A few months ago, a co-worker showed me a newspaper clipping she thought I might be interested in reading. It was about a fellow she bowled with; and because she knows I am the local Star Wars geek, she thought I might like to meet him. That man is Douglas Wheatley, the artist who drew the comic adaptation of Revenge of the Sith! Of course I had to take her up on her offer. At the end of April, Doug and I met and he has kindly answered some of my questions and also has given us a sneak peek at his next Star Wars project.

Maureen: First, Doug, let me thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet with me and answer my questions. Let's start at the beginning. I, like millions of other fans, remember seeing Star Wars in the theatre for the first time in 1977. What was it about Star Wars that first grabbed your attention?

Doug: Darth Vader, I saw "A New Hope" when I was 8 years old. Darth Vader came on stage, glowing lightsaber in hand to introduce the film. I flipped out, this was the most fantastic thing I have ever seen! Then I saw the movie, I was hooked.

Maureen: Would you have ever, in your wildest dreams, thought you would one day be working on an actual piece of Star Wars history?

Doug: Never in a million years! The whole experience is still sinking in. In a strange and wonderful way I have come full circle with my childhood. I played with the toys, read the comics, saw the rest of the films etc. The Star Wars mythology has had a huge impact on my life, both in the past and the present.

Maureen: Did you ever draw Star Wars characters when you were young? (and if so, did you save them?) I think if you did, that would a great thing to see now.

Doug: I began drawing the Star Wars characters when I was about 10 years old. I spent a great deal of time drawing space battles, Darth Vader, R2-D2 and other characters. It dominated my imagination as a child. I think my mother still has a sketch book.

Maureen: What is your background in fine art (for example, your formal training beyond high school)?

Doug: When it comes to drawing, I am mostly self taught. When I decided to pursue a career in comics, I sought out a comic artist in my city by the name of George Freeman. He taught me much of what I needed to know to break into the comics field. I've met other artists since then, Chris Quilliams, Nick Burns, Chris Chuckry. They all have had an impact on my growth as a practicing artist.

Maureen: How do you get yourself prepared to work on such a daunting task? I like to draw or paint for fun, but I have to be in the mood to do a good job.
I have always admired people who can create for a living; being able to crank out wonderful creations by a deadline!

Doug: It can be tough to draw or paint on demand. Every once in a while you will run into a creative block. I have found over the years that I must draw through these creative "blocks" to overcome them. In the past, when I sat down at the desk to draw, and nothing seemed to be turning out well I would shut down, and I would sometimes quit for the day. Now when this happens, I will draw through it, work until I'm inspired again, work until I feel that the drawing is coming together. I do this by focusing my attention on something in the drawing like the eyes of the character, or clouds in the sky. It takes about an hour, hour and a half to "break" through these creative blocks.

Maureen: Have you always wanted to draw in the animated style, or do you delve into other artistic mediums?

Doug: I don't have much time lately to explore other mediums. I love to paint, before I broke into comics I studied the masters, Michelangelo, Alphonse Mucha, N.C Wyeth etc. I also have a interest in sculpting.

Maureen: I know you have been involved in other projects; can you tell us which ones you are most proud of, or which ones you considered “stepping stones” in the evolution of your personal drawing style?

Doug: Okay, here goes, I think the most significant books I've done in the past are, "Magic The Gathering-The Elder Dragons, for Acclaim comics. This is the first book I worked on where we did not use an inker. Aliens: Apocalypse - The Destroying Angels for Darkhorse comics would be the next stepping stone, and then Episode III at Darkhorse comics would be the latest stepping stone. The books I am most proud of are, Aliens: Apocalypse - The Destroying Angels, Star Wars Darklighter, StarWars Episode III.

Maureen: When working on Revenge of the Sith, how did you get your reference material? (ie. would you “storyboard” with the writers or were you allowed to view images from the movie?)

Doug: In the beginning, we went out to the Ranch to meet with Sue Rostoni (Managing Editor at Lucas Licensing) and read the script which was a complete thrill! Soon after I returned to my studio, Lucasfilm sent me the screenplay and my first batch of reference from Darkhorse. As production continued on the movie and the adaptation, I would receive more detailed reference like stills from the film and finished designs, 3d animations etc. One of the biggest challenges became managing the reference. By the end of production on the adaptation, I had about 1500 sheets of reference on the film. As impressive as that sounds, there were still times during the production where I didn't have the final designs as the movie was not yet finished.

Maureen: Did you do a lot of the work for ROTS at home, or at the Ranch? Can you give us a mental picture of the process of creating a comic; do you do fast sketches first, then gradually detail them, or do you finish each scene, not moving forward until the previous ones are complete?

Doug: All of the adaptation was done in my studio based in Winnipeg. I would read the comic script which

"I was working 18, sometimes 24 hr shifts, 7 days a week during the last 2 months. Ah! I loved working on this book!"

was brilliantly adapted by Miles Lane, then I would produce what we call a thumbnail, a simplified drawing of the entire page used to block out story and composition, lighting and balloon placement. I would send this off to Randy Stradley at Darkhorse for comment and direction if necessary. The next step would be to layout the page loosely on drawing board, again for composition and placement of shapes. At this point and depending on the page, I would work the whole page up to a finished pencil or finish one panel at a time. The last step would be to scan the page into the computer, adjust the levels of the pencils and clean up the construction lines. It would then go to Chris Chuckry for color. Chris did an amazing job painting the book!

