Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our one hundred and twenty-third guest drew the Clone Wars comic tie-in on the official site – Tom Hodges.
Lightsabre – Welcome to Lightsabre Tom.
TH – Thank you, glad to be here.
Lightsabre – Let’s start with an obvious question, how cool is it to be a part of Star Wars, given that you’ve been a fan since you were five?
TH – It’s not that cool. No I’m kidding, it’s very cool. I love it, I’d gladly do it even if I was doing something else. The fandom, I love it all.
TH – Very much so. I love the fans, getting to know them, some of them personally. Some of them even know my home phone number, they don’t bother me, they’re cool about it. There’s some people who’ve grown on me, they’re like family.
Lightsabre – Who’s the main influence on your artwork? When you were starting out as an artist, and especially now as you’ve progressed, what’s the big influence on you?
TH – Well, when I was a kid it was all the McQuarrie and Joe Johnston art stuff, all the concept art from Star Wars that got me going, because you had these old Star Wars sketchbooks and the Art of Star Wars books back in the day. Plus all the movie posters and whatever they had, little bits and pieces out their, the old Marvel Comics that would come by. Williamson and the old strips and stuff.
More to the point I stopped drawing, I was drawing hardcore for years. I stopped for a little while in that intermission time when you go to like middle school, high school when, you know, Star Wars stops being important and boobies does (both laugh) So you’re looking at the girls and not the comic books. Then once I got into high school, all the cute girls started taking art class, ’cause it’s easy, and they weren’t, and I actually failed art in my freshman year because I was doing all the girls projects. ‘Oh, yeah, that’s cool, no seriously, I’ll help ya.’ So in my freshman year I failed commercial art. And my teacher, who’s actually kind of one of my influences, only because he was determined to make sure I became an artist, Mr Jackson, he said ‘I know why you failed’, pulled me into a small office and said ‘You failed ’cause you’re helping all the girls’. And to quote him he said ‘Is a nice ass as good as an ‘A’?’
And he was right, so the next year I retook the class, aced it and then went on and I had him every year through my school for multiple classes. So he was a big influence, and then when I got back into comics after high school I was really into (Todd) McFarlane and Jim Lee and all the Image guys – except for Liefeld, and erm…I’m sorry, I’m not a Liefeld fan, no one makes it a secret, he’s a hack, all his hands have the same length of fingers, have stubs for feet, whose thighs are huge. He draws chests bigger than Dolly Parton…
TH – And everyone’s face looks like Cable with eighty-nine teeth, I make it no secret that I don’t like the guys art. I’m sure he’s a very nice guy, but his art sucks. And you can print that, I don’t care. And Todd McFarlane better be drawing again soon because he’s another one. I love him, but he started making pieces of plastic with arms and funky legs. I’m sorry, Todd McFarlane should be drawing, shouldn’t be making toys. You’re not even making the toys, your company does. Draw.
Jim Lee’s still drawing, and he’s doing game design. That’s why I love Jim Lee, and he’s just a fantastic guy. He’s just an amazing artist, like you know another amazing guy is Adam Hughes who does a lot of the Dark Horse Star Wars covers. He’s just an amazing man.
Lightsabre – When you were talking about boobies earlier, that was the name that popped into my head.
TH – Ahhh, you know when you think of boobies you think of Adam. And here’s the thing about Adam’s boobs, if you want to get down to it, they’re so beautifully done and he draws real women, you know what I mean? Jim’s characters are super models, whereas Adams women are like athletic women, so there’s different ways of looking at it. I love Jim’s work, I love Adams work, and I love both of those guys personally, they’re just such great guys.
Other influences, Frank Miller’s work, his writing in particular. Dark Knight, Sin City, Batman: Year One, all the books like that were huge influences on me. I’m also influenced heavily by film, Star Wars being the main one. I’ve always been a big fan of Godfather, the Coppola movies and Ridley Scott movies, stuff like that. And when Tarantino came around and people like that, Rodriguez. And just movies in general, I’ve always been around movies, I went to film school.
Mark Texiera is another comic influence, and close family friend. I used to go to his studio he shared with Ray Lago in Manhattan when I was younger and I’d get there about eleven ‘o’ clock on a Friday night and Tex would just be starting to work and I would sit at Rays desk across from Tex and just draw and draw, and every once in a while he’d stop what he was doing – he’d have like eight pages of Moon Knight he was working on in front of him at the same time, he’d get up and walk around me and point out what I’m screwing up.
