Monday, January 23, 2017

The Evolution of Darth Cyphis

Like many a Star Wars fan, I have my very own ‘Star Wars name’, Darth Cyphis. I had no intentions of developing Darth Cyphis into a character, nor had I ever planned on creating a back story for him. However, as The Force would have it, one just developed organically over time all on its own.

In the fall of 2006 and Del Rey held a contest for fans to help pick Jacen Solo’s Sith name for the big reveal in The Legacy of The Force novel series. While brainstorming names to submit for Jacen, I came up with Cyphis. But as Cyphis was derived from the word ‘cypher’, a ring of people freestyle rapping and beatboxing, an activity I’d spent countless hours doing as an emcee, I decided to keep it for myself. Cyphis felt like the perfect fit for me in that it encompassed my two passions, Hip Hop and Star Wars. Plus, it just sounds dope! Oh, and in case you are wondering, I did come up with a second name choice to submit in the contest, although for the life of me I can’t remember what it was…? I’m sure I have it somewhere in my Star Wars archives. Regardless, I wasn’t the winner. But I liked the chosen Darth Caedus, so it was cool. At the time, I was on a huge Sith kick. 2005 had brought us Revenge of the Sith in theatres and Clone Wars on two DVDs (immensely better than the three-to-fifteen minute TV segments). And 2006 had given us the first Darth Bane novel and the first three installments of The Legacy of The Force novel series. Star Wars fans were learning more about the Sith, and getting more exposure to the Sith, than ever before. And I was all over it like a Jawa at Best Buy. In terms of the name Cyphis however, I really didn’t do much with it. I think I threw it in a couple rhymes, but basically it was just my Star Wars name.

In 2008 there were three major, yet unrelated at the time, changes to my ‘world of Star Wars’. In June of that year I became a member of the 501st Legion, Stormtrooper TK-9721. In July I came up with the concept, title, outline and plan for my first-of-its-kind, all-original Star Wars Hip Hop music project, The Lost Holocron. And in August of 2008, I met and fell in love with Ahsoka Tano. In regards to the 501st Legion, my chosen nickname was Cyphis and, although I was a Stormtrooper, my alias was Darth Cyphis.
The first song I wrote for The Lost Holocron was a track titled Sith Cypher, which is actually more of a sketch/interlude. In a lower-level Coruscant nightclub called the Twisted Lekku, the DJ calls all the Sith in the club up on stage for a freestyle session. I then proceed to spit verses personifying Bane, Maul, Vader, Palpatine, and Darth Cyphis. This song is still on the list to be recorded, but I did perform the Darth Cyphis verse live during an interview for a Star Wars documentary (shot during Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando in 2010). However, I have no idea as to whether or not the film was ever completed and/or released…?

I had toyed around with the idea of designing a look for Darth Cyphis so that I could do a custom costume, although I never ran with the notion beyond that. But while writing the screenplay for my The Dark Side music video (the precursor single to The Lost Holocron), in 2011, I purposely created a new character for myself to play in the video instead of Darth Cyphis. The character I play in the video is killed at the end, and I knew I didn’t want to kill off Darth Cyphis. Thus, I played Darth Staisis so that Darth Cyphis could live on, even though I still had no further plans for him. Fast forward to April 2015 at Star Wars Celebration VII in Anaheim; during a panel, Dave Filoni reveals that an unfinished The Clone Wars arc would have included the 332nd Legion, Ahsoka Loyalist clone troopers. All Dave Filoni had to show visually was a sketch he had drawn of what one of the clone trooper helmets would have looked like. Regardless, I set to work immediately designing a set of Ahsoka Loyalist clone armor. Because
the only depiction that existed was Dave Filoni’s sketch (and later some artistic renditions), I knew I could never get it 501st Legion approved. Therefore, I could make it look however I wanted it to. However, I knew it would be awhile before I would be able to obtain a set of armor and have it customized to match my design. But I did already own an orange squad leader pauldron that came with my Stormtrooper armor, which I had never used. So I asked my friend Kevin, an artist who, among many other projects, has done Star Wars trading cards for Topps, to paint Ahsoka’s facial markings on my pauldron. And in August of 2015 I unveiled the worlds’ first, and only, Ahsoka Loyalist Stormtrooper.

