The Empire Has Struck Back against the world's fathers. The arch villian of the "Star Wars" series has been identified as a father. Darth Vader is one of us!

Poor old Dad is the Ultimate Evil of the Universe, the Lord of Darkness and everything else his mother-in-law ever accused him of being.

And why not? Everybody from oil sheiks to the Federal Reserve to Gloria Steinem has been knocking us.

If Darth Vader was real, this would be the best Father's Day ever. Granted, he's really not our kind of guy, but he's a leader, the type who'd torture critics of fatherhood. And no kid would have the courage to give him a lavender smoking jacket three sizes too small and charge it to his account.

But Darth Vader is imaginary and, as such, will make this Father's Day noncelebration gloomier than its predecessors. The World Book Encyclopeida reports in two gruding paragraphs that Mrs. John Bruce Dodd of Spokane, Wash., "started" Father's Day in 1910 and that "American business firms which sell men's wear have been especially active in making Father's Day popular." (Mrs. Dodd must have been a matriarch with clout.)

It is petty to compare encyclopedia articles, but let's do. The World Book grants five long paragraphs to Mother's Day -- at least three times more space -- and throws in a quarter-page photograph of one Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, a Mother's Day advocate. Julia Ward Howe urged the first Mother's Day in 1872, the book continues.

It will be interesting to learn how the next sequel to "Star Wars" resolves the parental conflict between Vader and Luke Skywalker. In the currently showing sequel, Vader has revealed that he is the father of the virtuous here (at least that is his claim) and has offered to let Skywalker help him rule the universe. What more could a father offer? Tuition to Harvard?

Only in fiction is such a proposition refused. George Washington himself knew that idealism is unprofitable. Darth Vader is merely another father trying to get ahead in a wicked universe. He needs a good public relations man, not a tie.

So do all fathers.