Amazing. Astonishing. Heart. Important. Impressive. Family.
These were the words that were given to me when I asked artists from the fan community to describe Star Wars Rebels using one word. The word that kept repeating the most? Family.
For many of us, Star Wars Rebels is about a group of people who find each other, who develop close bonds, and who work together for a common goal.
Much like the characters we’ve come to know and love over the past four years, these artists found each other on social media and came together because of their love of art and Star Wars Rebels.
“I actually didn’t even know about these awe-inspiring artists until I was deep into Rebels,” said Michael Pasquale, the multi-talented designer behind 800 Pound Productions. “For a while, I thought I was the only one watching the show, but I started using Twitter a lot more and couldn’t help but notice all of this amazing artwork that was being generated that I wasn’t finding anywhere else.”
No matter where you go on social media, fan art is a popular form of expression and it has been for several decades. Fans are constantly motivated and inspired to draw their favorite characters, dream up their own stories, and create their own original characters.
For Michael, he wanted to do something special.
“With the last season approaching, I knew everyone was gearing up for it,” he said, and with the countdown to the season four premiere ticking away, a thought came to him. “Instead of each of us posting our own artwork like we usually do, why not collaborate and kickoff the final season together! It’d be a cool way to finally collaborate on something special and also show our appreciation to the cast and crew for 4 amazing seasons.”
Like that, a brilliant collaboration was born.
To make the project happen, Michael rounded up over 10 talented artists: Elisa Ardell (@elfadell), Carsten Bradley (@vagabondartist), Misty Hillard (@coralsnake), Shane Molina (@hawaiianmako), Courtney Morelock (@courmore), Bethany Moy (@ArtofBethanyMoy), Olivia Moy (@livielightyear), James Raiz (@boxofficeartist), Melissa Thomas (@MeltyArtz), Darren Tibbles (@daztibbles), and Ksenia Zelentsova (@lorna_ka).
“What started out small with just the Ghost crew on a simple background had escalated to a huge tribute collage piece with a dozen artists working on 17 characters and a ton of spacecrafts,” he stated, while also expressing that the best part of it all was that none of the artists needed any convincing.
“Doing this project gave me a wonderful excuse to draw things (Ezra’s helmet, particularly) that I never would have drawn on my own,” said Elisa Ardell, the storyteller and artist behind the fan comic Star Wars Destinies, who chose to draw Ezra. “I personally really enjoy Ezra as a character, and I have liked seeing him grow and change over the seasons. He’s come a long way from where he’s started, and not just in his Force abilities. I also like that he’s not perfect. It feels like he’s learning as he goes, and even if he stumbles a bit now and then, he’s still going in the right direction overall, which makes me excited to see where he’ll eventually end up.”
While Star Wars Rebels is a story that focuses on Ezra’s journey, over time, the show has also given us a variety of other characters some of which have grown to be fan-favorite characters, like Hera Syndulla and Agent “Hot” Kallus.
“Hera is one of those characters that I immediately liked. She’s strong, a great leader, but I love her resolve to do good the most,” said Melissa Thomas, a much-beloved illustrator in the fan community who picked Hera and Kallus for this project. “Another aspect of Hera that’s been one of my personal favorites is how motherly she acts toward her family on the Ghost. Hera always aims to understand everyone’s feelings, whether it’s Ezra dealing with the emotional loss of his parents, Kanan’s reluctance to join the Rebellion and his blindness, or Sabine’s struggling to deal with the darksaber and responsibility. She really does put her surrogate family at a priority. She makes sure everyone is understood, and I think that’s a really amazing and beautiful aspect of her character.”
Of course, one of the most talked about journeys that transpired in the show was the transition of Agent Kallus from cold-hearted Imperial to a sympathetic rebel-at-heart.
