Hasslein Blog: A Force Unto Himself: A Passionate Interview With Italian Star Wars Artist Filippo Rossi


Hasslein Blog

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Force Unto Himself: A Passionate Interview With Italian Star Wars Artist Filippo Rossi

by Abel G. Peña

Recently, I've been putting my trilingualism to good use, translating numerous rare, foreign Star Wars comics. Earlier this year, I translated Ewoks and Droids comics from the 1980s published exclusively in Spain. (You can download those here, and read my related thoughts about the mercurial nature of translation here.) Now, StarWars.com has published a piece I wrote on another all-but-unknown Star Wars comic, Il Potere della Forza ("The Power of the Force"), published almost fifteen years ago in Italy by the toymaker Hasbro.

While that translation wasn't too difficult (the story was intended for children), the interview with the fascinating original artist, Filippo Rossi, was a little more intense. An accomplished illustrator, Rossi is an immensely passionate Star Wars fan with deep roots in the saga and its Italian fandom.

What follows is the full text of the interview, originally conducted in Italian, with this fascinating Star Wars creator who always shoots from the hip.

Abel G. Peña: Ciao, Filippo. First, I just want to say I've had this comic in my collection for over a decade, and I have always been a fan of it.

Filippo Rossi: Thanks for the kind words!

Abel: I hope you don't mind if we continue the informal tone of our interaction. Well then, here are a few questions with which to begin: Are you still engaged in artistic employment or endeavors?

Filippo: Yes, I illustrate and design, although not solely Star Wars; above all, I do professional graphic design. That goes for the current Italian Star Wars club, Yavin 4, too, for which I fully manage the member fanzine: Living Force Magazine (which just won, in its tenth year, the [Italcon] Premio Italia for best national science fiction fanzine!).

Abel: Do you still keep in touch with your co-creator Fiorenzo Delle Rupi?

Filippo: Unfortunately, no.

Abel: Tell me about your work on Il Potere della Forza. Did Hasbro Italy approach you or vice versa?

Filippo: In the summer of 1998, Hasbro Italy contacted the Italian Star Wars club, Cloud City, and its president, Fiorenzo Delle Rupi. He and I already had on our résumé an enormous original project, The Hidden Wars: a complete and "alternate" 130-page story—though inserted with precision into the official Star Wars continuity—written by him, illustrated by me and first published within the Italian club and then throughout the world by way of that important American fansite, TheForce.net. Based on this amateur experience, it came relatively easily for us to take on, professionally, a Star Wars ten-pager like Il Potere della Forza.

Abel: The credits for the comic book say that the collaboration was produced by Hasbro Italy in conjunction with Cloud City, which was the name of the original Italian Star Wars Fan Club as well as a Star Wars fanzine. I know that you and Fiorenzo Delle Rupi were high-ranking members of the club. Can you tell me more about Cloud City and your positions?

Filippo: Cloud City was the first and most important amateur Star Wars fan club in Italy, albeit not officially related to Lucasfilm in any way—and, therefore, more genuine, sanguine and passionate! Fiorenzo was its founder (around the early '90s), the president and sole person in charge for most of its existence. I was only a simple member, though active and highly motivated. Soon after (in the last year of the club's existence, 2003), I became vice president and Fiorenzo honorary president. Almost simultaneously, however, there surfaced great differences within the membership management and, in late 2003, we shut down the Cloud City experience by mutual agreement. I and almost all the principal "defectors" then founded, between December 2003 and early 2004, a new Italian Star Wars fan club, l'Associazione culturale Yavin 4 (the Yavin 4 Cultural Association), to be exact, which has taken up the legacy at every recreational level (while opening up even more so to science fiction and fantasy) and continues to carry it with pride and gratitude.

Abel: What guidelines did you and the other contributors on Il Potere della Forza receive from Hasbro Italy? For instance, I noticed that the "Flashback" action figures depicted on the back were the same characters that appear in the story.

