At long last!
I had several goals when I packed my geek bags and headed to Atlanta for Dragon*Con in September 2009. I desperately wanted to interview a Klingon. I’d tried to get ahold of someone in Klingon gear before but I’d always managed to miss the opportunity to talk to them.
And, I’ll be honest, the folks who choose to dress as Klingons do sometimes scare me. I think it’s just that the ones who choose that particular Trek alien tend to be a little more…into their characters.
Unfortunately, Dragon*Con proved to be yet another convention where this long-term goal was foiled. Despite there being an event called “Miss Klingon Universe” I was unable to track one of these folks down and ask them nicely to sit down and answer a few of my questions.
Another one of my goals was to talk to a Stormtrooper. I don’t know when this became one of my goals. I just know that I wrote it down on my list of things to accomplish. (“talk to a Klingon” has been added to the list for next year, alongside “find and take a picture with the Tardis”) I think the idea had been bouncing around in my head for a little while but finally solidified into an urgent need when I saw the massive gathering of members of the 501st Legion in the Dragon*Con parade. There’s just something about seeing hundreds (possibly over 1000) stormtroopers marching down the streets of Atlanta that gives a geeky girl thrills and ideas.
Since there was such a large massing of Stormtroopers on Saturday it seemed the best day to hunt one or more down for a few questions. Maggie and I had just wandered into the Marriot Marquis. We only had about an hour of free time before we needed to go downstairs and wash off our zombie makeup and then head out to the car to gather our gear. With that time constraint on me I set about finding a nice group of Stormtroopers to interview. I spotted a trio almost immediately. I might have actually bellowed “Stormtroopers! There!” as I hurried over to the escalator. I’m a little hazy about whether that part took place inside my head or not. Regardless, I knew I needed to get up there to them as quickly as possible, in case they started to head off in a different direction.
I’ll stop right here and say that one of the good things about being shorter than most folks is that it’s a good deal easier to slip in and out of a crowd. You don’t have as far to duck to get out of the way of people’s elbows. I managed to get over to the Stormtroopers I’d spotted before they’d had an opportunity to run off.
I asked the three of the Stormtroopers if I could interview them quickly for the blog and they readily agreed. They started pulling off their helmets and introduced themselves as Eric, Ed, and Rob (Eric was on the left as I was looking at them, Ed in the middle, and Rob on the right). Well, Ed and Rob pulled off their helmets. I noticed Eric kind of tug on his but it remained on. Eric and Ed were wearing standard Imperial Stormtrooper uniforms, while Rob was dressed as a Scout Trooper. Maggie and I seem to remember Ed wearing the pauldron that designates him as a higher rank, but we’re not entirely sure. I didn’t make a note of it and she didn’t manage to get a picture of the three of them.
Since I didn’t have the chance to get to my voice recorder out for this interview it’s going to be pieced together from my quick notes. Apologies, but I’ll try to get the feel of everything they said.
First of all, how easy is it to get in and out of these costumes?
Ed: They’re not that bad. It only takes me about 15 minutes to get in and out of this.
You don’t need any help?
Ed: Not really. I can pretty much do everything myself.
Rob: They’re kind of hard to sit down in, though.
Are they pretty comfortable otherwise?
Ed: [kind of waves his hand] They can get hot after a while, but it’s not too bad when you’re inside.
[about this point Eric wanders off. I figured he had seen a friend of his or needed to tend to some other business]
Did you buy the costume from a place like Master Replicas, or did you make it yourself? What goes into something like this?
Ed: It’s a kit. You can buy kits online, from a range of prices, and then you mod them yourself.
So you get the basic stuff and then paint it and whatever?
Is it hard to see out of the helmet? Or are there any big problems?
Rob: It’s not too bad in mine. They’re pretty much just like sunglasses. I’ve got a slight tint to them [he holds his helmet out for me to look inside.] I’ve got a pretty good range of vision, though. Better than most Imperial helmets.
Ed: The main thing is that with most of the helmets you can’t really look down. So you can see in front of you but if there’s something right in front of you, on the ground, you could trip over it.
How about hearing and talking? Is it easy to hear or be heard? [addressing Eric, who has returned but is still wearing his helmet]
Eric: Yeah, I can hear. Sometimes it’s muffled but if people are close enough or the room isn’t too loud I can hear alright. Some folks build a speaker into their helmet, so they can be heard better without taking off their helmet. But that’s expensive.
Now, I’ve been inside a big, unwieldy costume before and I know that one of the things you have to watch out for when you’re wearing one of those is kids or teens coming up and knocking you over. Do you have to watch out for that kind of thing when you’re dressed as a Stormtrooper?
Ed: Not really. It’s not too bad.
Eric: Most people are pretty good. They just want to come up and take pictures.
Ed: Sometimes you’ll have kids come up and kind of knock on you [motions towards the codpiece that Stormtroopers wear] but it’s all hard plastic, and it’s got padding, so it’s usually fine.
I’m assuming you’re all members of the 501st? [they nod] How long have you been members?
Eric: I’ve only joined up about a year ago.
Ed: I’ve been with them two to three years.
Rob: One year.
[to Rob] Now, obviously you’re dressed differently. What type of Stormtrooper is this? Why did you choose this one?
Rob: This is a Scout trooper. I have a regular set of Imperial Stormtrooper armor but I wanted to do something a little different. I thought of these guys and I always thought they were kind of neat. I liked the different helmet. There’s a lot less to carry around.
And, if i can ask, why Stormtroopers? Why’d you decide to dress as folks from the Empire?
The three of them smile. It’s Ed who gives the answer to this last question: The bad guys always looked the coolest.
The other two stormtroopers smile and nod – well, I assume Eric was smiling while he nodded, as he still had his helmet on. I thanked the three of them and they each shook my hand, waving away my thanks with “No problem” and “Our pleasure.” A small crowd had started to form around the three of them (I don’t know if folks were naturally drawn to them or if it was the odd meeting of three Stormtroopers and two zombies that piqued their interest) and Maggie and I extricated ourselves from the throng. As we walked off, I compared my notes with Maggie. I think I said something along the lines of “I guess Eric wasn’t really interested in talking to us. He just kind of wandered off.” She looked at me and explained “He was trying to get his helmet off. It was stuck and he stepped aside and put his gun down and tried to get it off, but he couldn’t.”
I felt bad that he was stuck inside his costume – it’s never a fun thing – but it was kind of funny. We chuckled as we headed off towards the bathroom in order to wash off our makeup.
Of course, we didn’t get all that far…
…on our way to the bathroom we came upon a young man dressed as Jango Fett.
Check back for that one. 🙂