Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, Darth Vader’s Death Star was an idea in the mind of Colin Cantwell.
Cantwell is the concept artist and model builder of the now-iconic Death Star in the original 1977 “Star Wars” movie. Black Hills fans can meet Cantwell when he makes a special appearance at Heroes and Villains comic store in downtown Rapid City.
A meet-and-greet with Cantwell will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at Heroes and Villains, 524 Sixth St. All ages are welcome; admission to the event is free. Autographed pictures will be available for $25 and will include a free print of either Cantwell’s original 1974 Star Wars concept art or his 1975 photos of the first Star Wars models. There’s a $5 fee for fans to take selfies with Cantwell.
A presentation at 5:15 p.m. will show exclusive videos about Cantwell’s interaction with George Lucas and his work on “Star Wars.” There will be an audience-choice showing of videos about Cantwell’s work on “War Games” and legendary space films. Cantwell collaborated with director Stanley Kubrick to manage and design many of the space scenes for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Cantwell also was known as the Hal 9000 computer when he relayed information directly from NASA to newscaster Walter Cronkite during Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.
“Cantwell is definitely in that little circle of Star Wars creators,” said Nathan Harding, a co-owner of Heroes and Villains. “He would have been one of the originals to meet with George Lucas on concepts.”
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Cantwell was an animator and architect who worked with Frank Lloyd Wright. Cantwell’s fascination with space led to a job at NASA and then to a career in the movie industry. Cantwell and Ralph McQuarrie collaborated on the design of the Death Star. Cantwell created the Death Star model, which needed to depict a weapon capable of harboring a fleet and destroying large and small planets, and other space ships.
“He was pretty important in some of the early looks of what you see in early Star Wars movies,” Harding said. “Even teenagers and some of the fans in their 20s and 30s who wouldn’t have been around for the earlier stuff know who Colin Cantwell is.”
Cantwell’s work appears in the iconic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and he wrote, directed and designed “Journey to the Outer Planets.” Cantwell also wrote two science fiction space adventure books, designed software and studies quantum physics.
Heroes and Villains specializes in vintage and new comic books, toys and video games. Harding said the store carries a huge Star Wars toy selection, including figures from the 1970s, to cater to fans of the Star Wars franchise.
“It’s all ages that love Star Wars,” Harding said.