Few eras in popular culture are quite as mysterious as the events that took place before the first Star Wars movie back in 1977, which was later re-titled “A New Hope.” One of the main reasons for that mystery is the fact that George Lucas was not exactly sure himself what took place in the past between Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. That confusion is why some of the Marvel Comics Star Wars adaptations had things like flashbacks to the time that Obi-Wan and Anakin teamed up to fight against Darth Vader, despite Anakin, you know, being Darth Vader.
Later, Lucas would explain much of Anakin’s life in the three Star Wars prequels. Still, there remained a gap of 19 years between the end of Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, and the start of Episode IV, A New Hope. Those years remain a major mystery, although Marvel is currently exploring that time with its excellent Darth Vader series by Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli. There have been a few other stories set in those “missing” years that have also given us some hints as to what Darth Vader was up to over those two decades. Here, then, are 20 of the most notable Darth Vader events in the time between Episodes III and IV!
20. BLAMED HIS MASTER FOR THE LOSS OF HIS WIFE
As fans of both the original trilogy and the prequels know, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader has a fascinating idea of what honor means and it mostly boils down to the fact that he will do anything to protect his family and, failing that, to avenge them. It is no accident that the incident that caused him to finally break free from the control of his master, Darth Sidious (also known as Emperor Palpatine), was when Sidious seemed about to kill Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker.
Similarly, when Darth Vader #1 opens (by Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli), Vader has just lost his wife, Padme, as she was not willing to accept Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side of the Force and chose to leave him, along with their two unborn children. Vader, of course, chose to blame his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, for the betrayal and battled Obi-Wan, which led to Vader being seriously injured and rebuilt in his cyborg form. When he awoke from his transformation, Sidious told him that he had killed Vader’s wife, Padme. Vader responded to this news by using the Force to attack his current master, as Sidious had promised him that Padme would go along with Vader’s new life. Sidious knew that Vader was in an emotional state, so he surprisingly forgave Vader for the outburst, but also punished him with some Force lightning, just to make sure he understood that he was never to attack him again.
19. INTRODUCED TO THE EMPIRE
When you think about it, the introduction of Darth Vader to the Empire was one of the strangest things that the rest of the Empire could possibly see. They were all used to Palpatine, and he was seen as the conquering hero who had saved them from the Jedi, but that is why it was so curious to see what appeared to be a Jedi suddenly appearing with him as his right-hand man. Remember, effectively no one knew Vader’s true history, so it really was like a complete stranger was now one of the highest ranking members of the Empire.
Not only that, but he was completely outside of the standard Imperial command structure, so officers did not even know exactly how to address him or where they stood with him. This led to some uneasy encounters early on when Vader believed that he was in charge and Imperial officers believed that he was there as a courtesy to Palpatine. Eventually, the Emperor resolved the issue by formerly introducing Vader to the troops as his apprentice. Of course, knowing that Vader was protected did not necessarily make it any easier for some of the officers to deal with the Sith Lord.
18. CHOKED HIS FIRST IMPERIAL OFFICER
We soon saw the reason why Vader was so hard to deal with for the Imperial officers in Darth Vader #8 (by Soule and Camuncoli), where we saw, for the first time, Vader use his Force choke to begin to strangle an Imperial officer because he annoyed him. This led to a fascinating discussion between Sidious and Vader. Now, Palpatine was a truly evil man, but he and Vader differed in one very large way. Between the two, Sidious simply enjoyed power more than Vader did. Vader saw Sidious’ path as the only way to control the galaxy and provide order to things. Sidious generally believed that, as well, but he specifically wanted order where he was in charge of everyone.
That difference of opinion extended to the use of killing. Vader tended to treat life as an obstacle that he had to barrel through, and he would kill anyone that got in his way. Sidious, on the other hand, knew that for him to be able to tower over the people of the galaxy, he needed most of them to remain alive. So he counselled his apprentice to lighten up a bit on the whole “killing anyone who annoyed him.” After all, the galaxy was big enough that there was always going to be someone out there who “deserves” to be killed by them.
17. HUNTED DOWN SURVIVING JEDI
As we saw at the end of Revenge of the Sith, the way that Palpatine finally created a choke hold over the galaxy was through the dreaded Order 66, which called for the extermination of any known Jedi in the galaxy. During his 19 years under Darth Sidious, as the Empire grew in strength and power, that was Vader’s major task. He traveled the galaxy, hunting down whatever Jedi managed to escape the initial Order 66.
