Many, many is the time I am asked “Why don’t you cover Star Wars?”, “You hate Star Wars, man?”, “Let’s see more Star Wars!”, “You’re fat”. I have no problem with Star Wars. Well, at least the movies anyway. Things can get a bit dicey out here in space when you are talking about The Kree vs The Skrulls and such. But no. The truth is my column here at Comic-Watch requires an obligatory photo shoot. And when you are thinking of Star Wars your choices are very thin. Go to Tatooine and spend the next year pouring sand out of your shoes. Go to Hoth and freeze your ass off. Go to Dagobah and I have to plan a day at the hair dresser afterwards. And the jungles of Endor just make me sweat. But do not let it be said The Collector does not hear your requests. So today I bring you something very special. Today we will interview an actual Storm Trooper. By “actual” I mean a fan and collector much like any of you who has taken his love of this film series to a higher level. His name is Michael Gomez and he is a Storm Trooper in the legendary 501st Legion, a charitable organization dedicated to bringing joy to the masses and especially to children who are less fortunate than most.
1) When did you first see Star Wars and how did it affect you then?
I saw the very first Star Wars which was Episode 4, A New Hope back in 1977/78 when I was 4/5 years old. I was so amazed by as a young boy, the characters, the ships, the aliens and planets, something struck a chord in me and I wanted to be Luke Skywalker going on a grand adventure with Obi-Wan Kenobi and learning the ways of the Force! You could say it was love at first sight.
2) Did you start collecting Star Wars memorabilia afterwards? What are your favorite pieces?
Yes, thanks to my wonderful parents, they started buying me Star Wars action figures and toys when they became available and I believe that my first figures were Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader! I had pretty much most of the figures that came out up the very last wave after Return of the Jedi, plus a bunch of the ships and other toys. I didn’t start to really “collect” though until the Prequels and that line of figures was launched. That began the buy and not open phase of my collecting along with the buy 2 or 3 so I could open one and continue to have an unopened set.
Some of my favorite pieces are ones that I have gotten signed by either the actor or voice actor of the character. I have Power of the Force Slave Leia with Sail Barge Cannon signed by the late Carrie Fisher along with a Power of the Force Hoth Chewbacca signed by the late Peter Meyhew. Those 2 are probably the most special to me since I had the opportunity to meet both of those wonderful people, have a conversation with them and then get my figures signed. I cherish both of those pieces in my collection.
3) You’re a Storm Trooper in the 501st Legion. Can you explain what the 501st is and what drew you to it?
I am, TK 9664 reporting for duty! The 501st Legion is an all-volunteer, Imperial costuming organization that was formed back in 1997 and currently has over 13,000 active members in approximately 61 countries and all 50 states. To join the 501st you must be 18 years old, have a movie quality costume from the Empire and have a passion for helping others! The 501st, also known as “Vader’s Fist” has become the leading “Force” in fan-based charity events. As for what drew me to it, I first heard of the 501st back when the Prequels were coming out, and I was amazed that I might be able to one day own Storm Trooper armor, suit up with other SW fans and also give back to my community. Back in 2010 that dream became a reality when I was able to purchase my Storm Trooper armor. After some tweaks here and there, in June of 2011 I officially became TK 9664 of the Central Cal Garrison, 501st Legion and I started doing charity events or “Troops”. Since then I have done 141 Troops in both my Storm Trooper (TK) and my Biker Scout (TB) costumes. I’m currently working on completing my Tusken Raider and a Royal Guard costume for 2020.
4) You recently got married. Did any Star Wars slip in?
Yes, my beautiful wife Janine and I were married on 9/15/19 and we did have a Star Wars theme in our wedding! So first off, it was not my idea to do the theme, that was actually ok’d by my wife! I was originally going to have something small on my tux like a SW lapel pin, but she suggested we have lots of SW flair, so I said “sounds good to me”! So we had LEGO SW planets with lights as part of the centerpieces on the tables, along with SW table numbers, SW decor throughout the venue, but one of the more impressive displays of SW was that 2 of my friends and Garrison members agreed to suit up and walk me down the aisle as Boba Fett and a Stormtrooper with me in Imperial Binders. Later when we did the ring exchange, Janine called for our ring bearer who was R2-D2! A local friend had finished building his full size R2, and so R2 was able to roll down the aisle and present the rings to her! Most of our friends and family had no idea about this too and they were all excited to see these additions to our wedding. We also took some fantastic pictures at night with lightsabers!
Yes and thank you for the invite. It was a lovely wedding…at least until I was carted away by Storm Troopers for trying to take R2-D2!
5) Your favorite Star Wars character and favorite movie?
My favorite movie is an easy one, its Episode 4, A New Hope! I know everyone loves Empire, and I do too (it’s number 2 for me), but ANH is where I was first introduced to this fantastic Universe created by George Lucas. It fed my imagination and creativity as child, it helped introduce me to lifelong friends who also share this passion for SW, and it’s also just a good movie I can and have rewatched countless times without it ever getting old! As for my fav character, this is a tough question for me, there are so many really fantastic characters from Bossk to General Grievous to K2-S0, to Obi-Wan to Durge to Commander Cody, Captain Rex and Ahsoka Tano! Now while I do have a soft spot for the Empire, as a kid I always wanted to be Luke Skywalker and he’s been my fav since then. He was my first SW toy, I would always pretend to be him when my friends and I would play SW and I really loved his character’s journey through the Original movies. I may not agree with some aspects of the where he ended in the Saga, but am happy to see Mark Hamill as Luke on the big screen in the new movies and I can’t help but smile!
Michael has been seen on the local news and is constantly showing up at charity events, races, baseball games, and even the zoo! And of course when a new Star Wars comes out he’s there the first showing in uniform. He and his group have been invited to Skywalker Ranch and has even met Weird Al Yancovich!
If you are interested in learning more about the 501st Legion or maybe want to join the Empire check out this link! And a special thanks to Michael and Janine Gomez and Billings Photography.
The Collector’s Corner: Interview With A Storm Trooper
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