For the authors of the countless Star Wars novels, comics, and guidebooks, Anakin Skywalker's plunge into the Dark Side and helping the Emperor wipe out the Jedievents we've all tried to imagine since '77have been strictly off limits as George Lucas prepares to bring these moments to the big screen. Since the release of A New Hope, George Lucas has dangled the tantalizing story of Anakin's downward spiral like carrot in front of a hungry horse, only to pull it away at the last minute. In less than a year now the whole story will be finally revealed. Before then, however, let's take a look back at a few examples (most of them hilarious) at how Star Wars authors have skirted (or even tried to hint at) the issue.
Those galactic historians are a bunch of slackers!
Writing a detailed Star Wars encyclopedia or reference book without being able to provide fully detailed entries for Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Vader is not an easy task. Still, there are enough guidebooks to fill a small library. There are reference guides for planets, droids, creatures, and aliens. But be careful, announcing that you've read all of them could simultaneously announce the fact that you've probably never played tonsil hockey with a member of the opposite sex. The most comprehensive guide is the Star Wars Encyclopedia, written by manic collector turned Lucasfilm liaison, Stephen J. Sansweet. In this tome, the entry for Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi is rather skimpy. Sansweet chalks it up to shoddy record keeping, writing:
Kenobi failed to see how Anakin was being lured closer and closer to the dark side of the Force. When Kenobi finally realized the error of his ways, and tried to turn Skywalker back to the light side, the only result was a ferocious lightsaber battle. The records are hazy, but it appears that Skywalker may have tumbled into a pit of molten lava and emerged half-dead, a scarred hulk who couldn't breathe on his own. At that point, psychologically at least, he was transformed into Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith, although that transformation was known only to a select few. (161-162)
Actually, that "select few" probably refers to George Lucas and his three chins. (I know, I know, it's low, but I can't help it!) Interestingly enough, an early concept painting for Luke's encounter with the Emperor in Return of the Jedi depicts the scene in an underground volcanic cave. Perhaps this is where the whole volcano idea originated. We'll see how accurate the histories are next May.
A novel approach
This next reference is a tantalizing clue as to what we might see in Episode III. It comes from Marvel's original comic adaptation of
Return of the Jedi by the sensational talents Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson. What is so intriguing about this clue is that novelizations like this one are based on the original screenplay before the film is completed and edited. Prior to the DVD age, these novels were one of the only ways to check out deleted scenes. For this very reason, this author personally owns adaptations of Back to the Future III, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a horrendously unfunny adaptation of Spaceballs, and the episode of Full House in which DJ goes on a crash diet so she can look sexlicious in a bikini for Kimmie Gibblers's pool party. In any case, could it be that the computer-generated, critter-spitting Jabba the Hutt will be helping the Dark Side knock off some poor Jedi? It's an intriguing thought.
The old "sit down and shut up, woman" diversion tactic
No group of artists and writers were more restricted than the group producing the Star Wars series for Marvel Comics in the early 1980s. In a feature piece on starwars.com about the classic series, artist Walter Simonson explains that when he came aboard after The Empire Strikes Back he had to work under a slew of limitations. For instance, Simonson could not use Han Solo, who was frozen in Carbonite, leaving Luke as the lone hero. However, Lucas placed restrictions on Luke as well, proclaiming that he and Darth Vader could never meet face to face and that a little somethin'-somethin' with Princess Leia could never happen. Perhaps that explains the giant bunny rabbits and weird punk rock aliens that Luke and the gang met throughout the series. In issue #17, penned by Goodwin, Luke sits aboard the
Millennium Falcon as it heads to Alderaan in A New Hope and recollects an early adventure with Biggs Darklighter on Tatooine. At one point, Luke neglects his chores to attend a farewell bash for Biggs and is chided by Uncle Owen. Aunt Beru, now a sassy brunette, comes to Luke's defense by digging up some skeletons of the past. However, Owen quickly shows her who wears the brown robes in the family.
Was Luke an Asian farmer?
The designers of Luke Skywalker's Activity Book, published in 1978 by Random House, had very little material to work with. The Sandcrawler crossword puzzle contains only a handful of clues about Han, Luke, and Leia and avoids dropping references to Vader, Luke's father, and the Clone Wars like the bubonic plague. Hilariously enough, the writers resort to using random clues like fifty down: "Asian farm animal" and forty across: "Slap." However, the Star Wars related clues aren't much better. Forty-nine down reads, "What Kenobi and Vader first do on the Death Star." It's a four-letter word, and even though it's tempting to write "kiss," the actual answer is "meet," which pretty much wipes away their long history altogether.
This is of course just a mere sampling. I am only one man and cannot read everything, especially not with all those Gilmore Girls novels out in the bookstores just waiting for me to buy them. Anyway, if you find a hilarious moment where it's clear that an author is itching to write about Vader's past but fears a legal smack down, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll try to update this story before that big day in May.