did it mostly because the class was easy. Nonetheless, his abilities did not go unnoticed by classmates or instructors. He found himself doing assignments for the cute senior girls to help them pass; meanwhile he was failing the same course. Recognizing that his art could lead to a bright future, his art instructor tried to give Tom the high school equivalent to an intervention. Sadly, like most teens, Tom had other things more important on his mind, namely girls and heavy metal.
It wasn’t until 1989 and the release of Tim Burton's first Batman film that Tom started to pay close attention to comics, and more importantly the artists who illustrate the funny books. For the young Hodges, it was Jim Lee who fascinated him most, and this is where he started understanding illustrations as an art form. This is usually the way it works for most well known artists, and when looking at their early work one can find their influences on their sleeves. Realistically speaking, an artist must follow in someone's footsteps in order to find their own way. This was true for Tom. When looking back on his early work, the Lee influence is unmistakable.
As Hodges interests in comics grew, so did his collection. At its most uncontrolled point, Tom was buying up to forty comics a week. Not surprisingly, he was very much like the character Brody from the Kevin Smith film Mallrats. He found himself living with his parents and virtually having a printed list of comic reading protocols for anyone interested in seeing his bagged and boarded collection. The artist admits now that those days are long gone, and he has piles of comics just lying around and he’s got no problems with his eleven-year-old boy, Logan, flipping through them.
Tom found himself attending comic conventions and was able to land a gig illustrating a couple of covers for an independent comic book called The Jersey Devil. To help promote the book and his budding career, Tom found himself in the artist's alley at Charlotte, NC's Hero Con sitting beside comic book artist Mark Texeira (Wolverine, Sabretooth, Black Panther). The two artists had met before in Pittsburg, and began to hit it off. The two found themselves hanging out a way from the table too, and over a short period of time Tom found himself hanging out in the studio Texeira shared with fellow artist Ray Lago (Star Wars: Jedi Academy, SHI, Robocop). It was under their tutelage that Hodges style truly began to take form.
In Tom's mind the next logical step was to get an education and truly understand art in order to build a professional career. He felt that it would be best to study animation and use it as a springboard to get work at ILM (Industrial Lights and Magic) as a conceptual artist. He stayed in Philadelphia learning for three years before heading out to continue his education in San Francisco. The road to success, as we know, is very rough and impossible to navigate. Hodges was quick to realize that he wasn't going to learn anything that he didn't already know at his new school and dropped out in favour of pursuing what he hoped would be his big break at Lucasfilm.
The artist found himself waiting tables while he waited for the right opportunities, and was able to meet a couple of people working for Lucasfilm. He stayed in contact with an ILM employee for a few months, but knew it would get him nowhere so he turned his attentions elsewhere. For all the false starts Tom endured in San Francisco, his adventure lead him to the most important path in his life. It was there that Tom met Terri, who proved to be an unending pillar of support and the seed of his inspiration. The two married and started a life together in Orange County.
Though he'd enjoyed it as a fanboy for years, Hodges started attending the San Diego Comic Convention as a professional in 2003, and it was his first year in the SDCC Artist Alley that gave him his first truly great opportunity. He met Lee Nordling of Platinum Studios, who upon seeing the artist's work, signed him on the spot to illustrate a book by comics legend Marv Wolfman (Creator of Blade and the Teen Titans). But for Tom, the big career event that year was when he met Bonnie Burton from Lucasfilm.
Bonnie is an Online Content Developer on the Star Wars Official Site; needless to say, this is the sort of person you'd want to meet if you wanted your foot in the door. That wasn't Tom's motivation however when the two hit it off. Both of them found that their personalities were similar enough to enjoy chatting, and over the course of the convention they, with Terri, got into a pile of great conversations. That, as anyone who has attended the SDCC can tell you, is a tough thing to accomplish, especially for the over worked LFL representatives.
As the Convention was winding down on Sunday, Tom found himself with a pile of left over sketches, many of which were Star Wars characters, and decided to give them to Bonnie in appreciation for a T-shirt she gave him the day before. When Hodges was able to get to the Star Wars area, he couldn’t find Bonnie so he asked the first person he saw there in a Star Wars shirt if she had left. As it turned out, the representative informed Tom that she did indeed leave. Saddened that he couldn’t say goodbye to her in person, he asked the representative if he could give her the sketches. The guy agreed and took the pile from the artist and automatically recognized who he was from the art style. He looked up at him and said something along the lines of "You're Tom Hodges! I know your work from theforce.net… I was hoping to meet you." To which Tom instinctively asked if he was going to be sued. With a smile the representative said he wasn't going to get sued and introduced himself formally. This is how Tom met the leader of Lucasfilm's Official Site, Paul Ens.