But I would say, looking at my work of my own I’m more heavily influenced by the older guys like Kirby, but also Bruce Timm. Major I think more so than anybody because I have a great animated look to my work, but on top of that even with some of the best advice I’ve ever had about getting a job. And every time someone comes to me with their portfolio for review I tell them, I’ll give you the same advice that Bruce Timm gave me and that is you have to look at it from the orange theory. And that is, you could have the best portfolio full of apples, but if that editor isn’t looking for apples but is looking for oranges, you’re not going to get the job. No matter how beautiful your apples are it won’t cut it because he’s looking for an orange. That’s how it works, and it was just the most simplified way to explain that type of thing. So that’s always in the back of my head whenever someone’s looking at my work, like ‘Is this guy looking for my apples or is he looking for my oranges?’ Now that sounds really gross, if you listen to it out of context, but I literally live by that now.
Lightsabre – So when you look at your own artwork now, and as you continue to develop as an artist, can you see the progression?
TH – Absolutely, because when I was younger I wanted to be Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee.
Lightsabre – We’re about the same age so we have the same kind of references.
TH – Exactly, so when I was a kid, if you look at stuff I was doing 15, 20 years ago it was heavily influenced by McFarlane’s Spider-Man and Jim Lee’s X-Men. And then Jim Lee’s WiLDCAT’s stuff, very heavily influenced by it. And it’s almost sad, to the point where it’s like, and I hate to say this as I’ve already bagged on the guy, almost cartoonish in the sense that Liefeld was like a piss-poor version of Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri with McFarlane splashed in. Because McFarlane’s anatomy was never perfect. However, how he did it and his design work made up for it.
Lightsabre – And he had a consistent style
TH – He was always consistent. His characters always looked like you knew he’d drawn them, and that’s what I’m trying to develop now. There are people who can recognise my work, ‘Oh, Tom Hodges did that’, but I want to get to the point where you know, you wouldn’t even have to be an expert to really know my work, ‘Oh, it’s a Hodges and he did it in 1974’, you know.
Lightsabre – You don’t feel that you’ve found your signature style yet?
TH – I think I’m on my way but I don’t think I’ve nailed it yet, but I think it’s coming. And when it does, I’ll let you know, I’ll give you a call.
TH – It’s been Yoda. I used to hate drawing Yoda, but lately I’ve really enjoyed drawing Yoda.
Lightsabre – Why is that? Because obviously he’s animated now, I suppose you’re looking at him in a different way? You explained that very well today, there’s the animated Grievous and the film Grievous.
TH – Several different Grievous, you have the film Grievous and then you had the first animated Grievous and now you have the new animated Grievous and the new Grievous is a combination of the other two, but the best way. And I kind of feel that my Grievous, when I incorporate him into the strip, if I manage to have him in the strip. Actually there is a panel of him in one of the first stories that I just did, but it’s just a very close up of his face.
But what you do is you take the movie version and the cartoon version and you bring them together into the perfect version. It’s a hybrid.
Lightsabre – Speaking of the new strip, how is it coming along? You’re obviously buzzed about it.
TH – Awesome. What’s happening is I was gonna do the first story and then the other three artists, Grant Gould, Katie Cook and Jeff Carlisle were going to do the subsequent weeks, and I was going to go back to week five and so on and so forth. But what happened is that one of the upcoming stories which is a few weeks down the line, I was assigned to do, they decided that was going to be the premiere episode and I was already scheduled to do the first episode which was at the beginning of the storyline.
I’m doing story one and two, which start October 1st, but story one I did everything on it, the inks and colours. The second story I just did the page art and the colours, because I had to come here I was running out of time. The last three weeks I’ve been like glued to work.
Lightsabre – So what’s the deadline like?
TH – What happened was when I got back from San Diego we had just gotten our stories approved, like a week after I had got back from San Diego, I was finishing up the Soul Calibre stuff for starwars.com and what then happened was as soon as that happened, literally when I finished with that my Mother-in-Law passed away and so we had to go back east for a week, and then when we came back was when we had to get right on The Clone Wars stuff. Had I just had the one story I would have been done a week and a half ago, but I had to jump on another story right after it, and that’s why I’ve been working my butt off since ComicCon doing Star Wars and Clone Wars and Soul Calibre.
Lightsabre – We’ve mentioned conventions, you enjoy conventions and mixing with the fans. Obviously you get to mix with your fellow artists as well. Any cool convention stories that you’re allowed to tell? Anything that sticks in your mind, a fan that you remember well?
