Have you heard of the 501st Legion? Ever wanted to be a unit involved in their mission? Guess what? They are taking applications for new recruits! With thousands of members worldwide, this collective is a Force to be reckoned with. Members come from various backgrounds and cover a wide array of characters…
The Legion is an all-volunteer organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together 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.
For members of the 501st Legion, a worldwide organization of dedicated Star Wars fans, a costume isn’t just something seen on the movie screen—it’s a way of life.
It all began in February 1997, when fans Albin Johnson and Tom Crews attended the Columbia, SC, premiere of the Star Wars Special Edition wearing complete Stormtrooper gear. Soon after, Johnson posted pictures of the memorable evening on a personal website, and when others with their own Stormtrooper costumes began to write in, he proceeded to post their photos as well. Within a few months, the popularity of the site led Johnson to think it should be a little something more.
“I wanted something that would give the average fans a collective identity at the conventions—a family of their own,” says Johnson. With “tours of duty” ranging from convention appearances to volunteer community service, members not only embrace their hobby, they entertain and delight the rest of the world with their devotion. Now with “garrisons” stationed all over the world spanning more than 40 countries, the group’s ever-growing membership has surpassed 6500 active members.
“We consider the members of the 501st part of the extended Lucasfilm family,” says Steve Sansweet, über-collector and former head of fan relations for Lucasfilm Ltd. “They have fun and share a sense of community, while at the same time bringing joy to a lot of people through their work with kids, raising money for charities, or just posing for photos with surprised but delighted ‘civilians.’”
In recognition of such fandom, the 501st and its fan-created backstory of being Darth Vader’s personal legion of Stormtroopers known as “Vader’s Fist” have now actually been adopted into official Star Wars continuity. In 2004, the 501st had roles in two Star Wars books by Timothy Zahn (Survivor’s Quest and Fool’s Bargain) and continued into Episode III: Revenge of the Sith itself when the 501st followed a newly-turned Anakin Skywalker into the Jedi Temple to slaughter the Republic’s defenders of peace.