You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Moreover, if Star Wars had been made...

... by this George Lucas - if Mayhew, Mark/Luke, and John had joined forces with the other Fisher and Cushing - then the Marvel (1977) graphic novel of A New Hope, the one with Obi-Wan Kenobi on the cover, [1] would not have Luke (extracanonically) channelling Luther. [2]

It might also have been drawn by someone who had actually seen the movie... [3]



[1] Of course, had you asked a newsagent in 1977 for a copy of "the graphic novel of A New Hope, the one with Obi-Wan Kenobi on the cover," she or he would have looked at you blankly until you translated this into "the comic of Star Wars, the one with Ben Kenobi on the cover."

[2] C/f both Luther Coy "Luke" Perry and Luther "Luke Skyywalker" [sic] Campbell.

[3] That's not snark... at least, it's not merely snark. When the Brothers Hildebrandt were commissioned to paint the SW:ANH movie poster - a change from these telempathic twins' usual shtick of bronzed dragons, buff elves, etc for gaudy covers of fantasy novels written by blokes named Terry - they hadn't actually seen the film either (this was pre-Internet, remember, and even largely pre-VCRs) and had only some still photos to work from. Hence the iconic 1977 poster of Luke wielding a cross-shaped lightsabre (Krull meets Braveheart), his muscled chest popping out of his tunic, Leia hanging off his leg (ahem), and Darth Vader looking like a robot dog in the background. Still, better than a green Vader who looks more like Bug from The Micronauts... The Hildebrandts may have produced a different sort of poster if commissioned by The Other George Lucas.

PS: In 1979, I read in a primary-school English textbook (American, printed in one of those exotic-sounding seats of publishing houses like Engelwood Cliffs) a story about two modern Amish kids going to a State Fair. Being barely-assimilated Pennsylvania Dutch, they referred to their parents as Moeder and... Vader. Huh? I thought, THIS is a Star Wars spinoff?! (not wholly implausible - these were every bloody where in 1979), but then I checked the publication date (1960s), and eventually deduced that Vader, like German Vatter, is cognate with English "Father". Boy, thinks 1979 me, what a funny coincidence! The Dutch word for "Father" is spelled like the name of "Darth Vader", whose name obviously symbolises something quite different - "Dark Invader." (I was among those who subscribed to the "Vader is really an alien overlord, with an oozy green head under his helmet" theory).

PPS: Then, in early 1983, just as fandom everywhere were buzzing with speculation about how Revenge - err, Wrath - err, Return of the Jedi might be resolved, I read somewhere (StarLog, maybe? Like I keep saying, this was pre-Internet) the perfect theory. It was set out at length, and this is my paraphrase of what I remember of it, though over 27 years I would not rule out the possibility that some of my own speculations have gotten enmeshed with it. I can't find it on the Web but I think it's too good to slip down the memory hole that awaits all paper-based fanfixes from pre-1998. I would claim at most only some claim of the credit.

Okay, goes like this:

Obi-Wan's and Leia's passing reference to the Clone Wars was not, as we all assumed back then, just another piece of Lucasian colour thrown into the dialogue - like "the Spice Mines of Kessel" or "wrestle a Gundark" - to give a Nivenish depth to his imagined galaxy. Rather, there had in fact been Clone Wars before the rise of the Empire; these might possibly have been important to the back story (- ya think?!); and they might have involved clones. Like the name says. (How long was the Hundred Years War again?)

Vader was not Luke's original father, but an evil clone that Senator Palpatine secretly made from the modified DNA of Anakin, a good man who was the greatest Jedi warrior and star pilot ever known. (Post-prequels, you could embellish this by having Anakin defeat Jango Fett - the template for the original clone troopers - and thus convince Palpatine that Jango was only the second-greatest warrior in the galaxy after all).

Palpatine got himself elected President of the Galactic Republic (refer Alan Dean Foster) and then declared himself Emperor and used the evil Vader clone to defeat all Jedi who resisted. When Skywalker père found out that Palpatine had misused his genetic stock in this fashion, he came out of retirement, left his new wife and baby son Luke in hiding with his brother Owen on Tatooine, clipped on his lightsabre again, joined the nascent Rebellion, and tried to kill his own clone (is that suicide, or filicide?). But Vader killed Anakin, by feigning sympathy to the Rebellion to trick him into lowering his guard (Vader would have all of Anakin's memories up to the time of cloning).

Which means it was true in a very real sense that, as Obi-Wan told Luke, "He [Vader] betrayed and murdered your father."

But also that it was true in a very real sense that, as Vader told Luke: "No, Luke. I am your father."

So that, at the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke manages to overpower and disarm Vader, and has him at his mercy. But he realises that the clone, even though corrupted, is still an exact copy of his father and "there is still good in him". So Luke spares Vader's life, and thus escapes ensnaring by the Dark Side. Palpatine mocks him and brings on the Force-lightning, but Vader rises up ("Respect for human life is not a weakness!") and turns against his own dark master. Cue Ewoks drumming on helmets, etc.

Okay, it's elegant, and has an "aha" moment as good as Éowyn telling the Nazgûl Witch-King "I am no man". (Which was a nice Wagnerian allusion - we know how much JRR loved those - but it did (a) depend on the old "Here's an ancient prophesy that a seer once uttered out of the blue, which doesn't relate to the rest of the plot but solves this particular dramatic tension quite nicely"; and (b) sit uneasily with Tolkien's frequent old-school use of "Men" throughout The Lord of the Rings as a synecdoche for "humans"/ "homo sapiens" in general... ("The Age of the Elves has passed! The Age of Man begins! Wait, sorry, Éowyn, the Age of Woman won't be for another 5,217 years after that.")

It also elegantly explains who "The Other" is (it's obvious that "Hey, guess what, it's Leia and she's Luke's sister, not that she actually does anything" was pulled out of Lucas' ass some time around September or October 1982 - you can't tell me otherwise he wouldn't have cleared his throat in 1979-80 and said "Uh... Leigh? Lawrence? This smouldering kiss that Leia gives Luke in Empire, Scene 10... Can we, uh, make that a hug...") AND also why Yoda was coy about explaining The Other's identity to Obi-Wan (maybe Kenobi didn't realise Vader had been cloned from Anakin; maybe Palpatine kept it top secret, but Yoda sensed it and guessed, which was why he wanted Luke to be ready for the dilemma it would present... Luke may have the fighting strength to kill Vader, but not the emotional cojones to be a virtual patricide).

But all that will now have to wait until Star Wars gets re-imagined, and that usually takes about two decades since the last original episode aired. So, 2025...


John H said...

Love it! And love the "Prog Rock On Ice Spectacular" movie poster, too.

As for when Lucas thought of the "Leia is Luke's sister" idea: you're clearly right about The Kiss. Though I don't think that rules out Leia as being "The Other" which Lucas had in mind in ESB. After Yoda delivers himself of this line, the next person we see is Leia - though the special edition makes more of this (cuts out an intervening shot, IIRC), which perhaps suggests Lucas only thought of it later. But then, who else could it have been? Chewbacca?

John H said...

Waitaminute... am I to read anything into the date of this post...?

John H said...

Bonus points for your use of the word "synecdoche", btw. OK, I'll stop talking now. ;-)

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