The new series centers not only on Darth Vader, but also on a Clone Wars trooper abandoned for dead who hates the Jedi generals who abandoned him. Now, he believes Darth Vader is the man he should have followed all along, and serves as the eyes and ears for the reader in "Cry of Shadows."
CBR News spoke with Siedell about coming back to the Dark Lord of the Sith for a second round, his plans to further develop the character between "Revenge of the Sith" and "A New Hope," the central theme of the series, the challenge of taking on Vader a second time and much more.
CBR News: Tim, tell us a bit about the central concept behind "Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows." Where does it pick up with Vader and how does it relate to your recently-concluded series "Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin?"
Covers by Felipe Massafera
Tim Siedell: The two stories aren't related, but in a way they are connected. The evolution of young Vader continues.
In "Ninth Assassin," Vader was freed up to be a badass. That's the word that kept coming back to me from readers: "badass." And because he was surrounded by a motley assortment of characters with their own moral deficiencies, there was some satisfaction in that. "Cry of Shadows" starts out that way, as well. Our main character, a disillusioned clone trooper who has a bone to pick with the Jedi, practically worships Vader's abilities as a warrior. But where does badass end and evil begin? Let's put it this way, Vader doesn't become the most feared man in the galaxy by just being a badass.
Darth Vader is easily one of the most recognizable and beloved characters in popular culture. How were you able to take the core of the character and expand your take on him for "Cry of Shadows?"
We'll be looking at Vader through the eyes and imagination of a brand new character. This character has his own desires and motivations. His own prejudices. His own take on what's happening to the galaxy. He sees Vader act from afar and he sees Vader operate up close and personally. There's definitely a perception/reality thing going on here. But it's all his perception and his take.
"Ninth Assassin" portrayed a Vader very much in the early days of his service to the Emperor following "Revenge of the Sith." How does "Cry of Shadows" continue Darth Vader's development into the most feared Sith lord in the galaxy?
We're still watching a Vader that is many years away from being the Vader we all got to see in "A New Hope." It's Anakin in that suit. In "Ninth Assassin," he's still learning what he's capable of doing. He's cocky and quick to act. He's testing out his new dark powers and his new mechanical legs and he's finding out that he's pretty much unstoppable.
In "Cry of Shadows," we see the legend growing. His amazing feats are being talked about throughout the galaxy. But amid the badassery, maybe Anakin is starting to find his limits. Maybe we see some overconfidence and arrogance. Maybe this leads to a mistake or two. Maybe, even as he crushes those who stand in the Empire's way, we see a slight crack in Vader's armor.
What exactly does "Cry of Shadows" mean in terms of the story? It's a little less obvious as a subtitle than "The Ninth Assassin."
The entire story is told through flashbacks by a clone who feels compelled to write about his life and document the people and events that ultimately changed it. He wants to give voice to those who are no longer able to tell their own stories.
Any chance readers will see some old, familiar faces in this series -- either from "Ninth Assassin" or the movies?
We'll take a very quick glance into the inner circle of power that is consolidating around the Emperor. There may be a face or two that will interest fans of the movies or fans of other Star Wars comics. But we'll mostly be meeting entirely new characters. There's a reason we haven't met them until now.
In a previous interview with CBR, you cited power as one of the main themes of "Ninth Assassin." How does that theme shift and evolve for "Cry of Shadows?"
It's definitely a major theme in this series, as well. In "Ninth Assassin" we see Vader as an indestructible killing machine. And we see that the Emperor is far more powerful, still. In "Cry of Shadows" we see an Empire clamping down on the galaxy. And we start to see how difficult it is for Vader and the Emperor to impose their will in every corner of the galaxy.
What appeals to you about writing Darth Vader? Why do you think the character continues to be one of the most-explored figures in the "Star Wars" comics?
He's the ultimate bad guy, really. Bad guys are always interesting. But he's also a tragic figure, which makes him somewhat relatable. He was tricked and manipulated into becoming something awful, which in turn changed the destiny of the entire galaxy. We know he is eventually redeemed. We know Vader will, ultimately, radically change the destiny of the galaxy once again. That makes every decision, every action, interesting. Did that spark of humanity go away and come back? Does Anakin struggle to hold on to it? Was he ever close to challenging the Emperor before? What would have happened if he had?
To me, the most interesting time is between the two trilogies. The farther he falls, the more evil he becomes, the more satisfying the redemption.
You're a writer with a very diverse background in terms of content. How does writing something like "Cry of Shadows" stretch different creative muscles for you than with your other writing assignments?
I do a lot of comedy writing and people wonder what the connection is between Star Wars books and comedy. Truth is, writing is writing, whether it's a comic book or a movie script or a joke. You're looking to be interesting. You're looking for a twist, whether the desired result is a laugh or for someone to excitedly turn the page. Of course, a 5-part miniseries is far more complex than a tweet. But Star Wars is such a rich and amazingly fun universe to play in. So much is established, yet so much is still unexplored. There's tremendous freedom, but you're not starting from nothing, and that's the perfect creative formula. I would say I've never consulted 12 year-old me more than while I'm writing a Star Wars comic. He should get co-writing credit.
What do you find to be the biggest challenge of crafting "Cry of Shadows?"
Oh, I think it's always a bit of a challenge to write a Vader story that keeps Vader fans happy, stays true to the character and established story lines, and yet carves out some new ground. Challenges can be fun, though.
My favorite part of writing this series, however, was climbing into the mind of a clone during a very confusing time in the galaxy. But, as you'll see, this is no ordinary clone. He and Vader are an awful lot alike.
"Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows" hits stores in December.