Better Vader: Designed

This is a repost of a guest post for; my response to the Design a Better Vader competition. The full results and opinions of the other judges can be found here.

There you are, a scarred and battered Anakin yours to mould. You can do anything with him – anything! – change his face, his body, his gender, her image, its impact. You can remake the Ultimate Villain into whatever you want… an armoured giant, a perfect beauty, a sex toy…

Being asked to judge a competition like this means you have to make a tough choice. You know that the ten semi-finalists will all be arse-kickingly good – and you know you have to pick the best ones. It’s a hard selection – but as the Emperor threatened my son with incarceration in the Spice Mines of Kessel, I had no option: –

Forbidden Planet is about being different. For my three, I chose to look for those who’d thought outside the armour – who’d actually broken or changed the classic Vader mould and done something new with the Anakin canvas.

My second runner up is No 6 because it’s androgynous – even inhuman. I like the strong use of simple colour and the stance… and (oh yes all right) I like the weapon. Forbidden Planet aside for a moment, the Viking in me is still a bit of an ordnance freak and giving the New Vader a New Weapon seemed an integral part of the creation. It’s strong, and striking and simple – and carries the right sense of presence and fear.

My first runner up is No 9. It references Vader in the caricature helm and armour, but I love the play on Master Yareal Poof (the position of the lightsaber didn’t go unnoticed – no, I’ve never worked out how he managed to fight either!) and the comical contrast of a belly that would better on Selbulba. It’s sharp, well-drawn and insightful – and the wristwatch on the chest gives it a comedy-steampunk look that ties it all in perfectly.

My winner is No 10 – am image that has taken the traditional Vader and made him darker, more evil, less human. I love the picture – it’s gothic, dramatic, sinister – and it’s the one that’s made me think. Not about his WarHammer –esque appearance – but about how changes in his construction would change his character, would change the story in Episodes IV though VI, and change the whole Universe of Star Wars as we know it.

Could you imagine this Vader being mushy about his Jedi son?

If you’re going to design a New Vader – why just stop with how he looks?

Reposted with thanks to Emperor Palpatine, and to Diz and the boys from the 501st for their help in choosing a new Boss, right in the middle of Forbidden Planet’s birthday party: –

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People Like Us… Like Schwag!

The cornerstone of successful retail marketing is simple.

When you break from branding, veer from visual merchandising, lose your leaflets and put off your promos, you come back to the basics: –

Free shit.

There’s nothing people want more than the chance to grab schwag.

In its thirty-year history, Forbidden Planet has seen every kind of geek – and an advertising campaign based on ‘something for nothing’ guaranteed that our nationwide birthday party greeted all of them. From Trooper to Pirate, Bored Bird to Lone Loon – they braved rain and roadworks and came down to see what they could seize.

Dedicated Opportunists were queuing on both mornings. There were Families, dads and kids together buying toys from Doctor Who. There were lifelong Collectors, less worried about the freebies, using their vouchers to secure big toys they’d been eyeing for months. There were Pirates, cheekily wondering if they’d wait an extra hour for the next batch of give-aways. There were Geek Girls, stocking up on their manga and Pro Geeks, disdaining the lesser-spotted high street geek and buying only the Limited Edition stuff from the San Diego Comicon.

Numbers of comics-readers were unchanged – but more people braved the Heart of the Department and returned, enthused, with a handful of free Batman badges and a shiny-new copy of Watchmen.

The Lone Loons were happy and harmless; the Cool Teens were everywhere and the Cosplayers were back – fabric-sodden but unstoppable.

Braving the weather, the Troopers from the 501st did, as ever, a storming job of creating energy – and much giggling embarrassment. Prevented from too much mischief by pavement barriers and soggy concrete, their spirits remained undampened – and their collective eye for a victim as sharp as ever,

And yes, even with wet armour, the ladies still can’t get enough.

And if the Trooper Groupies were many, then the Bored Birds were few – I did chuckle on seeing one of the girls of Vader’s Fist stocking up on her Stargate stuff while her husband rolled his eyes in mock-despair. Who says the missus can’t do this too?

A party may kick off with a fountain of freebies, but unless a retailer can put its mouth where its marketeering is, even generous goody bags are just so much biodegradable plastic.

When the bags have gone – what’s left?

I like making people happy – from the small child smiling at the balloon to the blushing girl cuddling the Trooper to the delighted hoarder with the bagful of new toys…

…seeing Thirty Years of Geek in one place, people spanning every type, archetype and (occasionally) stereotype is the ‘what’s left?’ question answered.

The cornerstone of successful retail marketing? It isn’t the company. It’s the customers.

Seems that Brian Bolland’s ‘People Like Us…’ brand from 1978 is still wonderfully true.

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