Geek Trivia: Raiders of the lost art

What iconic comic book artist created the visual design for the character Indiana Jones?

If you ever come into possession of a time machine and are thus faced with that famous chrononautic conundrum -- "what one person can I go back in time and eliminate to bring about the most significant change to the present?" -- a legitimate case can be made for altering the history of an Alaskan malamute dog. Why? Because this canine directly inspired two of the most famous and influential pop cultural icons of the 20th century -- neither of which were dogs.

The canine in question was named Indiana and was owned by none other than George Lucas. You can probably guess at least one of the two pillars of pop culture that Indiana helped inspire. As fans of the Indiana Jones franchise are no doubt screaming at their computer screens right now, one Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Sr. told the world "We named the dog Indiana," in 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This not only explained were the character Indiana Jones's unlikely name came from, but also was a direct nod to the real Indiana, from which both the fictional dog and archaeologist-adventurer took their namesakes. (One will also note that the young Indiana Jones portrayed by River Phoenix at the opening of The Last Crusade owns an Alaskan malamute, seen in the Jones household after the train chase sequence.)

The other Lucas-created icon that the four-legged Indiana lent a paw in creating was Chewbacca, the Wookiee copilot of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. The canine Indiana often rode in the passenger seat of Lucas's car, leading the filmmaker to describe the dog as his copilot. Thus, when Lucas conceived of the daring smuggler Han Solo, he felt the scoundrel needed his own faithful -- and furry -- aide de camp.

Suffice it to say, if Lucas and Indiana had never met, Harrison Ford's career might have been markedly different. Still, the good Mr. Ford should count his lucky stars that his character got the Indiana name and his costar got the Indiana look, rather than the other way around. In fact, the key visual design for the character Indiana Jones came from a far more qualified -- if unanticipated -- source: One of the most influential comic book artists of all time.


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