When Steven Spielberg and George Lucas set out to create Indiana Jones they sought influence from a great number of things, largely the adventure serials which both used to watch on TV as kids. The image they conjured up was eventually realised from these great works of concept art.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Lucas hired Jim Steranko- the comicbook artist responsible for designing Nick Fury among others- to create the imagery he and Spielberg would go on for their film. They gave Steranko some short blurbs to go on and this is what the artist produced.
Painting #1…should be inside an Inca-type temple with snakes on the floor and spiders on the walls. Our hero should be dressed in…khaki pants, gun belt, leather jacket (brown like the one George wears), felt hat with brim turned down. He will have a bullwhip attached to the back of his belt.
Painting 2 – to be a desert location with Arabs, with some Nazi trucks and tanks. (George suggests you get an old picture of Humphrey Bogart from The Treasure of Sierra Madre for the right look of our hero.
Painting 3 – a Nazi pilot…our hero….under the wing of a Flying Wing Air Plane having a fist fight on the ground, very close to the propeller where one of them is going to get chewed up.
Painting 4 – with our hero on horse leaping onto Nazi Army truck with canvas cover on the back of the truck, circa 1936 before the war.
The Humphrey Bogart reference is telling. Pretty incredible how fully realized it all was. Aside from the brief blurbs above, Lucas sent out these two images from a 1976 issue of Lone Star Fictioneer upon which he had scribbled notes all over.
The Temple of Doom
For a slightly different approach, take a look at these quite lovely watercolors production designer Elliot Scott whipped up for Temple of Doom. They feature the Indian village, a Pankot Palace hallway, the wind tunnel and even the titular itself:
The Last Crusade
Scott also painted this concept sketch for the Catacomb in the franchise's third instalment.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Yes even this recent misstep had it's concept art roots to and- in all honesty- they actually look pretty sweet.
Have you seen any more cool concept artwork from the series? Hook us up in the comments below.
Kindest of regards to J.W. Rinzler's excellent The Complete Making of Indiana Jones, which is in stores now.