- Associated Press - Saturday, January 2, 2016

DANVILLE, Va. (AP) - They say that you want what you can’t have. That was the case for Danville resident and Darth Vader collector Ben Baker.

As a preacher’s son, it was generally frowned upon to own a villain character action figure, much less the complete spectrum of all affiliated memorabilia. For the last 15 or so years, Baker, now 38, has been collecting items related to the Star Wars villain Darth Vader.

“I rebelled when I was an adult,” Baker laughed.

He decided to stop collecting when he got to 700. Then he considered stopping at 777. But then a few more pieces took him to 800. Ultimately he determined that if he could spend less than $500, he would let the collection grow to 1,000 items.

It includes everything from macaroni and cheese noodles and Pop Tart boxes, vitamins and a bag of Three Musketeers. A large poster of Darth Vader stickers - one of the first items accrued - stands behind three puzzles. A totem pole of sorts featuring all of the Darth Vader masks leans against the corner in a room dedicated just to his collection.

Two of the room’s four walls are covered in coloring book pictures of Darth Vader. Darth Vader kites and posters hang from the walls while Darth Vader pens and helmets sit on shelves.

Next to the coloring book pages, the figurines might number the highest. They range in size from less than an inch all the way to a few feet tall. Some light up and wave a light saber and others speak and recite dialogue.

What sets his collection apart from most is he insists on finding items in brick and mortar stores as opposed to the Internet. He also elects to limit the money he spends on it, making as inexpensive as he can.

He has invested his whole life or all his energy into the collection. He’s still some 60,000 short of beating the record holder Darth Vader collector.

“This is unique because it’s Darth Vader and it’s my own and it features special artwork,” he said.

Baker was an art minor, as well as theater, English and geography, with a major in liberal arts. He’s painted a large canvas of Darth Vader. On it is written a quote that plays on a famous statement made by the Darth Vader character: “The ability to paint abstract is insignificant next to the power of the force.” Instead of “paint abstract,” the character states in the movie “destroy a planet.”

There are a couple other painted pieces by him and some by former classmates. There’s even a Darth Vader coloring page given to him by his niece.

Baker was around 5 years old when he first saw a Star Wars movie. It was “Return of the Jedi” and it was just the fourth film he remembers seeing in theaters.

“I just love them,” he said of the movies. “I love the characters. I love the performance. I studied film a lot in college. I was a film critic. When I studied it I began to like it more and more.”

Baker is just about Star Wars and his Darth Vader collection. His second favorite movie is “Casablanca.” He also cites “High Noon” among others as what he considers quality film. He said if someone offered to buy his items or even if it was required that he get rid of the collection for a significant other, he’d be perfectly willing.

Nonetheless he sees rich depth in storytelling and scriptwriting in the Star Wars films.

“A hero is measured by what he can overcome. The greater the villain, the greater the hero. But when the hero cannot overcome the villain then what do you have. Even ‘Return of the Jedi’ is actually the villain turning back from the dark side and saving the day from the other villain,” he explained. “That’s what gives it the tragic necessity that sort of brings it to the next level.”


Information from: Danville Register & Bee, https://www.registerbee.com

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