March 07, 2012 | 7:20 a.m.
“Star Wars” is a persistent (and even relentless) presence in pop culture today, but in 1974 the Empire existed only in the imagination and writing of George Lucas. To get the expensive intergalactic project off the ground, though, the filmmaker knew he would need more proof of his vision — that’s when he hired artist Ralph McQuarrie to paint vivid dispatches from this far-away galaxy and its alien landscapes, strange warriors and memorable machines. The collaboration bottled-up a rare sort of lightning and the echo of its thunder grew louder with the news that McQuarrie, 82, died Saturday after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. The passing put his legacy — both as a Jedi myth-pioneer and a titan of concept art –very much on the mind of illustrators, filmmakers and fans. “You know what it’s like? It’s like George Martin and the Beatles,” said fantasy artist Tony DiTerlizzi, referring to the Fab Four and the studio producer who helped make the group the […]