Darth Vader doesn’t have the best reputation as a dad, but “Darth Vader and Son,” a new book by cartoonist Jeffrey Brown, sets out to change that.
In it, dad Darth Vader trains little Luke Skywalker in lightsaber baseball, gives him a timeout and bandages a tiny scrape on his son’s arm. He is visibly disturbed when Luke pretends to be a Jedi and wants C-3P0 cereal, not eggs, for breakfast.
An amusing 18-piece show featuring illustrations from the book is on view at the Cartoon Art Museum through Aug. 5. Chicago-based Brown will be in town Thursday to sign copies.
In graphic novels and other works — including his popular debut “Clumsy,” “AEIOU,” the “Sulk” series and more — Brown mixes awkward moments with tenderness. In “Darth Vader and Son,” published by Chronicle Books, the prototypical evil character is humanized, even charming.
The concept goes back to 2010, when Google art directors asked Brown to come up with a “Darth Vader as dad”-themed Father’s Day homepage.
“We were playing around with the idea of what it would be like for Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader to have normal family dinners and normal father-son moments,” says Brown, who received a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting at art school in Chicago before directing his attention to comics.
Google didn’t use the material, but Brown couldn’t get the idea out of his head. With permission, he ran with the inspiration on his own terms, and the book was born.
“I tried to make the book work even if you aren’t a huge fan. ‘Star Wars’ is a pop culture myth now, so people know the dynamics of the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader relationship. They know lightsabers and they know ‘The Force,’ ” Brown says.
Still, Brown still hasn’t let his 5-year-old son Oscar see the movies on which his work is based.
“There’s too much shooting in ‘Star Wars’ for him just yet,” says Brown. “So far he prefers BBC animal documentaries and the Muppets. But he has ‘Star Wars’ Legos, shirts and toys. He knows all the characters, just like he knows Spiderman and Batman without having read the comics.”
IF YOU GO: Darth Vader and Son