In the world of Star Wars, there is a fascinating phenomenon where it seems like some of the characters that have appeared the least in the films have the biggest fandoms! This almost certainly comes down to the fact that Boba Fett and Darth Maul are two of the coolest looking characters from a design standpoint. Plot development is one thing, but a double-edged lightsaber is something else completely! Due to their popularity with fans, it has been impressive how willing Lucasfilm has been to relax the standards of life and death to keep the characters around in the Expanded Universe stories despite seemingly clearcut deaths for both characters in their respective films.
Darth Maul, in particular, has become a major player in the Star Wars animated series that have come out in the last decade, from Clone Wars to Rebels. While Boba Fett looks so cool because of his awesome armor, Darth Maul's distinctive look comes from his body itself. Therefore, for this list, we will take a look at the various weird aspects of Darth Maul's body as he became the most popular character whose story only really started when he had his body sliced in two!
20 IS HE RED WITH BLACK TATTOOS OR BLACK WITH RED TATTOOS?
Are zebras white with black stripes or are they black with white stripes? That is sort of quandary that we have when it comes to figuring out exactly what Darth Maul's deal is. Is his skin black with red tattoos or is his skin red with black tattoos? Honestly, the most common situation for things like this is that no one really gave it much thought when he was designed. For instance, take the zebra example that we mentioned before. If you were to design a new creature known as the zebra and it had black and white stripes, would you really have a back story in place for whether the zebra was white with black stripes or the other way around?
Most likely you wouldn't, and neither did the good folks at Lucasfilm. Like a number of other instances over the years, the backstory of Darth Maul was filled out after the fact. So they just came up with a really cool looking villain and then later writers figured out his history, which is why you will see a couple of contradictory aspects of his back story further on in this list. In any event, the now official take on Darth Maul is that his skin is red and the tattoos are black.
19 WHAT'S WITH THE HORNS?
The Star Wars Expanded Universe is a truly fascinating mixture of stories. This is made all the more interesting thanks to disparate writers all trying to make it seem like there is an overarching logic to these shared universe stories.What it actually is, though, is different writers coming up with ideas and retroactively trying to fit various square pegs into round holes.
A great example of that is the horns that Darth Maul has. Darth Maul is described as a Dathomirian, but the problem with that is that Dathomirians do not all have horns on their heads, just the male members of the species. This has led to Darth Maul and the other male Dathomirians being referred to as Dathomirian Zabrak. This is a reference to the alien race known as the Zabraks, who are from the planet Iridonia. Zabrak colonists traveled to Dathomir and bred with the human populace of that planet. The resulting race was a mixture where the males have horns and the females do not. It's sort of like how in certain species of birds, it is only the males that have fancy plumage (remember that little bit about plumage for later).
18 WHAT'S WITH THE EARRING?
While Lucasfilm does not necessarily have a backstory written for every aspect of a character's design, when the creators come up with a look for a character, they typically do at least have a general desired look for a character. Rarely does something out of their control play into the design of a given character in the films. However, one of the notable exceptions is the earring that Darth Maul wears in The Phantom Menace. You see, that earring was not initially planned. It was just something that Park wore one day when he was getting his makeup done for the role.
Park later recalled, “George was staring at me after the makeup was done, and I was like, oh no, he’s noticed the earring and he’s going to make me take it out… so, I apologized… but he said that it was fine, and he liked it." What Park really liked about having the earring make it into the film is that it was something that he knew was coming directly from him. As he also noted, "it’s not the character, it’s me.” While writers have come up with reasons for Maul's tattoos and for his horns and everything else, it is interesting to note that no one has ever come up with a backstory for Darth Maul's earring.
17 THE TATTOOS WERE SITH
Darth Maul was born the son of Mother Talzin on Dathomir (it is unclear what his birth name was, so we will just call him Maul). Mother Talzin is a fascinating character. She was a powerful witch who was Force-sensitive and so led her coven of similar force sensitive Dathomirians. Her powers led to her becoming one of the most powerful beings on the planet (hence the honorific "Mother"). She had grown powerful enough that she drew the attention of Darth Sidious, who decided to study with her. The two taught each other some magick and he promised to make her his apprentice.
