One of the best parts of Star Wars: The Last Jedi being released is the fact that we are going to get more of arguably the most compelling characters introduced in The Force Awakens: Kylo Ren. This character is the most complex villain (as well as simply one of the most complex characters) the Star Wars film franchise has ever introduced. Kylo Ren covered the emotional ground in about thirty minutes of screen time that Hayden Christensen took two whole movies to fall short on (no offense Hayden; you were just working with what was given to you).
Part of the reason we love Kylo Ren is due to Adam Driver’s amazing performance. He brings a certain level of naivety to this character we’re supposed to be terrified of. And even though he is naïve and fragile, he is still terrifying. But that’s what make his so special. We, as an audience, want to hate Kylo Ren, but he’s too charming and fascinating to completely despise. Unlike Anakin in the prequels, where we wanted to feel something for him, but the whining kept our hearts closed (except that Sand People slaughter scene; that ruled). If these works of art are any indication, we’re not the only ones who love Kylo.
15 LADY REN
Gender-swapping characters is nothing new in fandom especially when it comes to Star Wars. In fact, it’s common place. Just go to any comic book or anime convention and you’ll see tons of Lady Boba Fetts and lady Storm Troopers and so on (honestly, we could go on for days).
Perhaps changing male characters to female in the Star Wars Universe is a direct response to how few women populated the original trilogy. Honestly, besides Princess Leia, the only woman with any significant amount of lines in those three films was Mon Mothma in The Return of the Jedi. But even she only got like a minute of screen time and was only used as the mouthpiece for a massive exposition dump. But even now that women have become a strong force in the Star Wars film franchise, works like this one form Isaiah Stephens are still fun.
14 EASTERN INFLUENCE
This piece by the super talented Spanish Illustrator Pablo Suárez Casal harkens back to the days of ‘80s anime and it is awesome. This piece looks like it’s from an upcoming animated version of The Last Jedi. Or that really awesome Tie Fighter fan film that should totally be feature length.
Blending both Western and Eastern aesthetics (something Star Wars has always done), this take on Kylo Ren presents the character in his most raw form. Here he is his both youthfully naïve and absolutely menacing. Casal seems to have taken a page from the myriad Star Wars manga books out there and gleaned a lot of the facial features from Japanese incarnations of both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. This is something that comic art can do where casting an actor may fall short due to the fact Adam Driver is not related to either character’s actor.
13 ROCK-A-BILLY REN
Freelance concept artist and illustrator Josh Matts is awesome at redesigning characters. He puts them in worlds and time periods they have no right existing within, but somehow makes it work. One of his finest examples of this gift is his take on Kylo Ren.
Matts’ version of the young Sith lord as a rock-a-billy tough is so rad we can’t stand it. The blend of low tech and high tech is pitch perfect. The greaser leather jacket screams Kylo. His on-the-nose t-shirt is great. And his light saber design, which is an obvious callback to the sabers from The Knights of the Old Republic is the cherry on top. It’s almost as if this version of Kylo Ren could terrorize the residents of Riverdale in the pages of Archie.
12 CAT REN
For quite some time, a meme about Adam Driver looking uncannily like a cat on Instagram was floating around the Internet. Now, we’re not saying this meme was wrong. Nor are we saying that Adam Driver (who is a fine actor, by the way) looks anything like a house cat. But…we would be remised not to point out the likeness.
Canadian artist Nina Matsumoto took things a step farther with this piece. Not only is the Adam Driver look alike cat in this drawing, it appears that his owner (based on the copious about of fur clinging to his cape) is Kylo Ren (the character Driver is probably best known for). We don’t know if Driver knows about this ongoing Internet obsession with his face and the striking resemblance it has to this random cat, but we hope finds humor in it since we do.
11 DO, OR DO NOT
A French artist known as “deviantetienne” has taken the iconic image of Grand master Yoda clinging to the back of Luke Skywalker during the training scenes on Dagobah from The Empire Strikes Back and made it not only way funnier, but also a bit of poignant satire with regards to the debate over Snoke’s stature.
After Snoke first appeared in The Force Awakens as a larger-than-life hologram projection, countless think-pieces regarding what size he really was flooded the Internet. Was Snoke actually 20-feet tall? Was he of average height? The image above argues for going in the opposite direction. While Kylo Ren might be just as obstinate as his uncle was, the sight of a diminutive Snoke is way more upsetting than the seeing the authoritatively adorable Yoda training a young man the ways of The Force.
10 CALVIN REN
Walt Disney story artist Brian Kesinger took to his Instagram account shortly after the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and posted several illustrations of a Star Wars/Calvin & Hobbes mash-up. Only in this version Calvin is a sycophantic murdering Dark Side user, while Hobbes is…um, Darth Vader. So, yes, it’s cute. But let’s stop to think about who we’re dealing with here for a moment.
Kesinger posted dozens of these upon Episode VII’s release, and has released several more over the course of the last two years. His input has grown stranger recently with the arrival of The Last Jedi. But one of our favorites is this one, which if it weren’t for the murderous sentiment, you could see Calvin writing thank you cards with similar vitriol.
9 PLAY ARTS REN
Video game developer Square Enix launched a very successful line of highly detailed action figures known as Play Arts Kai several years ago. If you know about this toy line, then you probably are broke because these action figures are awesome. What Play Arts does is take existing properties, both from within and outside of the Square Enix corral, and produce high quality, super articulated action figures.
There have already been several Star Wars series in the Play Arts Kai line, but one character is strangely absent. That is Kylo Ren. Now, with the eminent success of The Last Jedi Kylo’s inclusion may come sooner rather than later. But that didn’t stop Indonesian artists Yohan Alexander Probo Yuwono from laying down how Play Arts Kai should represent our newest Star Wars Villain. Make this real, Play Arts, and take all out money.