One of the fascinating things about Vader, though, is that the initial Order 66 worked so well that there really were not that many Jedi left after the first attack, so it makes you wonder just how much downtime that Vader had over those 19 years as the amount of Jedi out there got smaller and smaller. How many Jedi did he really manage to hunt down those last few years before A New Hope? It seems like there would be so few out there that Vader’s talents would have been better used elsewhere in the Empire. After all, Vader had already proven himself as a capable general in the Clone Wars, so you would think he would have been used more in battle.
16. BECAME GOOD BUDDIES WITH TARKIN
When the first Star Wars film was released, one of the biggest stars involved in the film was Peter Cushing, who played Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. After the fact, Tarkin’s treatment of Darth Vader would puzzle many readers, as there was a familiarity there that Vader did not have with the other Imperial officers. Essentially, the question became, “Why did Vader allow Tarkin to talk to him like that?”
The answer was mostly resolved in the novel, Tarkin, by James Luceno, which told the story of Tarkin’s rise to power within the Empire, becoming the first Grand Moff roughly five years into the Empire’s existence. In that book, we saw Tarkin and Vader work together and grow to respect each other, leading to Vader allowing Tarkin a familiarity that he would give no other Imperial officer. That book also saw Tarkin establish what Star Wars lore had termed “The Tarkin Doctrine,” which essentially explained why it was necessary for the Empire to have so many super-weapons, as the most effective way of protecting the populace was to use powerful military might to awe the opponents of the Empire. As Tarkin noted, “This bold vision of the future requires not only the service of those of immaculate reputation and consummate skill in the just exercise of power, but also the service of a vast military dedicated to upholding the laws necessary to ensure galactic harmony.”
15. RESOLVED A SITUATION ON MURKHANA
The mission that Tarkin proved himself to Vader on not so coincidentally occurred on Murkhana, the very same planet that Vader years earlier had traveled to on his first “official” mission as the new right hand of the Emperor. He helped execute some Black Sun smugglers there. Tarkin also had a history with the planet. During the Clone Wars, Captain Tarkin had led troops to Murkhana to foil a plot by Count Dooku to fester separatist support through the release of some propaganda holovids. Sidious believed that sending the two men on a mission together to a planet in which they both shared a history would lead to a bond between the two men.
Sidious was proven correct, but not before the Rebels struck a rather embarrassing blow against the Empire in general and Tarkin in particular. You see, when Tarkin (then still Moff Tarkin) and Vader landed on Murkhana in Tarkin’s ship, the Carrion Spike, they investigated an alleged cache of Rebel communication devices. They knew it was a trap when they arrived, but their intent was to deal with whatever the problem was head on. The issue, though, is while Vader and Tarkin were on Murkhana, the Rebels were stealing the Carrion Spike! The Rebels used the ship to attack Imperial outposts for the next few weeks while Vader and Tarkin tracked them down. Tarkin eventually caught all the Rebels and was promoted to Grand Moff in response to his success.
14. REBUILT HIS OWN LEG
During the prequels, one of the odder facts that we learned about Anakin Skywalker was that he was apparently a mechanical genius, as he literally built C3PO from scratch! Once he became established as Palpatine’s enforcer, that aspect of his personality was mostly ignored. This is normal enough, as there is not a whole lot of cause to use your mechanical skills when you are leading troops on attacks on the Rebels. However, early in his time as Darth Vader, his knowledge of mechanics actually saved his life and doomed a whole lot of people!
You see, Vader had been directed to a river planet where a former Jedi named Kirak Infil’a lived. Vader was there to capture his lightsaber so that he could make it his own. Once there, though, Vader was unprepared for how hostile the environment on the planet would be for him. He was attacked by some carnivorous birds. He defeated them, but they damaged his mechanical leg. During his duel with Kirak, the leg collapsed. The helpless Vader was then thrown off a mountain by Kirak. Luckily, one of Kirak’s training droids had been knocked down earlier in the fight and Vader used his skills to take pieces from the droid and use them to rebuild his leg.
13. ENDED KIRAK INFIL’A’S LIFE
Kirak Infil’a had managed to stay off the radar of the initial Order 66 because Kirak had taken the Barash Vow earlier. The Barash Vow is when a Jedi voluntarily disconnects themselves from the Force. This is what happened to Luke Skywalker following the destruction of his Jedi Academy and the loss of his nephew, Ben Solo, to the Dark Side of the Force. That is why no one could find Luke until The Last Jedi. Vader had to go into old Jedi records to find information about Kirak. Vader needed to get Kirak’s lightsaber, so he hunted the Jedi down.