Things changed, however, when he met her son. Sidious decided to make her son his apprentice instead. This did not sit well with Talzin, who noted that he "promised to make me his right hand, but instead he stole what was most dear to me... my own flesh and blood. My son!" In the original stories following the introduction of Darth Maul, his origin involved Sidious and the Sith being responsible for the tattoos that he received over his body. In other words, he was just a red-skinned kid with horns when they got their hands on him and made their markings. At the time, though, the writers of Maul's origins did not realize that Dathomir would be revisited a lot in future stories.
16 NO, THE TATTOOS AREN'T SITH ACTUALLY!
In the years since, Dathomir and its people have become a bigger fixture in Star Wars fiction, especially on the animated series. The more that we have learned about them, the more that we learn that their culture had a lot of overlap with the culture of the Sith. This was certainly true when it came to tattoos. One of the changes in the history is that it was revealed that when Maul met Darth Sidious as a child, he actually already had his tattoos. In fact, his mother had him tattooed when he was not even a year old.
Along the same lines of the plumage talk earlier, the Dathomirian Zabrak males made it a point to decorate themselves with a lot of tattoos to denote their status as warriors. Interestingly, there have been some attempts to reconcile the two events. In one version, Maul had facial tattoos when he met Sidious, but the Sith then added full body tattoos, as well. In one more outlandish attempt to explain a contradictory bit of history, the argument is that Maul had his tattoos removed when he joined the Sith and then replaced with Sith tattoos. Since his tattoos are just like his brethren, that seems unlikely.
15 ALL THE COLORS OF THE WIND
Dathomirian society split into two groups, both based on their gender. The Nightsisters were the dominant group, led by Maul's mother, Talzin. The subservient group were the Nightbrothers, who were great warriors in their own right, but generally they followed the rule of the Nightsisters. The fascinating thing about the Nightbrothers is that while they all have tattoos and horns like Maul (as they are all Dathomirian Zabrak males), they are each different colors than Maul.
In fact, it certainly appears as though Maul having red skin has marked him as a bit of a rarity among his people. He was not treated as a freak, but probably more akin to someone born with odd eye coloring. The Nightbrothers included Maul's brothers, Savage Opress and Feral Opress. They each had different skin color than Maul, with both Savage and Feral having the more common Dathomirian facial coloring of yellow skin and brown tattoos. It is interesting to note that whenever Dathomir would come under attack by rival groups, it would be the Nightsisters who would typically pay the price, with the Nightbrothers often picked up as sort of new cannon fodder for other groups.
14 ASHES TO ASHES
During his training under Darth Sidious, Maul was exposed to a fascinating ritual. Sidious took Maul to the planet Malachor so that Maul could see the remains of a great battle between the Sith and the Jedi roughly a thousand years in the past. On that trip, once Maul was on Malachor, Sidious forced him to inhale the ashes of some dead Sith warriors.
The inhaled ashes allowed Maul to experience their deaths. He felt the stabs and burns of Jedi lightsabers on his skin. The feelings were so burned into his soul that Maul quickly adapted a fanatical hatred for the Jedi. Despite the fact that the Jedi/Sith battles had taken place a thousand years ago, they still felt fresh to Maul and this is likely why he became so obsessed with killing Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sidious essentially manipulated him into becoming obsessive. This almost backfired on Sidious, though, as he wanted to keep Maul held in reserve until he found the right moment to spring him on the Jedi, but Maul had become so obsessed that he kept trying to get Sidious to allow him to hunt Jedi. This led to him going on one misadventure when he found out that a Jedi Padawan had been captured by pirates. Maul tracked down the Jedi and killed the padawan to ensure his existence remained a secret.
13 MASTER OF RATHTARS
As noted above, Darth Maul's desire to hunt Jedi grew so great that he took up the opportunity to kill a Jedi when he was separated from the rest of the Jedi Order and Maul knew that he could kill him without alerting the rest of the Order to his existence. However, that was naturally a unique situation, so what did Maul do in the rest of his spare time before revealing himself to the Jedi in The Phantom Menace? Generally speaking, the answer is training, training and more training.