“One of my absolute favorite things about Star Wars Rebels is how the team has handled the character and development of Agent Kallus,” Melissa expressed in a “proud mom” sort of way. “And of course, I can’t talk about Kallus without bringing up the ‘Hot Kallus’ phenomenon. The Star Wars animation team has this trend of animating a single strand of hair that somehow makes the character they’ve animated 200 times more attractive. I cannot even begin to describe my excitement in seeing Kallus move forward in season 4. Not only has he defected, but he has a whole new look, and now, a first name! Alexsandr. As if he couldn’t be more dreamy? Bring on the Hot Kallus, Star Wars Rebels! I am ready.”
Now that Kallus is part of the Rebel family, one can’t help but be reminded again about how Star Wars Rebels is, most importantly, a show about family and finding a support system. Two of the artists from the collaboration are sisters, and it’s no surprise that Star Wars Rebels strengthened their relationship and brought them closer together.
“I had (unsuccessfully) tried to get Bethany into The Clone Wars, so I didn’t think she would get into Rebels, either. I was wrong!” said Olivia Moy, who, with her sister, chose to draw Sabine, Chopper, Kanan, and Mon Mothma. “She fell in love with the characters, especially Kanan. The show gave us a fresh common point of interest and an escape that helped us not to completely unravel while we were struggling through some rough patches in the real world. Watching new episodes together, collaborating on sketch card drawings, giving each other Rebels-themed gifts, and just simply geeking out about the show together has brought us back to a simpler time when we were younger.”
As for how found families are portrayed in the series, Bethany added, “I love how the characters interact on the show because their support system for each other is so strong. The whole Ghost Crew genuinely looks out for one another, and they are extremely self-sacrificing. Even when they face seemingly unbeatable odds, their bond and love for one another only grows stronger. I think that is extremely unique, and it really makes the show special. I think that is why I love the show so much!”
Speaking of family, Zeb, in many ways, acts like an older brother to Sabine and Ezra, and even though he often drifts to the background, he’s had some spectacular moments in the show.
“I feel like Zeb is the character I relate to the most because he’s older, but doesn’t always act like an adult,” remarked Misty Hillard, an artist who also expresses herself through cosplay and considers herself a bounty hunter and pirate fangirl. “He’s brave, reliable, protective, and has that big brother sense of humor. Every season, Ezra and Sabine have grown into better people because of Zeb being a big brother influence. They make mistakes together and learn [together].”
While the show does a fantastic job of focusing on the Ghost crew, it also took on the task of bringing back a few familiar faces from Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
“Captain Rex is one of my favorite Star Wars characters,” said Ksenia Zelentsova, a freelance 2D artist and illustrator who hails from Moscow, Russia. “Everyone who knows me knows that clone troopers are my most favorite Star Wars characters in general, so I was ecstatic to see Rex return and play such a big part in the story of Rebels. I remember back when I was watching The Clone Wars with my little brother, he used to mess with me by saying that Rex would surely die by the end of the show, so I feel extra satisfaction in him being wrong on that account.”
Rebels has also given us a variety of antagonists over the years. After all, Star Wars is known for its portrayal of good vs. evil and the gray in between. With the team being involved in the growing Rebellion, they’re bound to encounter villains that are on a different level, like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Governor Pryce.
“I definitely am very excited to see more of [Pryce],” Ksenia added, since Thrawn was the major antagonist in the third season. “I enjoy her as a multi-dimensional female character. Until recently, we didn’t get many characters like her among Imperials. At least, not in the spotlight, but I feel that is changing now, and I hope Pryce will play an important and memorable role.”
Important and memorable are the words I would also use when it comes to how Star Wars Rebels has connected with other parts of the larger picture, like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. We saw vehicles and characters from the series play an impressive and significant part in the heated battle above Scarif, and it worked the other way around, with the show bringing characters like Saw Gerrera back into the animated world.
“I grew up on the original trilogy, so having more connections that lead up to A New Hope are amazing,” said Darren Tibbles, a professional 2D/3D artist. “As a kid, I always wondered what were the Clone Wars like and what happened before the droids landed on Tatooine? These are all being answered some 40 years later and it just blows my mind that we get to witness that with these new and familiar characters.”
While these connections will continue to surface later on in the show, the season will open up on Mandalore, a planet fans have been wanting to see ever since Sabine was first introduced at the start of the series.
