The Star Wars Space Armies of John Mollo

John Mollo Starwars costume sketchs
(1) Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith – evil figurehead of the Imperial Forces. (2) A member of Darth Vader’s Guard Corps. Notice the Vader style helmet. (3) This Imperial AT-ST pilot wears armour in the style of the Stormtroopers.

Just in case you’ve been living under an icy rock in a galaxy far, far away you may of not noticed one of two things. Firstly Sci-Fi-O-Rama hasn’t published any new material for eons, and secondly there’s a brand new new Starwars Film out. So then, in an effort to bound the two together here’s a rare gem I’ve managed to unearth featuring the original trilogy’s Oscar winning Costume designer John Mollo.

What follows is a selection of Mollo’s costume designs and notes for ‘Starwars: A New Hope'(1977) and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980).

“The first Darth Vader was wearing a motorcycle suit, and a sort of opera cloak, and a Nazi steel helmet, and a gas mask, and a medieval breast plate, all from different departments, all brought in together and put on, and it seemed to work”

John Mollo Starwars costume sketchs
(1) The design for the uniform of General Veers – again with a Vader-Style helmet. (2) An Imperial crewman, one of the lowlier members of the Imperial caste-system. (3) An Imperial Officer. The echoes of the German WWI are strong.

All drawings are rendered in an weighty rudimentary fashion that really signals the utilitarian ‘used-future’ aesthetic of which the Starwars films are so synonymous with. There’s something of an everyday feel here that is forever Starwars, suffice to say they really pack a punch.

On the Empire: “We agreed early on that the army should have a booted look, like the Germans in 1939, but actually their tunics look more like the 1914-18 ones. They’re cut longer. You try not to make the connection too obvious”.

John Mollo Starwars costume sketchs
(1) Princess Leia Organa – attired for survival on the snowy wastes of Hoth. (2) A Crewman of the Rebel Alliance, dressed for the Icy conditions on Hoth. (3) Rebel Generals are dressedalike. Note the goggles, worn by Imperial Generals also. (4) The original design for Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness).

“George wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) to look like a cross between a monk and a samurai knight. It’s never really the principals who pose the problems, so much as the practical stuff for the extras. I remember, for the rebel pilots who have air hoses on their chests, we suddenly went out and got bath overflow pipes for them from the ironmonger’s outside the studio. We bought fifty, and he looked rather surprised.”

John Mollo Starwars costume sketchs
(1) Luke Skywalker in his combat outfit, his light-sabre slung from his belt. (2) The familiar garb of Han Solo, retained from the first film. (3) The bulky attire worn by the men who fly the X-Wing fighters, the Rebel Pilots. (4) The Rebel Snowtrooper, burdened with the equipment for sub-zero survival.

“Uniforms are really difficult to make so that they look good. It’s very easy to make them look bad, Basically, George wanted the Empire to look like Fascists, and the rebels like casual Americans. The storm troopers are in white instead of black so it’s less obvious. Their headgear is a cross between a flying helmet and a gas mask. Their costumes are guite flimsy, really.”

All images, caption notes and quotes hark from an interview with John Mollo conducted by Nicholas Leahy (1980 I’m guessing) and featured in the 23rd edition of Starburst Magazine.

Starburst is a long running British Sci-Fi publication that began in the late 70’s and exists now in both digital and print format, Each issue is bursting at the seams with Sci-Fi, Horror and Fantasy treasures with particular focus on TV and Movie. To be honest browsing through fifty or so publications acquired I was stunned at how many features concerned material I’d never heard of.

Watch this space.

Foss by Jeff Love

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

Sci-Fi-O-Rama proudly present a very special feature on Chris Foss, as profiled by Jeff Love, owner and admin of the sublime Sci-Fi art blog Ski-ffy.


Born in 1946 in Guernsey, Channel Islands, Chris Foss is a British illustrator and a powerhouse of science fiction design and invention. His work is a celebration of future machinery, impossibly sized constructions exist on a planetary scale; a showcase of hardware so large that the human figure is dwarfed by comparison.

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

Arriving in the SF illustration field in the early 1970s, he is a cult figure, influential and universally admired. For British SF and SF art, his work can be seen as a catalyst; his prolific output was used abundantly in the UK paperback market, particularly by publishing houses like Panther, Coronet (Hodder & Stoughton) and Granada. Foss’ iconic paintings adorned the covers of American classics; E. E. Smith’s Lensman and Family d’Alembert series, reprints of the works of Asimov, James Blish and Philip K. Dick. These colourful scenes of gargantuan spacecraft, space-scenes and enormous robots not only influenced an entire school of imitators, but instilled a love of future-tech amongst several generations of science fiction fans.

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sci-fi-o-rama uibaka 01

Sci-Fi-O-Rama returns with a quick feature on a rather special tumblr known simply as ‘UI BAKA‘.

Originating from ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’ this tumblr celebrates the art of sci-fi interfaces with a particular slant towards Japanese Anime, something we’ve shamefully rarely covered.

So what to expect? Well all things bright and beautiful of course, and in this case that’s glowing wire spheres, rippling sine waves, flickering binaries and a large dollop of a targeting reticles.