However, one area where he was able to get some measure of release for his pent-up frustrations came when he was allowed by Sidious to hunt Rathtars. You might recall Rathtars from the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was what Han Solo and Chewbacca were smuggling when they first met Finn and Rey. They are extremely deadly creatures and yet Maul was able to hunt them with relative ease -- we stress "relative," as it was still quite a feat. They're very dangerous creatures. Since he spent so much time hunting the creatures, Maul soon grew to actually begrudgingly respect the monsters. They were vicious killers like him, but they served no one but their own desires. He was jealous of their lack of masters.
12 DARTH ACROBAT
Darth Maul was an exceptional student and proved to be especially good at fighting with acrobatic movements. This had a real life reason, because the exceptionally acrobatic martial artist Ray Park played Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. Park is also known for his roles as Toad in the X-Men films and Snake Eyes in the G.I. Joe films. Maul also mastered the martial art known as Teräs Käsi (which basically translates into "steel hand"). This is an unarmed fighting technique that works really well when you pair it with a lightsaber (using the non-bladed sides of the lightsaber to strike your opponent).
His fighting skills were shown beautifully in The Phantom Menace when he managed to hold his own in a battle between himself and two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi Wan Kenobi. Even though Maul was outnumbered, he still managed to kill Jinn in their battle. One of the biggest advantages that he had was his great agility, which allowed him to pull off some fighting maneuvers that others would never be able to attempt. George Lucas specifically wanted Maul to move extremely fast in his battles, as he wanted to show off the differences between a young, highly trained Maul and the fighters that we had seen up until that point (a heavily wounded Vader, an old Obi-Wan, an even older Yoda and a barely-trained Luke).
11 IT'S JUST A FLESH WOUND
Despite his great skills as a warrior, it turned out that Maul could not take out both Jedi warriors that he was fighting. It is true that he managed to kill Jinn, but, perhaps inspired by the death of his master, Obi-Wan attacked with such a ferocity that he sliced Darth Maul's famous double-sided lightsaber in two. Even then, Maul managed to use the Force to push Kenobi off a railing and had him hanging on to dear life over a reactor shaft. Maul then knocked Obi-Wan's lightsaber out of his reach. Obi-Wan, though, was able to shock him by calming down (something that Qui-Gon always tried to tell him to do) and using the Force to levitate himself to Maul's position where he then literally sliced Maul in two. Maul then fell down the reactor shaft, much like how Luke's hand went plummeting down a shaft in The Empire Strikes Back. However, Maul somehow managed to shock everyone by not actually dying!
Obi-Wan later reflected on the fact that Maul survived being cut into half by noting, "I believe Maul's rage was so powerful, and his knowledge of the Dark Side so great, he simply refused to die." That certainly seemed to be the case as Maul was able to use the Force to grab on to a ledge as he fell. He then dragged himself into an air shaft and from there to a trash container, where he was taken to a trash planet.
10 DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN
Here is where Darth Maul's story really gets crazy -- and when you're talking about a guy who has horns and is covered in full-body tattoos and has survived getting cut into two pieces, that's saying a lot. Through his Sith training (and his unique Dathomirian constitution), Maul was already pretty well-versed in having a high tolerance for pain. However, it is shocking that he was able to survive as literally just half a person.
The one saving grace for Maul was that since he was on a trash planet, there was a whole lot of stuff that he could scavenge to be used to help himself get around. He cut a deal with other residents to help share food, but he took some old droid parts and other mechanical things to create new legs for him to walk. The problem, of course, is that the options for parts were not great so he ended up with spider legs. It is one of the trippiest things in Star Wars history to see Darth Maul's torso planted on top of a bizarre mechanical combination of different parts that ends with him riding on metal spider legs.
9 A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE
As Obi-Wan noted, Darth Maul was able to survive on his rage. The problem with surviving on rage, though, is that it can be all-consuming. Think about it -- Maul was a torso on a giant mechanical spider living on a garbage planet, how could he possibly keep sane in that situation? The answer is simply that he did not. His mind shattered, he was living from day to day, just trying to get by on whatever food could be scavenged. However, one thing remained a constant in Maul's twisted mind -- his hatred for the Jedi.
That was the one thing that stuck in his head (perhaps from those ingested ashes from years earlier). He lost everything else, he even forgot his very name, but he managed to continue to keep his burning hatred for the Jedi in general and Obi-Wan in specific to keep him alive. It was not even necessarily that Maul was hoping to get revenge on Obi-Wan, as it does not seem like he had any sort of plan to escape and avenge himself. Rather, it seems like he just got some measure of joy out of his hatred. When you're living on a trash planet with metal spider legs, we guess you take whatever you can get.