“[Mandalorian] culture is really fascinating and something we haven’t seen a lot of in Star Wars,” said Courtney Morelock, an artist and podcaster with her own Star Wars inspired fandom shop. “I love seeing more homeworld issues explored because every story can’t be galaxy wide, and how [the creators] have brought in Mandalore is really unique and fascinating to follow. Their clans and factions are worlds within themselves, so there is so much to find interesting on just one planet!”
Along that note, Rebels and its predecessor, The Clone Wars, have given us different types of Mandalorians: Imperial Supercommandos, Mandalorians forced to abide by the Empire, traditional Mandalorians, etc. The creators have continued to explore Mandalorian culture through Sabine and these secondary characters and the season opener will re-introduce Bo-Katan, the character Courtney drew for this project.
“Satine’s story was one of my favorite arcs in The Clone Wars,” she said. “So seeing her sister return is so important to me. I can’t wait to see what choices the different Mandalorian factions make, given what we knew about them from The Clone Wars to what Sabine has introduced with them now. I think it’s been handled extremely well, adding to what we knew while also expanding on that.”
While Star Wars is driven by its characters, one can’t deny the fact that part of the appeal also comes from the technologically advanced vehicles that are able to transport people from one part of the galaxy to another. From the A-wing to the X-wing, Rebels has undoubtedly given us some remarkable origin stories and battle scenes.
“I love how the show has captured not only the movement and weight of each craft, but the amazing sound of the craft,” said Shane Molina, the concept artist and illustrator behind Hawaiian Mako Design. “I truly believe to sell the design of the ship it has to appear real and sound real, and Rebels certainly does the job to the viewers. I am truly excited to finally see the Rebels obtain the powerful T-65 Star Fighter (X-wing) in the upcoming season! My jaw will probably drop with the battles ahead.”
All good things come to an end, though. With this being the beginning of the end for the series, there are many fans out there who feel that Star Wars Rebels has had a significant and positive impact on their lives. These artists are no different.
For Ksenia, the show inspired her to grow as an artist. “I’ve been watching Star Wars Rebels since the premiere of season one and I can safely say that it changed my life. It truly pulled me into Star Wars. Before Rebels, I was more of a casual fan, but after Rebels, I felt the need to participate in fandom, and I was able to meet so many wonderful people because of it, forming friendships and doing interesting things. Thanks to the inspiration I got from watching the show and the hard work of the creative team behind it, I was able to grow as a person and as an artist. I will always treasure that experience.”
For Shane, it gave him a way to connect with his children. “I started to relate to the show as my kids watched it more and more, and it has become a great influence in their lives. The show means a lot to me, to see how Star Wars lives on in different appearances, but still keeps the aesthetic feel of the universe.”
For Melissa, Rebels was an escape. “These characters are relatable. They stick with you. I love the stories, but what initially drew me to the show were each one of these characters and how I could relate to an aspect of them. Life is so hard sometimes, so being able to turn on the TV and escape into that exciting galaxy far, far away and immerse myself in these characters has meant the world to me. It makes me laugh, cry, and scream in excitement. I can’t thank the Star Wars Rebels team enough for that.”
Whether it’s the crew that appears on the screen or the crew that works behind the scenes, there’s no doubt that they’ve touched the hearts of many, and it is with a great sadness that fans have to start saying goodbye. Letting go is the hardest part, but as the community looks forward to watching the rest of the season and the adventure that will inevitably follow, there’ll be some—like these artists—who’ll look back at the spark that inspired them and taught them what it means to be a family.
UPDATE, 10/18/2017: Both the poster and the Kanan art were replaced with revised versions.
Thank you for visiting The Wookiee Gunner! You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr. Send us news, tips, and inquiries here or visit our Contact page. If you’re a fan artist looking to showcase your Star Wars fan art, check out our Star Wars Fan Artist Spotlight. Finally, if you’re looking to add a few Star Wars podcasts to your playlist, check out Rebels Chat, Galactic Fashion, Hangin’ with Team Kanan, and Star Scavengers.