The Complete Vader
The Complete Vader is not your average Star Wars book. Written by Ryder Windham and Pete Vilmur, the 192 page tome provides a surprising level of both content and quality. The book itself measures an impressive 13.2 x 9.3 inches and is over an inch thick. By comparison it is larger than my World War II encyclopedias, or to put another way, it’s as thick as Wraith Squadron and is about the size of four paperback novels arranged in a square. Take into consideration that this book focuses only on Vader and you have an idea of the scope and ground covered.
From the films and books to merchandise and promotional appearances, the book strives to cover all of Vader’s in and out-of-universe appearances. Throughout the book there are fun, insightful facts about the Dark Lord of the Sith which helps avoid the dryness of a simple historical or analytical account. From the beginning, as Vader’s history is unfurled, the writers present an engaging account of how Lucas began forming the details that would become Vader’s legacy. It continues through the early days of Star Wars, the first promotions, novels, and the creation of A New Hope. Slowly it builds as the trilogy is created, then the long wait between trilogies. The book also covers the radio dramas, the Holiday Special, The Clone Wars cartoons (both Genndy Tartakovsky’s and Dave Filoni’s) films, and of course the Prequel Trilogy. By the books end, there is hardly any stone left unturned.
Yet the story is only half told through words. The other half is revealed through a wide array of beautiful pictures. Stunning artwork dominates entire pages and brings Vader to life in eye pleasing detail. Included inside are one of my favorite images of Vader, the one where he is on Cloud City holding C-3P0’s head, an image from one of the Tales comics. There are also plenty of Ralph McQuarrie prints in full color and also rough sketches. Others images highlight scenes from the films both on and off camera. Behind the scenes photos show sides of Vader we normally don’t think about and often adds an element of humor. For the collector, there are numerous pictures of Darth Vader toys, cups, posters, stickers, even nutcrackers, underoos, and dog food. And of course the Darth Vader action figures get a healthy spread in all their iterations.
The book also presents an interactive side to the reader. Right when you pick it up, you’ll notice the way the word ‘Vader’ is embedded into the cover invoking a sense of touch. Inside there are fold out pictures that tease a feeling of exploration. Some pictures flip over to reveal hidden pockets that contain loose articles. Among those articles are a copy of a sticker sheet, a hand written page of dialog from The Empire Strikes Back written by George Lucas, costume sketches for Darth Vader’s suit, and many other surprises. Other fold outs show off posters, ads, film cells, storyboard art, etc. The combination of story, visual imagery, and interactive elements turns the book into an experience beyond just simple reading.
I really enjoyed some of the facts the authors included throughout the book. For example, after Hayden Christensen finally got to read the screenplay, he complained that he didn’t want to play a whiny kid. George told him “Well you are. You gotta be a whiny teenager,” as that element was all a part of how Lucas wanted to make Vader’s life into something more than the brooding, mechanical monster viewers saw in the Original Trilogy. Another fun fact was that James Earl Jones recorded all the dialogue for A New Hope “in about two and half hours.” During filming for Return of the Jedi, actors Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine) and Sebastian Shaw (the unmasked Darth Vader) ran into each other for the first time in the studio. Due to the strict secrecy at the time, Ian did not know Shaw was in the movie. Ian asked, “Sebastian, good heavens, what are you doing here?”, Shaw replied “I don’t know, dear boy. I think it’s something to do with science fiction.” Little insights like that add to the story that is Star Wars.
The Complete Vader is a very well done book all around and is very enjoyable. For Star Wars fans, it’s definitely a book worth checking out and would make a perfect holiday gift with that time of the year just around the corner. I give it a well deserving five out of five metal bikinis.