Kieron Gillen

The Phono­gram and Wicked + Divine scribe is also the writer be­hind the best­selling Darth Vader solo se­ries from Marvel. Rich Edwards finds out more about tak­ing on an icon...

Comic Heroes - - Contents -

On his work on Darth Vader for Marvel.

Comic He­roes: Darth Vader is ar­guably the most iconic screen vil­lain of the last 50 years. Was he a daunt­ing char­ac­ter to take on? How much did you have to think about it be­fore sign­ing up?

Kieron Gillen: A lot. Em­pire was the first movie I ever saw in the cinema. Writ­ing canon, in the leadup to it, for my own first cin­e­matic vi­sion of evil... well, am I the guy for the job? I had to re­ally con­sider that care­fully. In the end, I re­alised I’d prob­a­bly writ­ten more mo­rally du­bi­ous char­ac­ters than any­one else presently work­ing for Marvel, so... well, maybe I am he right guy for it. I’m also Evil. That helps.

CH: What makes Vader work as a comic book char­ac­ter? And what are the chal­lenges of writ­ing him?

KG: A great vis­ual. Never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of a great vis­ual in comics. The big­gest prob­lem is that he’s tac­i­turn, gains most of his power from us be­ing at a slight re­move from him, and – trick­i­est of all in a still medium – is wear­ing a mask the whole time. So, try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate an in­ner life while main­tain­ing the nec­es­sary majesty is the trick. There’s a lot of ef­fort in that par­tic­u­lar bal­anc­ing act.

CH: You’ve said in previous in­ter­views that Vader find­ing out he has a son struck you as a key un­seen mo­ment. How much did you scour the movies for ideas for the char­ac­ter’s evo­lu­tion?

KG: Oh, con­stantly. That was the job. I sat down with a notepad and did a com­plete close read­ing of all the movies, with a pen and notepad in hand. That’s cov­ered in scrawled notes and ran­dom thoughts. It’s all real de­con­struc­tionary read­ing­be­tween-the-lines stuff. There’s masses of things on that notepad I’ll never use, but I was look­ing for ev­ery­thing in­ter­est­ing, es­pe­cially re­lated to Vader’s arc.

The im­plied arc is the main one, but there’s a lot more – things like Vader’s briefing of the Bounty Hunters in Em­pire made me re­alise that Vader knew these peo­ple. He was briefing with a lot of ob­vi­ous knowl­edge (“No dis­in­te­gra­tions”). That im­plied ex­pe­ri­ence on the seed­ier side of Star Wars life led to a lot of the things he gets up to.

The trick is not to overdo it. As I said, Star Wars is an enor­mous uni­verse. Part of you wants to tie ev­ery­thing to­gether and all these char­ac­ters so closely, but that just be­comes ar­ti­fi­cial. In Vader Down when Aphra [a sci­en­tist who forms an al­liance with Vader] and Han meet, there’s part of you wants to make them old ac­quain­tances, but that’d just be too much.

I sat down with a notepad and did a close read­ing of all the movies

CH: You’ve worked with iconic char­ac­ters be­fore in your Marvel work. How does writ­ing Vader com­pare to that?

KG: It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence. I’ve writ­ten iconic vil­lains be­fore, but none as [iconic] as Vader, and none of those vil­lains were the lead. I’ve al­ways wanted to do a vil­lain book in my ca­reer, but I never dreamed I’d get to do it with Darth Vader.

CH: Has work­ing in the Star Wars uni­verse changed your out­look?

KG: It’ll be bet­ter to ask me when I’ve fin­ished writ­ing Vader. When you’re in the world and work­ing, you’re con­stantly do­ing the afore­men­tioned de­con­struc­tion. You’re dis­sect­ing it for all the po­ten­tial as­pects. You’re try­ing to trans­form it. I’ll be in­ter­ested what I’m like when I’m fin­ished, and see how much I can dis­en­gage and how much the ex­pe­ri­ence has changed me. It won’t go back to how it was be­fore – I wouldn’t want it to, as life is change – but I’ll be in­ter­ested to see how I look at the world.

This page: Gillen’s Darth Vader se­ries is set be­tween the end of A New Hope and the start of The Em­pire Strikes Back, and it’s not only com­pelling, it’s of­fi­cially all canon. All of which makes it un­miss­able for any fan of comics or Star Wars.

Born Stafford

High Phono­gram (“it’s warped au­to­bi­og­ra­phy”)

Now Darth Vader


This page: Gillen has said giv­ing Vader an in­ter­nal mono­logue would de­stroy his “loom­ing, mono­lithic” qual­ity, but the writer has been in­spired by char­ac­ter-driven thrillers like I,Claudius, TheGod­fa­ther and House­ofCards.

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