The Illustrated Star Wars Universe

by - October 15, 2019

The Illustrated Star Wars Universe is a treasure trove of concept art and illustrations showing the worlds of the Star Wars universe. Ralph McQuarrie was the lead concept artist on the original trilogy and shaped the look of the movies in so many ways. This is in many ways a celebration of his influence and a look at the concepts that have shaped the entire film series. The book brings eight of the Star Wars worlds to vivid life, showing art that never made it into the films and also providing a fascinating background to these richly realized worlds. 

Paging through this book is a treat. The text by Kevin J. Anderson is interesting but the art is the ticket here. The combination however makes for an immersive experience as the notes on each planet are written in the style of a survey or travelogue- each has a different imaginary author who is transcribing their notes or observations. I'm just going to share a few thoughts on some highlights. 

Tatooine - one of my favorite sections. We get lots of details on daily life on the arid planet, but the highlight for me is the look at Jabba the Hutt's palace- including interior views and descriptions. Ever wanted to know more of what goes on in the heart of Jabba's domain? Here you go. 

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Coruscant - also known as Imperial Center and the heart of the Republic. Sadly in the time of the original trilogy it is also the home of the Emperor and his reign of terror. Lots of amazing concept art here as well as snapshots of daily life on the city- planet. One of the highlights is the insights into Palpatine's inner sanctum, as well as tantalizing art showing Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker walking together through the Imperial palace- presumably going to see Palpatine? 

Dagobah - home to Yoda in his exile. I love the atmosphere and dreariness of this world although the section here focuses mainly on the local flora and fauna, which wasn't super interesting to me. 

Hoth - this was an interesting look at the Alliance operation on the ice planet. Lots of fun details. 

Endor - the forest world of the Ewoks! Lots of great stuff here, including detailed looks at Ewok settlements and wildlife, as well as other features of this moon. Who knew there were great grasslands here as well, or reptilian marauders (formerly pirates) who crashed here a century ago and still terrorize the natives? 

Bespin - one of my favorite places from the films. A tibanna gas mining facility and some stunning art that really brings this amazing world to life. There is a lot more to Bespin than we see in the films. I enjoyed not only the detailed look at Cloud City in all its glory, but also little details like the transplanted thrantas- flying creatures that are the last remaining survivors of their species- brought here from Alderaan. 

Yavin IV - another favorite. Home of the Alliance at one point and also the site of immense Massassi temples, which have their own dark history, and possibly Sith influences as well? 

Alderaan - one of the crown jewels of the book for me. I mean how often do we get a glimpse of a vanished world? I loved the details here, the vast grasslands and stunning artwork showing, among other things, the glittering capital of Alderaan. 

Ralph McQuarrie concept art from the original Star Wars trilogy, used as inspiration for Star Wars Rebels

Probably my favorite sections were the ones on Tatooine, Yavin and Alderaan. This is highly recommended if you are a Star Wars fan. There is a lot of interesting information here, and the artwork is imaginative and top notch. This is a great resource for someone who just wants to get lost in the Star Wars universe for a while, and let their imagination soar with the artwork.

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