Dan. Fess up. How did you get involved with Topps? Were you
approached or did you start the process yourself?
Dan Curto: I used to
draw professionally years ago, but I stopped when I got married
and instead turned to customizing and photography for my creative
outlets. I've really been itching to get back into illustrating
again, and with this being the 30th anniversary of my favorite
Star Wars movie...it seemed like the perfect time to try. I
got a lot of inspiration from other artists in the community,
and a few of them really encouraged me to "just do it".
I contacted Topps and showed off a few samples of my work...which
admittedly, were pretty old, but they liked them. So I was
offered this amazing opportunity to be part of the 30th anniversary
celebration, and I've been having a blast ever since.
drawing something that you have always done? Has your focus always
been scenes and characters from The Empire Strikes Back or do
you have other concepts based on the other five films as well?
Dan Curto: Yes, always.
All of my notebooks and papers in school and at work have always
had little illustrations on them.
Funny thing...it was actually The Empire Strikes Back that
got me to really start drawing seriously, way back at age 11!
I used to trace the panels from the Star Wars comic books when
I was young, which eventually led me to try drawing other comic
book characters, mostly super heroes.
As far as other Star Wars characters, I've drawn the classic
trilogy characters a lot over the years, but not so much the
prequel characters. I'll have to start doing that.
there any sketch cards that you can share with us that won’t
be making it into the Topps card line?
Dan Curto: All 100 sketch
cards I illustrated are included in the packs as random inserts.
Additionally, there are 6 that I will be getting back, and
I designed those with an overall theme in mind. I
played around a little with some ideas, including a few "puzzle
card can stand on its own, but if put the cards together, you
will get an entire scene. These puzzle cards were fun to do.
a man who is extraordinarily busy in the toy industry and heavily involved with working for big collecting sites, how did you make time for this resurfaced
passion? Did the sketch cards come out as you had hoped or
was there a rush at all where you may have felt the cards weren’t
Dan Curto: HA! I don't
know if I'd say I was IN the toy industry...but definitely
working on Rebelscum and Cool Toy Review takes up a lot of
time. It actually was a real struggle to find the time to do
it, especially when you add in working a full-time job, a wife
and 3 kids...yeah, it was a challenge to get it done. Plus,
man, I am EASILY distracted! I needed to focus and actually,
I recently started studying martial arts, where a lot of the
class is about concentration and discipline (I'm too old to
care about fighting), so I tried to use those skills while
I was drawing. I had 5 weeks to do 106 illustrations. Fortunately,
I still had my old art supplies in storage, so I dusted them
off (some hadn't been used in 12 years!) and got focused.
I originally planned to only do pencil drawings, and I watched
the movie a few times (never a bad thing!) and compiled this
huge list of what I was going to illustrate. However, as I
got into it, I started doing more inking, cross-hatching, and
coloring. I changed my mind on a bunch of them from my original
list, and dropped a whole themed series I wanted to do. My
kids were home on spring break, and they all had some suggestions
on what I should draw. Some cards have some subtle colors added
to them, which was their idea.
Still, I kept coming up with more ideas...I could easily have
done twice as many cards if I had more time (there's a 4-card
Darth Vader puzzle card series that I penciled, but I would
love to have painted it!)
As for being "completed"...well, these are "sketch
cards" right? Not "finished art cards." So
in a sense, none of them are 100% complete...just ideas. On
the other hand, since I probably won't ever see them again,
I guess they're as "complete" as they will ever be!
are some of your favorite pieces in the sketch card set?
one. I am pretty happy with them all, but obviously I put more
time into some over others. Artists are their own worst critics,
so I always see the mistakes before anyone else. But you learn
from them and hopefully do better the next time. I'm really happy
with the creature cards (Wampa, Ugnaught, Space Slug, Tauntaun),
the finished marker comp cards, and the puzzle cards. I also
did a "progression series" where the image starts out
as a rough sketch on the borders, and gradually becomes more
finished as you get closer to the center (finished pencils, inks,
and then color), which I am really happy with the results on
I also got to have some fun with another series, getting my fellow
fans' input. I invited the ForceCast listeners to send in their
suggestions, and I drew the 10 ideas I liked best. Some suggestions
were already on my radar or I had actually already drawn, but
all of these were fun, and I loved getting my fellow fans involved.
actual real hand drawn samples make it into the card packs or will
they be prints of your artwork? And if so, is it hard to part with
Curto: They are actual
original pieces of art inserted into the packs. Mine were all
hand-drawn by me..."Curto
Parting with them was really strange. It felt great to have
them all done, but also a little sad to just send them off
in the mail one day. After carrying them around with me for
weeks, they were just gone! I mean, I was drawing at work (during
lunchtime only, I swear!), in the car while waiting to pick
up my daughter, while watching TV at night...just taking them
with me everywhere I went for over a month. Honestly, I miss
you think we will see more Dan Curto artwork in future Topps
Star Wars lines? What about anywhere else?
Curto: That would be great. Hopefully, this was just "my
first step into a larger world"...and there will be more
to come. Who knows? I would love to participate in future Topps
card series. Maybe I'll get the chance to draw some of those
prequel trilogy characters I was talking about!
I'd also love to pursue my original dream as a kid, which was
to draw comic books. I had a few opportunities in the early
1990s that fell through after the industry imploded, so I moved
on to other things. More recently, I actually was involved
with a series of webcomics, but that project fell apart in
the planning stages.
I'm happy if this is the only illustration work I get to do,
but I have a lot of ideas now! There will always be a part
of me that wants to draw...
certainly isn’t the only place you have left an indelible
mark on the Star Wars collecting universe. But since you are
getting the full credit here, do you find your experience with
Topps the most rewarding?
Curto: Honestly, I'm a HUGE fan boy when it comes to Star
Wars...so being able to do anything (official or otherwise) is
great. People obviously know me from Rebelscum or through the ForceCast,
but I've been living online for years now, getting my start through
customizing, then doing toy photography and reporting on various
collectibles. I've gotten to know so many people around the world,
even if we have never met face-to-face.
For me, that's part of the fun...getting to know my fellow fans
and sharing my love for that galaxy far, far away...
there any other additional or special final details we should
know about the 30th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back sketch
card series? When can we expect these cards to hit retail?
Curto: The set is due out at the end of May...just
in time for the anniversary celebration! I'm sure there will
be more official announcements as the release date gets closer,
but I'm excited to see what else Topps has in store.