Indeed whatever the incandescent element, and no matter the function, as long as somethings spins or pulses, it works.

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The Model Shop Part 2: Norman Conquest 2066 sculpture by Grant Louden + interview

Norman Conquest 2066 - Grant Louden

After an exceptionally long gap between posts Sci-Fi-O-Rama finally returns with new material. Apologies for the extended state of dormancy, life gets in the way sometimes.

Let’s then not dwell on the forlorn and instead nuke 2015 with another flyby of master craftsman and styrene alchemist Grant Louden AKA Betelgeuse.

A quick recap then on what the Betelgeuse workshop is all about. Well in a nutshell Grant takes the finest Two Dimensional 70’s Sci-Fi cover art and literally breathes 3-Dimensional life over them.

We featured Grant’s first mind-blowing evolution of Colin Hay’s this time last year. This time it’s science fiction artisan illustrator Chris Foss is in the crosshairs.

Grant kindly took some time out to tell us more about his latest creation, here’s the feature:

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Bob Layzell @ Dynamite Gallery, Brighton, UK. From 2nd – 10th May 2014

Bob Layzell

Bob Layzell is an illustrator from the golden age of British Sci-fi art. That means two things, 70’s book covers and the Terran Trade Authority (TTA).

We’ve swung the spotlight in this direction as Layzell is having an exhibition of his paintings at the Dynamite Gallery in Brighton. The show runs for two weeks from 2nd – 10th May 2014

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The Art of Ian Miller

The Art of Ian Miller

Titan Publishing got in touch asking if I’d Interview British Illustrator Ian Miller to coincide with the launch of ‘The Art of Ian Miller’ a 160 page compendium spanning four decades.

The book, put together by both Ian Miller and Tom Whyte is loaded with over 300 pieces of Ian’s totally unique work and is backed up with detailed descriptions on the creative process, inspiration and general artistic philosophy. Suffice to say It’s a must read for any serious fantasy or sci-fi illustration aficionado. Here’s the feature.

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The Model Shop Part 1: Star Dwellers sculpture by Grant Louden + interview (with Dan McPharlin)

Grant Louden 'The Star_Dwellers' Interviewed By Dan McPharlin

Welcome to Sci-Fi-O-Rama 2014.

Here we begin with a totally exclusive feature courtesy of both Grant Louden & Dan McPharlin.

So without ado lets hand over the controls to Dan…

Guest post by Dan McPharlin

And now for something a little bit different. Sci-Fi-O-Rama doesn’t normally feature 3D work, but Kieran has kindly handed me the keys and let me loose on his blog to write this guest post on a subject that is very dear to my heart; Sci-Fi model making.

Ever since I first saw that monolithic Star Destroyer swoop majestically into frame in the opening minutes of Star Wars it’s a subject I’ve been fascinated by. While CGI has unfortunately all but rendered the model-maker’s craft obsolete in the movies, there are still a handful of talented artists out there burning the torch for this fantastic art form…

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Luke Wyatt – Sad Stonewash (a Video Mulch)

It’s rare to come across a piece of art that really moves me. This odyssey of distortion does just that.

Unnerving, strangely touching and certainly one of the most spellbinding and hallucinatory 5 minutes of music video your ever likely to see. This is but a taster of Luke Wyatt’s ‘Sad Stonewash’ (a Video Mulch) a 40 minute sojourn into the abyss of VHS.

“Video Mulch” is Wyatt’s trademark form of extreme analog Video Processing, created using a combo of outdated analogue and digital tools.

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Selected Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Covers Part 1

'Nightmare Blue' Art by Justin Todd 1975

A varied selection of retro SF and Fantasy book art. Sci-Fi-O-Rama was pretty much built upon the back of posting forgotten book and games art, so with a renaissance in blog activity what better than to revisit the archives and excerpt another sampler.

What’s most fascinating with each of these examples is though the whole might not always fully hit the mark there’s always something of interest or worthy for reference. This then might be a style of colouring, a technique in rendering, the choice and application of a typeface, or even something as obscure as the design of a motif. In short even the most subtle fragment of detailing can flick a creative switch, it’s all about your own imagination. That isn’t however to say that every Sci-Fi book cover has merit – au contraire – they most certainly do not. But that’s what we’re here for, to filter and serve only the very finest…

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New Poster Art

Alejandro Magallanes - Behind The American Dream

‘Behind The American Dream’ Alejandro Magallanes (Mexico 2001)

This selection is a book sampler ‘New Poster Art’ published by Thames & Hudson in 2008. I picked up a copy after spying a fellow commuter thumbing through it on my regular morning train journey. As the title suggests Its a fairly weighty compendium of selected poster Design, Typography and Illustration pulling in artists from across the planet…

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Electrical Banana – Masters of Psychedelic Art

Heinz Edelmann - Lord Of The Rings

‘Lord of the Rings’ (German Book Cover) – 1970

Sci-Fi-O-Rama is proud to present a selection of ‘far out’ imagery sequestered from the fantastically titled ‘Electrical Banana’ Psychedelic art book – and yes that title is indeed derived from a reference to a certain type of ladies sex toy.

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