TH – (pauses) Well, (laughs) erm, well I can tell you stuff that’s happened to me. Stuff that’s happened to other artists you’d be better off talking to them, but it’s one place you get to hang out with your fellow artists, but when it comes to experiences like this past year in Philly, Philadelphia I had a gentleman walk up to me and ask if I was doing sketches. And this guy was probably pushing fifty years old, five foot, three hundred pounds, sweaty guy. And I’m originally from Philadelphia so this is by no means like this is what people from Philly look like, I’m pretty thick myself. I blame doughnut dinners on that and fatty foods. I don’t live in Philly anymore, but anyway, on top of that he comes to me and asks if I’m doing sketches and I said yes. He immediately thought and he said ‘Well, a lot of times when I request sketches I make people sick.’ And I was very creeped out by that comment, so I cautiously asked what he wanted me to draw and he asked me to draw Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe., okay, so far so good – dominating a skunk woman. And hmmm…
And when I get people asking me to draw Slave Leia topless, I won’t do it. If it has something to do with Star Wars characters, I won’t draw it, and I tend not to draw any other out there stuff anyway, the kind of erotic stuff because it’s just not my thing.
But nothing’s too crazy, most of my con stories are stuff I saw, nothing that’s personally involved me. I’m sure there’s a few stories I might have, but I just can’t remember them off the top of my head.
Oh wait, there was one. Wizard World Texas, the first time I did Wizard World Texas was the second year and it was actually a week after I moved to Texas, so this was one of my first impressions of living in Texas.
Lightsabre – Is that where you live now?
Lightsabre – You were in San Francisco before?
TH – I lived in San Francisco for years, it’s where I met my wife, and then we lived in southern California, near LA. halfway between LA and San Diego in Orange County California. And we were close to so much going on, it didn’t need to be a big city because you had Disneyland here, you had the beach there. It’s all there, so by living in San Antonio Texas I’m nowhere near the beach, the cities not particularly large, like you tallest buildings are hotels, that kind of city. Nice enough, it’s just laid back to the point where it’s boring.
Like the most exciting thing there is the Alamo Drafthouse. The Alamo Drafthouse, and on Tuesday nights we go to this place called The Lion and the Rose for Geeks who Drink. We have a little trivia team and it’s fun.
Lightsabre – I would love to go to the Drafthouse.
TH – That’s fun. It’s not that I’m totally down on where I live. In the three years that we’ve lived there it’s not very exciting, and I’ve always lived some place where there was always something around, there was something to do. I lived in Philadelphia, I was right by the city or in the city or I was forty-five minutes from the beach. Moved to San Francisco and it was just a great city, right on the coast, tons of stuff to do, never boring, never boring. And when you’re sleeping, that’s when it’s asleep. And when I lived in Orange County I’ve got Disneyland right by me, the beach was right there. And then you move to Texas and you’re landlocked, and she (Terri) wants to move here. You can print this, I said if McCain wins the election we have an exit strategy. Unlike our current president and McCain we have an exit strategy. And it’s getting out of the country.
I’ve been told last week how the economy is solid, and I don’t care if people know if I’m a Republican or a Democrat, I want Obama to win and I’ve wanted Obama to win since I don’t know when. (Terri pointed out that they disagreed on which Democratic candidate to vote for) And had Hillary won the nomination I would vote for her, you know.
And Sarah Palin’s an idiot, she’s a moron. ‘I can see Russia from my house!’, she actually said that.
Here’s a little unknown fact, do you know one, the small town she lived in of like four to five thousand people had forty-two known meth labs. They stopped counting at forty-two.
The other stuffs fact, the fact that she will hunt with a high-powered rifle from a helicopter. What’s that about, who does that?
Lightsabre – Does she hover?
TH – Yeah, she hovers over a moose and shoots it. Makes me sick, she makes me sick.
Lightsabre – Not a fan?
TH – Not a fan.
Lightsabre – Moving on, what’s your dream project? If you had an ultimate dream project, Star Wars or otherwise, what would your ultimate dream project be?
TH – I would love to work on a Pixar movie. Doing concept design. Honestly, because I’ve done the Star Wars thing, and am continuing to do the Star Wars thing and I love Star Wars. I wish Filoni had hired me (laughs) Dave’s an awesome guy, love Dave, I wanted to work on the Star Wars series but I think there’s a reason why I’m not, and I think it has a reason to do with something else. But I’ve always wanted to work on a Pixar movie. I love everything Pixar does, it works. I mean Wall:E’s the perfect film.