Filippo: The project was a promotional comic book that was attached to the sale of the "Flashback" action figures line tied to the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. We had to come up with a brief story that would connect the "old" representative Star Wars characters, like Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, with the "new" of Episode I, like Mace Windu and little Anakin. We received a lot of reference material, back then still secret! The contact was, to my knowledge, the London section of Lucasfilm.

Abel: What was it like for you working on an official Star Wars story?

Filippo: An unforgettable and thrilling experience. For Il Potere della Forza I chose a less realistic style, more cartoon-like and concise. It was very difficult to maintain visual consistency while respecting the rules of the Star Wars universe.... But to bring to life my favorite characters, to make them act and think, is priceless.

Abel: You're now vice president of Yavin 4, is that correct? (The club, not the moon.)

Filippo: I am co-founder of l'Associazione culturale with the charter Yavin 4 (the Star Wars Italian Fan Club of Fantasy and Science Fiction), established in December of 2003 and that this year, 2013, celebrates its tenth anniversary of active status. I am the creator and editorial coordinator responsible for Living Force Magazine, the quarterly magazine of our club Yavin 4 as well as the historical vice president and advisor in all its biennial mandates.

Abel: Damn right, you are. And given that you worked on this comic lead-in to Episode I, what is your perspective on Star Wars these days, fifteen years later, especially now that we are on the verge of a new trilogy?

Filippo: Eh, it's all very complicated. I am one of those people who watched Star Wars: Episode IV in the cinema in 1977 (I was six), and passionate about the Star Wars saga since then! Then, in 1999, Episode I: The Phantom Menace was the film that I most anticipated, ever—sixteen years of passionate anticipation since 1983's Return of the Jedi! So, in the theater, I must've watched it twenty times or more, both in Italy and in Spain and then in England and in Germany. I loved it dearly, and also defended it from fierce criticism. Then, in 2002, I did not like Attack of the Clones one bit, and it made me reconsider the overall design of Lucas' prequel trilogy quite negatively. I'd imagined the story of young Anakin and Obi-Wan for such a long time, since 1977, and it was moving in a creative direction that I did not like: it left me very cold. These days, after having seen the fairly good Epsiode III, I can say that the prequel trilogy has a storya subjectthat is very good, complex and ambitious, but unfortunately a lackluster filmmaking (direction, screenplay, dialogue, character development, special effects, casting, visual language, etc.) execution. In any case, I consider it an unquestionable and interesting "canon" for a saga that is now immense and justifiably a landmark. Given these premises, to see Star Wars (and so many stellar film projects) today delivered into the hands of the all-powerful Disney, and especially the hands of new cinematic writers, directors and storytellers—competent, young and motivated—fills me with immense hope. Secondly, so many masterpieces are anticipated that this time they'll need be indisputable. The controversial experience of the new prequel trilogy should have demonstrated just how Star Wars must be treated: maximize the space-opera aspects, don't overdo the verbal exposition but mainly utilize visual exposition, synthesize and don't belabor, carefully supervise the narrative and thus depict an epic and out-of-this-world story that will be spiritual yet ironic, "bigger than life" yet entertaining, profound yet fast paced, visionary yet graceful ... just like the legendary classic trilogy.

Abel: Thank you once again, my friend. This has been a wonderful collaboration.

To read more of Rossi's work, and to learn more about the Italian Star Wars fan club, Yavin 4 Cultural Association, please visit www.yavinquattro.net.

Abel G. Peña, a.k.a. The Philodoxer, is the author of such Star Wars fiction as "History of the Mandalorians" and "The Story of General Grievous," co-author of Vader: The Ultimate Guide and the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide, and a translator of rare and forgotten Star Wars comics. He has also written about life in translation in the anthology Italy From A Backpack. Follow him on Twitter @ThePhilodoxer and on Facebook at facebook.com/abelgpena, and visit his website, www.abelgpena.com.

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