John Mollo, as reported by The Times, has passed away at the age of 86. His expertise was in military history, serving as a consultant for period dramas such as Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Following the completion of his work with Kubrick, Mollo was invited to quite a different British production: George Lucas’ then untitled third feature film. Mollo brought no previous experience with science fiction to Star Wars, instead drawing on World War I trench armor for Darth Vader and Nazi storm troopers for the Galactic Empire’s, um, storm troopers (subtle Lucas was not). At Lucas’ suggestion, he turned to the imagery of the American West for the narrative’s heroes. As such, Mollo had a large hand in some of the most iconic visual designs in 20th Century popular culture and for his efforts was awarded an Oscar for Best Costume Design. He followed up Star Wars with Ridley Scott’s Alien, creating clothes which contributed to the Nostromo‘s lived-in feel. He returned to Star Wars for The Empire Strikes Back. In 1983 he won a second Oscar for Ghandi (shared with Bhanu Athaiya.
Actor Adam West, forever associated with his breakout role as Batman, has died following a short battle with leukemia. According to a family statement West died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by loved ones. West was born in Walla Walla, Washington, where he grew up on a ranch. While West had a long career in movies and on TV, he is best known for his iconic portrayal of Batman in the 1960s ABC series and related feature film. West’s performance helped define the show’s trademark pop-art vibe and cheeky tone. There were other Batmans on screen before him, but West’s was the first to become a true cultural force and make a star out its actor. The show only last three seasons but it defined the character in the public’s mind for decades until Tim Burton’s darker vision arrived at the end of the 80s. West, for his part, embraced the lighter tone of the show. According to the family”s statement, West “always saw himself as The Bright Knight and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero.”
The annual Star Wars Celebration kicked off today with the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope. As part of the festivities, participants took time to pay tribute to the recently departed Carrie Fisher. They offered testimonials along with an affecting video honoring both Leia Organa and the actress who brought her to life.
The Star Wars Celebration continues in Orlando through the weekend. Next up tomorrow: The Last Jedi.
On Saturday comics legend Bernie Wrightson passed away at the age of 68. Over the years his name had become synonymous with horror comics in a way few (arguably no) others have before or since. His detailed line work added a naturalistic element to his art which only heightened the sense of atmosphere. His imaginative creature designs mixed the humane with the grotesque, finding their best expressions in Swamp Thing (co-created with Len Wein) and his acclaimed adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Guillermo del Toro wanted to use Wrightson’s illustrations as the visual basis for a Frankenstein film). His contributions did crossover to superheroes from time to time, most notably in his art for Jim Starlin’s Batman: The Cult miniseries. So, as we extend our sympathies to Wrightson’s loved ones, we also remember the legacy he leaves behind.
Famed artist Bernie Wrightson has passed away after a prolonged battle with brain cancer. The news was announced overnight by his wife Liz via Facebook. In January Wrightson had announced his retirement due to complications from surgeries.
Wrightson is best known as the co-creator (with writer Len Wein) of DC’s Swamp Thing. Wrightson had a long involvement with DC’s horror titles and it is in that genre where he leaves his deepest legacy. Outside of comics, he is most renown for his contributions to an illustrated edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In addition, he collaborated on several projects with author Stephen King.
As has been frequently observed ever since her untimely passing on Tuesday, Carrie Fisher’s legacy extends further than her iconic role as Princess Leia. Her autobiographical writing addressed feminist issues, while striving to destigmatize addiction and mental illness. For those interested in these other aspects of her life’s work, HBO will be rebroadcasting her one-woman show Wishful Drinking Sunday January 1st at 9pm.
HBO is also the producer/distributor of this year’s new documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. The potrairt of their complex mother/daughter dynamic premiered to raves at the Cannes Film Festival, before making its way along the festival circuit. (I missed it, along with an appearance by Fisher, when it played at the New York Film Festival. Naturally, I have spent a large part of this week kicking myself for that decision). In the wake of not only Fisher’s passing, but Reynolds’ the following day, HBO has moved up the movie’s broadcast date. Originally scheduled for March, the movie will now debut on HBO next weekend: Saturday, the 7th.
Over the course of the last several days, Nothing But Comics has been revisiting and evaluating the legacy of writer/artist Darwyn Cooke, who passed away on May 14th. When the staff was discussing which Cooke works we wished to discuss, I immediately volunteered for his Catwoman. I have written in the past about my fondness for the character and her fascinating evolution over the years. Cooke contributed to an important segment of Selina’s development, helping to create one of the greatest periods in her long and storied career.
On Saturday comics creator Darwyn Cooke passed away from cancer at the age of 53. While we extend our condolences to Cooke’s family & loved ones, we also recall his creative legacy. His vibrant, expressive style will be fondly remembered by fans for many years to come.