8 LEGS V. 3
Darth Maul's mother actually knew that he survived his battle with the Jedi, but she was a hard enough woman that she let him stew in his madness for quite a while before she sent his brother, Savage Oppress, to go bring Maul home. When Oppress landed on the planet and encountered his insane half-spider brother, Maul did not recognize him (or his own name). Oppress actually assumed the other trash planet resident had been the one to cut Maul in half and had him killed. Oppress brought his brother back to Dathomir.
Once on the planet, Mother Talzin used her magick to restore Maul's mind. As for his body, Dathomir had been ravaged by attacks from the Sith due to the fact that the Nightsisters were a particularly difficult group to control. So Count Dooku had led a number of attacks on the planet that had left almost all of the Nightsisters dead, outside of Mother Talzin and a new trainee, Asajj Ventress, who had been Dooku's Sith apprentice. During the Battle of Dathomir, there were a number of droids destroyed and Talzin used the legs of two droids to give her son new legs. They still were not great, but they were a far cry from giant metal spider legs, that's for sure.
7 LEGS V.4
Now that they were free again, Darth Maul and his brother (who was now acting as Maul's Sith apprentice) decided that they would not adhere to any system set out by Darth Sidious. Maul was especially adamant that Count Dooku was a pretender to the throne, so he figured he would just have his own Sith sect. Together, the brothers wreaked havoc across the galaxy. Part of Maul's plan was to cause enough trouble that the Jedi Order would have to respond, as Maul was living for the chance to have a rematch against Obi-Wan Kenobi.
During their journeys together, Maul and Oppress hooked up with a group of rogue space pirates and continued his plot to kill Obi-Wan Kenobi. During one battle, Obi-Wan outmatched him again and in the battle, Oppress lost an arm and one of Maul's droid legs was damaged. At the same time, the rogue space pirates got back together with their old buddies and turned on Maul and Oppress. They barely escaped in a pod with little oxygen. They were saved by the Death Watch, a rogue Mandalorian group who befriended Maul on the whole "Enemy of my enemy is my friend" deal, since Maul hated the Jedi more than them. They finally gave Maul some really good new cybernetic legs.
6 A VISION OF THINGS TO COME
Over the next few years, as the Empire grew and the Jedi Order fell apart, Darth Maul had many different adventures (most of them would probably be better termed "misadventures"). Along the way, his heritage was torn apart and most of his family was killed, including his mother. That left Darth Maul as essentially the last person with any connection to the Nightsister way of life and their magic. He planned to use it to track down Obi-Wan Kenobi once and for all. Maul had gained a sort of psychic connection to Ezra Bridger, the young Jedi-in-training who was at the center of Star Wars: Rebels and he compelled Bridger to perform a ritual with him (in exchange, he would help take down the Sith).
Bridger agreed and they drank magick liquids that turned their eyes bright green, a symptom of the visions he would receive. The ritual had the desired effect, as it narrowed the location of Kenobi to a planet with two suns. However, the ritual led to the spirits of the Nightsisters looking for ritual sacrifice from Maul and Bridger in exchange for information! They escaped and Maul eventually found his way to Tatooine, where he had one final battle with Kenobi (it did not go well for Maul).
5 DARTH MAULETTE?
The history of Star Wars has not exactly been rife with great female villains, so when the good folks at Lucasfilm say down to come up with villains for The Phantom Menace, an early take on Darth Maul would have had the villain be female. The designer of Darth Maul, Iain McCaig, once recounted to StarWars.com how he came up with his original design for the female Darth Maul. “George Lucas had described Darth Maul as a figure from your worst nightmare. So… I drew George my worst nightmare. At the time, my worst nightmare was this...
"I’m inside a room during a thunderstorm. The hours pass by and I suddenly become aware that there’s a lifeless face pressed against the window. It’s dead, but it’s alive, staring at me through the rain. I drew something like that for George, adding metal teeth… and blood red ribbons falling over the face instead of rain. When George saw it, he quickly turned the drawing over. 'Okay,' he said, 'Now draw me your second worst nightmare…'" This ribbon-covered concept did not last that long but it was later used as the inspiration for the design of Darth Maul's mother, Mother Talzin, instead (with some notable alterations, of course).
