Don’t call him Darth—when Christopher Canole ’69 dons the costume he started three years ago with a kid’s toy helmet and a Hawaiian shirt, he abides just one name: Dude Vader.
The Revelle graduate calls his creation a “continual reinvention of myself, stimulated by UCSD’s encouraging creativity in all fields of science and art.” Canole’s backstory for the Dude involves Vader spending his retirement on the beaches of La Jolla, recycling kids’ Star Wars toys into his ever-evolving outfit. Over the years Canole has added countless action figures, an octopus and even a bubble-blowing TIE Fighter as accoutrement.
Dude Vader gives the legendary villain a “steampunk” spin, an aesthetic that involves Victorian era fashion and steam-powered machinations. With his fellow costumed “cosplayers,” Canole and the Star Wars Steampunk Universe have appeared in 37 magazines, on countless web pages, and have been awarded “Best Costume Group” by the Hollywood Costume Designers Guild at a past Comic-Con International convention. Dude Vader was even on the arm of actress Felicity Jones at the red carpet premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Celebrity aside, it’s Dude Vader’s charity work that keeps Canole suiting up. He’s partnered with local hospitals and the Make-A-Wish Foundation to light up the lives of children in pediatric wards, and encourages his other cosplayers to do the same. Canole has teamed up with the San Diego Star Wars Society and fellow Triton, Dr. Justin Wu ’89 (a.k.a. Doc Vader) to visit several local hospitals a month.
“The kids’ pure joy in seeing my outfit brings a tear to my eye and a smile to my face inside my golden helmet,” says Canole.