In November 2019, I had the chance to go to MCM Comic Con in Birmingham. I was thrilled to learn that the illustrator Tony Fleecs would be there, whose work was currently being released in IDW’s Star Wars Adventures. As a huge fan of the comic, and in particularly, Tony’s work (you only need to read my reviews to see what I think of his work), I knew this was someone I wanted to have a chat do. Tony was very gracious and gave up some of his valuable time to talk to us…
Hi Tony, it’s a pleasure to meet you!
Hey, nice to meet you too!
So far so good! I’ve been over here for one night, I’ve had breakfast, tea, drinks and that’s been about it! No trouble so far!
Let’s start talking about Star Wars Adventures. You’ve only recently come to these particular comics; how did you get started with them?
I’ve been drawing IDW My Little Pony for years but Star Wars is my heart, so when IDW got the license, even before they got the license, I was pitching stories I would write and draw, or ideas for series that they might do. I was busy doing Pony when they first got it, so they let me do a cover and then as soon as I had a gap in my schedule I hit them up and was like “Hey I want to do more Star Wars,” and they were like “Oh good, how much do you want?” I was like as much as you’ve got! That’s what I’ve been doing lately. I’ve done issues 22 and 23: the tauntaun story and the Lando and Chewie story and now I’m working on the road to The Rise of Skywalker with Artoo, Threepio and BB-8.
The tauntaun story was the one that really drew my attention to your work, it was incredible! But let’s go back a bit and talk about what Star Wars is to you? How were you introduced to Star Wars?
I saw Empire in theatre but mostly I watched Star Wars, we tapped it off NBC, and watched it over and over again. They had commercials, they had Vader saying we’ll be right back. So that’s how I watched Star Wars for most of my youth. And then laser disc came around and my buddy got them, the THX rerelease, and we watched them again and again. I really loved the Droids cartoon and the Ewoks cartoon, I’m forty so I’m right at Ewok age, it was just more Star Wars to me. I loved it. Then for the longest time that went away. Now I have the whole lot! When I got chance to do the droids, I was like, I’m doing it Droids style! If you’re doing kids comics with droids, that’s what they should look like as far as I’m concerned!
What was the process of creating the comic? You got to work with Michael Moreci, what was it like working with him?
It’s pretty good, I’ve met him a couple of times this year at conventions and we get on really well. We’ve got friends in common; he is a super cool dude and a hard-core Star Wars fan, obviously! So we can talk – in comics I can talk to people in the comic industry in a certain way, we speak a certain language and have shared references – with my Star Wars people, I can go to a whole other deeper level, like Michael knows who Embo is, I can talk to this guy about Salacious Crumb (and a buddy of mine was very upset about episode one of The Mandalorian).
How much discussion do you have with Michael about the actual stories?
By the time I get the script they’re pretty well done but I can email back and forth and go what about this? I don’t change very much, the most I’ve changed is, hey we should switch this dialogue to another spot, just layout stuff. Artists think of things more visually than writers. At the end of part two of the Droids’ story, the droids are standing in one position, when part three picks up, he (Michael) has the other character speaking first and so I’m like that’s going to put them in the wrong spot, so they need switching. We just email each other about stuff like that, we don’t need to go through channels, I just reach out to him. I like Michael a lot.
We like Michael too! Who is your favourite character to draw in Star Wars?
I really like doing Threepio. Chewie I like a lot, the German reviewers didn’t like it (and I know you shouldn’t read your own reviews, but I can’t help it! I was getting the translator out), it was a bit disheartening. I had a lot fun doing the abstract of Chewie, a simplified version.
I thought he was great, in fact every decision you made worked so well! Is there any character that you haven’t had chance to draw yet that you’d like to?
Yeah, all of them! Obviously, you want to do Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, I want to draw the entire Star Wars Universe! So, I’m hoping to. I haven’t got anything lined up after the Droids story right now, but I’m doing two issues of Pony and then I’m going to be knocking on IDW’s door asking for more Star Wars.
Is there any character you don’t want to draw, thinking it might be difficult to do?
Darth Maul I think, just keeping his tattoos straight. I have trouble drawing things the same way twice. If you look at my Artoo, he never has the same number of little squares on the front of him from panel to panel. If you look at Threepio, he has one line over his tummy circle, sometimes two. Some artists really get into a zone and they’re like there’s two lines here, three lines there. For me, I feel like I’m recreating my process every time, like I’m relearning every time I sit down to draw. So I think Darth Maul would be really problematic, with all the detail. I do feel like I can have super fun drawing Jabba as there’s not a lot of detail there!
If you could do a Star Wars story, even though you’re an illustrator, what would your story be about, who would it involve?
Early on I pitched doing young Princess Leia adventures, sort of like her on Alderaan, getting into mischief. She was raised to be a princess but she’s this rough and tumble character who doesn’t take any mess from anyone. So, I wanted to see that! Lucasfilm said to shine away from doing too much stuff when they’re kids as they want to leave that open for whatever. But I had a whole pitch figured out, with her mum, Leia, Bail, her friends. Typho would be in there, I’d love to draw all of that! I did do some artwork for it!
What are you most looking forward to with Star Wars in the next few months?
I’m super psyched for Rise of Skywalker. I’ve got three tickets for two days: I’m going to be there a lot! I haven’t adjusted my schedule work wise; I don’t know how I’m going to do that! I’m super excited. I love the first Mandalorian, it’s a great time to be into Star Wars. I know the sequels are dividing, but I love them, especially Force Awakens, so I can’t wait to see what JJ Abrams is going to do. I know he’s not famous for his endings, but he’s under pressure so I think he’s really going for it. I’m a bit nervous about the yellow guy (Klaud) from the trailers but my friend had a theory that he’s covering like a Luke ghost or something!
Thank you so much to Tony for talking the time to talk to us!
It’s been my pleasure, thank you!
I’ll be honest, we could have spoken for hours about Star Wars! I don’t know about anybody else, but I would love to see Tony’s idea for a Princess Leia series. Added to seeing Tony, I was able to get him to do a sketch on a blank cover comic for my daughter, combining My Little Pony (one of my daughter’s loves) and Star Wars. To watch Tony at work is incredible and to have Rey as a pony was something else. And my daughter? Her jaw dropped!
Not wanting to be left out, I found that Tony also sells some of his original artwork. Having loved ‘A Tauntaun Tail,’ I decided to buy myself one of the pages. I have to say that my jaw dropped as quickly as my daughter’s, the art is a masterpiece. To actual have a piece of Tony’s original art is something else entirely and, if you’re able, I recommend you get a piece while you can!