Kirak thought he had won after Vader’s leg broke and Kirak threw him off of a mountain, so he was shocked when Vader somehow managed to come back from his injury. During their renewed duel, some security guards came across their fight. Vader used the Force to toss them off of the mountain, as well, but Kirak used his powers to save them. This let Vader know that Kirak’s weakness was that he cared for others. So Vader destroyed a water tower in a town. Kirak used his powers to keep it from flooding the town and Vader took that moment to steal Kirak’s lightsaber and end his life.
12. GOT HIS RED LIGHTSABER
The reason why Vader had to fight Kirak in the first place is because of a shocking revelation that we learned in the first issue of Soule and Camuncoli’s Darth Vader series. The issue is set right after the Jedi had been mostly exterminated and there was a celebration where all of the dead Jedi’s lightsabers were thrown into a sort of bonfire and set aflame. The kyber crystals in the lightsabers exploded in a tremendous sort of fireworks display.
Vader then learned that the reason why Sith lightsabers are red is because they take a traditional Jedi lightsaber and, in effect, torture the kyber crystals in the weapon until it bleeds, which turns the lightsaber red. The tradition is for a Sith to kill a Jedi and then use the fallen Jedi’s lightsaber. Since most of the Jedi had already been killed, Vader had to seek out Kirak. He then transformed Kirak’s lightsaber into a red saber. However, before he succeeded in “breaking” the crystal, it first took control of Vader and showed him an alternate reality where Vader broke free of Sidious’ control and redeemed himself. He ignored these visions and continued on his mission of gaining a new lightsaber.
11. LED THE INQUISTORIUS
Soon after finally having his own red lightsaber, Vader was shocked when he was attacked by a mystery person who was also wielding a red lightsaber. Vader easily overpowered his attacker and was about to cut down his opponent when Darth Sidious stopped him. Sidious explained that the mystery foe was known as the Grand Inquistor and he was part of a group of former Jedi who had been wooed to the Dark Side of the Force and became a team called the Inquisitorius. Sidious and Vader discussed this team, “The Inquisitorius. A project of mine, long planned. Slaves to the light side once, now awake. Hunters, one and all.” “What do they hunt?” “Why, Jedi, of course.”
So the Inquisitorius were Vader’s underlings in his continued quest to find and eliminate as many of the remaining Jedi as they could. Since they had only been trained in the Light Side of the Force, Vader had to become their teacher in the Dark Side and his lessons were quite twisted. He decided that they needed to be taught about loss, so he chopped off a body part of each one of the group. It seems more like he was somehow applying his own life experiences to the greater group.
10. FINISHED THE LIFE OF JOCASTA NU
One of the first assignments that Vader had for the Inquisitorius was to gather information about one of the Jedi who escaped the initial Jedi Purge, Jocasta Nu, the Chief Librarian of the Jedi Archives. Nu was a minor character introduced in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and was then given a slightly larger profile during The Clone Wars TV series. When the Purge occurred, she went into hiding but also began to collect as much information from the Archives as she could in an attempt to keep the legacy of the Jedi alive.
One of the main things she wanted to secure was a list of all the possible Force Sensitive children in the galaxy. She wanted to delete the information before anyone else could find it, but Vader captured her before she could escape with the information. She was being guarded by Imperial troops and told them that they were unwittingly working for a Jedi, as she had figured out Darth Vader’s secret identity. Vader then wiped out all the troops that were present and then cut down Nu. However, luckily, Vader was too scared of Sidious looking to replace him with another apprentice, so he destroyed the information about the kids, so Nu’s objective was achieved!
9. SNUFFED OUT IMPERIAL PLOTTING AGAINST HIM
During his battle with Nu, Vader had to deal with being fired upon by his own troops at one point, because he was still such a mystery that not all of the troops knew what he looked like. Since he had powers like a Jedi, they assumed that he was a Jedi, also. This could have been assuaged by the commanders who knew better, but frankly, they all kind of hated Vader, too. Think about it — here is a guy who shows up out of nowhere, is pretty clearly a former Jedi and now he is not only the second-in-command of the whole Empire, but he just starts Force choking your friends to death!
