Few scenes scream “Star Wars” more than the one set in the Mos Eisley Cantina: the creatures, the music, the introduction of Han Solo and Chewbacca. It’s as iconic and memorable as Star Wars gets. And now, artist Kevin-John has immortalized it like never before, in a series of original paintings done exclusively for Star Wars Card Trader.
“The cantina is where we really are introduced to what this story is all about. It’s this farm boy who befriended this wizard and these robots...[plus] it’s exactly what you imagine a bar in space would look like,” KJ told io9. “And so as I was introduced to this universe through the cantina, I wanted to introduce the new fan base to Kevin-John art through the cantina as well.”
io9 is excited to exclusively debut images of all 10 cards in this digital trading card set, which will also be released with multiple variants. But more on that below.
Now, while these will exist primarily as digital trading cards, they are based on actual paintings. Each painting took between 72 and 150 hours, according to KJ. And as he was sending progress images to the teams at Topps and Lucasfilm, the idea came about to make the process part of the release.
The cards will be available in five variants, each one capturing a different step of the creative process. The rarest version is the full image, complete with Kevin-John’s signature. Below that is the finished version without the signature, then a work in progress stage, and the least rare level, the preliminary concept.
Plus, fans who have multiple versions can meld them together in the app’s workshop for a “Tilt” card that moves and shows all the processes at the same time. It breaks down like this.
- PRELIMINARY CONCEPT – UNCOMMON
- WORK IN PROGRESS – RARE
- COMPLETED PIECE – SUPER RARE
- TILT – EPIC [WORKBENCH EXCLUSIVE]
- SIGNATURE EDITION – EPIC
The images in the gallery above are the “completed piece” cards. Below you can see examples of the different looks of the whole set.
“I think [this release system] enables the viewer to appreciate the talent and labor that [painting] takes,” KJ said. “And I’m hoping that it will help them to connect a little bit more with the art as they’re a part of the development of the piece.”
Kevin-John told io9 he meticulously went through the film to find not just the perfect shot, but the perfect frames, that would capture these unforgettable characters and moments. Frames that truly show the vision and genius of George Lucas. “I kind of call it ‘Looking through George lens,’” he said.
“I am trying to replicate George’s vision,” KJ continued. “The way that he lit the thing and composed the scenes. And I’m just taking that a step further and adding a little bit of Kevin-John styling to it.”
John is a longtime Star Wars fan with vivid memories of seeing the original film in a theater during the third grade. And though he’s worked extensively with Disney, it wasn’t until recently that he got to do Star Wars work. It began with a few pieces tied to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge—and now this set, and beyond, will take things to a whole new level.
“All of my early drawings and renderings from the time I was, you know, seven years old, it was all Star Wars,” KJ said. “It was an obsession for me for many, many years. It was all that I did. All that I played. All that I thought about and all that I drew for four or five years there. And it’s lived within me...This is a seven-year, eight-year-old Kevin-John dream come true.”
KJ has already completed work on a second exclusive set already for SWCT and has third and fourth sets already in discussion. Similar to this cantina version, each has a very specific focus (the second set focuses on “two characters” for example) and will feature art he’s exclusively creating for Topps. “This is definitely something I’ve invested heavily into myself,” KJ said. “I’ve cleared a ton of projects off my schedule, even taking a little bit of a step back from my sports art and my Disney art, to really focus specifically on this series for Topps as an ongoing product.” And fans can look forward to more unique work like this in the future.
“We are working hard this year to bring innovation to Star Wars Card Trader through a number of initiatives, perhaps one of the most important being original and exclusive works in collaboration with notable artists,” Marc Seal, Senior Content Product Manager for the app, said. “I couldn’t be happier to be launching this initiative with Kevin-John. We are looking forward to collaborating on more incredible sets with him in the future as well as expanding our portfolio of original art and content offerings within Star Wars Card Trader as we continue to strive for innovation in our content.”
The Kevin-John Mos Eisley Cantina set will be released in the Star Wars Card Trader app Thursday, August 27 at 2 p.m. EST to kick off Topps DigiCon, a digital convention being thrown by the card company to celebrate all its digital card trading apps (in addition to Star Wars there are apps for Marvel, Disney, WWE, MLB, NHL, Walking Dead and more). The release will be followed with a live interview with KJ on the Topps Twitch feed at 4 p.m. EST. Here’s the link. And for more on Kevin-John’s work, visit his site.
On a personal note: I am so excited to publish this article, today, August 26, 2020. That’s because it’s the five-year anniversary of my article How the Hell Is This JPG of Han Solo Worth $225. It was my first piece on Star Wars Card Trader and, apparently, got a lot of people hooked on the app. Like, a lot. In the five years since I’m told almost weekly by different people that they came to the app because of the article. And though I stepped away from collecting for a few years, my return has also brought new people into the fold, as well as other, more personal obsessions. So, getting to reveal the next big thing in Star Wars Card Trader, on the five year anniversary of this memorable article, for me, is pretty special. Thanks for reading.
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