He's arguably the most iconic villain in the history of everything, but Darth Vader was almost a very different creature ... that is, if George Lucas' early screenplay for something called "The Star Wars" had made its way from page to screen.
Lucas' first pass at what would become the biggest pop culture phenomenon of all time (don't argue) had only a passing resemblance to the "Star Wars" we now all know and have memorized. His May 1974 screenplay known as "The Star Wars" is finally seeing the light of day courtesy of a limited comic book series published by Dark Horse Comics, in which we'll be introduced to such characters as wise old General Luke Skywalker, cocky but naive farmboy Annikin Starkiller and a lizard-like alien named ... Han Solo.
What's most intriguing is the early version of Darth Vader. He's called Darth Vader, though he's not quite as ... well, impressive as the imposing, deep-voiced Dark Lord of the Sith we know from the movies. He's a general in the Imperial Army and seems to be quite the fearsome figure, though he's not a Sith lord and doesn't wear a mask. And not that he needs one, as the trailer for the comic book series reveals that he bears only a scar on his left cheek — quite the contrast to the burned, disfigured visage of Anakin Skywalker.
See 'The Star Wars' Book Trailer:
According to series artist Mike Mayhew in an interview with USA Today, the Darth Vader we know from the actual "Star Wars" films is actually a mix of this early incarnation and two other characters we'll meet in "The Star Wars," including a 'man-machine' character and a Sith, "who all have elements of the Vader we all know and love."
The overall themes and concepts of "The Star Wars" are very similar to the later "Star Wars" films, as it tells the tale of an intergalactic war between the evil Empire and the fledging Rebel Alliance, with the ancient order of Jedi being hunted down by the evil Sith warriors. Princess Leia still needs saving, there's a Wookiee named Chewbacca and there's a pair of droids named R2D2 and C3PO.
However, the most intriguing aspects of "The Star Wars" are the notable differences between Lucas' early and later visions. Darth Vader not wearing a mask and Han Solo as a lizard are two of the most extreme examples, though there are other interesting tweaks such as R2D2 being able to talk and Luke Skywalker taking on the mentor role that would later go to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Lightsabers are also non-existent in this early universe — everyone wields "lazer swords," a weapon not necessarily exclusive to Jedi and Sith warriors.
If "The Star Wars" were made into a film today, Mayhew believes it "would hold its own against 'The Avengers' and 'Avatar.'" But back in the '70s, it was maybe just a little too ... ambitious.
"I'm sure he (Lucas) knew quite well in 1974 that there was no way you could film this script," says writer J.W. Rinzler, an executive editor at LucasBooks. "He changes locales sometimes twice on a page. Any studio head reading that would have just had a heart attack. He would have thrown it in the garbage by the time he got to page 20."
Okay, now we've gotta read this.
The first of the eight-issue series of "The Star Wars" will hit store shelves on September 4. We expect it will sell out in a matter of seconds ... and inspire at least one big-screen adaptation rumor.
And when it comes to the upcoming "Star Wars" film, Yahoo! Movies will be all ears this weekend as we cover Disney's D23 Expo — where some major announcements are in store.