Maureen: About how many drawings would you say you have done for this four-issue edition? Do you get to keep your sketches, and if so, what would you say is your favorite one of the series? I absolutely LOVE the one in issue 2, where Padme is holding her pregnant stomach…brilliant!

Doug: Thank you, I couldn't tell you how many drawings I've done, but what I know for sure is we worked for about one year on the project, 12 hrs a day. I was working 18, sometimes 24 hr shifts, 7 days a week during the last 2 months. Ah! I loved working on this book! My favorite drawing, the one where I think I hit my mark, would be where Obi-Wan is charging Grievous. I think that page worked.

Maureen: How long, from the first meeting to the finished product hitting the stands, does it take to produce a comic like this?

Doug: It varies from project to project. Being that this was a "movie adaptation" the process was more complicated. I read the screenplay at the ranch October 2003, we finished the book February 2005.

Maureen: What would you say was the most difficult character or scene to draw in the ROTS comic, and why?

Doug: The funny thing about this question, is my answer keeps changing as I look back on the experience of working on the adaptation. Right now I would have to say it was General Grievous. His design is very complex, he was a great challenge but still fun to draw!

Maureen: What would you consider your most favorite character or scene that you did and why?

Doug: Anakin was my favorite character to draw. His character went on an emotional roller coaster ride to the darkside. He was the most interesting to act out. Great drama!

Maureen: Are you still excited to see ROTS in the theatre, even though you know the story intimately? Do you think you’ll tend to view the movie in a different perspective, now that you have created your own version of it?

Doug: Even though I was obsessive about capturing Mr. Lucas' vision of the film through stills and the incredible art and designs by the guys in his art department. {Iain McCaig, Eric Tiemens, Derek Thompson, Ryan Church, Feng Zhu, Warren Fu, Robert Barnes, Michael Patrick Murnane etc. Their work gave me so much inspiration and direction through out the production of the adaptation.} I know the film will be a different experience. I'm a very excited to see this movie, I am hardly spoiled, I have a feeling this will be one of the best Star Wars films yet!

Maureen: What would you say is your favorite part of being involved in this project?

Doug: The story, I really love the Star Wars mythology.

Maureen: Who would you say is your greatest influence?

Doug: Alphonse Mucha

Maureen: Describe your personal working environment (are you organized or can it be difficult to find a pencil on your worktable? Do you play music while you draw, or do you prefer to work quietly?)

Doug: I work in silence. I used to listen to music in the past, now I am 100% focused on my task. I'm organized at the beginning of the day. All my equipment and reference is laid out in proper order. By the end of the day, it looks like a tornado ripped through it, but somehow left an index card in my mind :) Then I organize it all again for the next day
of work.

Maureen: What are your favorite “tools of the trade?”

Doug: My pencil, and my computer.

Maureen: What is next on the drawing table? Another Star Wars project, or another assignment (do you work at more than one project at a time?)

Doug: More Star Wars, a 2 issue mini series that takes place approx 36 hrs after EPIII, we are "dealing" with the Jedi :) Star Wars Republic #78,#79. Also I am doing some toy designs and sculpture design.

Maureen: Doug was kind enough to get us a sneak peek at what he is doing on Star Wars Republic # 78:

 

Maureen: Do you have a personal website where fans can keep abreast of your work and upcoming projects?

Doug:
Nope.

Maureen: Time for a few "fun" questions: Favorite movie(s)?

Doug:
Star Wars, Laurence of Arabia. 2010. The Lord of the Rings. Once upon a time in the West. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

Maureen: Favorite color?

Doug:
Black

Maureen: Favorite comic (or other) artists?

Doug:
I love Brain Ching's work on Star Wars "Obsession" He is doing amazing work! and Jan Duursema, her work with John Ostrander on the StarWars Republic titles is just fantastic, both are very inspiring!

Maureen: What would be your dream job?

Doug: Just did it! :) I have many dream jobs, but like wishing upon a star, if I tell you, they might not come true. :)

Maureen: Hobbies (I know you like to bowl!)?

Doug: That is about all I have time for.

Maureen: Favorite music?

Doug: Classical, Big Band, Blues, I love Loreena McKennitt, and Tom Waits, metal.

Maureen: Favorite books?

Doug: Lord of the Rings

Maureen: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

Doug: Working in comics, movies, telling stories.

Maureen: And finally, what advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

Doug: Always practice, never stop learning, keep your focus no matter what the obstacle may be.

Maureen: Wonderful Doug! I know our readers are really going to love getting to know you better! All the best in the future; I'm looking forward to seeing more incredible work from you!

Doug: It was my pleasure, and thanks for the interview, these are great questions!

San Diego Comic-Con 2014
NEW IN THE PHOTO ARCHIVE:
Probe
Droid
Poll
It's time for you to vote for your favorite entry in our (Not So) Random Giveaway #1: Jabba Gets It! contest. The creator of the winning entry will take home the insanely cool Star Wars: Rebels promotional Wanted poster set! Voting closes on October 31, 2014 at 11:59 PM CST.
1- Jabba Gets ET
2- Feel The Jabba
3- Jabba Looooooves Cereal
4- Jabba Doesn't Eat No Chalupas
5- Jabba Goes To The Dentist
6- Hutts N' Roses Got Groupies
7- Jabba Gets His Jerry Beads
8- Salmon Run
9- Seabiscuit
10- Jabba Kong
11- Trying To Win The Trophy
12- Ben Hutt
13- Eight Seconds
14- Wrecking Ball
15- Aaaaall You Can Eat
16- Rushmore
17- Worrt's Supper
18- Jabba Spirit
19- Weebles Wobble
Current Results