Kieron Gillen, writer of Marvel’s Star Wars: Darth Vader, tells us why the Dark Lord of the Sith is cin­ema’s most en­dur­ing vil­lain

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i’ve spent the last two and a half years with Darth Vader in my head. In fact, I re­alised about half­way through writ­ing Star Wars: Darth Vader that, un­less I’m for­get­ting some­one, I’ve writ­ten more ac­tual-in-canon Darth Vader di­a­logue than any other in­di­vid­ual in his­tory. I’m not sure if that makes me qual­i­fied to say why he’s such an en­dur­ing icon of a vil­lain. I ac­tu­ally sus­pect that it may make me the per­son least qual­i­fied to ar­gue that.

You ask any­one who writes truly bad peo­ple how do they write truly bad peo­ple, you’re al­most cer­tain to get an iden­ti­cal an­swer: I don’t write truly bad peo­ple. no one thinks they’re a vil­lain. ev­ery­one’s a hero of their own story. Due to the afore­men­tioned two and a half years of hav­ing some­one in­side my head who thinks Force-chok­ing their way through an of­fice meet­ing is a good look, up there, Vader’s not a vil­lain.

Thank­fully, lower in my body, I’ve got that black shadow with a sharp hand­ful of red who strode into frame in the first movie I saw in my life. That pri­mal vi­sion over­whelms my re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence. The gut rules the head in fic­tion... but the head can at least an­a­lyse it. It’s like this. There is fear in a great vil­lain. one part of this is the Doc­tor Who­vian urge to hide be­hind the sofa, but it’s far more than that. You’re afraid for those char­ac­ters you love who en­ter a scene with them. It’s the part of

you that spent all of Jes­sica Jones say­ing GET OUT NOW when­ever Kil­grave walked in.

There is joy in a great vil­lain. The bit where we rel­ish the fear­less­ness and in­spi­ra­tion of the cru­elty. The bit of us that wants to the­atri­cally can­cel Christ­mas. The bit we don’t al­ways like to ad­mit.

There is recog­ni­tion in the great vil­lain. We may not think we would do as they do, but we un­der­stand why they do what they do. They are as co­her­ent a state­ment as any­one in the cast. You know why you must be­come Don Cor­leone. You know why you must push Matti from the roof of the House of Com­mons. You know that in a choice be­tween mak­ing love on a pur­ga­to­rial chaise longue and war, it must be war.

There is an­tithe­sis in a great vil­lain. It is a he­roes’ story. The vil­lain not only op­poses them, but acts as the op­pos­ing ar­gu­ment, em­body­ing all the fears and flaws of our leads. Their de­feat al­lows the hero to truly ex­press the just­ness of their cause, their growth, their right­ness... or, pro­vide a ques­tion that the hero can never quite man­age to an­swer. Bat­man and the Joker, for­ever glar­ing across the mir­ror.

Fi­nally, there is style in a great vil­lain. You make bad look good.

You can make a fan­tas­tic vil­lain with a hand­ful of these traits. Vader has all five.

That alone isn’t suf­fi­cient to ex­plain his sta­tus. It’s all of that, and one more key thing. At least in some gen­res, a great story can ex­ist without a great vil­lain... but a great vil­lain can­not ex­ist without be­ing in a great story. Darth Vader had the good for­tune to be right in the heart of the pop cul­tural sen­sa­tion that cre­ated the still dom­i­nant mode for mass mar­ket cin­ema en­ter­tain­ment. He had the break, and thanks to that he stands as the most iconic vil­lain of my life­time, if not the whole 20th cen­tury.

Also, awe­some cape.

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol 4 – End Of Games is pub­lished on 17 Novem­ber.

Some­thing lots of us thought we’d never, ever see again: Vader alive and danger­ous.

The char­ac­ter you’re most look­ing for­ward to see­ing…?

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