#BeYourOwnIcon: Mike Bennett/Star Wars


Mike Bennett and His Star Wars Characters

There is arguably no film franchise more powerful than “Star Wars.”

 The box office numbers for the latest installment, “The Force Awakens”, bear this out. The film had the biggest opening weekend ($248 million) of all-time. In just 12 days, it soared to $600 million domestically, the fastest a movie has ever reached that plateau.

 “The Force Awakens” can also lay claim to holding the biggest Christmas Day opening and biggest global opening ever.

 But the franchise’s reach goes far beyond box office figures. It can be seen in the passion of its fans, in people like illustrator Mike Bennett who devoted much of his December to creating images of 26 Star Wars characters, one for each letter of the alphabet.

 “The whole scope of the Star Wars universe was so cool to me,” the 27-year-old Bennett told us recently. “I would go to bed wishing I could be on Tattoine as a kid. It was great.”

That feeling reemerged for Bennett – much like it did for its loyal audiences – in the days before “The Force Awakens” was released. Bennett took his passion to the next level, using his artistic talents to convey his love for what George Lucas originally created in the summer of 1977.

 Bennett started the project on December 1, unveiling his digital illustration of Admiral Ackbar to his friends, family and fans on social media. Chewbacca and C3PO (the letter C), Han Salo (the letter H), Jar Jar Binks (J) and Boba Fett (F) followed over the days and weeks leading up to “The Force Awakens.”

 It is the latest endeavor for the artist who lives in the relatively small town of Selingsgrove, Pennyslvania, population 5,675. But his talents have been admired by tens of thousands more thanks to Vine.

 Since 2013, the six-second video app has allowed Bennett to showcase his skills to the larger world. Today he has nearly 90,000 followers on the app and has had his Vines shared by Pixar. Because of his work on Vine, he appeared on the show @midnight featuring Chris Hardwick, participated in a Vine anti-bullying campaign for the Cartoon Network and has created animation for popular rapper will.i.am.

 Despite his success, Bennett remains humble. And he remains committed to creating art that brings joy to others.

 “I force myself to do something every day,” he said. “I motivate myself to do it… It’s always nice to press the save button at the end and see a finished piece.”

 Last summer, he did a project similar to the “Star Wars” one in which he drew 100 baddies, iconic video game villains that included Koopa Troopas (Super Mario Bros.), King Hippo (Punch-Out!!) and Donkey Kong.

 He plans on drawing 100 video game heroes in the next month or two, but not before he makes the move to Portland, Oregon to continue pursuing his dream of one day becoming an animator for television or film. The ultimate dream? “What I want to do is work at Pixar,” he says unabashedly. “They are responsible for the stuff I love.”

 In the meantime, he expressed pride over his finished “Star Wars” A to Z project and the positive reaction it drew from his fans. He understands that part of that support was due to the love of a franchise that now spans nearly 40 decades. “How many generations grew up with ‘Star Wars’?” he asked. “It is crazy to think how many decades of people get to appreciate it together. It’s so cool. Everyone has some common ground with it despite all the negative stuff happening everywhere in the world. Not many franchises are able to do that successfully.”

 Follow Mike Bennett on Instagram (@MikeBennettArt), Vine (@MikeBennettArt) and Twitter (@MikeBennettArt).

 And for sunglasses that transcend multiple generations while still remaining cool (just like “Star Wars”), check out our line of Ray-Bans, a company that has used the force for good since 1937.

Words of an Artist: “Don’t commit yourself to one medium. Feel free to explore because you never know what you’ll like in the long run.” – Mike Bennett