Star Wars may be set in a galaxy far, far away, but it has connections close to home. One such connection is artist Matt Busch, who was born in Lebanon and has created original official artwork for the Star Wars franchise.
Busch’s first official connection to the Star Wars Universe was an illustration for the Star Wars Adventure Journal, which was published by West End Games from 1994 to 1997. After that, Busch worked on various other Star Wars projects for West End Games, including book and trading card illustrations, before expanding to even more Star Wars projects.
Busch’s interest in the franchise, however, dates back to his childhood. Born in 1972, Busch was in Lebanon for a short time before his family relocated to Detroit.
“My father was working for Teen Challenge Rehrersburg, which is still there and thriving,” Busch said. “There was only one hospital at the time in Lebanon, and that’s where I first saw the world.”
His biography on his website describes an instance where Kindergarten-aged Busch, after being unable to purchase a Star Wars pop-up book, used magic markers and construction paper to make his own Star Wars pop-up book.
Busch graduated from Macomb Community College in Michigan with a degree in Graphic and Commercial Art.
“Star Wars came out on the big screen in 1977,” said Busch. “I was 4 years old. It changed my life and it got me into drawing, but I never fathomed it would become an actual career.”
Since the Adventure Journal, Busch has illustrated everything from posters to T-shirts to books, both for Star Wars and other franchises. For instance, Busch recently made illustrations for the Netflix-licensed Stranger Things: Visions from the Upside-Down Artbook.
“About 75% of the work I do is Star Wars related, either through Lucasfilm/Disney directly or through one of the official licensees that publish the books or design T shirts,” said Busch. “Part of that is because I obviously enjoy Star Wars and it makes me feel like a kid. The other part is because over the years I have built relationships with my clients that keep bringing me back into the fold.
“That said, it’s always fun to expand on other properties like Stranger Things, Indiana Jones, and Lord of the Rings to give my artistic take on those as well.”
In total, Busch’s career working on Star Wars products has spanned over 20 years. He has worked on artwork inspired by both older and newer entries to the series, including current Disney+ series The Mandalorian.
“I enjoy working on both old and new Star Wars titles,” said Busch. “The older material has a sense of nostalgia for me. However the new films and TV shows are fresh and exciting, so it’s also fun to immerse into this new adventures as well.
In that time, he has worked on a variety of projects, such as releasing a popular 22-episode series of How to Draw Star Wars videos for Lucasfilm and developing the Interactive Sketchbook app for the iPad with brother Ian.
“When I was in my 20s and getting started with all of this, I was always concerned that my ticket could expire at any moment,” said Busch. “Even though the work continued to roll in, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best I could, all the while nerve-wracked that it could end, and my 15 minute of fame would be up.
“Now I’m much more relaxed and confident. I’ve built a career with longevity in mind. While there will always be new challenges and ways I can improve and evolve, being grateful for what I’ve been able to accomplish and considering myself a student for life will hopefully keep me in the game with these wonderful opportunities.”
In addition to illustrations, Busch has long been interested in writing, particularly screenplays. His current project is Aladdin 3477, an Arabian Nights-based story taking place in the future and paying homage to Star Wars.
While Busch had been playing around with the idea for the screenplay for years, he completed its first draft in 2013. Two years prior, Busch had created the company Kaleidoscope Koi Entertainment, LLC to develop his project. He has since directed the trilogy, a process that took five years but was finished last year.
“It’s my magnum opus,” said Busch, adding that he hopes to release the film within a year. “I cannot wait to share the final product with the world.”
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Special thanks to Pat Rhen, who clued us into the many connections between Star Wars and Lebanon County.
This article has been updated to clarify that the Mandalorian is streaming on Disney+, not Netflix.