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By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics

Lucas Uses Initials to Credit Sources For Sith

George Lucas seems to be using the initials of the Sith Lords to give credit to one of the major sources of inspiration that he used to create that Sith Lord. For example, Dr. Victor Von Doom is one of the major sources for Darth Vader and they share the same initials. Below is a table of the four Sith Lords in the first six movies and the sources which I believe are being credited through the Sith Lord's initials.

Sith LordInitials  Inspiration
Darth VaderD. V.Doctor Victor Von Doom
Darth SidiousD. S.DeSaad
Darth MaulD. M.Devil Metaphisto
Darth Tyranus  D. T.Dracula of Transylvania

Darth Vader - Doctor Victor Von Doom

One of the major sources for Darth Vader was Doctor Victor Von Doom. Both characters wear a metal mask to cover their horribly disfigured faces. Both villains are majestic.

Lucas lets superhero fans know that Vader is based on Doom from the first scene where Vader appears. Vader's first major action is to hold a rebel soldier by the neck while he questions him. Vader's arm is held out in front of him, the rebel's feet are held off the deck of the spaceship. This mode of interrogation, called a neck lift, was a standard routine of Doctor Doom.

The neck lift is impossible in real life because humans could not do it, and if someone could it would kill the person being questioned. So it used to demonstrate the strength and ruthlessness of the character who does it, generally a villain.

In the Empire Strikes Back we see the back of Vader's helmet. He takes off the helmet and looks into a mirror and then puts it back. Once again this was something that Doom commonly did in the comic books.

Still another way Lucas points to Doom as an important source for Vader are the initials. Doom is normally known as Doctor Doom or simply Doom, but his real name is Doctor Victor Von Doom, so his initials D and V are the same as Darth Vader.

Darth Sidious - DeSaad

The second Sith Lord that we learned about in Star Wars was Darth Sidious the Emperor. He has much in common with DeSaad, Darkseid's torturer.

The name DeSaad is a reference to the Marque de Sade, who wrote about torture and sex. Hint, if you Google the character be sure to use the comic book spelling DeSaad. If you use Marque de Sade you are likely to get material your clergy person will not approve of.

Darth Sidious looks a lot like DeSaad. Both wear a monk's cloak with a hood. Both have a wrinkled gray face. You can use the images function on Google to see both DeSaad and Darth Sidious. The cartoon images of one could almost be used for the other they are so similar.

While I have said above that Doctor Doom is one of the sources of Darth Vader, he is not the only one. DeSaad's boss Darkseid, pronounced dark side, is another. Like Darth Vader and Doctor Doom, Darkseid combines evil with majesty. What is more, Darkseid leads the forces of evil and his son is the greatest hero of the forces of good. Sound familiar?

In the comics, Darkseid is the boss, DeSaad the underlying. In Star Wars the relationship is reversed, Darth Sidious is the Sith master and Darth Vader is his Sith apprentice.

Darth Maul - Devil Mephisto

If you ask someone what Darth Maul looks like, the usual answer is a devil or demon. The devil in Faust was named Mephistopheles, nicknamed Mephisto. In Marvel Comics there is a major devil that is usually called Mephisto. So Darth Maul shares the initials of devil or demon, Mephisto or Mephistopheles.

Darth Tyranus - Dracula of Transylvania

Darth Tyranus is Count Dooku. In English language adventure literature and more particularly comics the most famous count is Count Dracula. Dracula is usually said to be from Transilvania. So Darth Tyranus may refer to Dracula of Transylvania.

In the comics, Dracula appeared in a comic titled The Tomb of Dracula. So if Lucus is referring specifically to Dracula in the comics the T in Tyranus could be a reference to the word tomb in this title.

The actor who played Count Dooku was Christopher Lee a character actor who specialized in villains. At one time he was most famous for playing Count Dracula in a series of Hammer horror films.

Other Sith Lords

There are a couple of important Sith Lords that this may apply to that were not in the movies.

Darth Bane - Batman

In the movies, there are usually two Sith Lords, a master, and an apprentice. The master is always Emperor Palpatine, who is really the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. He has three apprentices, Darth Maul, Darth Tyranus, and Darth Vader. This reflects the Sith's rule of two.

Long before even the prequels, there were many Sith who used the force at one time. After a defeat at the hands of the Jedi Knights, Darth Bane instituted the rule of two, one master and one apprentice.

In the comics, the most famous master and apprentice relationship is between Batman and Robin.

The initials of Darth Bane are D and B. I am suggesting the B refers to Batman. The d could refer to Dynamic Duo, a nickname for Batman and Robin, or Dark Knight.

Darth Plagueis - Ra's al Ghul

Darth Sidious, like other Sith Lords since Darth Bane, had a master. His master was Darth Plagueis. Darth Sidious killed him in his sleep. Darth Plagueis was obsessed with finding the secret of immortality. His initials are d and p.

In the comics Ra's al Ghul, Batman's second most important villain after Joker, is able to make himself younger in the Lazarus Pits. He has done this for centuries, so he is effectively immortal. Ra's al Ghul maybe the most prominent character in comics who has found a special technique to extend his life indefinitely. Note that like Darth Plagueis he has a technique to do this, he is not just immortal as many comics characters are.

The Arabic meaning of Ra's al Ghul is demon head. So demon maybe the d needed to match Darth. The p in Darth Plagueis may refer to the p in pits.

Is This for Real, or a Stretch?

Perhaps, when I started with Darth Vader you thought well that seems plausible, but by now it is only natural to ask if I am stretching things. Maybe, or maybe it was Lucas who was stretching things. I suspect that when Lucas started this he was giving credit to his sources. As time went on he was perhaps just playing a game, could he name the Sith Lord so that a connection could be made to some character from comics or more generally English language adventure literature that had something important in common with the Sith Lord. He or the other writers may have created the Sith Lord without being specifically inspired but then Lucas named the Sith Lord to keep the pattern going.

It is only natural that the reader will be suspicious of the idea that Lucas is making references to anything with these names. It is important therefore to point out that Lucas did make such references. When he was a film student Lucas greatly admired 21-87 a short film by Authur Lipsettis. Lucas was so obsessed with the film that he created a whole series of student films in the same style. Lucas gave credit to this film that had so influenced him through the number on Princess Leia's death star prison cell, 2187. He also gave credit to the same film in his first theatrical film THX 1138. This film was set in the future, specifically the year 2187. So there can be little doubt that Lucas was into making references in his films like the initials pattern I discovered.

You can find more on this on my web page that traces the influence of Jack Kirby on Star Wars, and another web page the looks at the influence of a lesser know Sergio Leone film Once Upon a Time ... The Revolution.

Last edited October 26, 2019

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