In the vastness of Star Wars space there lies numerous horrors, but nothing more intimidating than the burning silhouette of Darth Vader’s castle on the lava planet, Mustafar. This week, writer Cavan Scott returns to the sinister structure for another collection of interstellar horror in the aptly titled Return to Vader’s Castle, the follow-up to last year’s Tales of Vader’s Castle.
Returning with Scott are artists Charles Wilson III, Kelley Jones, and Franchesco Francavilla, but joining their ranks this year are Megan Levens, Nicoletta Baldari, and Nick Brokenshire as they spin terrifying tales from a galaxy far, far away.
Newsarama spoke with Scott about the upcoming limited series, what he finds the scariest about Vader, his outlook of him as a character, and what would make him step foot inside the eerie fortress.
Newsarama: Cavan, so you're returning to Darth Vader's castle in the aptly titled Return to Vader's Castle this October, so what made you want to come back?
Cavan Scott: It was simply a case of having more stories to tell. For example, we had a story in last year’s Tales From Vader’s Castle where we transformed Christopher Lee’s Dooku into a vampire. As Hammer Horror fans, it was an opportunity Kelley Jones and I couldn’t pass up. But what of that other Hammer legend? What of Peter Cushing? We wanted to plunge Grand Moff Tarkin into a Frankenstein-style horror, but just couldn't fit it into the first series. The campaign for a second series began the moment the last script was submitted for the first.
Nrama: This time around, you have stories with such Star Wars baddies like Maul, Asajj Ventress, and even Jabba. These characters are frightening enough by themselves, but what's the connective tissue this time around?
Scott: We’re focusing on Vaneé, Vader’s spooky servant (as seen in Rogue One). His appearance in Tales went down well, so now he’s back as our very old 'Cryptkeeper', spinning the sinister yarns he’s collected over the years while serving his dark master. It’s Star Wars as influenced by EC Comics.
Nrama: You're working with Charles Wilson III and Kelley Jones again, but bringing in new blood like Megan Levens, Nicolleta Baldari, and Nick Brokenshire. How did you play up to their strengths?
Scott: Well, Nick and I are in the early stages of putting together a creator-owned comic, so we’d been working together a lot in recent days. Plus, I knew he was a huge Ventress fan, so his name was in the mix from day one. I’d never worked with Megan or Nicolleta before, but had seen a lot of their work, so tried to match the storylines to their strengths.
I knew Megan would go to town on the creepy scenes in Maul’s subterranean lair and was intrigued how Nicolleta would tackle the more macabre aspects of our Jabba story, focusing as it does on the B’omarr Monks, the disembodied brain droids spotted scuttling around in the background of Return of the Jedi. One thing is certain: I love Nicolleta’s take on the Hutts.
Nrama: What would make you walk into Vader's Castle, if anything?
Scott: The knowledge that he’s dead and gone? Actually, one of the early outlines for the first series had the castle as a ruin, set long after the events of Return of the Jedi. It would have been interesting, but the decision was made - quite rightly - to bring it forward in the timeline so Vader himself could make an appearance. I still love that image though… an old ruined Sith castle on a lava-strewn planet...
Nrama: Since this is Star Wars Adventures, it's considered more "all-ages"… but Vader here is still very much like a boogeyman character. How do you see Vader in Star Wars mythology?
Scott: Oh, the emphasis with Return to Vader’s Castle is very much all-ages rather than ‘just for kids’. Like the first series, I hope that adult readers will find plenty to enjoy - and to be creeped-out about - in this series.
As for Vader, well, he’s one of the greatest screen monsters of all time. Like Dracula and the Mummy, there’s a pathos behind his evil. When we first meet him, he’s an out-and-out figure-pointing, Force-choking heavy, but becomes more nuanced with every film and of course the wonder that is the Clone Wars.
Like all the best monsters, Vader has tragedy at his heart. I have to admit I struggled with Anakin in the ptrequel Trilogy, but absolutely fell in love with him in the Clone Wars. That’s where I finally saw the friendship I wanted between Anakin and Obi-Wan, when I finally felt his love for Padme, and also - actually more importantly for his character, I think - his paternal love for Ahsoka. In my mind, Ahsoka walking away was one of the most pivotal moments in his fall, that sense that not only the Jedi Order had failed her, but he had failed her. I’m really interested to see how that will be developed in the upcoming episodes.
There’s just so much to unpack in Vader… and let’s not shy away from the fact that his eventual redemption is problematic. After all, this is the guy who systematically wiped out a religious order, killing many, many children in cold blood in the process. Yes, he was seduced by the Dark Side, but the youngling's blood is still on his hands. Is his change of heart genuine in Return of the Jedi? The hopeful 10-year-old in me screams “yes”, but there’s also a more cynical part of me that questions his motivation for killing the Emperor. After all, he did want to rule the galaxy with Luke, and Sith apprentices have a habit of killing their masters. It’s right there in their doctrines. Yes, Vader saved his son, but why? Was it restitution or ambition? Of course, we see him standing alongside his old masters at the end, but it’s such an about turn…
Sorry. Went into a bit of deep dive there. But that’s the great thing about Vader. There’s so much complexity to explore...
Nrama: When doing Star Wars, even if it's for one of your books from the Adventures in Wild Space series, do you want to do some of those deep dives for older fans or do you keep the reins pretty tight on yourself?
Scott: It depends on the project. An anthology series like Return to Vader’s Castle doesn’t lend itself to really deep dives and neither did the Adventures in Wild Space series, although again we tried to make sure those books could be enjoyed by adults and kids alike. That’s why I loved working on the Dooku: Jedi Lost audio play earlier this year (the script book of which is also out first week of October, blatant-plug fans).
Six-and-a-half-hours of audio allowed me to really dive in and examine an iconic Star Wars character in detail, and through him, the Jedi and the galaxy as a whole. I have a couple of upcoming Star Wars projects that are going to allow me to once again tell bigger stories, and I can’t wait to get stuck in.
Nrama: With the spooky theme of Return to Vader’s Castle in mind, what scares you the most about the Star Wars universe?
Scott: The fact that history repeats and evil, no matter how many times it is vanquished, always seems to return. But hey, that’s the case in the real world too… and in Star Wars, it's balanced by the truth that whenever it does resurface it will be met by people standing together and fighting side-by-side. That hope, that folk from different upbringings, cultures, and creed can and will come together for what is right, keeps me coming back to Star Wars time and time again.
Nrama: What is it about Vader, in your opinion, that would drive him to construct his lair on the planet that basically almost killed him?
Scott: Well, people can find out by reading Charles Soule’s excellent Darth Vader run over at Marvel. His motivation is there in all its twisted glory.
Nrama: With these coming out around Halloween each year, would you continue to write them as long as you are able, or does repetitiveness intimidate you?
Scott: Oh, I’ll keep coming back until I look like Vaneé. But yes, there's a worry that you'll repeat yourself, and yet, the flip-side of that is the challenge to bring fresh ideas to the table each and every time.