Marvel's Doctor Doom predates Darth Vader by 15 years, leading fans to wonder if George Lucas ripped off Jack Kirby's creation, even if it's more likely that each villain came from similar character archetypes.
In the world of comic book heroes, science fiction, and even stand-up comedy, it’s common for villains, moral principles, and even jokes to be repurposed, reused, or, as some would harshly put it, “ripped off.” According to MovieWeb, this may very well be the case regarding the striking similarities between Marvel’s Dr. Doom and Star Wars villain Darth Vader. Though there is no definitive evidence, fans of the late Jack Kirby creation can’t help but point out the similarities between the two villains as they celebrate what would be Kirby’s 100th birthday.
But was Marvel’s Fantastic Four nemesis Dr. Doom truly copied by George Lucas and Co. when they created Darth Vader, or is this simply a matter of parallel thought between the two properties? An important aspect of the creative world that needs to be considered is that creators often consume an intimidating amount of source material, and while they sometimes think they dreamed up a character, they may have actually absorbed the inspiration from outside sources without realizing it. Though given the timeline of creation for these characters, Marvel fans are right to be suspicious of Darth Vader’s origins.
Stan Lee has gone on record in 1979, stating, “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.” We could reasonably assume that the veteran Marvel creator is just a little bit salty about Darth Vader’s striking similarities to Dr. Doom, but as far as we know, there was no intended impropriety coming from the Star Wars camp.
It’s easy to back up Stan Lee’s claim with some physical evidence, considering that Dr. Doom was introduced in print form in 1962 in the Fantastic Four #5 comic book. Simply put, Marvel’s Dr. Doom character could have been a loose inspiration for Darth Vader, who saw his silver screen debut in 1977. And to some, the similarities are too striking to overlook.
So let’s take a look at the similarities between Marvel’s menacing Dr. Doom and Darth Vader. For one, they both have suffered horrible disfigurements and wear a mask to cover their mangled faces. Additionally, they both have long flowing capes and are well-versed in ancient teachings; the former is inspired by Tibetan Monks and the latter is disciplined by the ancient teachings of The Force.
But most importantly, they have both been considered by fans to be one of the best villains of all time.
The most important takeaway, however, is that both Marvel and Lucasfilm, as well as many other successful production studios, all rely heavily on character archetypes, and this includes both Dr. Doom and Darth Vader. While the two villains have some glaring similarities, there is no clear indication that Marvel was the victim of intellectual property theft. After all, we’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds, of iterations of heroes who wear capes, have a secret alter-ego, and an origin story involving the death of their parents as well.
Though we can’t know for sure whether Marvel was the direct inspiration for Darth Vader, we can acknowledge that they do occupy similar territories and have similar archetypes. But just like a seasoned blues musician copping a lick, and making it their own, what we’re seeing is probably the result of parallel thought rather than outright theft.