Interview: 501st Legion MembersTalk Star Wars Fandom, Future, and More
All shows and books have their fair share of fans and some would argue that Star Wars fans are the greatest fans of all. The first Star Wars fans were created 36 years ago when “A New Hope” hit theaters. There was a pretty princess who needed saving from a tall, dark, bad guy; her rescuers were a handsome maverick space pilot with a tall furry companion and a young kid eager for adventure. And don’t forget about the android duo with an Abbott & Costello type chemistry. Those characters along with the special effects really hooked the audience and left them wanting more.
Over the years with new movies, TV shows, and collectibles, Star Wars fans have grown with each generation and often show their support by making costumes to wear at conventions and new releases. As a result of the fan dedication to accurate costume recreation, organizations were created so those fans could get together to trade tips on costume creations so they could improve their skills and accuracy.
NerdSpan had a chance to catch up with two such Star Wars fans at San Diego Comic Con 2013. Dr. Michael Bender and his wife Stacey Bender for a few questions.
NerdSpan: Who is your favorite Star Wars character?
Dr. Michael Bender: Darth Vader, he is daunting, scary as a child and now he is this iconic figure.
Stacey Bender: When I was a child I loved Princess Leia but now, it’s such a hard question, Han Solo or the droids, now I like R2D2 as one of my favorite, I have a lot of R2D2 memorabilia.
NS: Does Star Wars frequently play a role in your everyday lives?
Dr. MB: I wouldn’t say every day. We do a lot of events with the 501st Legion, at least once a month we are doing something with them for charity.
NS: What is the 501st Legion?
Dr. MB: It a charity organization that uses Star Wars as our avenue, we create the most accurate suits as we can and do events for groups like Make-A-Wish and Autism Speaks . Companies will donate money in our name (501st Legion) to those organizations.
NS: What is your favorite part about being a 501st Legion member?
Dr. MB: There is so much we can do with the charity work, also. It is the friends, being around good people doing good things, I think that sums it up.
SB: Some of the most amazing and kind hearted people I have ever met are members of the 501st. The charity work is very rewarding, to see that child’s face light up when we visit them in the hospitals and it just brightens their entire day.
NS: Do you think you have created some new Star Wars fans through your charity work?
Dr. MB: I hope so, I truly hope so. There are a larger variety of characters for people to be fans of especially with the introduction of some of the female characters like Bo-Katan in The Clone Wars. Before, many women did not like Star Wars, it has helped changed the face of Star Wars especially with the younger generation.
NS: What inspired your costume?
Dr. MB: Rex (Captain Rex) is the ideal clone, I think he is a challenging character and I wanted to represent him correctly and I think I did a pretty good job.
SB: Bo-Katan is such a strong female character; after watching her in a couple of episodes, she is a little sassy and has a little attitude and I thought she is perfect. She is a strong personality, a strong warrior, and independent.
NS: What is your biggest pet peeve regarding Star Wars?
Dr. MB: Some of the Star Wars fans. When you complain and critique every single thing it takes away from the fun and the magic, I like to be entertained; it is nostalgic for me to see Star Wars and to relive my memories as a child. There is always something that people are not going to be happy about, it gets kind of old sometime, just entertain me.
SB: As long as there is Star Wars and they keep making Star Wars, we are the type of people that will go watch Star Wars movies or whatever it may be. Star Wars fans can be very critical, as with many genres. When it comes down to it, it is just fun for us.
NS: What direction would you like to see the upcoming Star Wars movies go?
Dr. MB: I think creating a kids movie would be disappointing for me. I think they should make it for the fans, the ones that have been there for 35 plus years. I am looking forward to JJ’s view (JJ Abrams), a little throw back, a few nods to George’s (George Lucas) Star Wars without redesigning it a “Disney” Star Wars.
SB: I am hoping it is in good hands with JJ, I am a little nervous but I think he has tremendous respect.
Dr. MB: He is a fanboy, he is one of us.
SB: He is a fanboy, so I think he will do us proud and stays true to the story, he will work on it until it is right.
Dr. Michael Bender and his charming wife Stacey Bender are just a small portion of the enormous fan base that surrounds Star Wars. They have taken what they love and turned it into something not only that others can enjoy, but also to use it as an engine to help those in need through the 501st Legion. There are many fans of Star Wars, but how many actually take it to the next level? The 501st Legion is probably the most impressive Star Wars fan organization. They are a worldwide fan based organization dedicated to creating accurate replicas of Star Wars armor and uniforms. Originally focusing on Imperial Stormtrooper armor, the 501st has expanded to Sith Lords, Bounty Hunters, and other assorted Star Wars villains. The 501st does not just dress in cool armor and sit and swap battle stories, they work hard organizing their charity work to gather it’s members in “force” (pun intended) to visit children who are sick or may have special needs, not only to bring a smile to a child’s face, but to help raise money for those organizations. As a result of their charitable work, the 501st Legion has raised millions of dollars and continues to grow.
To learn more about the 501st Legion in great detail, visit here.