On the birthday of comic book legend, Jack Kirby, DC and Marvel fans the world celebrate the work of man who gave us so many memorable super heroes and super villains. But, in a roundabout way, is Kirby also responsible for Darth Vader? Back in 1979, Stan Lee suggested that Vader was indeed a kind of spiritual decedent of Doctor Doom.
Back in 2016, at the height of Rogue One Vader-frenzy, Mark Peters wrote on Paste of the “underappreciated influence” Kirby had on Star Wars. Specifically, that the arch-nemesis of the Fantastic Four — Doctor Victor von Doom — is pretty much a more terrestrial version of Darth Vader. Writing in a 1979 Fantastic Four issue, Lee said this:
“Hey, gang, have you seen Star Wars? Okay, okay, I realize that’s like asking if you can spell your name. But anyway, remember the villain, Darth Vader? …you are about to meet one of our own Marvel villains, and I just suspect that you might notice the teensy-weensiest little resemblance! And, in case you’re wondering, Dr. Doom came first—by about 15 years, give or take a micro-minute or two.”
Like Vader, Doom was disfigured, which led to him wearing a terrifying metal mask. Doom also derived powers from the practices of Tibetian Monks which isn’t entirely dissimilar from Darth Vader knowing the ways of the Jedi. In fact, some of the aspects of Yoda’s Jedi teaching have more than a passing resemblance to Tibetian Buddism, particularly the focus on wisdom received from a guru. Doctor Doom can also telepathically control people with powers very similar to Jedi mind tricks.
Obviously, there’s no smoking gun — or blaster — to indicate that George Lucas really stole the design of Darth Vader from Doctor Doom, but the fact that Stan Lee pointed out at least once publicly is somewhat telling. When he and Jack Kirby created Doctor Doom, they invented one of the best — and somehow underrated — supervillains of all time. So the question is, did Doctor Doom have his thunders stolen in the ‘70s and ‘80s by Darth Vader? Or is their shared fashion choices simply a coincidence?