4 SHORT CIRCUIT
While considering different other ideas of designs for the new villain (who by this time had moved on to being a male), McCaig entertained his creative side by drawing the other members of the Art Department as if they were Sith Lords. He told StarWars.com, “That’s really where my character designs come from -- personalities, and not just ideas dropped on top of a generic somebody. So I took David Dozoretz, the head of our animatics group, and I drew him with this incredible mask, and all you saw were his eyes poking through. Just for the heck of it, because I wanted David to see his own face, I included a picture beside it with the mask off. Because it was David, I put a circuit board on this face.”
That circuit board pattern on Duzoretz's face really intrigued George Lucas, so he suggested that McCaig follow that idea further. Using another member of the team, Production Designer Gavin Bocquet, he covered his face in white out and tape until it became almost like a Rorschach Test on top of his face. That eventually led McCaig down the path of the iconic facial tattoos that would be used for Darth Maul.
3 SKINNED ALIVE
While the facial tattoos had not yet been settled, McCaig was still looking for other distinctive aspects of Maul's facial design and he ended up finding inspiration in a rather bizarre place -- the thought of himself skinned alive! He recounted to StarWars.com, “If you were to strip the flesh off your face right now… the muscles would form a Darth Maul-ish pattern. The idea of a flayed flesh face was both beautiful and frightening to me. In addition, there are markings on all kinds of dangerous animals: snakes, tigers, wasps-a dark black stripe on top of red or yellow is often a warning sign to other animals to keep away. Defenseless animals will even adopt this pattern to scare others off.”
In the end, McCaig decided to pattern Maul's look on his own face, noting, "I know my own evils and darkness better that anyone else’s." Amusingly, a lot of the ideas that McCaig had for the aforementioned "warning patterns" on people's faces boiled down to a fear that McCaig had of clowns. In a lot of ways, you can almost look at the facial tattoos of Darth Maul as being a really bizarre looking clown's makeup. Well, a really scary clown, at least...
2 ARE THOSE FEATHERS?
Remember earlier, when we noted how the Dathomirian Zabrak males were sort of like those species of birds where the males are the ones with the fancy plumage? Well, that ties in shockingly well to the next step in McCaig's design for Darth Maul, when he was actually planning on Maul's horns being... feathers!! McCaig explained to StarWars.com, "To balance a design as horrible as a flayed-flesh head, you might give it a soft hood… or long, flowing hair… or, in this case, feathers. These were beautiful black feathers, bound like Native American prayer totems to a length of piano wire. And every morning I imagined Darth Maul would get up and bind his head with this piano wire, and that the feathers had to end up at the right points-it was just a part of the focusing of the Sith.”
However, as you can see from McCaig's design, the feathers sure look like horns, don't they? So when the other folks on the Star Wars design team got a hold of these designs, that's what they thought that they were and they thought that it looked really cool, so suddenly Darth Maul got his iconic horns. It is pretty amazing how these designs can sometimes have rather circuitous routes to the final character design.
1 PAINFUL ARMOR
As noted in his discussion of how Darth Maul would tie his head in piano wire and other discussions of how Darth Maul's face would look like someone just flayed their own skin, McCaig's views towards Maul's original costume design played into that concept of a guy who would be constantly torturing himself as some sort of ritual. He detailed to StarWars.com, "“I had done a costume that reflected the peeled flesh thing, so the costume was also dissected into muscles patterns. The first costume was quite big-making him larger than life. He had Batman spikes sticking outside of his neck."
It is such a compellingly gross design, the notion of this armor that was dissecting into his own muscles, with he exposed flesh and all of those blades sticking into his neck! It's like something that would give Marilyn Manson nightmares! The problem, though, is, as we mentioned earlier, George Lucas wanted Darth Maul to be an example of a super fast Jedi fighter. Lucas did not see how Maul could move that fast when his armor was tied into his own muscles and flesh, so McCaig re-designed it and the costume no longer was connected to his own flesh. It was instead the smooth, almost samurai outfit that he wears in The Phantom Menace.