Ron Cobb, one of the all-time great movie concept artists, has passed away at age 83 (obituary). Mr. Cobb was responsible for designing the looks and props of a wide swath of familiar genre films from the 1970s through today including all time classics like Alien, Star Wars and Back to the Future. Known for his lived-in, utilitarian design work, Cobbs' art continues to influence all varieties of artists today.
Mr. Cobb's most direct contribution to the Wing Commander universe was as a very early artist on the 1999 Wing Commander film. Director Chris Roberts asked Cobb to develop a series of concepts based on the spacecraft needed for the script but ultimately chose to go a different direction. Producer Todd Moyer was particularly unhappy with Cobbs' work and pushed for a more budget-friendly option for the ships.
It was Mr. Cobb's immense influence that had the most impact on Wing Commander. Take, for example, the orange, plush chair he designed for ALIEN's Nostromo which found its way into our universe as the ejection seat for the fighters in the original Wing Commander.
And of course, what is Wing Commander's Raptor heavy fighter but another take on Rob Cobb's Gunstar fighter designed for THE LAST STARFIGHTER? Ron's incredible imagination inspired countless details, from high tech spaceships to little humanizing touches like the bucket collecting water from a leaky pipe in the barracks.
Mr. Cobb was also inadvertently responsible for one final addition to the Wing Commander universe: Starlog Group's heavy coverage of the Wing Commander movie which included three cover stories and a bespoke 'making of' magazine. That's a lot of focus on Wing Commander for a year when genre films included The Matrix and The Phantom Menace. It turns out the editor responsible had accepted the Wing Commander coverage because they thought it would give them an opportunity to interview Ron Cobb, who was in fact no longer with the production.