One of the problems with conjuring up a vision of Star Wars that follows a different path than the one George Lucas laid down for it is that, whatever his other faults may be, Lucas excels at creating compelling images. I love the look of the prequel films, for example, and often suffer through them simply because they have some great visuals. So, trying to imagine a different Star Wars, one that might have been, requires at least partially shaking off those visuals and that's a tall order -- but not an impossible one.
When I was a kid, one of my most beloved books -- so beloved that I eventually split its binding from reading it so much -- was The Art of Star Wars, which included pages upon pages of concept art for the film. A lot of this concept art was done by Ralph Mcquarrie and I remember being intrigued by what at the time seemed like really weird versions of things we saw in the films, like this early interpretation of R2-D2 and C-3PO:
There's a definite Metropolis vibe to C-3P0 that I like. He looks a lot more like a human being than the movie's version and, for some reason, this pleases me. At the very least, it gives a different notion on what a 'droid might be.
Then there's this illustration of some stormtroopers preparing to face the heroes:
There's a lot to love here, particularly the shields. I mean, sure, it is cool to see lightsabers as standard issue weaponry, but I really dig the shields they're carrying. It makes no sense, of course, but it looks awesome to me and it's one of those nonsensical esthetic choices that helps to ground the film in a fairy tale reality rather than anything more realistic.
Speaking of lightsabers, here's Vader facing off against a similarly armed opponent:
I love the fact that the other guy is wearing goggles and a breathing mask. That kind of stuff screams space opera.
And here's a group shot of the protagonists from a very version of the screenplay:
I distinctly remember that the Star Wars Fan Club sold a poster of this image in its early days. I never got it then, because, well, I was young and stupid and didn't see any point to a poster that had characters on it who weren't "real." Now, I kick myself for not having gotten one, because I find it really evocative. I get a clear "Star Wars vibe" from it, but it looks sufficiently unlike the actual film that I find it a lot easier to use it as a springboard for letting my mind wander so as to come up with new approaches to the basic ideas Lucas was playing with when he created his space fantasy.
And, yes, before anyone mentions this, I am aware that Hasbro released action figures based on the Mcquarrie concept art (a pity their subsidiary WotC couldn't be similarly broad-minded when it comes to D&D). If I had the money to spare, I'd probably try to acquire a few of these -- the stormtrooper at the very least. I don't usually indulge in such geekly man-child purchases, but I can't deny that these things really hit a sweet spot with me.