So a group of Imperial officers got together and plotted to eliminate Vader. Vader survived an initial attack by a family of bounty hunters. He then made a speech to the assembled Imperial military. He announced that he had survived an assassination attempt from within the Empire and that he will always survive said attacks. However, each time he survives an assassination attempt, he will end the lives of five randomly selected Imperial officers. After the first five were Force choked in front of the others, the assassination attempts ceased.
8. BUILT HIS CASTLE
The late, great Ralph McQuarrie first did designs for Darth Vader’s castle all the way back in the planning stages of The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas ended up not using the designs for that film, but many years later, when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released, the movie featured one of the characters going to visit Vader in his castle, which was made out of obsidian and was located on Mustafar and was depicted like McQuarrie’s earlier designs.
Vader’s castle was a perfect example of how Darth Sidious kept his apprentice under his control. Sidious insisted that Vader create his home base on the same planet where Vader had suffered his greatest defeat, his battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi that ended with much of Vader’s body melted by lava. The castle was then built on top of an ancient Sith cave and it contained a bacta tank that Vader would use to get some rest outside of his life support armor. So think about that — this guy spends all of his “free” time on a jet black castle located at the spot where his life was torn apart and that’s where he goes to relax?! Of course Vader would always be on edge and unable to think of anything other than his connection to Sidious.
7. INVADED KASHYYYK
Soon before the infamous Order 66 started the Jedi Purge, Master Yoda had been on Kashyyyk, the home planet of the Wookiees. Thus, when the Purge began, Jedi who managed to escape all thought that their best bet was to hook up with Yoda, so a number of fleeing Jedi traveled to Kashyyyk to see if they could find shelter. While Yoda had already fled, the Wookiees gave protection to any Jedi that arrived on their planet. This would prove to have devastating consequences.
Darth Vader and Moff Tarkin headed to the planet with two different, but related, purposes. Vader wanted to kill the Jedi that had fled there while Tarkin wanted to enslave the Wookiees and use them as labor to build his Death Star. The Wookies proved more resilient than expected and a number of the Jedi were able to escape. An enraged Vader ordered the aerial bombardment of the planet. Tarkin and other slavers arrived on the planet and took many Wookiees as slaves. However, the Wookiees never truly broke. They continued to give Jedi refuge on their planet whenever possible. In addition, holovids about the battle on Kashyyyk also got back to Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. He realized that Anakin had not only survived their battle on Mustafar, but was now calling himself Darth Vader.
6. FORMED VADER’S FIST
Someone like Darth Vader was not prone to forming emotional attachments outside of his direct family, but one of the few places where he relaxed those standards was with the 501st Legion, the specially trained battalion of Clone Troopers that served under Vader during the Clone Wars when he was General Anakin Skywalker of the Old Republic. Once Order 66 was implemented, some of the Clone Troops who had managed to disable their obedience chips disobeyed the order, as they had served alongside Jedi for so long that they were not going to suddenly murder them. However, for the most part, the 501st followed Vader’s orders as they slaughtered Jedi young and old. Their obedience chips played a major role in their actions, of course.
Clone Captain CT-7567 (known as “Rex”) split from the 501st and later became a key member of the early days of the Rebel Alliance. The rest of the 501st remained with Vader and were slowly but surely replaced by human-born Stormtroopers until all of the original Clone Troopers were replaced. They became known as “Vader’s Fist,” as they fought alongside the Sith Lord at many battles. They were the Stormtroopers who successfully drove the Rebels off of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.
5. PUT DOWN A REBELLION ON RYLOTH
Generally speaking, Emperor Palpatine governed over the Empire from a distance. A notable instance of Palpatine actually choosing to get his hands dirty a bit occurred in the novel, Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp. You see, the planet Ryloth was a key planet in the production of the drug called “spice” and so when a small “Free Ryloth” movement started interfering with the delivery of spice from the planet, Palpatine decided to get directly involved.
He and Vader traveled to Ryloth along with the Ryloth Senator Orn Free Taa. The “Free Ryloth” movement mostly involved the native people of Ryloth, known as Twi’leks. On their initial journey to the planet, Vader and Palpatine were almost killed when an Imperial captain plotted a course that would have sent their ship into a sun. He was caught and eliminated. The Twi’leks managed to sabotage Vader and Palpatine’s ship, though, before it landed on Rytloth. The Sith Lords were able to escape before their Star Destroyer exploded. They then squashed the rebellion on Ryloth with vicious force. They wiped out many innocent lives, but they succeeded in getting the spice deliveries back on track. However, it did foster some hurt feelings from Vader to Palpatine, as whenever the two men worked together, Palpatine tended to treat Vader almost like a child.
