(Originally posted to our old wordpress blog 7/2011)
Movie and Book History-
The 501st Legion is a group of warriors from the Star Wars universe of books and movies. In the SW Universe, the 501st was also known as Vader’s Fist and were an elite commando squad of Storm Troopers who worked directly for Darth Vader. Only the best of the best were able to become part of the 501st. However, the 501st did not start in the SW Universe but in our own and was simply honored in the SW Universe by the various authors who have written in it. For a history of how the name was created in real life follow this link http://www.501st.com/origin.php
501st in the real world-
In the real world, the 501st Legion is the world’s premier costuming group with their emphasis being the “villains” of the Star Wars universe. Many of the members are some form of Storm Trooper from the generic “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.” Trooper seen in Star Wars: A New Hope to the Scout Trooper that piloted the speeder bikes on Endor in Return of the Jedi. Some also dress as the scarlet robed Imperial Guard, the Black Clad Tie-Fighter pilots, the bucket headed Death Star gunners and even the grey clad Imperial Navy personnel. Some even go for the Bounty Hunters such as Jango and Bobba Fett or Bosk. Some also pick a Sith Lord to take after such as Vader, Maul, or Sidious. The most wondrous thing about the 501st to me is their attention to detail for you see, to be in the 501st your costume has to meet such exacting standards that if they were filming another Star Wars movie you could basically walk onto the set and no one would blink an eye.
501st Are they Villains or Angels?-
While many would ask why dress as the villains, my first question upon learning about the 501st was “What do you do? Other than dress up in armor that is.” The answer may surprise many people, the 501st raises money for charity, visits hospitals to bring cheer to sick children and do general good deeds and spread good cheer wherever they go. The 501st makes appearances at conventions and parties and in lieu of payment as they do this out of the kindness of their plastoid covered hearts they ask only that donations be made to your favorite charities or to theirs if you don’t have a favorite.
How did I first learn of the 501st
Several years ago I first learned of the 501st because of a youtube video about a crazy Japanese guy who would dress up as a Storm Trooper and dance in the middle of crosswalks while people crossed the streets. He was known as Tokyo Trooper and for the time that was all I knew of it. Here is one of his videos.
It wasn’t until I first went to Ancient City Con in Jacksonville 4 years ago that I learned exactly what the 501st was. It was 2007, and ACC was only in it’s second year of existence. This was my first experience with a convention and I must admit even though it was a small convention, I was probably wide eyed with wonder. One of the first tables I saw and went right to was one that had a large banner proclaiming it to be the Imperial 501st Florida Garrison. What drew my attention, other than the banner with the Imperial logo on it, was the life sized replica of Han Solo frozen in Carbonite that they had hanging on the wall, the twin Storm Trooper guards on either side of the table, and a table full of blasters and armor pieces and even an alien head or two. I took one of their cards and made sure to look them up online when I got home. I even sat in on a discussion panel where a man dressed as an Imperial Admiral (or maybe even a Moff) told us how to do vacuforming and even how to make a cheap version of a vacuforming table at home with spare parts. As I told people about the cool Imperial 501st I started hearing more and more about some of the cool things they do and about another awesome video on youtube where a few 501st members created a spoof of the TV show cops. I of course had to check it out and thought it was quite funny, here is that video.
While trying to find this video to share with you today I found that College Humor has gotten into the spirit of things as well with their own version of Troopers and while their armor would not get them on a Star Wars set it is still pretty impressive.
Each year that I have been at ACC, the 501st has been there, and every year I watch the Storm Troopers walking around the convention and I think “Wow I wish I could get some armor and join them.” I always talk to the various members of the 501st that show up and get what information I can about them. I take pictures of them in their outfits whether it be as a Storm Trooper or even as a member of the Ghostbusters or a member of Cobra from G.I. Joe (yes many of them do several costumes and not always star wars related). In fact, this year one of them came in a very good Jason costume from the movie Friday the 13th.
This year the 501st had their usual table but they also had a small corner of the room where they had set up a large picture similar in size to portable movie screen. The large picture was of a hallway of the Death Star. They then had taken two different Nerf guns and painted them and made some mods to them to make them look a little more Star Wars-ish. They then put one of the Storm Troopers in front of the picture and charged a few dollars for each gun and let people shoot the Nerf bullets that were tipped with suction cups at the Trooper. All of the money that was raised with this went to Wolfson Children’s Hospital, but don’t take my word for this, instead watch the video I took where they explain what they are doing and then of some people as they take aim and fire at the Trooper.
All things said, if there was one group that I could join it would be this one- in a heart beat. Most likely I would try and get some scout trooper armor as I always fancied myself a good sniper in the videogames and I love their speeder bikes. Perhaps one day I’ll have enough money to get a suit of the armor or at least the materials to make it. I would love to attend a 501st Armor party and then become one of them.