I even took the pauldron off a Hasbro The Black Series 6” Sandtrooper, asked Kevin to paint it to match my live-size pauldron, and then put it on a 6” Stormtrooper to have my own action figure.   

After reading the Ahsoka novel this past October, I used some of the new information in the book to fit together a loose chronology for Darth Cyphis:

Name: Verz Cyphstar
Nickname: Cyphis
Species: Human
Gender: Male
Born: Coruscant

-Born and raised on Coruscant
-No Force sensibility detected in childhood
-Received general education and military training on both Coruscant and Corellia
-Worked briefly as personal security for Chancellor Palpatine
-Transferred to Kamino using connections to the Chancellor
-Received additional military training on Kamino
-First non-clone soldier of the Grand Army of the Republic
-Assigned to Anakin Skywalker’s 501st Legion
-Became close with Anakin and Ahsoka
-Promoted to the rank of Commander
-Tried to follow Ahsoka when she left the Jedi Order, but she forced him to stay
-Transferred to the 332nd Legion when it was assigned to Ahsoka for the Battle of Mandalore
***Retrieved Ahsoka’s lightsabers***
-Defected from the GAR after Battle of Mandalore
-Kept an eye on Ahsoka for years and helped her out whenever possible
-Joined Imperial Armed Forces to spy for Ahsoka, despite loyalties to Vader and Palpatine
-Assigned to Vader’s 501st Legion
-The Force and the Dark Side ignited within him after Vader informs him he has killed Ahsoka
-Received training from both Vader and Palpatine, without the other knowing
-Became a Sith Lord after the deaths of Vader and Palpatine
-Origins unknown after the Battle of Endor

*CT-9721 – 501st Legion trooper (Grand Army of the Republic)
*CC-9721 – 501st Legion Commander (Grand Army of the Republic)
*CC-9721 – 332nd Legion Commander (Grand Army of the Republic)
*CC-9721 – Ahsoka Loyalist Commander (to Ahsoka Tano)
*TK-9721 – 501st Legion Stormtrooper (Imperial Armed Forces)
*TK-9721 – Ahsoka Loyalist Stormtrooper (Imperial Armed Forces)
*Darth Cyphis – Sith Lord

Despite how much I love Clone Troopers, and really dig Shae Vizla and Sabine Wren, I’m not a Mandolorian fan. In fact, I feel they are the most overrated race in all of Star Wars. Thus, I could not have my character be a Mandolorian. So yes, a non-clone Clone Trooper is far-fetched, but better suits my story. The name Verz I conjured up from my real-life stage name, Versifier. And while the early path of Cyphis is somewhat predictable and cliché, it serves a purpose as it fits in with Ahsoka’s timeline and my real-life involvement in the 501st Legion. As far as the story of Darth Cyphis goes, I’m sure that will manifest itself in time…

In the near term, I am the process of obtaining a set of clone armor to use for my Ahsoka Loyalist clone trooper. Because it has been a couple years I don’t know if it will be the worlds’ first or not? I know there are already helmets out there, but I haven’t seen a full set of armor yet. Regardless, mine is going to be so dope it won’t even matter to me if I’m first or not. But just in case, I’m keeping the design to myself…haha! My Stormtrooper armor is rapidly approaching ten years old and desperately needs to be replaced. It had always been my plan to convert my old set of armor into a Death Troop (a “real” Death Trooper aka Zombie Trooper, not a Rogue One Death Trooper). But instead I’m thinking about turning my old armor into a full-fledged Ahsoka Stormtrooper. I only have the pauldron now as I still need a clean white TK for certain types of troops. With a new set of armor for that, I can go all out on the old set. There’s also a Darth Cyphis song in the works for one of The Lost Holocron waves, and I might even return to the notion of designing a Darth Cyphis costume. Stay tuned.  

Watch The Dark Side music video:

Listen to Wave 1 of The Lost Holocron (Wave 2 Coming Soon!):

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