8 ICONIC MOMENT
Sandara is a fantasy illustrator from Singapore. And when she isn’t designing fantastical creatures, brave warriors, and anthropomorphic heroes, she tosses a sketch out every now and then of an already existing character. What’s crazy is that these “sketches” are almost as amazing as her fully-realized pieces.
Take this “sketch” of Kylo Ren for example. It’s done with such amazing style and captures a moment from The Force Awakens that has burned into the pop culture consciousness forever. But her take on that moment is different. She decides to show Kylo’s smug face, which was obscured by his Darth Vader-seque helmet in the film. Also the dichotomy between how calm and simple Kylo’s face is and the frantic brush strokes making up the rest of the piece is startling and wonderful.
“Chibi” style characters are known for their exaggerated head size in relation to their body. It is an artistic choice that communicates the idea that the characters drawn in this style are cute. And while this would be case for just about any other character, there is nothing cute about Kylo Ren with a big head and tiny body.
Kylo Ren’s mask is already ridiculously huge. Further exaggerating somehow makes it way creepier. This is by no means a slight against this piece by Brazilian artist Debora Fogaca. No at all. In fact, this piece is great. And while it is fun to look at, it is not cute. It reminds us of the way Zangief looked in the video game Pocket Fighter. The body proportions are right on the money for chibi style, but it’s just unsettling.
6 YOU NEED A TEACHER (OR A COLD SHOWER)
Spanish illustrator Libertad Delgado Rodriguez is amazing at romanticizing fictional pop culture icons in very unique ways. Sometimes it’s playful, while other times it can get a little explicit. Her take on Kylo Ren as a seductive bespectacled bad boy is somewhere in between.
Kylo Ren has no shortage of fandom surrounding him. Tons of fan art that displays wishful thinking for Kylo is out there. Not to mention myriad slash fiction stories and mature art dedicated to the character, which is where some of the fandom gets...interesting. Perhaps is the unique appeal of Adam Driver. Or maybe it’s the first pretty boy Sith we have gotten since Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. But where Hayden Christensen was whiny, Adam Driver plays the part with brooding menace with a dash of angst (after all, it does run in the family).
Man, this one is simply awesome. Canadian digital artist Christian Amiel Miranda has quite the knack for creating some great rendered works of fan art, but his version of Kylo Ren is one of his best. The image of his now iconic mask exploding off his face as he holds the even more iconic helmet of his grandfather in his hands is compelling. It’s a tale of generations in one image.
What is really impressive is how Miranda is able to bring in the facial features of actor Adam Driver without relying on them too heavily. This is Miranda’s Kylo. The ownership within this piece is what stands out most. It also exemplifies the choice Kylo has made (or possibly pushed toward). It’s moody, brooding, and tragic, which is exactly what Kylo Ren is supposed to be.
4 LITTLE BEN
Tumblr user “CurvedCat” really swung for the posts with this amazing recreation of what the relationship might have been between a very young Ben Solo and his uncle, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. There is so much heart and sadness in this illustration. The style hearkens back to the work of Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes) and Disney and Dreamworks director Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch).
The image conjures up so many questions regarding how someone so young and innocent could grow into the patricidal Dark Side-user who stalks current trilogy of Star Wars films. It’s quite heartbreaking. What should have been the next steps in growing the Jedi Order and passing on the Skywalker bloodline to an heir who would continue to bring balance to The Force turned into tragedy for reasons not fully realized. Maybe the Light Side just skips a generation.
3 GRUMPY SITH
Is Kylo Ren the Grumpy Cat of the Star Wars Universe? Well, if his onscreen persona thus far is any indication, Kylo certainly has the fickle temperament that many domestic felines often display. He’s prone to seemingly random acts of destruction, violent outbursts, and giving off the vibe of someone who needs a hug, but probably doesn’t want one.
These wild mood swings are rendered wonderfully by Swedish cartoonist, Max Grecke’s caricature of Ren. The snooty scowl across the fallen Jedi apprentice is so over-the-top it looks like it would be at home in a Wallace & Gromit animated short. It also nails the ostensible characterization of Ren despite the fact he’s a complex character. He's more than just a Vader wannabe unnecessarily large knock-off helmet.
2 RETRO REN
This one is more of a web comic than a piece of fan art, but we just had to include it on this list. The set-up of this one-page comic was based on the early footage of The Force Awakens. Writer Charles Marsh and artist Chris Faccone took a wild stab in the dark and wondered if Kylo Ren was stalking through the woods of Endor in search of his grandfather’s helmet in the orginal teaser trailer.
While this may seem odd since seemingly the planets and moons in Star Wars have one season and one season only, it’s still a cool comic. The art style is very reminiscent of Howard Chaykin’s work on the Marvel Star Wars comics from the ‘70s. But Faccone’s work is both comfortingly retro while still being fresh.
1 EMO REN
Wait, so is this Kylo Ren or is it the bleary-eyed clerk behind the counter at Hot Topic? Honestly, it could go either way. What’s cool about this piece is the attention to detail. The artist who goes by the moniker of “goatrocket” has extrapolated the very core aesthetic of modern angst and applied it to our present-day Star Wars villain.
The gauged ears, the half sleeve tattoo, and the sleeveless shirt you know he bought without sleeves. In fact, this Kylo Ren probably paid more for the sleeveless T-shirt than the same one with sleeves, so he didn’t have to alter anything. Look, man, that’s just lazy. Anyhow…the primal angst and pain of an entire generation has been exemplified by Kylo Ren on the big screen (kind of), but this literal interpretation really hits the nail on the head.