A long time ago (2000ish) in a galaxy far, far away (Chicago), a young man walked into a tattoo shop and was forever marked as a sympathizer of the Empire. It was my very first tattoo and for anyone that knows me, the most predictable choice ever. Over the years the Imperial logo on my shoulder has aged about as well as Darth Vader did inside of that stifling mechanical suit — it’s super faded and the ink has spread in all the wrong places. But much like George Lucas’ signature creation, it will always have a very special place in my heart.
In slightly more than 15 years, a whole lot of things have happened in the two worlds of Star Wars and tattooing. The former have seen way more new movies than they would have ever dreamed possible, some horrific failures, some pretty damn good; the latter has experienced a revolution in color realism as tattooers are able to create picture perfect portraiture. On the Venn diagram of life the two meet in the middle and fans are getting some of the most wizard Star Wars tattoos we have ever seen. (Author’s Note: That cheezy use of the word “wizard” is the closest I will come to mentioning The Phantom Menace, I promise.)
Whenever I venture to a comic con I’ll find myself face to face with some dude sporting a sleeve featuring a blindingly gold C3PO by Nikko Hurtado or a clone trooper about to execute Order 66 by Chris Jones. And here I am with my aggressively mediocre tattoo that I got for $150 wondering if it means that I’m not quite the super fan that I thought I was.
Unless I start spouting some lines of Ewok, people are going to figure that I’m not anywhere near as dedicated of a fan. I can wear my Darth Vader Vans and my Iron Maiden/Star Wars mashup novelty shirt every day until I become one with the Force and I still won’t show the dedication these people have. I didn’t spend thousands of dollars, a ton of hours, and a large percentage of my body to proclaim my love, I just can’t compete. Much like the folks of Alderaan vs. The Death Star, I have lost this battle of nerdom in crushing form.
Or have I? We’re talking about Star Wars here. Nerd shit. I’ve had my tattoo way, way longer than that shiny new masterpiece. I was talking about how I would bullseye womp rats in my T16 way before that dude even knew what an ugnaught was, son. I’m the super nerd, dammit!
Or maybe we both just really love a silly little piece of pop culture and shouldn’t be comparing the length of our lightsabers, so to speak. We clearly are both humongous fans who probably have pretty detailed reasons as to how we became the type of people to get a Star Wars tattoo in the first place.
Growing up I was picked on constantly. Some days it was because I was a fat kid, other days it was because I was the poor kid, the reason didn’t really matter. But I would go home, fire up the ol’ VHS, and watch Empire Strikes Back while playing with my action figures and I’d feel alright. As I got older it turned into reading the books and writing really embarrassing fan fiction, and eventually it led to me getting the Imperial logo on my shoulder as a way to show my love for the silly little movies that I would escape into whenever the world was falling down around me (like when that big space snake’s belly starts caving in and the Falcon has to fly out of it).
I wouldn’t trade this tattoo in for the world. While I have thought about covering it up since it is taking up such a valuable chunk of real estate, there’s no way I could ever bring myself to do that unless Mark Hamill is the one behind the machine, and even then I would have my qualms. Every other person you see with a Star Wars tattoo — be it an enormous and beautiful portrait of Leia or a stick and poke Rebel logo done almost faded beyond recognition — likely feels the exact same way.
I hope you enjoy your May the Fourth. Or maybe you prefer Revenge of the Fifth. It doesn’t matter what day it is, every day is perfect for loving Star Wars and all of these amazing tattoos. And be sure to check out the artists’ Instagrams if you are looking to grab some Star Wars ink of your own.