Out this week is a celebration of Star Wars in the action figure-meets-cover-art format. For over five years, John Tyler Christopher has been drawing one of the most iconic series of variant covers since the invention of variant covers. They’re so popular, he’s done them for X-Men and other Marvel properties, too. Each one is emblazoned with art that looks exactly like what Mattel put on toy store shelves when Star Wars originally released, right down to the off-color hair of Luke Skywalker and packaging. Out today is a 105-page book that collects over 100 covers and an interview with Christopher. It’s a great way to hold all these covers — some of which are very rare — in your hand across an incredibly consistent run.
This book opens with a four-page interview with Christopher walking us through where he was at in his career when Marvel called him to do five action-figure variant covers to where he’s at now, still thirsty to do more. This is a great way to gather how much of a super-fan Christopher is, as well as get a better understanding of why these iconic covers are so important to Star Wars fans. The interview also touches on how Christopher was able to acquire the license for a specific character to sell on his own site which gave him more control over his career.
Paired with the interview are snapshots of a few of the early covers with captions that detail the difficulties of getting things right at the start. Simple things, like augmenting Darth Vader’s helmet so it was a bit squished to capture the actual toy’s slight imperfection, to the colors on Boba Fett’s armor or the color of Luke’s yellow hair help show how Christopher was 100% committed to replicating the look of the toys. It gave me more insight into the little things and made perusing the next 100 or so pages more enjoyable as I tried to see where he tinkered with the toy designs. I do wish there was more of it, but it’s a decent amount that should satisfy folks.
The remaining pages of the book are devoted to full replications of the variant covers, and they’re gorgeous. It’s one thing to own the variants in their comic book format, and entirely another to be able to flip through and see how Christopher made each cover a little different. Take for instance the plastic around the figure that’s glued down to the cardboard backing. There are very subtle differences throughout to give them a uniqueness. I was curious if Christopher used a template, but for the most part, he went to great lengths to make them not feel identical.
It’s also fun to see how Christopher drew the cardboard profile images in photorealistic ways, even with characters never put on the big screen, and compare them to their plastic counterparts. There’s a relationship between the action figure portion of the cover and the cardboard rendering that tells a story.
This is of course an art book, so the mileage may vary depending on how long you linger on a page. It’s also in the floppy format with only decent paper quality. A drop of water will reduce the value of the page quite quickly. In fact, I wondered while reading this if a coffee table book will be in the works at some point since Christopher is clearly not finished doing these covers and a hardcover coffee table book would be a great way to display these covers. That said, this is a good collectors book for the price.
This is an interesting look at some of the most recognizable variants any comics publisher puts out. I imagine anyone who has owned or collects Christopher’s Star Wars covers will need to own this. It serves as a way to peer behind the curtain and understand the journey Christopher was on while allowing you to own every cover for a modest price of $10. There is value in flipping through a hundred or so variant covers in one sitting.