LOS ANGELES (AP) — On the outside, they all look the same: White armor, white helmets, black blaster rifles. Imperial soldiers from a galaxy far, far away, they’re loyal only to the Empire and recognizable everywhere as “Star Wars” storm troopers.
Inside, though, are different stories. Those armored clones are lovingly occupied by moms, dads, doctors, cops, lawyers, exterminators, artists and other passionate “Star Wars” fans who devote thousands of dollars and countless hours to building screen-accurate costumes and wearing them all over the world to support the beloved franchise as well as dozens of children’s charities.
They are the 501st Legion, an international, all-volunteer costuming group. And this week, they’re coming to Comic-Con.
“It’s a major event for us every year,” says Christi Ladnier, 42, a mother of three who will be wearing an eight-years-in-the-making homemade Boba Fett costume. (Legion members dress as all kinds of “Star Wars” characters, with storm troopers the most popular.)
At least 200 members of the group — which boasts nearly 5,000 members in 40 countries — will be in full costume at the annual pop-culture festival, held Thursday through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center.
Comic-Con is just one of dozens of events Legion members attend each year. A major supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Legion members also lend their Imperial glory to children’s hospitals, the Ronald McDonald House, the American Cancer Society, Toys for Tots, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and March of Dimes. They’ve appeared in commercials, marched alongside “Star Wars” creator George Lucas in the Tournament of Roses parade and handed out Halloween candy at the White House.
Charity is at the heart of the 501st Legion, and friendship and fandom are its soul, but it really comes down to the costumes.
Their storm trooper outfits aren’t store bought, nor are they cheap, and they must be identical to what’s in the original films to be good enough. The Legion’s standards division assesses the screen-accuracy of each member’s attire.