One of the most iconic visuals in Star Wars is the snow-white visage of the Imperial Stormtrooper. And in a new comic series from Dark Horse, we’re getting to know one of the men who serve.
In Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows set between Episode III and IV, a bitter stormtrooper veteran of the Clone Wars finds himself tasked to work with Darth Vader. As he attempts to sort out own demons, he finds Darth Vader an ideal commander and with something in common: a hatred for the Jedi. But can this stormtrooper do what it takes to prove himself to Vader? And what’s it like serving in the Empire?
The series is written by Tim Siedell, who wrote the earlier Star Wars: Darth Vader And the Ninth Assassin and was named by Time as having one of the Top 140 Twitter Feedsin the world. Illustrating it is Star Wars veteran artist Gabriel Guzman and fellow veteran colorist Michael Atiyeh.
So with Star Wars: Darth Vader And The Cry of Shadows #1 on sale now and issue #2 coming on January 15, Newsarama spoke with Siedell about this series and the unique perspective it gives on the Star Wars universe. Along the way he gives some protips on being a better Imperial stormtrooper, and insight on the mythos of Darth Vader.
Newsarama: Tim, the first issue of Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows came out late last month, but in the holiday hubbub I think it might have slipped under may people’s radar. How would you describe this series for those wanting to come in late?
Tim Siedell: Here's the official summary from Dark Horse and I see no reason to veer from it: "During the Clone Wars, a single trooper—left for dead during battle—comes to hate the Jedi generals who abandoned him. Years later, he lives on, bitter and angry, until hearing tales of a great warrior. Now, this clone believes he may have found the leader he should be following all along...Darth Vader."
Nrama: This lone clone trooper is named Hock. Just who is he?
Siedell: He is one of many, suddenly alone for the first time in his life. This experience changes him and gives him a new destiny.
Nrama: They might seem leagues apart, but they’re the main players here, so how would you compare and contrast Hock with Darth Vader?
Siedell: They both (perhaps) have good reason to be angry and bitter, but they end up making poor decisions as a result. They both seem to have a common enemy and a common desire for order, though they might have different ideas of what that entails. They both bring skills to the table that were forged in unique situations. They both have a pure sense of purpose and a desire to both lead others and be led by individuals they respect.
At the end of the day, Vader is Vader though. Hock doesn't get to wear a cool cape.
Nrama: What does it take for a stormtrooper like Hock to impress Darth Vader?
Siedell: Results. At least that's what Hock surmises. Who knows if Vader is even capable of being impressed, really. But Hock's rise seems to be a result of loyalty, initiative, and results. This is also the way to impress your shift manager at Home Depot, by the way.
Nrama: This is an interesting view of Darth Vader not from the Rebellion’s side but from the trenches of the Empire. How do you get inside the head of Hock to get the right viewpoint here?
Siedell: To a warrior at this time, not privy to all the knowledge we have of the Emperor's motives and what's really going on in the galaxy, Vader would be a rock star. If you're not a fan of the Jedi, Vader would be your hero. I think it's a pretty basic human desire to want to meet and impress our heroes, so from that standpoint it was pretty easy to gain access to Hock's head.
Nrama: What makes Hock such an interesting character here to base a series around?
Siedell: He's an eyewitness to interesting events. He has a story to tell. He had a front row seat to watch Anakin morph into the most feared person in the galaxy. Furthermore, Hock's situation gives him time to ponder what it means to be a clone and his place in the galaxy. I found those aspects very interesting, so hopefully other people will as well.
Nrama: In your last series you showed the early days of Darth Vader dealing with assassins; how’d you come upon this new story, Cry of Shadows?
Siedell: Ninth Assassin was a story where we're looking over Vader's shoulder on a side adventure. We see him on one of his countless errands, earning his reputation. In this new series Cry of Shadows, we're looking at Vader through the eyes of someone else. I wanted to explore how Vader's reputation is spreading. How it might attract a certain kind of follower. How the results of his actions—a more unified and orderly galaxy—might actually be quite attractive to some people. How his actions end up creating a reaction. So I kind of wanted to play around with a cause and effect dynamic between the two series, and that drove me to this new story.
Nrama: Will any of the characters or threads from Ninth Assassin be on display here, besides the obvious ones – Darth Vader and the Emperor?
Siedell: Even the Emperor has a miniscule role here. The only true carryover is Vader, himself. Young Vader, at that.
Nrama: The time period of this series plays a huge role – set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. What’s that mean for your story?
Siedell: Everything, really. It's a confusing time for the entire galaxy. It was certainly a confusing time for Anakin. Pretty much every decision he makes in that period is wrongheaded, obviously. A giant chain reaction of stupidity. When you become disenchanted with someone or something, it's easy to assume the opposite thing is good. It's an easy trap to fall into, even if you don't realize it's a trap. Vader and Hock are very similar in that regards.
But imagine if you're on a far-off planet, weary of war, skeptical of the Jedi, looking for a new way. The offer of peace and order might seem pretty attractive. Vader's methods may seem logical, even if harsh. And you might easily rationalize the brutality as necessary for the common good. From the moment we first set eyes on Vader in A New Hope, we knew he was the ultimate bad guy. In the time period of this story, many years before, that's not the case. But we'll see how that reputation is well earned.