Darth Vader

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Name: Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker
Title/Rank: The Dark Lord
Relationships: Luke and Leia's father, husband of Padmé Amidala
Fandom: Star Wars
Art for the zine Kessel Run, by artist Stefanie Hawks
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Darth Vader is a major character in the Star Wars films. His identity as Luke Skywalker's father (birth name Anakin Skywalker) was revealed in the second film to be released, The Empire Strikes Back (1980). How Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader is a major theme in the prequel trilogy that was released twenty years later (1999-2005).

Some Brief Canon Facts

As Anakin Skywalker

The Fannish Vader

From Jundland Wastes #2: "There are some fairly common ideas [in 1981] among fan writers about the Dark Lord's background and character. They generally agree that he did not have a happy childhood; his parents rejected him and he grew up 'different.'... Many writers assume that the loss of Kenobi and the Jedi and/or Vader's physical torment must have had a major traumatic effect... One element that all agree on is Vader's pride and ambition... Vader will risk almost anything for power."

Fans incorporated Vader into a wide variety of fannish universes. Some fans cast him as a one-dimensional evil figure, a convenient encapsulation of general mayhem and cruelty, a character who appears on stage left to fannish hisses and boos. Other fans explored his background and personality with more depth, depicting him as a complicated tragic figure to one of chivalrous heroism. From Jundland Wastes #2: "Villians are more complex than heroes, and in the Dark Lord of the Sith, Star Wars has presented us with an epic villain steeped in romantic and mythic imagery. Fan response has been as ambiguous as the character, varying with each other's personal reaction to the archetypical qualities of power, pride, darkness, cruelty, aristocratic elegance, and warrior spirit embodied in Vader."

Some Early Vader Fannish Firsts

Maggie Nowakowska comments about an article in the second issue of Jundland Wastes (May 1981): "JW prints its first commentary, an article entitled “Will the Real Darth Vader Stand Up?” by Karen Osman, a staunch Imperialist. Osman explores fanlit versions of Vader concerning his background and how he came to be at odds with the Jedi. She rejects the tendency to use Vader as an easy villain who needs little characterization. Her emphasis is on sympathetic presentations, and what sympathetic aspects exist in stories not supportive of the Dark Lord. She is fascinated to discover a tendency to grant the man mythic grandeur, whether an author approves of Vader or not. Most writers accept the title “lord” as Vader’s given social status; many assume he is royal as well as noble, although he is most often ranked as a younger son. There is a Miltonic aura to many of the stories; Vader as the fallen Lucifer, Star of the Morning, is preferred to Vader as venal power broker. Osman also points out in print (for the first time I believe although the subject has been the focus of fannish gossip for years) the apparent sex appeal of the man despite the mask, the menace he presents, or the problems his implied and obvious handicaps present." [1]

Imagining the Pre-Jossed Vader

Before fans saw Darth Vader's face in the movies, they envisioned other Vaders.

Vader's Sex Appeal

From Jundland Wastes #2: "One aspect of fan writing about Vader that we can hardly avoid is the Dark Lord's relationship with the opposite sex. While Han Solo is more superficially 'sexy' and has been pursued by hordes of fannish MarySues, Darth has his share of groupies as well. His appeal is more ambiguous, both attractive and threatening; composed of such heavy-handed but effective sexual-fantasy images as his shiny jackboots, symbolic saber, swirling black villain's cape, air of power, and resonant voice, not to mention Prowse's nice broad shoulders and muscular body. This rather overwhelming image completely unnerves the sort of fans to respond to Luke's clean-cut teenybopper appeal. Tracy Duncan in "The Dark Path" (Against the Sith #9) responds by making Vader a nasty but safely impotent voyeur. Even such a strong-minded and sensitive writer as Maggie Nowakowska is unable to image the Dark Lord as a functional, sexual partner. In the as yet unpublished story, "Notions." she describes his physical and emotional reaction to Leia, frustrated by the damage to his body."

Vader-Centric Zines and Print Works

  • Cats in the Dark by Joyce Yasner in Time Warp is an early sympathetic view of Vader with an active sex life

Vader-Centric Online Fiction

Some Vader Art