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I got into a discussion today with somebody about whether Darth Vader was originally supposed to be human. We didn't find an answer, so we're hoping you can.

Is there any very early reference to Darth Vader's species? Is there something from an early draft of the script that says George Lucas intended Darth Vader to be human all along? Or that he considered Vader as non-human until he decided to make him human for a big reveal in The Empire Strikes Back?

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As far as I can determine, it appears that George Lucas always intended to depict Vader as a human. This can be seen in the Dark Horse Comics miniseries The Star Wars, which is based on the original draft of Lucas' script for what eventually became A New Hope.

Here is some concept art for the character's depiction in The Star Wars, the comic:

*The Star Wars:* Darth Vader

There were some other notable changes to the character from the original draft, such as the fact that he originally wasn't a Sith, but a General in the Imperial military:

Darth Vader meets Prince Valorum (1)

Darth Vader meets Prince Valorum (2)

You'll also notice in these images that Vader isn't as cybernetic as he is in the final films. Lucas originally did not envision him as a cyborg. That came in a later draft of the script, as described here at starwars.com:

“Early in the script there was a description of Vader crossing between two ships in space so I created this mask so he could breathe in space, with a suggestion of teeth in the masks [sic] grillwork,” McQuarrie said. It was not until the fourth draft that Lucas wrote in more of the backstory of Vader, with his connection to Ben Kenobi and Luke’s father, as well as the duel that followed between Ben and Vader after Vader killed Luke’s father. The duel ended with Vader falling into a volcanic pit and needing the suit and mask that Ralph McQuarrie had come up with.

So, while Vader did undergo some changes between his inception to his ultimate depiction in the Original Trilogy, there doesn't seem to be anything to indicate that Lucas ever planned for him to be a non-human character.

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    Odd that the date on the top image says "Feb 24 2012". I expected early concept art to have a date from the mid-1970's. – RichS Apr 30 '17 at 1:21
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    Interesting. The early Vader art shows him with skull scars on the top of his head and under his right eye, much like we saw when Luke removed his mask at the end of The Return of the Jedi. – RichS Apr 30 '17 at 1:24
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    @RichS Sorry, I should have clarified that the concept art in question was for the comic. The comic, however, is based on the original draft of the script. I consider this to be sufficient, as there were other characters that underwent changes by the time the film was in production (for example: Han Solo was originally a green-skinned alien creature, a member of a species known as the "Ureallians"). – Spar10 Leonidas Apr 30 '17 at 1:25
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    I found this YouTube clip about the history of the making of Darth Vader behind the scenes. youtube.com/watch?v=kmOG1wg5sVo It shows early concept art exactly as you described. :-) – RichS May 14 '17 at 21:43
  • @RichS Interesting! – Spar10 Leonidas May 16 '17 at 2:27
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In 2005, George Lucas was on the Tonight Show and said he originally had Luke be a sixty-five-year-old man, and Vader was supposed to be a character which morphed into General Grevous. Others involved in the production persuaded him to change it.

  • Can you provide a transcript or a video link? I bet you can find it on YouTube. – Gallifreyan Apr 30 '17 at 8:41

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