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 order lipitor canada 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.


To The Moon (Time-Life Records)

To The Moon (Time-Life Records)

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Something of a special feature here, original photography scanned from the breathtakingly beautiful ‘To The Moon’ (Time-Life 1969) an audio and visual chronology that documents NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and (of course) Apollo projects. ‘To The Moon’ includes 6 doubled sided 12″ Vinyl’s full of famous radio transmissions and interviews, plus an accompanying 190 page slip case book, and that’s the focus of this post. Many thanks to Craig for the temporary loan!

Minotaur Lockheed Martin Advanced Developement Programs

NRO We Own The Night

Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile

B2 Stealth Bomber To Serve Man

Behind The Green Door Patch

Something slightly different – and frankly bizarre! – obscure US Military Patch graphics. I first tagged this set a while back (2008) but only just rediscovered whilst mining through the ever increasing stack of Sci-Fi-O-Rama resource bookmarks!

What we have here then are six samples or military shoulder/pocket patches taken from “I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World” (published Melville House Dec 2007) a compendium of rarely seen “Black Ops” Military Unit/Projects memorabilia researched and compiled by American Artist’s Trevor Paglen. What constitutes a Black Ops Project then? well basically it’s any classified US military research project veiled in secrecy that quietly guzzle funds from the federal budget. Examples of Black Ops which have trans-located into the public domain include the F-117 Stealth Fighter or the B2 Stealth Bomber and those projects that don’t and remain forever shrouded? well it’s a conspiracy theorists wet dream isn’t it…

I’ve always been a fan of embroidered sew on patches be they Military, Space, Movie or otherwise (having assembled small collection via ebay) anyway this set with it’s extremely weird mix of cartoon visuals, Sci-Fi, the Occult and sinister cryptic slogans pretty much blows any other patch art into oblivion…

Here’s the notes then for the chosen images:

Top: National Reconnaissance Office Dragon Path – This patch is one of Trevor Paglen’s absolute favourites, and it’s not hard to see why! The whole visual concept – the green dragon holding the world in its clutches, American flag wings, and its tail wrapped around a diamond – is extremely sinister, and screams “Imperialism/New World buy generic lipitor cheap Order/Illuminati” well at least that’s my half-baked conjecture!. The actual source of the patch apparently has something to do with a classified Satellite (probably signals-intelligence) launched into a geosynchronous orbit in 2003…

2nd Top: This one’s definitely my favourite – wicked design – Minotaur is a still-classified program undertaken by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs division, the Skunk Works.

3rd Top:“We Own The Night” – This patch commemorates the August 17, 2000, launch of a “classified National Reconnaissance Office payload” atop a Titan IV rocket.

4th Top: The Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile was a classified cruise missile symbolized by the Tasmanian Devil. The acronym Tssam recalled the cartoon character.

5th Top: The classic ‘Grey’ alien with a B-2 bomber in it’s clutches, the slogan “To Serve Man” apparently a reference to a classic Twilight Zone episode… The 509th Bomb Wing flew B-2 stealth bomber test flights, and used to be based at Roswell, N.M., home of the notorious ‘Roswell Incident‘.

Bottom: This one with it’s glowing eyed green wizard creature remains something of an enigma, Trevor notes: The origins of this patch remain unknown. The red star is in Southwest, which is many secret units’ home, while military intelligence typically uses green vaults.


For further reading and imagery check this New York Times article and interview with Trevor Paglin or visit Trevor’s home site:

Also you can buy a copy of “I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World” starting from via Amazon, here’s a link:

And finally for more Secretive Military patch design inspiration check out this site:

History of The 20th Century

History of The 20th Century

History of The 20th Century - Wrangel is coming


History of The 20th Century - Spion Kop

Ok so something a little different here, Non SF/Fantasy related material!

The above images come from a full colour 1968 Magazine Publication “History of the 20th Century” that I came across recently. The magazine was a long running weekly publication that built up in to volumes of 16, forming a substantial encyclopedia of mankinds recent past – as you can imagine, the focus is on colonialism, imperialism and of course war and its devastating effects that have shaped our modern world…

Aside from the extremely in depth content “History of the 20th Century” contains some stunning imagery, all of which has a real “technicolor” saturated feel photography in the way that only 40+ year old colour print can have.

Some notes on the images:

Top: Illustration from a poster produced by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War (1917-20). Wrangelm the White (anti-Bolshevik) general, is shown striding towards Moscow, accompanied by Tsarist officers, a train of priests, officials and capitalists all bearing Tsarist flags… The slogan for this poster was “Wrangel is Coming! Proletarians to arms!”

2nd Top: Allegorical painting: comment on the legacy of war by Russian artist Vereshchagin. Painted in the early years of the 20th Century.

Bottom: From an extensive article on The Boer War; This map details part of the timeline from “The battle of Spion Kop” – which the article notes was perhaps the bloodiest single engagement of the war.

For more imagery from “History of the 20th Century” check Flickr user Mando Maniacs gallery