Spoiler alert: Darth Vader is the father to a certain somebody. You knew that already, right? Good. If not, you’ll be sort of missing the whole point of this book, so before you keep reading go look up Machete Order and watch the Star Wars series, and then come back.
Cartoonist Jeffrey Brown has envisioned a hilarious world in which Darth Vader has custody of little Luke. He’s still Darth Vader, mind you, but he’s also a dad, with all that it entails: Vader trying to have a conversation with the Emperor while Luke pokes at him, trying to get his attention; “When I was your age, we didn’t even have Star Destroyers”; the awkward response when Luke asks why it’s called a “Death Star.”
Brown takes a lot of classic lines from Star Wars and re-imagines them in light of a father-and-son relationship, and it’s hilarious. (Leia makes a brief appearance, but this is mostly about Luke.) Not all of the situations were originally about Vader or Luke, but it doesn’t matter.
Darth Vader and Son will be released on Star Wars Day (May the 4th), but if you can wait that long it would also make a great Father’s Day gift for the Star Wars-loving dad in your life. (Ah, who are we kidding — when did a geeky dad ever want to wait an extra month for new Star Wars stuff?) The book retails for $14.95, and it’s a small 64-page hardcover. It’s a very cool-looking book, actually, with an embossed cover, and it’s even an officially-licensed Lucas Books publication.
I did a brief Q&A with Jeffrey Brown about the book, Star Wars, and being a dad.
Liu: First, I just wanted to say that Darth Vader and Son is hilarious and a perfect fit for GeekDad, so kudos to you. 🙂 I just wanted to throw a few questions out to you. Feel free to answer them in whatever order you like. I suggest 4, 5, 2, 3, 6 and leaving out #1, but a lot of kids really like Jar-Jar, so what can you do?
Question #1? There is no question #1.
Liu: Where did you get the idea for Darth Vader and Son? (I saw on the copyright page it has something to do with some folks at Google, but the whole story might be fun to hear.)
Brown: The actual story is really quite long and tedious, but here’s the short version: I got a call from Ryan Germick, one of Google’s homepage designers, about doing some sketches for their Father’s Day homepage logo – their idea was to play with how awkward holiday dinners would be with Luke and Vader, and from there I thought it would be fun to show Luke as a four year old and how frustrating that can be for any dad, even a Dark Lord of the Sith. When Google ended up using a different idea, I thought I’d see if I could turn the concept into a book.
Liu: Was it difficult to get this approved by Lucas? And is it the sort of thing that could only be published with Lucas’ approval?
Brown: It was actually quite smooth, although it took nearly a year for all the approvals between the publisher (Chronicle Books) and Lucasfilm to get sorted out. I suppose I could’ve taken the idea and come up with some sort of parody/satire version, but it wouldn’t have been the same. I don’t know that the idea would’ve still been interesting enough to me to actually finish. I grew up with Star Wars and a big part of this book was making it a labor of love.
Liu: Reading Darth Vader and Son, it just felt like there were so many lines from the movies that were perfectly suited to these Vader-as-dad situations. Was it hard to come up with these cartoons, or did they all just fall into place as soon as you had the premise?
Brown: Many of the cartoons came very easily – the “lack of patience” line, for example, or the strip about ruling the galaxy as father and son… my process included watching the movies again while writing down all of Vader and Luke’s dialogue, and then brainstorming with those. For some lines of dialogue I just didn’t find a twist that felt right; somewhere there’s still a comic for me to make with four year old Luke telling Vader “I hate you” and Vader responding “Yes, use your hate,” but I’d need to think about it some more.
Liu: I know from your author bio that you’ve got a young son yourself. Have you shown him all the Star Wars movies yet?
Brown: He’s still a little young, I feel (even though I saw Star Wars for the first time when I was three or so). Sometime in the next year or two. I plan on beginning with A New Hope when he finally watches them. Oddly enough, my son still has vast knowledge of the Star Wars universe somehow. Maybe it’s all the Star Wars Legos and clothes and toys he has already. Or maybe just watching me draw Darth Vader for a year…
Liu: Do you feel like you need to preserve the surprise of “Luke, I am your father” for your son, or is it much too late for that now?
Brown: Oh man, I didn’t even think of that – my entire book is some kind of huge spoiler! I think it’s probably too late anyway. Plus, I’m still too busy explaining that lightsabers aren’t real.
I guess we could always tell the kids it’s one of those ‘what if?’ stories. “What if Darth Vader were Luke’s father? That would be funny!” Years later: “You know what? HE IS.” Surprise remains intact.
Liu: Do you have anything else in the works, Star Wars-related or otherwise?
Brown: I’d like to do more Star Wars – I have a follow-up idea to Darth Vader and son – but nothing concrete at this point. I have one other book coming out later this fall; it’s an autobiographical graphic novel about fatherhood, called A Matter of Life. Save the Date, the movie I co-wrote and created artwork for, will also be screening at various film festivals through the spring and summer, and will hopefully have a theatrical release sometime this year. I should say both of those projects are a bit less all ages appropriate.
Liu: Thanks! Ok, now I have to go show my kids the Star Wars series so I can read them this book.
Chronicle Books provided a review copy of Darth Vader and Son.