MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Switching gears now, Father's Day is a little over a week away and we try to take the day to appreciate the dads in our lives, but if you think you had some tough times with your dad, you've got nothing on this famous film father and son.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "STAR WARS: EPISODE V - THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK")
JAMES EARL JONES: (as Darth Vader) Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father.
MARK HAMILL: (as Luke Skywalker) He told me enough. He told me you killed him.
JONES: (as Darth Vader) No. I am your father.
HAMILL: (as Luke Skywalker) You're lying. No. It's not true. That's impossible. No.
MARTIN: But what if, instead of intergalactic father-son strife, Darth Vader was just a sort of kind of ordinary dad trying to raise his four-year-old son, Luke? That is the premise of a new graphic novel titled "Darth Vader and Son," but even if you are not a "Star Wars" fan, you will probably get a kick out of Lord Vader trying to teach Luke to hit a baseball with a light saber.
Jeffrey Brown, the author of "Darth Vader and Son," joins us now. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
JEFFREY BROWN: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: Of course, you want to know - I want to know what gave you the idea for the book. Was it some tense moments or was it - some tense moments with your son or was it thinking, well, what if this scary guy wasn't really so scary at all?
BROWN: Well, yeah. Actually, the idea came from Google. I was invited to do some sketches for a possible Father's Day homepage design for Google and their idea was just showing how awkward family dinners would be if Luke and Vader were just sitting down and, you know, just the ordinary father-son moments and so I did those sketches and that's where the initial idea came from.
MARTIN: Well, the funny thing about the book is that Darth Vader is still the dark lord of the Sith, which puts an interesting twist on take your son to work day, I would imagine, but I understand - was it - do I have this right that your own son, Oscar, was four when you were working on this book? So that had to give you some ideas.
BROWN: Yeah. I mean, having a four-year-old, there are many frustrating times and you just kind of have to take it, so the idea of giving Darth Vader this four-year-old who, you know, he can't strangle - he just has to kind of bite his tongue and put up with it and so a lot of that is things that maybe I went through with my own son.
MARTIN: And, of course, there's always the - there's the famous ice cream cone situation when they haven't quite mastered the art of the cone. And here's a promotional trailer for the book and this is a scene where Darth Vader takes Luke out for his special treat. Here it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF TRAILER, "DARTH VADER AND SON")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Luke, join me and, together, we can eat our ice cream cones.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Now, help me take this mask off, Luke. It is the only way.
MARTIN: And there are some other scenarios. Which one is your favorite? Do you have a favorite?
BROWN: I guess one of my favorites is actually the one that's on the back cover. It's a scene with Luke. He's got all of his toys spread around the room and Darth Vader is asking him, pick up your toys this instant. I am your father. Do you want a time out? And - yeah. I mean, that's the constant.
MARTIN: Yeah. The powers only go so far when somebody's four.
BROWN: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, Vader can't pick the toys up for Luke because then he won't learn to clean up after himself, so - yeah.
MARTIN: And one of my other favorites is where you kind of imagine, you know, Darth Vader actually being a little bit human and, of course, there's that moment when a baby's not a baby anymore, but he's used to falling asleep in a certain position and Darth is holding onto Luke and then he says...
BROWN: My arm is totally asleep.
MARTIN: Totally asleep.
MARTIN: And he's like - and you kind of think that Darth should be able to handle this a different way, but he can't because he's a dad. And then there's one where - what does every kid give his dad at some point? What has it got to be? It's got to be what for Father's Day?
BROWN: It's got to be a tie.
MARTIN: It's got to be a tie.
BROWN: Although I haven't gotten a tie yet, so - but, yeah. You know...
MARTIN: Well, it's coming. And, of course, it's got to be polka-dotted or it's got to have palm trees...
BROWN: Right, right.
MARTIN: ...on it or something like this and that really doesn't go with being the dark lord of the Sith, does it?
BROWN: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I've been fortunate. Our son hasn't picked out any gaudy clothing for me to wear, but he does occasionally pick out jewelry for his mom, like, Dad, Mom would really like this bracelet. I'm like, well, he picked that out, honey. You have to wear it now to work.
MARTIN: You know why this book was particularly funny to me, though? I'll just let you in on a little family thing. Is that my son is now eight. He's a twin and he's got a sister, but he's now into getting he and his father to dress alike, and, last year for Halloween, guess what he decided they both had to be? Darth Vader.
BROWN: Like, Darth Vader?
MARTIN: Darth Vader. Yes.
BROWN: Not Luke Skywalker?
MARTIN: No, not Luke. They had to be Darth because the helmet...
BROWN: It had to be the more expensive costume.
MARTIN: ...is much - it had to be...
MARTIN: ...the more expensive costume. It had to be scarier and my husband is not one for dressing up in costumes, but guess who he was for Halloween?
BROWN: Darth Vader.
MARTIN: Darth Vader. Yes. Thank you. Right there.
BROWN: There you go.
MARTIN: There you go. Before we let you go, you know, some "Star Wars" fans, as I'm sure you know, are very, very serious about their "Star Wars." Have you heard from any fans who say Darth Vader would never teach Luke to use his light saber for baseball? You know, the molecular makeup of a light saber would destroy the ball or this is just - you know, this just can't be. Have you heard any of that?
BROWN: I - no. I mean, so far, the reaction has been really great and I think I went into this book as it's kind of a love letter to "Star Wars." I grew up with "Star Wars" and so I tried to be very true to "Star Wars" and I think, you know, even though it's outside of canon, it's very much a pure "Star Wars" book and I think that the people who love "Star Wars" will get that.
MARTIN: Well, what's going to be next? Is Darth Vader going to be teaching Luke how to drive or, God forbid, the facts of life?
BROWN: Well, you know, Luke does have a sister who we see only briefly and some people have actually asked, where's Leia in this book? And so I think the next step is showing Leia and Vader and giving her time to torture Vader as a child.
MARTIN: I look forward to it. Jeffrey Brown is a cartoonist and graphic novelist. His latest book is called "Darth Vader and Son" and he was kind enough to join us from member station WBEZ in Chicago. Thank you and dare I say may the force be with you.
BROWN: May the force be with you, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.