Lightsabre – To my shame I’ve not seen it yet.
TH – You should be beaten with Sarah Palin’s shotgun.
I would love to work on a Pixar production, love it. I’d live for it, even if it was only for a year gig where I was there for a year I’d do it. And she’s (Terri’s) even said if it happens, go. She’s like ‘I can visit, I work for an airline.’ I would love to do something for Pixar. And I think I would be a good fit with Pixar.
Lightsabre – Yeah, because it’s a state of mind with that place.
TH – It’s so creative, and I love being around creative people, when I’m, with creative people I’m beyond, I get so jazzed, and the energy there must be amazing. That would be my ultimate job. If it had to be a comic thing I would love to work with Alan Moore or Frank Miller. I’d love to work with Alan Moore on something like a Star Wars project, totally out of the box.
Lightsabre – He has written Star Wars before.
TH – Exactly, he has written Star Wars, I’d love to work with him on that. And if it was Frank Miller I’d like him to write something for one of my characters, like my M character, I would love for him to write a one off of that. Or even Frank Miller to write a Star Wars story.
Lightsabre – That would be something, you’d have to give him the proper free reign to go for it.
TH – Exactly, I would love to work with either one of those two. I’d love to do the art and let them write it.
Lightsabre – A friend of mine interviewed him about six years ago, went to his house…
TH – He hasn’t seen his movies, apparently because of one of the movies, they changed it.
Lightsabre – From Hell, he hated it.
TH – From Hell, he hated it so much he refuses to see any of the movies and I don’t blame him for not wanting to see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I don’t like it, it could have been so much more. The casting was great but the characters, the way they translated it was horrible. V for Vendetta on the other hand was amazing, and I am dying to see Watchmen. Watchmen is like, and I hate to say it because I’m such a Star Wars fan, but I was more excited about The Dark Knight than any of the prequels. And it delivered 100%.
I love the prequels, I’m one of the few original trilogy guys.
Lightsabre – I love them.
TH – I know, maybe I’m not one of the few because whenever I bump into someone who’s an original trilogy guy they usually like the prequels. I mean they had their issues, but everyone’s got their issues with whatever. I mean there are people who’ve got issues with The Dark Knight and that movies amazing. You’re gonna find something wrong with everything. And the only movie I’ve yet to find anything wrong with is Wall:E. It’s that good. It’s a perfect film, I bawled my eyes out, it’s such a perfect film, and it doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, it’s not bogged down by dialogue. It’s like a great silent movie with a little bit of dialogue.
Lightsabre – So I must go and see it?
TH – You have to go and see it. He’s so sweet, you just want to hug him, give him a big hug. But in terms of my ultimate dream project it would be working on a Pixar film.
Lightsabre – You’ve got plenty of stuff in your head that’s your own property that you’d like to push forward.
TH – Well there’s two things I’d like, Midnight numbers 3 and 4 I’m writing right now and then you have M, which I haven’t even started drawing yet. It’s written, I just haven’t started drawing yet. That’s what I’m trying to incorporate in the next few months, is working on that.
TH – Actually at this point I want to just start drawing and getting it done and then worry about it.
Lightsabre – Favourite Star Wars era. If you could pick a time, Knights of the Old Republic, Classic era, prequels, going forward, where would you like to pitch your tent if you could just write stories and draw stories in one era. Where would you want to be?
TH – Honestly, I really love the prequel era. The Clone Wars prequel era, I love that era. I mean, for all the flaws everyone has with it, I love it. I think the original trilogy era has too much turmoil. I like the renaissance feel of the prequel era.
Lightsabre – It feels like somewhere you could actually live.
TH – Yeah, exactly. The turmoil in the original trilogy, you could turn a corner and get your face blown off. It doesn’t seem like that with the other ones.
Lightsabre – A quick question about our site, Lightsabre. Any comments?
TH – You guys have been going on like what, 9 years? That’s a great length of time. Just keep doin’ what you’re doin. J
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest on Lightsabre. Just one final question. Ahsoka Tano, Kit Fisto and Plo Koon are travelling back to the Jedi Temple when they are attacked by rogue Pit Droids and Buzz Droids who start to pull their transport apart. But which one of the three manages to get them to the ground safely first, and how?
TH – Is this a joke? Where’s the Priest and the Rabbi?
Interview originally posted in two parts on www.lightsabre.co.uk on 5th and 26th October 2008 and has been edited for clarity and length.