Hodges and Ens kept in touch over the last year and when the time was right Paul offered Tom a project that was being developed for starwars.com. As all things like this do, it took some time to get the ball rolling, but the long and short of it was Tom getting hired to illustrate the site's web strip comic serial. For Hodges this brings him full circle. Twenty-seven years ago he was introduced to a story that compelled him to draw, and come this September, he'll be inspiring future artists with his illustrations that are a part of that same great tale.
If this sounds like a fanboy does good story, there’s good reason: it is. Tom Hodges is the living embodiment of the Star Wars generation, and it is through his artist achievements that we can see how truly inspiring George Lucas' saga is. Even though we don’t need any excuses to be grateful for Star Wars, knowing that without it we may not have been able to enjoy Hodges art is one hell of a good reason to cherish the story that inspired him.
Top Ten Movies
1. Star Wars: Episode 5 The Empire Strikes back
2. Star Wars: Episode 4 A New Hope
3. Star Wars: Episode 2 Attack of the Clones (I love it, sorry PT haters. ;) but could be easily replaced May 2005
4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
5. The Shawshank Redemption
7. Spider-Man 2
9. Pulp Fiction
10. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (But I want to see the ROTK extended edition!)
Top Ten Artists (comic and otherwise)
1. Jim Lee. He is the comic book GOD! I would love to have an original piece of his work for my office. Something made specifically for me. Star Wars related of course. His art just blows me away and as a young artist, I wanted to draw just like him. He is why I kept trying because when I was trying to clone him, I would see the next piece he did and get frustrated and that’s when I started to develop my own style. His work forced me to be myself and if I could, I’d thank him.
2. Mark Texeira. Tex is not just an amazing artist, but a great guy. My mentor in a way. I use to hang out in his and Ray Lago's studio in Manhattan every once in a while and watch these guys work. Tex taught me about depth and anatomy and how to really get people’s attention. He was also the one who told me to make things happen for myself, no one will give you work, you need to get the work and make your own career.
3. Bruce Timm. I have a serious animated feel to my work and I see it as being because of the "Less is more" theory. I met Bruce a few years ago at SDCC and he gave me the "Apples and Oranges" speech. One day an editor will be looking for Apples and if your portfolio is full of oranges… no matter how beautiful those oranges are, he won’t hire you. I finally got a chance to say thank you for the speech at this years con. LOL
4. Todd McFarlane. Because he had a style all his own. I wish he’d draw more, but doesn’t.
5. Drew Struzan. The GREATEST movie poster artist of all time. I love his work. I wish the SW novels would bring him back to do covers.
6. Alex Ross. Amazing. I am in awe of his painting skills. Another artist who I would LOVE to work with someday.
7. Ian McCaig. His designs for the Prequel Trilogy are so beautiful and inspiring. It's not just his work either. The entire team that worked on the films. The designs are amazing and give the Star Wars Universe such depth.
8. Humberto Ramos. I love the feel of his work and his Spider-man work is some of the best I've ever seen. I hope he does more.
9. The Romita's. Sr. and Jr. Both of their work on Spider-man is just so much fun. I wasn't a huge Fan of Jr.'s when he was doing X-men years ago, but his work on Spidey has been so much fun.
10. Adam Hughes. His work is gorgeous. His women are beautiful and his Batman is killer.
Monthly funny Book Reads
Amazing Spider-man (The past few years have been well written)
The Jim Lee/Jeff Joeb Batman run (was a lot of fun!)
The current Jim Lee/Azzarello Superman run
Star Wars Tales (Consistently the BEST SW comic out there)
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
Daredevil: Guardian Devil by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada
Green Arrow: Quiver by Kevin Smith and Phil Hester/Andy Parks
Green Arrow: The Sounds of Violence by Kevin Smith and Phil Hester/Andy Parks
The entire Jim Lee X-men run
The entire McFarlane run on Spawn and Spider-man
The whole batch of Hellboy
In The CD Player
Dave Matthews Band
Those are always in regular rotation, but I also have a love of CHEESY
70's/early 80's pop. Not to mention all 80's metal… good metal.
The Dream Job list
1. To work as a conceptual artist for ILM or Lucasfilm
2. To do a regular run on Spider-man or X-men
3. To do a regular run on Batman
4. To direct major motion pictures. I did go to film school and would like to do that
Tools Of The Trade
I use color-erase pencils when I'm just doodling. The Topps cards I used a 3H pencil. I ink with Rapidograph Pens and color in Photoshop.
Tom comes from a large family:
3 brothers: Steve 36, Brian 30, Sean 26
1 Sister: Michele: 34