Movie fandom is a full-time job. Those of us most devoted to the cause can spend lots of time (and lots of money) attending film festivals, stocking up on Blu-rays, and adorning our every wall in gorgeous posters. If you’ve chosen to commit your love of the big screen to the ornamental, then Mondo, the venerable kingpin of the artisanal movie poster game, is surely a name you’re more than familiar with by now. Given as much time as so many of us devote to celebrating the cinema by way of Mondo posters, apparel, and collectibles, it stands to reason that we should devote at least a few days a year celebrating that very celebration. In turn, we get MondoCon.
MondoCon returns to Austin, TX this year from Oct. 22 and 23, bringing with it a frenzy of items and events honoring not only movies, but comics and television. Among the many artists who’s work will be featured at MondoCon ’16 is Mike Mitchell, an illustrator who’s been bringing his favorite pop culture characters to life for years. After having partnered with Mondo on designs of his favorite Marvel Comics characters in years past, Mitchell again joins forces with the poster powerhouse to shine the spotline on a certain deep cut Star Wars character. Introducing Mitchell and Mondo’s take on Lobot, Lando Calrissian’s computer liaison officer for Cloud City.
Though the above rendering of Lobot is Mitchell’s only contribution to the Mondo circuit this year, it is hardly his first attempt at a Star Wars humanoid or critter. Nerdist spoke with Mitchell about his proclivity toward the creations of Lucasarts, plus the many other sorts of characters with which he’s filled out his personal arsenal.
In discussing how he chooses his subjects from the vast cosmos of American film and TV, Mitchell says, “I have a deep love for pop culture that I think stems from growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, so in that respect it’s personal. I spent my childhood drawing Mickey, Mario, and Raphael, so it’s no surprise to me that I’m still doing it.”
Granted, it isn’t only fandom that fuels Mitchell’s choices. “That being said, I think aesthetic is king,” he says. “I love being able to play with something that has already been cemented in our brains as looking a certain way, and trying to create something new with that. Even with the portraits, which are pretty literal, I want to at least attempt to create something new with the aesthetic that I’ve been handed.”
Naturally, Mitchell doesn’t approach all of his subjects in the same manner, often going so far as to reinvent the style of a popular character in the name of imagination. “I really love adding or subtracting from pop culture characters to create something new,” he says. “For COPYWRONG I wanted to push that further than I normally would, with an emphasis on changing as much as possible while keeping it clear who it was based on.”
Though perhaps not all of Mitchell’s renderings are as “bizarre” as the above recreation of Donald Duck, they all bring something unique to the table. “I’ve drawn realistic cartoon characters (this can have terrifying results) and cartoonish live action characters,” he says. “As artists we’re often told or trained to have a certain unifying style, but that never really worked for me. I much prefer to have an idea first, and then find a way to execute that idea. Drawing Charlize Theron as a cartoon or painting her portrait require different approaches, but I feel just as comfortable in both scenarios, in fact I’ve already done that for her (and Gene Wilder!).”
Notwithstanding the multitude of characters he’s mastered so far, Mitchell still has a ton lined up for his days to come in illustration. “I’ve created hundreds of pieces, but the list of characters I haven’t touched is far bigger,” he says. “Heck, I’m doing a Star Wars portrait series, and by the end I’ll have done two to three dozen pieces, and I still have to cut characters that I love, and that’s just Star Wars. It was the same with the Marvel show. I try not to get caught up in the completion aspect and instead let inspiration be my guide.”
As proved not only by Lobot but also the many other Star Wars beings Mitchell has mastered, the imagination and nuance of the Lucasfilm world makes its inhabitants a particularly rewarding community for the artist to tackle. “I appreciate how weird and original they are, but also love the color and texture that are available,” he says. “There’s such a great depth to the Star Wars universe, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to do the portrait series. Sure, the main dudes are great, but the B/C/D list is just as good if not better, from an aesthetic perspective. One of my favorite portraits so far is the 2-1B Surgical Droid. ”
Of course, the incredibly dense population of the Star Wars world offers some additional hurdles. “The only real challenge is finding enough reference,” Mitchell says. “Bossk, for example, only appears very briefly and the video isn’t very clear, so you have to do your best to piece it together based on what’s available.” But Mitchell assures us, “Aside from that, I LOVE it.”
You can check out Mike Mitchell’s work here. Will you be hitting up this year’s MondoCon? Let us know!
Images: Mike Mitchell/Mondo, Mike Mitchell