The Complete Vader
by Ryder Windham and Peter Vilmur
Published by Del Rey
Adrick's Rating: 4 out of 4
Star Wars: The Complete Vader is the definitive book on the history, myth, and cultural impact of Darth Vader. From his early development in the first Star Wars film by George Lucas, to the new legends created in comics, videogames, and novels, to his ongoing appearances on everything from television commercials to bedspreads, Vader presents a complete view in all his incarnations as the Dark Lord of the Sith. Going beyond the films to cover his further adventures in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the book combines new insight with exclusive interviews and photographs from the Lucasfilm Archives. Interactive reproductions of rare memorabilia fire the imagination, while pages packed with never-seen-before images explore the world’s endless fascination with the notorious Darth Vader.
In Chapeter 6, Windham and Vilmur postulate that nearly every household in the country has a hint of Vader lurking somewhere, whether as a costume or cake pan. (Of course, for those reading this review, your chances would be higher than average.) They’re almost certainly right…but how did Vader, who at first appeared to be nothing more than a menacing lackey, become so omnipresent?
The Complete Vader explores every aspect of that question, providing a whirlwind tour of Vader history through all the films, the cartoon series, and the seemingly endless streams of merchandise. Vader’s early history is a fascinating one, as the character was shaped as much by concept art as the script, and finally came to life through performance and sound effects. Later, as the story of Anakin Skywalker came to be through the later films and prequels, Vader gains a new dimension. Anakin receives just as much attention here as his alter-ego, and for me, the trip through podracers and the Clone Wars years was a nostalgic pleasure.
Vader’s present status as a pop culture icon is just as interesting. We see pictures of the Dark Lord of the Sith appearing in everything from tattoo art to butter sculptures. (Yes, there is such a thing!) Cookies, race cars, and coat racks all make the impressive Vader merchandise galleries. As a non-collector, I was impressed by the number and variety of Vader products offered throughout the years.
The Complete Vader has something for everyone, and even fairly knowledgeable fans can learn something from this book. I never knew, for instance, that the initial press materials for the Star Wars radio drama claimed it would be based partly on the novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. I also found the section devoted to Vader’s appearances at public events throughout the late 70’s particularly interesting. Here we learn about the other men who portrayed Vader, and the details of their costumes. There’s even a reproduction of the official Lucasfilm instructions for wearing and storing these costumes!
These memorabilia reproductions are one of the best parts of the book. These include posters, sketches, trading cards, stickers…my personal favorite is a copy of Lucas’s hand written script for the pivotal moment in The Empire Strikes Back when Vader reveals himself as Luke’s father.
There’s a lot to enjoy in The Complete Vader, and if you have a few Darth Vader items lurking around your household, you might consider adding this book to them!
I just can’t resist the temptation to nitpick on the book’s treatment of the Expanded Universe. A couple of times Vader points out inconsistencies within the Expanded Universe material without mentioning the “continuity fixes” in place to reconcile them. As a result, its description of the Expanded Universe is occasionally incomplete—retcons are what keep the galaxy together!
The only other issue here is that this book was originally intended to be published two years ago, with printing errors keeping it off the US market till now. As a result, it’s somewhat dated. Star Wars books are usually pretty good when it comes to keeping up with newer material, so this is somewhat irksome. Still, it’s certainly not enough to keep one from enjoying the book.
Probably the Hungarian Darth Vader, with his strangely perforated lizard friend.