We see them at conventions every year. The few, the proud, the Emperor’s finest, they are the 501st Legion, they are Vader’s Fist. This is a serious group as and they sport some amazing costumes. Well organized and dedicated, a quick read of their web site reveals that they are 5,814 members strong with a staggering 9,453 costumes. I have to confess, I have always been secretly a little jealous of these guys, although if I did buy a costume, it would probably be through the C.O.B.R.A. Night Watch instead. For the record, with the exception of Antarctica, they are represented on every continent. (I guess they don’t have enough snow troopers for the South Pole.) Each continent is broken up into regional garrisons and so it was that Scott Allen, commander of the Southern California Garrison agreed to answer a few questions for us, as well as give us a few tips if you are thinking of dressing up for Comic-Con.
Q. First of all, tell us a little about the 501st for those who may not be familiar with it.
A. Well our mission statement says it best, so here it is, “…The Legion is an all volunteer
organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together Star
Wars costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The
Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing
of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars related
events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed
charity and volunteer work…”
Q. Did the empire coerce you into joining or did you volunteer (what got you into it)?
A. I actually volunteered. Once I found out about the 501st and all of the good
charity work that they do I decided that I wanted to become a member of the
Legion to help promote Star Wars costuming as well as get involved with the
charity fund raising and other charity related work.
Q. What costume(s) do you wear?
A. My main costume is Darth Vader from the Empire strikes back. However I also
wear a storm trooper, clone trooper and my latest costume is now an Imperial
knight from the expanded universe comics, though that’s technically a good guy.
Q. How did you rise through the ranks to become an officer?
A. There’s a certain amount of time, dedication, and perseverance that is required to
become an officer with in the 501st Legion. Each Garrison and the entire legion
have annual elections for officers. I made myself available to become the charity
representative to my garrison to start with, and then I was assigned the position
of charity representative for the entire Legion in 2010, a position I still maintain,
and finally this last year I was elected as the Commanding Officer of the Southern
California Garrison. It actually requires a lot of time for something that’s really a
‘hobby’, but when I see all of the good that we do in the Legion, I’m proud to be
Q. Do you all have clone identities, like TK-421 etc?
A.Yes we do! As part of membership in the 501st, you have to choose (or be
assigned) a 4 digit TKID. ‘TK’ is the official designation for Storm Trooper, which
is how the 501st was officially started, as a costuming group of just storm
Q. I always see Boba Fett’s and bounty hunters with the 501st at Comic Con. Does the 501st
allow them in or are they a rogue element? Also, what about the slave Leia’s we see?
A. Technically Boba Fett and Jango Fett are the only two ‘Madalorians’ that can be
approved into the 501st. We also have members that have completed some of
the other Bounty Hunter costumes such as Boussh (princess Leia’s bounty hunter
disguise). Basically, if it’s in the six episodes of Star Wars and it’s a bad guy, then
it can be approved. I think the slave Leia’s are the Rogue element, they seem to be popping up, or is
it popping out, everywhere.
Q. Lord Vader comes to you and says you can have any rank or role in the empire. What
would you pick (What would be your dream costume?)
A. Well it’s certainly not going to be death Star gunner. Did you see that giant green
planet destroying beam fly past those guys within just a couple feet? They don’t
even have handrails to hang on to! That job is like a death wish. I’m thinking
Grand Moff… But only if I get my own death star!
Q. Tell me a little about the 501st charity work.
A. Of all the things the 501st Legion does, the thing I like the most is the fact that we
support so many charities. Over the past 12 or so years we have gained a
reputation to be quite the fundraising and charity machine. We assist more than
100 different charities worldwide on an annual basis by fundraising and appearing at
events for various causes. It’s one thing to see children and adults smile
because they get to visit and see their favorite Star Wars characters, it’s another
thing entirely to see those same smiles on children that are either suffering from a
terminal illness or some other disease.
Q. Lastly, I am sure costuming at Comic Con has its challenges. Any tips for those who
might be new to it?
A. The San Diego Comic Con is unlike anything else you may ever do. First of all
make sure to have fun! There will be hundreds of people all wanting to take
pictures with you in your costume and you can’t possibly please everyone, so
don’t feel bad if you’re tired and just can take another photo.
b. Be sure to take breaks as often as necessary, be sure to drink plenty of water
during the day to keep yourself hydrated. And if you see a celebrity that you’ve
been waiting forever to meet, don’t be afraid to ask them for a photo with you in
your costume. The worst they might say is “No”. Just be respectful and have a
Scott will at he 501st table for much of Comic-Con and most likely sporting the Vader this year.