4. BECAME A FLYBOY AGAIN
One of the most clever attacks that the “Free Ryloth” movement had on Vader and Palpatine’s Star Destroyer was that they attacked them with a horde of re-commissioned vulture droids. The issue was that the droids themselves were not the real source of the attack, but rather they were just a delivery system for mines hidden on each droid. The idea was that they would explode near the Destroyer and take the whole ship down. When Vader realized their plans, he knew that the only way to save the ship, which was already badly damaged, was to destroy all of the Vulture droids before they got near the Destroyer. So he set out just by himself and did just that, showing off his amazing fighter pilot skills.
It was around this point in time that Vader had graduated from his previous ship, an ETA-2 Interceptor that had been painted black once he joined the Empire, to his own personal TIE Advanced X1 prototype fighter ship. We also saw Vader’s stunning fighter pilot abilities in the second season of Star Wars: Rebels, when he almost wiped out an entire rebel squadron by himself, slowed down only because of his connection to his former Padawawn, Ahsoka Tano, who was on board the Rebel flag ship.
3. FOUGHT THE LEADERS OF THE REBELS
As the Rebel Alliance began to form in the TV series, Star Wars: Rebels, the Empire naturally was alerted to the news that there were burgeoning Jedi forming in the galaxy. So Darth Vader was dispatched to deal with this new uprising. Vader cleverly laid a trap for the Rebels on the planet Lothar. He informed the Minister on the planet that Palpatine was going to personally blame her for some rebel uprisings on the planet. He knew that she would cut a deal with the Rebels to escape. He then had her killed and blamed her death on the Rebels to the media. This would force the Rebels to escape Lothar and, since the public would believe them to be murderers, they would have to steal a ship.
So Vader left a ship as a tempting target for them to steal, and sure enough, Kanan Jarrus and his apprentice Ezra Bridger, showed up to do so. They were so outmatched by Vader that he had to really work hard at selling them that their battle was evenly matched, as he wanted them to escape since he had placed a tracking device on their ship. Luckily for them, while he tracked them to a Rebel squadron, it was the one where his former apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, was. He thus discovered that she was alive, distracting Vader enough for most of the Rebels (including Kanan and Bridger) to escape.
2. DUELED AGAINST HIS FORMER PADAWAN, AHSOKA TANO
Soon after, Vader once again tracked the Rebels down to an ancient Sith temple where Bridger had discovered an ancient Sith superweapon that Darth Maul had tried to acquire. Vader easily disarmed Bridger and was prepared to finish him when Ahsoka Tano showed up to save Bridger’s life. Until he sensed her on the Rebel squadron, Vader believed Tano to be dead and Tano, for her part, also believed that her former master had perished in Revenge of the Sith.
Vader offered her a deal — he would spare her if she led him to other Jedi. She, naturally, turned him down, in part because she did not feel that she was a Jedi anymore. They then had a stunning duel. Every so often, Vader would gain the upper hand, but Tano would find a way to wriggle out of the situation. In the end, though, it came down to Bridger discovering a time travel portal that allowed him to travel back in time and rescue Tano right before Vader finished her off. During their awesome duel, Tano at one point cut Vader’s mask, which affected his voice modulator, so he sounded like a mixture of her former master and his new Vader voice.
1. SECRETLY TRAINED HIS OWN APPRENTICE
As we have noted a few times already, Vader and Sidious’ relationship was not always an easy one. Sidious had made him some bold promises that had been dashed pretty much right away. One of the things that always irritated Vader about the Jedi Council is that they treated him like a little kid and that is precisely what Sidious would do at times. Therefore, Vader decided to secretly train his own apprentice, Galen Marek, the son of two former Jedi. Vader planned to use Marek to unseat Sidious. Marek was so brainwashed by Vader that he stopped thinking of himself as Galen Marek and only referred to himself as Starkiller. Sidious found out about him, though, so Vader had to betray his own apprentice.
Marek survived, but Vader then tricked him into fostering a rebellion against the Empire, which Vader would again use to take Sidious down. However, once Marek convinced a number of Senators to rebel against the Empire, Vader betrayed him again and planned to kill the Senators that Marek had recruited. Marek sacrificed himself to save those senators, however, and when they started their war on the Empire, they did so in part in honor of Marek!
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